Helping to Stabilise the National Grid

Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is one of the key objectives for mitigating the global impact of climate change.

The food and drinks retail industry has been identified as a sector that could help to reduce these emissions by making a number of structural and practical changes. To this end, researchers and engineers have built an imitation supermarket at the University of Lincoln, UK, in a bid to tackle the impact of mass refrigeration on the UK's carbon footprint and support our strained National Grid.

The Refrigeration Research Centre (RRC) is the first facility of its kind in the world. Harnessing cutting edge technology, it precisely models the essential dynamics of a typical supermarket and is the location for pioneering research being carried out in collaboration with global retailer Tesco and specialist Internet of Things company IMS Evolve.

Mass refrigeration is responsible for around 12% of the UK's carbon emissions. With hundreds of thousands of commercial refrigeration systems across the UK, they place significant pressure on the National Grid and represent up to one third of a typical retailer's energy cost.

Stabilising the Grid is a strategic national priority, which is addressed not just from the supply side of energy but from stabilising demand too - so-called Demand Side Responses (DSR).

Maintaining a reliable and efficient network of commercial refrigeration systems is absolutely imperative, as supermarkets use them not only to keep our food and drink chilled but also to prolong the shelf life of produce. Successfully integrating food refrigeration systems into DSR 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.

Professor Simon Pearson

This new research - funded by Innovate UK as part of a Knowledge Transfer Network - by the University of Lincoln, IMS Evolve, Tesco Stores Ltd, and The Grimsby Institute, explores how to modify refrigeration control in proportion to the available energy on the National Grid, while also optimising food temperature control.

The researchers from LIAT and the University of Lincoln's School of Engineering established complex algorithms taking into account a number of key criteria, including estimation of the mass and thermal transfer rate of food in each refrigerator and numerical weather predictions. In addition, the team worked with IMS Evolve who are Internet of Things specialists and optimised the considerable IT architecture and data flows needed to handle the enormous data scale.

The new academic paper is available to read in full online

Meet the Expert

Professor Simon Pearson
Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology and

Simon Pearson is Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems and leads the University's Centre for Doctoral Training in agri-food robotics. 

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