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Building as a Power Plant

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April 2017 to March 2019

PI: Dr Sara Walker

Building as a Power Plant

Funded by: EPSRC


Newcastle University

Partners and stakeholders:

Bowmer and Kirkland, Buro Happold, Siemens, Hawkins Brown, NG Bailey



The aim is to consider the potential for the Urban Sciences building at Newcastle University to offer flexibility to the local electricity network by reducing import from, or export to, the network at the point of connection.

As the electrification of heat and transport increases along with growing numbers of intermitted low-carbon sources, new and/or improved mechanisms are required to help balance supply and demand. Increasing the flexibility at the demand side can enable wider utilisation of more efficient and lower-carbon generation, assist the security of supply and reduce costs of electricity.


The building has 6 storeys, with 22 air handling units and 25 heat pumps. The heat pump total capacity is 445.9kW. The research team is investigating heat pump, air handling units, lighting and lift loads and PV generation in order to understand the potential magnitude, speed and duration of demand response and other grid services the building can offer.

Researchers found that all heat pumps could offer load flexibility for a maximum of four hours, provided the cooling rate of the building was no more than 1ºC/hour1. The building was modelled in DesignBuilder, and the results confirmed the building cooled at a rate of <0.5ºC/hour (during winter design day with sub zero external temperatures), which was within comfort limits.

Banner photo credit: theverticalstory on Unsplash