A pioneering trial demonstrating the capacity of clusters of home batteries to increase capacity on the electricity network and enable more homes to install solar panels is being launched by Moixa, Northern Powergrid and Energise Barnsley.
Moixa Smart Batteries will be installed in 40 homes and linked in a virtual power plant in the first project to study how this solution can reduce peak solar output onto the electricity networks when there is low local demand and save customers millions in the cost of running the UK’s power network.
Electricity distributor Northern Powergrid, is funding installation of the batteries in Oxspring, near Barnsley, in properties owned by Barnsley Council and managed by Berneslai Homes. Community energy company Energise Barnsley has rolled out solar to homes in the area but came up against some network constraints in the village which meant that five houses could not be connected within the timescales of the project. The trial will include all 30 homes in the housing estate with solar PV panels plus 10 others without.
We believe we can significantly reduce peak solar generation output onto the network
Simon Daniel, CEO of Moixa, said: “Batteries will allow the electricity system to support much higher levels of low-carbon renewable power and increase UK energy independence. By managing clusters of home batteries in a virtual power plant and allowing homeowners to use more of their solar energy, thereby exporting less, we believe we can significantly reduce peak solar generation output onto the network. This will allow more homes to go solar without imposing new costs on network operators.
“Solar homes with batteries can halve their electricity bills, and this solution will become increasingly popular as costs of storage and PV fall. We are working closely with Northern Powergrid and this project will deliver insights to develop incentives which we hope will allow us to roll out solar plus storage to tens of thousands of homes in their region, by creating a business case for homeowners to invest and also by increasing the number of solar connections allowed on each substation.”
The £250,000 trial will seek to demonstrate that the virtual power plant can reduce peak solar output onto the network sufficiently to enable panels to be installed on more homes using existing substations and cable networks. If successful, Northern Powergrid believes UK network operators could save millions for customers by reducing the need to upgrade infrastructure, which will help ensure network-related charges on customers’ electricity bills remain good value. The trial will also feed into national design guidance for low voltage networks supplying housing estates.
Andrew Spencer, System Planning Manager for Northern Powergrid, said: “This partnership is one of a number of ways we’re working to explore innovations that can benefit our customers and the communities we serve.
“Batteries will play a key role in the smart energy system of the future, keeping costs down for customers whilst allowing the power network to support greater concentrations of solar power. This innovative project will provide valuable data on how the inclusion of batteries in solar schemes can enable our designers to connect more PV panels before further network reinforcement is required.”
The first batteries will be installed at the end of January and will cost residents nothing. Solar panels typically cut electricity bills by up to 30% and batteries can add further savings of up to 20% by allowing residents to use free energy generated during the day at night.
Moixa will manage the cluster of batteries to reduce peak generation output onto Northern Powergrid’s local electricity network by storing solar electricity instead of exporting it to the grid. Its software includes ‘learning algorithms’ which respond to solar generation, electricity network needs and each user’s behaviour to maximise the benefits of storage.
By linking the batteries in a virtual power plant Moixa will also be able to provide services that make the wider electricity grid more efficient, greener and cheaper to run, such as maintaining a stable frequency, so reducing the need for back-up power from coal, oil and gas. Residents will also receive a share of income from Moixa for these grid services.
The growth of renewable power has put increasing pressures on the network because it must be able to cope with maximum generation on a windy or sunny day at times when demand is low. This has created constraints in some areas where homes with solar panels are clustered and existing infrastructure cannot cope with more peak generation without costly upgrades. In many parts of the country social landlords wanting to install solar panels on their estates have had to wait to connect the final few properties on their projects until the local electricity network is reinforced to accommodate the full scheme output.
Andy Heald, Director of Energise Barnsley said that they had only been able to install solar PV on two in three homes in the area as planned because of existing grid constraints, while in a project in Carmarthenshire only 37% could connect.
The community energy company works with local authorities around the country to develop rooftop solar energy and owns the panels on Berneslai’s homes. “Solar power is a key part of Barnsley council’s plan to reduce high levels of fuel poverty in the region. Battery costs are falling rapidly and storage has huge potential to accelerate the national roll-out of solar and improve the lives of vulnerable people,” said Mr Heald.
He said solar was of particular benefit to elderly people who are at home and using electricity during the day, like many of the residents in the Oxspring trial. Some people with solar panels were saving up to 50% on their energy bills and he believed batteries could take this as high as 80%.
Stephen Davis, Director of Assets, Regeneration and Construction, for Berneslai Homes, said: “We are keen to explore the savings potential that battery storage can bring to our tenants’ energy bills. Our tenants face ever increasing energy costs from the energy suppliers they buy their electricity from and solar panels coupled with battery technology have the potential to ease some of that cost.”
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!