Work experience student brings in £4.3m
A STUDENT on work experience has designed a computer program which could help make a firm £4.3 million.
Iain Whiteside, 21, a computer-science and maths undergraduate at Edinburgh University, used his expertise to create a system designed to boost the National Grid.
Using his program, the Edinburgh-based firm Flexitricity will be able to cut the amount of power used by large companies when the grid experiences a surge.
The grid's resources are most in demand at breakfast time, during football matches or peak evening TV viewing.
Flexitricity will be able to use the program to remotely turn off air-conditioning or other non-essential systems for brief periods in large supermarket chains, water companies and refrigeration firms. This will release more power for domestic use.
The grid will then pay Flexitricity for the power it frees up to be directed elsewhere.
The firm estimates the amount of energy it will release could be worth up to 4.3 million - cash which it will then receive from the grid.
That income will be shared with the businesses that Flexitricity has signed up to the project.
The move will reduce the grid's need to rely on back-up generators to meet demand, and benefit the environment by cutting overall energy use.
The scheme also means the grid would cope more efficiently when faults develop at power plants, forcing them to shut down production.
Mr Whiteside, a third-year student from Larne, in Northern Ireland, was awarded for his efforts with a job at Flexitricity and a 1,000 prize as the UK's most enterprising student in a competition held by Shell.
He said: "The project really captured my imagination - and that undoubtedly helped me to achieve so much.
"It's an amazing feeling getting the project through to completion and knowing that I made a difference."
Alastair Martin, chief executive of Flexitricity, said he was very impressed by Mr Whiteside's ability.
He said: "He came in to make the project work and he approached us with a willingness and thinking that turned out to be spot-on.
"I have only ever had to explain something to Ian once and if I needed to explain it twice, it's probably because something wasn't right in the first place."
The company has now employed Mr Whiteside as a senior operator part-time while he is still studying.
Supermarket chain Tesco has agreed to one of their Glasgow stores acting as a pilot for the scheme.
Flexitricity also intends to approach water companies, which could temporarily shut down pumps, and refrigeration firms, which could turn-off equipment for a short period.
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