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Europe’s ‘largest’ community battery to be installed in Nottingham

Words: Laura Edgar
Trent Basin / press release

The ‘largest’ community battery (2MWh) and solar photovoltaics that will generate, store and distribute energy at a neighbourhood level is set to be installed on the banks of the River Trent in Nottingham.

The project, Trent Basin, by Blueprint, will also see the launch of a unique energy company for residents.

A consortium of businesses, government and academia has come together, supported by Innovate UK, to pilot “state-of-the-art technologies” and a “unique” energy company for residents.

The pilot aims to demonstrate how to lower cost and reduce carbon while allowing residents to better engage with the energy they consume.

The £100 million Trent Basin project is a residential development that is part of the 250-acre Waterside Regeneration area in Nottingham. Phase one was completed at the end of 2016. Construction on phase two is due to start later this year.

Homeowners at Trent Basin are going to be invited to participate in the project. Opting in could see them make “significant” savings in energy costs. A number of technologies will be used as part of the project, including photovoltaic panels, communal battery and heat stores, and ground source heat pumps.

The project is being supported by £6 million of grant funding from Innovate UK through two energy programmes – the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and Project SCENe (Sustainable community Energy Networks).

The consortium includes Blueprint, the University of Nottingham, Siemens, URBED, Solar Ready and Nottingham City Council.

Alan Clark, portfolio holder for energy and sustainability at the city council, said Nottingham being chosen to pilot the scheme “highlights that the city is at the cutting edge of energy innovation, having the right people and infrastructure to get these types of projects off the ground”.

“This growth in community renewable energy will help to sustain our status as the most energy self-sufficient city in the UK.”

George Waddington, chief executive at the ERA, said that one of the greatest issues today is to try and make enough clean energy quickly and cheaply.

“The community energy demonstrator at Trent Basin is a great example of how exciting technologies can be used to enable communities to significantly reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources.”

Blueprint is a public-private partnership that says it is committed to the development of sustainable homes and workspaces. Nick Ebbs, chief executive, said: “Technologies now exist that mean we can deliver community energy in a way that can bring real benefits to consumers and significantly reduce carbon. The barrier to adoption has been the complexity of putting consumers, new technologies and business models together in a way that makes it all work. That is why Innovate UK is supporting this pilot.”

He said the distribution system will be connected to the grid and as well as drawing renewable energy from community sources, would buy in energy when needed, selling back any surplus.

There is a requirement to find ways of storing energy, particularly at night, when demand is less.

“The way we generate and distribute energy in the UK is inefficient and carbon intensive. It doesn’t have to be like this. With new technologies, especially in renewable energy and storage it is possible to do better,” Ebbs concluded.

The Community Energy project is being developed by an industry and academic team led by Mark Gillott, professor of sustainable building design, faculty of engineering, at the University of Nottingham.

He said the aim is to make smart energy commercial viable, which will increase the take-up of the technology and revolutionise the energy sector.

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

Project SCENe is informed by the university’s Creative Energy Homes low/zero carbon housing project. This incorporates a heat network and electricity micro-grid that uses community energy stores and demand-side management technologies.

The project means:

  • Residents who opt in will have photovoltaic panels installed on their roof, and be provided with smart meters and voice-controlled speakers for access to live data on energy created, stored and consumed.
  • An urban solar panel farm will be installed on the site, in areas that are yet to be developed. As homes are built, panels will be transferred to each home.
  • Further investment will include ground source heat pumps to generate heat for local storage, distribution and use.

More information can be found on the Trent Basin website.