5G helps visualise new energy network in Scotland

27 April 2020

Grid building

Above shows the Heriot-Watt University’s GRID facility.

Residents on Scotland’s Orkney islands will be able to see and interact with a replica of a new energy network thanks to a 5G-powered digital twinning system. The project leverages 5G technology to show how the energy network works and aims to get members of the public and businesses to participate in the delivery of the new network.

The project creates a virtual 3D environment that shows Orkney and all the different components of the energy system, such as electric vehicles, domestic batteries, generators and turbines. It’s an immersive simulator that people can interact with and see models of the network’s key assets on the island, connected via a live 5G data connection. The demo will be available initially for three months.

The effort is led by Heriot-Watt University’s GRID facility with support from the Scotland 5G Centre, which was launched at the end of last year to coordinate the Scottish government’s 5G strategy.

Gordon Ross, Innovation Strategist at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The future of energy is going to be defined by smart, distributed networks and micro-grids. For that to work to its maximum potential we need everyone to understand how it works and how they can get involved in making Orkney a ‘smart energy island’. The island is the ideal testing ground for principles that could be applied on a larger scale elsewhere.”

5G powers smart energy

Research from Deloitte, commissioned by the Scottish Futures Trust, shows that commercialising 5G use cases could add £17 billion to Scottish GDP by 2035. The economic impact of 5G includes adding 160,000 jobs, 3,000 new businesses, £5.7 billion in tax revenues and £3.3 billion more in exports, according to the research. 

Energy is one of the sectors cited in the Deloitte report that stands to benefit from 5G technology. Reliable, low-latency wireless technology enables smart energy grids, which can better integrate renewable energy sources and monitor supply and demand in real time for higher efficiency.

Derek Boyd, interim director at the Scotland 5G Centre, said: “5G will be an integral part of enabling the smart energy systems of the future, delivering the ultra-reliable, low-latency connectivity that is required to manage these networks. We are working with organisations across Scotland to demonstrate its transformative potential. While the benefits of 5G are still to be understood for many people, this digital twinning project will go a significant way towards showcasing its potential and the positive impact the next generation of connectivity can have for society and the economy.”

5G on Orkney

Orkney is a site for one of the U.K.’s 5G testbeds and the digital twinning project is the latest 5G trial on the islands.

The project follows the 5G RuralFirst program. The Scotland 5G Rural Testbed, which is led by the University of Strathclyde and Cisco, provides a 5G test network on Orkney that has been used to trial 5G rural broadband access as well as broadcasting on the islands.

Michelle Donegan is a tech writer who has covered the communications industry for more than 25 years on both sides of the pond. Having worked for various industry titles, including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and Light Reading, she specializes in mobile network technology trends. 

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