UK Microgrid Applications & Installations
Around the world, sustainable microgrids are emerging as a vital tool in the fight against climate change and natural disasters. In the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, traditional energy grids struggle to keep the power flowing, causing outages that slow local economies and put lives at risk.
Microgrids in the UK – Our Energy Future?
Microgrids are increasing in popularity around the world, with the global value estimated to almost double in coming years – shooting up from $16.5bn in 2018 to over $29bn by 2023 (UK Power Networks, 2021). This growth can also be expected here in the UK.
The British government are planning to move towards zero carbon by 2050, with some city regions, such as Sheffield and Bristol, aiming for 2030.
Microgrids are an essential technology low-carbon and zero-carbon futures due to their efficiency – negating energy losses from long-distance transfer – and their independence from the traditional grid, allowing local authorities to take control of their own energy.
A move towards microgrids is made possible by new advancements in technology, reducing the costs of generated distribution, energy storage, and electric vehicles. There is a far smaller risk now for organisations to invest in microgrids, due to their widespread deployment.
Many companies and organisations wish to invest in microgrids, as they seek better confidence and control over their energy costs and risks.
The Bristol Energy Cooperative, a community-owned organisation, is currently raising around £2 million ($2.7 million) for a range of renewable energy projects across the city. One of these proposed measures is the construction of solar-powered community microgrids. Bristol’s Water Lilies housing development will be, under this offer, will be ‘the first community-owned, net-zero carbon domestic housing microgrid in the UK’ (Ali, 2021).
This development covers 33 properties and a community hub. It will be served by a 444kW Tesla battery system to store energy in the microgrid, and 117 kW of on-site solar panels to generate its power. In addition, the development will include air-source heat pumps for space heating and hot water, eliminating any need for gas boilers.
This microgrid is predicted to meet the majority of its users’ needs, with further demand backed up by the national grid. Additionally, any excess solar energy will be exported to the grid, producing additional revenue for the project.
The Microgrid Foundry is constructing this microgrid. This organisation is a joint venture, between the Bristol Energy Cooperative, Clean Energy Prospector, and Chelwood Community Energy. It was founded in 2019, aiming to integrate renewable energy and batteries with residential housing. This organisation hopes to demonstrate microgrids as the UK’s energy future, sparking others to follow suit.
Routes to Microgrid Installation
Microgrids are appealing to both private investors and government policy-makers, for their growing efficiency and their environmental appeal. Government proposals such as Sheffield’s Green City Strategy often highly recommend that energy should be produced locally to its consumers, and microgrids provide an ideal solution for these local authorities to have local, green energy.
The Bristol Energy Cooperative is raising funds of around £2 million for its microgrid project through its seventh community share offer – which will see a projected 3.5% return on investment for those who support it. Since 2011, this cooperative has raised over £16 million, and has used those funds to install 9MW of solar and battery assets for the city of Bristol. This project will greatly help the city along to its zero-carbon goal by 2030. (Ali, 2021).
Microgrids are a relatively new proposal, as current advancements in renewable energy and in battery storage have only made them viable in recent years. It is expected that going forward, urban planners will begin to integrate microgrids more into the cities we live in.
Ali, Yasmin (2021). ‘UK-Based Energy Cooperative Raises Financing for Solar Community Microgrids’. Microgrid Knowledge.
UK Power Network Services (2021), ‘Introduction to Microgrids’.