A new wave for hydro
(First published in Water Power & Dam Construction)
Data science and artificial intelligence are powering the UK hydro industry to build a greener energy system. Daniel Pargeter from Limejump gives more details.
With the UK’s mandated decarbonisation targets to reach net-zero by 2050, the hydro industry is poised for substantial growth. Limejump, a dynamic energy tech firm helps hydro asset owners – from community energy groups to shrewd commercial players – squeeze every last drop of value from their distributed generation assets.
Utilising the latest technological integration, the hydro industry is pushing towards reaching its full potential.
Founded in 2013, Limejump is changing the way the hydro industry transacts energy by connecting assets to energy trading market opportunities, combined with the most advanced machine learning forecasting and the best of human trading ability. Its Virtual Power Platform (VPP) is an aggregation of flexible energy generation and storage assets of different sizes and technology types. The company’s vision is to deliver 100% renewable energy at all times to customers through the direct real-time connectivity between renewable energy sources, storage flexibility and demand response.
The company’s hydro portfolio is booming, with unprecedented growth in the past 18 months.
Significantly, since the middle of 2018, there has been a 600% growth in Limejump’s Hydro portfolio as small generators and community groups have turned to Limejump to help optimise their assets with dynamic Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). This dramatic portfolio growth has created a market share of 7% of the total hydro capacity of the UK market today.
However, the secret to Limejump’s approach has been devised from their experience of working with a broader portfolio of clients operating in wind, solar and battery storage. To date, the company has delivered for more than 360 clients. This diverse mix of asset technologies enabled the development of a best of breed approach to the hydro market, all underpinned by a technology-led platform devised by some of the UK’s foremost energy analysts and technology developers.
To get the best out of a hydro asset for a community, the agile and flexible approach to the PPA has been designed to reduce risk exposure and tap into positive swings in power prices. 2019 alone delivered a 35% swing in System Price.
A three-step process
The most crucial element of this is our tranched contractual signups that use machine learning forecasting to inform trading decision making and is designed to reduce unnecessary price risk exposure.
Step 1 – pre-contract: Step one happens before we even come to the contract start date for any new (or renewing) PPA client. We kick off six months in advance and analyse the market and site data (i.e. river flow rate) to identify any patterns that guide our approach. We then use this data to agree what the price floors and ceilings will be with the community project leaders.
Step 2 – contract kick-off: At the start date, we only lock in the first three or six months. This allows us to work with, not against, market fluctuation and safeguards against clients being locked into contracts that are lower than future market value.
Step 3 – ongoing: as the contract develops, this process is repeated with careful analysis and support at each step to ensure the best possible asset value is realised.
This sets Limejump apart from other contractual agreements. It is more akin to the trading of physical commodities and directly supports communities by balancing asset optimisation with risk mitigation.
2020: year of the battery
It’s not just pure hydro schemes that will see a boom in 2020 as net-zero targets are actualised. It makes increasing commercial, technological and environmental sense for hydro projects to be coupled with battery storage developments.
In a pioneering move, Limejump has worked with Barn Energy & EELPower to deploy battery units at hydro schemes in Yorkshire.
Barn Energy, the company that developed three of the largest river hydro projects to be built in the UK in the past 20 years, and deployed battery units alongside two of them: at Thrybergh, on the Rover Don near Rotherham and at Knottingley, on the River Aire near Wakefield. In April 2018, when the storage was added it was the first time that battery storage units had been deployed in the UK in combination with low-head river hydro schemes. Each lithium-ion battery unit has a capacity of over 1200kWh and is currently delivering on a two-year contract to provide Firm Frequency Response (FFR) for the National Grid. The batteries also seek to export over TRIAD* days, multiplying Thrybergh’s output by five times its original capacity (260kW) and Knottingley’s (500kW) by two and a half times.
The batteries are remotely controlled using Limejump’s VPP offering. When not performing FFR or TRIAD services, the batteries are used for load shifting and for wholesale trading to maximise the revenues at each site and represent a true asset optimisation for the owner.
The hydro industry is poised to take a bolder role in the UK’s energy mix in the coming decade. Developers have the ability to take learning from other sectors when it comes to asset optimisation and avoid the mistakes that other technologies have experienced. 2020 will be a defining year for the energy industry, and it’s time for developers and asset owners to get on the front foot of the tech revolution.
*Triads are the three half hour periods of peak power demand across the National Grid in a year in the UK. These three points are used to calibrate the system costs, which are passed on to industry.