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.”
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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