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Community Microgrids Share the Load

image credit: Bristol Energy Cooperative
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writer and researcher BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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Global interest in community microgrids is rising. High energy prices and affordable renewable systems have meant that various local projects are generating benefits for their community.

In the eco-friendly UK city of Bristol, a local community renewables company is operating a share fund which raised £2million ($2.7 million) to bring community microgrids all over the UK. Bristol Energy Cooperative has two projects on the way to completion but is developing several more.

The Water Lilies project features 33 homes and a community center that are A-rated for energy. Other technologies include 117 kWh of rooftop solar PV and air source heat pumps for domestic heating and hot water. These are integrated with a 446-kWh Tesla battery linked by a 344-kVA microgrid system. Chargepoints for EV's are integrated and the project is expected to be completed in the summer.

The second project is a community housing development which incorporates a housing association, a co-housing group and a housing developer. The project is 53 residences and a community hub with the same excellent standards of energy efficiency. Using 210 kWh of rooftop solar PV, air source heating for space heating and hot water, and a 566-kWh Tesla battery linked across a 580-kVA microgrid, it includes EV charging through a community car club.

The subscribers to the scheme expect to have energy delivered at a lower cost than the average around the UK. More importantly, Bristol Energy Cooperative's projects will be involved with load balancing across the grid, using their battery storage. The National Grid is confident that it can achieve zero carbon energy generation by 2025, using a carefully-calibrated load-balancing system.

Fintan Slye, Director of the National Grid Electricity System Operator, says, “Zero carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate; integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large-scale off-shore wind to domestic scale solar panels – and increasing demand-side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time.”

Community microgrids will necessarily be part of this fundamental change.

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