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Communal energy project aims for UK first

A pilot community energy project in Nottingham is aiming to help generate an income for local residents by combining solar panels with battery storage.

A consortium of businesses, academics and public sector groups have come together to develop the scheme at the Trent Basin development on the banks of the River Trent.

The pilot scheme will install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on 45 homes on the new estate, along with a 2MWh (mega watt per hour) battery system, which will be plugged directly into the local grid system.

It has been backed by £6m of grant funding from Innovate UK and should be up and running by the end of the year.

Nick Ebbs, the chief executive of developers Blueprint, which is behind Trent Basin, said there are ‘significant benefits’ in developing a system, which can generate and store renewable energy at a communal level.

There have been a number of advances in recent years around battery storage, with cheaper and more efficient batteries coming on the market.

One of the advantages, he said, is that the communal battery will be able to store energy generated by all the solar panels and either save it or sell it back to the national grid.

When there is a high level of demand for electricity on the national grid, the price of energy increases.

The battery will also be able to buy energy from the grid when demand is low and prices are cheap.

‘This opportunity to buy electricity from the grid when it’s cheap and sell back when it’s expensive, and thereby generate a significant income stream is a fundamental part of the project,’ added Mr Ebbs.

‘What our system will do is help moderate the peaks and the troughs in supply and demand that the grid has to deal with.’

As part of the scheme, the consortium are looking at setting up an energy services company (Esco), which would be in charge of selling energy back to the grid.

Although the plans for an Esco are at an early stage, Mr Ebbs said residents would get a slice of the profits from the company.

There are other renewable energy and storage systems currently being trialled around the country. Energise Barnsley is working with the storage company Moixa Technology on a project in Oxspring, but this involves batteries in individual homes, rather than a larger communal one.

A team headed up by Mark Gillott from the University of Nottingham is developing the Trent Basin community energy system.

‘Our aim is to make it commercially viable, which will increase the take up of the technology and revolutionise the energy sector,’ said Professor Gillott.

‘We need a mind shift away from personalised household energy generation, storage and use to larger community schemes that provider greater efficiencies and cost savings.’

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