IMPORTANT: All the systems described here will be analysed in a detailed technical feasibility survey funded by the Rural Community Energy Fund.
A micro-grid is just what you'd think it is: a tiny electricity network that connects everything on site that uses electricity with everything on site that generates electricity.
Usually a new house would be connected to the National Grid with an electricity meter and the householder would choose which supplier they wanted to buy their electricity from. On our site we intend to build a micro-grid, which means that instead of all the houses being connected to the National Grid, there will only be one site-wide connection. Within the site the electricity flows will all be managed by the micro-grid to ensure tenants always have a low-cost supply of clean electricity.
This means that the tenants will pay a new Energy Supply Company (ESCo) for their electricity, not a national supplier. SDCE will guarantee that the electricity can be provided at, or below, market rates to ensure very low running costs for all tenants.
Another benefit of the micro-grid is that because it will cleverly manage the flow of electricity and we will also have batteries and the electric cars in which to store spare electricity, we can reduce the electricity that the new homes require from the National Grid, therefore reducing pressure on our already constrained network and reducing the need for more fossil fuel back up generators, like the one that was proposed elsewhere near Ivybridge early in 2020.
Possible on site batteries
Battery storage would help to balance the electricity demand and supply on site. It could also be used to provide ‘flexibility services’ to the grid, by taking plentiful electricity at night-time and discharging it back in the day when demand is higher. Having a battery on site enables us to explore other services we can offer to Western Power Distribution which will help us to make the project more financially viable. We are undertaking detailed technical feasibility studies to investigate this.
However as the UK decarbonises transport and we switch to owning electric cars, we think we should be able to use the batteries from the cars to provide flexible storage on our microgrid. At the moment very few electric cars have batteries which are suitable to discharge back into the grid. There are a few trials taking place in the UK, but nowhere yet has this been used commercially. We think it could be a highly efficient use of the vehicles and avoid the need to provide other electricity storage options. In the UK the average car is only in use 5% of the time, so it is parked for 95% of the time, leaving plenty of time for the battery to be used as required by the microgrid. Watch this space, we'll be undertaking some detailed modelling on this and looking for more funding to develop this innovative idea.