Gaotha go Rothaí – Wind to Wheels

Aran Islands Electric Vehicle Project Overview

Aran Islands Electric Vehicle trial image of the carAran Islands electric vehicle trial picture of 2 cars
Photos of Electric Vehicle Trial on Aran Islands in early January 2011


Léargas Ginearálta ar Thionscadal Feithiclí Leictreacha Oileáin Árann.pdf (size 62.3 KB)
(Please click on the link to download a copy of this web page in Irish)

SEAI has begun a project together with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to develop the technologies and methods for using Electric Cars to store high amounts of wind (or ocean) energy potentially available to the Aran Islands. In this way a higher proportion of wind/ocean power could be utilised in a future energy system for the islands which could reduce the import of energy to the islands and in turn serve as the blue print for a similar system which could serve the island of Ireland. By using wind and ocean energy to supply our transport (and heating) requirements in addition to meeting normal electricity consumption needs, it is expected that the maximum fuel cost saving for the consumer can be achieved in the long term together with the maximum displacement of imported fuels while facilitating the market for renewable energy.

Eight Mega ECity electric cars are currently operating on the islands and the trial is intended to last for three years. Each year new householders are provided with the opportunity to try the vehicles allowing for a large number of people to participate in the scheme. The vehicles are expected to have electricity costs of 90 to 180euro per annum depending on the electricity tariff available to the users. Currently six vehicles are operating on Inis Mór, one on Inis Meain and one on Inis Oírr. The selection process for Trial Users for Year 3 is expected to begin in September 2012.

To understand how the concept works, we must first consider how electricity is actually created and supplied and how a consumer then pays for his/her electricity usage. Electricity generated at a power station or wind farm is used to energise the electricity grid. Consumers then take energy from this grid. With AC current electricity, no electrons physically flow from the power station to the home, instead electrons vibrate as one body and transmit their energy back and forth along the line like a piston in a car engine. Energy is metered at the power station and the home. Generators get paid for the electricity they create and Consumers pay for the units of electricity they use in their home. Therefore the power a Consumer uses come from a mix of power stations all working in unison to energise the grid and there is no link between one single Consumer and one single power station.

The electricity grid on the Aran Islands is connected via a 3MW cable to mainland electricity grid of Ireland. Considering a system where wind turbines exist on the island to produce electricity. The electricity used to energise the micro grid on the Aran Islands comes firstly from the wind turbines and then secondly from the import cable. The energy on the grid must always equal the consumption of energy by the residents and businesses living on the Island. If the wind turbines stop suddenly, then the import cable will immediately supply the balancing requirement.

By timing the charging of the EVs over the night time period (or even daytime period), to match the maximum available wind power, it can be shown that the proportion of energy which could be stored in the car from local wind power is maximised thereby minimising the proportion of energy which must be supplied from the mainland.

For convenience, the homeowner will not be asked to switch their electricity supplier, rather the consumption of electricity for the EV will be monitored and controlled by the Smart Charger Unit. The timing of the energy consumed will then be used to estimate the % wind energy which could be stored in the EVs, together with the annual cost of energy for the user and the CO2 footprint of the vehicle.

Smart Charging Units and optimising algorithms have been developed by this project to test out and develop the control technologies needed to manage the consumption profile. It is hoped the technologies developed here can serve as a blue print for control systems which will operate in a similar way at a national level thereby allowing the maximum displacement of imported fossil fuels.

Click here for RTE's recent coverage of the launch of the trial on the Aran Islands





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