UK beacon for community energy switched on by Lord Henley

A ground-breaking community energy scheme, which enables residents to generate, store and use solar electricity, has been 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.

An ‘urban solar farm’ onsite, comprising 700 photo-voltaic panels, generates renewable power for the community battery to store until required. Each PV panel is specially designed for eventual installation on residents’ roofs once later phases of homes are built.

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.

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