Crestchic, the world’s largest specialised loadbank manufacturer and rental company, has supplied the University of Chester with a nominally rated 300 kVA restive/reactive loadbank. This has been installed at its research and development facility at the Energy Centre situated in Thornton Science Park. The contractors for the project, A+B Engineering, selected Crestchic for its specialism in this area.

One of the most sophisticated units of its type, the loadbank forms an integral part of the University’s microgrid system, which is the first of its kind at a UK university Campus. The Energy Centre’s mission is to provide an environment where SMEs can develop, analyse and demonstrate their new energy technologies. The Crestchic loadbank will be used to replicate variable loads that might be expected to happen in the future when microgrid networks are predicted to transform the energy world.

The loadbank pioneers new algorithms for the load balancing of a micro-grid as part of a control system provided by ABB. The system, which can be operated remotely, allows users to manage the microgrid, enabling the integration and optimum utilisation of multiple energy sources and storage units connected to the same local power network. Access to an advanced and multi-vector micro-grid assists in product development, evaluation and demonstration of technologies including customer trials. ABB was selected to deploy the control system for the state-of-the-art system which also includes a CHP (combined heat and power) unit, diesel generation, solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, and a new energy storage facility, as well as the Crestchic loadbank.

The key aim of the microgrid solution is to demonstrate how DER (distributed energy resource) technologies can work together to minimise fuel costs and emissions within an islanded grid.

The University of Chester was established in 1839 and is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the country. The Energy Centre, located at the University’s Thornton Science Park, is a major research and innovation hub, and test bay space is available for short or medium term occupancy. Thornton is also home to the institution’s Faculty of Science and Engineering. At Thornton Science Park, businesses have the opportunity to join a thriving community of companies, drawing on active support and collaboration with the University and the expertise and facilities of the Faculty of Science and Engineering. The vast site is equipped with high-end industrial laboratories, workshops and office space, and provides a flexible place where industry and academia come together to innovate, develop and demonstrate advances in energy, environment, automotive and advanced manufacturing technology. The Energy Centre development was funded from the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), who contributed £6.8m as part of the LEP’s growth deal along with £8m from the University to create a visionary facility for the development, testing and demonstration of current and future energy technologies.

Paul Brickman, Sales and Marketing Director at Crestchic said: “We are proud to work with an institution that is so committed to the development and progress of the energy sector in the UK. The loadbank we have provided allows for vital work to be completed that will help cut emissions and drive innovation. This will also be a useful tool to fulfil the needs of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.”

Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations and CEO of Thornton Research Properties Limited at the University of Chester, said: “The Energy Centre has been created to demonstrate and promote the development of the latest technologies and forms part of a wider energy focus for Thornton Science Park. The Crestchic loadbank is a very exciting development that provides a platform for learning and is a great example of industry and academia working together to address real-world issues.”