A ground-breaking community energy scheme, which enables residents to generate, store and use solar electricity, has been officially switched on in Nottingham.
University of Nottingham-led, the green energy initiative is situated at Trent Basin, a 250-acre brownfield re-development of 500 low-carbon homes under construction on the edge of the city centre.
The research project boasts the largest community energy battery of its type in Europe, which is supplied by Tesla. It can store 2.1 MWh of energy, delivering 500kW of power, which could boil 167 electric kettles simultaneously for more than four hours.
The battery and solar farm were switched on by the Rt. Hon Lord Henley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Friday June 1.
Additionally, an innovative Community Energy Company has been set using ground-breaking business models to manage the energy assets and provide energy services to its residents which includes storing and selling locally-generated energy to the grid at peak times. Profits made by the ESCO will help to cut energy bills for residents who opt in to join the scheme and vote on its direction and share its benefits.
A unique collaboration between the renewable energy industry and academia, the Trent Basin community energy project is headed up by the academic lead Professor Mark Gillott, from the Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham.
Professor Gillott also runs the Creative Energy Homes; a seven-house living test site on University Park campus, investigating energy-efficient technology use in homes and smart grid – heat network applications. The community energy scheme at Trent Basin has been directly informed by the research undertaken at the Creative Energy Homes.
This latest initiative goes one step further, however, offering eco-conscious residents the unique chance to be part of a live study in a new-build housing development. Trent Basin researchers have programmed and installed interactive smart technologies around the homes to help users make informed choices about their energy consumption.
These include voice-activated Amazon Eco Spots with on screen messages to give real-time updates on electricity use and helpful suggestions on greener energy settings. The research team has also co-developed a 3D interactive map of the Trent Basin development available on an app for residents. Live energy data on individual properties can be viewed and compared to their Trent Basin neighbours and benchmarked against the national average.
Although in its early days, the project is capable of yielding large data sets on consumer behaviour regarding energy use. The researchers hope their findings will inform an innovative business model that can be rolled out nationally to increase the take up of community energy schemes across the UK.
Professor Gillott commented: “We need a mind shift away from personalised household energy generation, storage and use, to larger local community energy schemes that provide greater efficiencies and cost savings. Our aim is to make this technology commercially-viable in order to increase the adoption rate and help revolutionise the UK energy sector.”
The Trent Basin community energy initiative benefits from £6m investment through two Innovate UK funded programmes – the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and Project SCENe (Sustainable Community Energy Networks).
A consortium of partners has come together to deliver the scheme, including the developers Blueprint, AT Kearney, Smartklub, Siemens, URBED, Slam Jam, Sticky World, Loughborough University, Solar Ready, with support from Nottingham City Council.
Dr Derek Allen, Innovation Lead for Energy at Innovate UK, added: " The Trent Basin project is an excellent example of bringing innovative business models and technologies together to provide clean, affordable energy to local communities. As the UK looks to move away from large centralised power generation, we hope to see more of these types of localised, integrated low carbon systems roll out across the country. It is particularly encouraging to see the range of innovative Companies working together with the community to deliver this project."
Dr Emma Kelly, Chief Operating Officer of the Energy Research Accelerator, added: “The aim of ERA is to bring together expertise to demonstrate what can be done through thinking and working innovatively and collaboratively. The Community Energy demonstrator at Trent Basin is a great example of how existing technologies can be used to enable communities to significantly reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources. We’re very grateful for the funding we’ve received from Innovate UK to enable this.”
Nick Ebbs, Chief Executive of Blueprint, a public-private partnership committed to the production of sustainable homes and workspaces, which is managing the Trent Basin development, added. “Technologies now exist that mean we can deliver community energy in a way that can bring real benefits to consumers and significantly reduce carbon. There is a need to find ways to store energy typically at night when demand is slack, smoothing out the peaks and troughs of supply and demand, and with this new battery we will be able to do that.”
Charles Bradshaw-Smith co-CEO SmartKlub, the company responsible for innovating and operating community energy company “Trent Basin ESCO Ltd”, added: "What's different at Trent Basin is that we are innovating new business models and the role of the community in order to maximise the beneficial impact of the technologies. We aim to create a repeatable offer that can make sustainable developments mainstream all over the UK."
Councillor Sally Longford, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, at Nottingham City Council, said: “This fantastic initiative is demonstrating how we can minimise reliance on the national grid, lower carbon emissions and ultimately safeguard against rising energy prices. Energy storage is undoubtedly the future, allowing renewable energy generation to be stored locally and subsequently utilised when required. Nottingham City Council is also trialling battery storage on operational sites to lower energy bills and even sell energy back into the national grid at peak demand times.’’
For details of the Community Energy scheme at Trent Basin, visit www.projectscene.uk and for further information about the Energy Research Accelerator, visit www.era.ac.uk
To find out more about the houses and flats at Trent Basin, and the wider development plans, visit www.trentbasin.co.uk
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