Surprisingly, UK supermarket freezers could be used to create a virtual battery that can help balance the country’s grid. That’s the finding of new research undertaken by The Grimsby Institute, the University of Lincoln, IMS Evolve and supermarket chain Tesco Stores.
The research, funded by Innovate UK, included the mocking-up of a supermarket, to test whether the banks of freezers and fridges could be used to aid the addition of new and intermittent technologies like electric vehicles and wind turbines to the grid.
They found that by employing algorithms, power to fridges could be temporarily cut, whilst still keeping refrigerated items cold, allowing for quick pulses of energy to be fed back into the grid, to be used to fill any gaps in energy frequency. Researchers found algorithms can be used to temporarily cut the power supply to fridges while still keeping the food cold, allowing short pulses of electricity to be sent to the grid when needed to match any gaps in energy frequency.
The study determined that if Tesco was to link all its fridges and freezers in all of its over 3500 UK stores, it could create a 50MW virtual battery.
Professor Simon Pearson, Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT), said: “Currently, control systems use very static control temperatures but this project is developing algorithms to dynamically control refrigeration temperatures. Successfully integrating food refrigeration systems into Demand Side Response mechanisms would have national and internationally relevant impact and our research has shown that this can be done while controlling food quality and temperature control limits.”