Batteries could enable at least 25% more renewable energy for use during peak times

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NORTHERN Powergrid has launched findings from its two-year Distributed Storage and Solar Study into how smart home batteries can increase electricity network capacity, enable more homes to install solar panels and deliver financial benefits for customers.

The project supported community homes – managed by Energise Barnsley and Berneslai Homes – to save money on their energy bills and cut carbon emissions, while making the local power network ‘more efficient, greener and cheaper to run.’

The network operator worked with Moixa, the developer of smart software for domestic battery and electric vehicle charging, to manage a cluster of 40 of its Smart Home Batteries connected alongside 27 sets of rooftop solar to form a virtual power plant in Oxspring, Barnsley.

Paris Hadjiodysseos, Smart Grid Development Engineer for Northern Powergrid, commented on the findings: “We have to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and real-world projects like this are paving the way for this to be achieved.

“This project has unveiled significant insights into a future flexible domestic electricity market, and demonstrated how smart energy storage systems can maximise benefits for both consumers and network operators.”

The growth of domestic solar, with peak generation usually in the middle of the day when demand is low, can increase pressure on some areas of the local power network.

Northern Powergrid is reviewing ways to strengthen networks that enable more renewable power to come into the system while delivering a more reliable network for customers.

This trial forms part of the operator’s commitment to finding the most cost-effective way of managing the system for the benefit of the 3.9 million homes and businesses it serves.

The trial participants with solar panels secured up to £60 off their electricity bills a year by storing free solar energy and using it at night, when tariffs are usually higher.

Batteries, combined with roof-top solar, reduced the need for power from the network during the more expensive and carbon-intensive evening peak by 25%.

The batteries, which the project participants received for free, are expected to retain 80% capacity after 10 years, enabling customers to continue saving on their energy bills well into the future.

Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets Director at Northern Powergrid,added: “Intelligently managing our energy networks is essential when it comes to achieving UK environmental goals.

“Practical projects like this are crucial in delivering a practical understanding about the best ways we, as a network operator, can best support our customers and become an enabler in delivering net zero ambitions.

“Following the findings of this trial, we would like to see the UK Government and energy regulators consider the role of storage in network management in more detail, potentially offering financial incentives to stimulate the market in areas where storage can deliver social as well as system benefits.”

Moixa’s GridShare artificial intelligence software can respond to solar generation, electricity network needs, user behaviour and weather forecasts to maximise the benefits of solar and storage.

When batteries were programmed to operate at certain times of day, the impact was almost doubled.

There was still some network benefit when operating under threshold charging, indicating that a government incentive to drive uptake of home batteries in areas of expected network constraints could stimulate uptake of energy storage, without additional costs to DNOs.

The trial also identified key customer engagement learnings, such as the importance of size and aesthetics of storage systems and Northern Powergrid will now go on to share these learnings with fellow network operators and wider industry.

Andy Heald, Director Energise Barnsley, commented on their part in the collaboration: “This project shows that all residential solar should be installed with some form of storage if the price is right, as it will be a net benefit to a future flexible grid.”

Data collected from the study was analysed by Element Energy, along with TNEI, and preliminary findings were presented at a number of national and international conferences, including LCNI 2019 in Glasgow and CIRED 2019 in Madrid.

Key learnings were presented at the Electricity Innovation Forum 2020 held at ENA on 21 February 2020.

Innovation trials such as this are the cornerstone of Northern Powergrid’s commitment to building a truly customer-led distribution system operator network and the findings will feed into upcoming plans ahead of the next regulator price control period (RIIO-ED2).

The final report and learnings can be found on Northern Powergrid’s website.