Village homes to have batteries installed in push for solar power
Dozens of homes in a village will have batteries installed to create a "virtual power plant", in a trial that aims to boost solar power.
Some 40 council homes in Oxspring, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, are to get the battery technology to see if it can help increase the capacity of the electricity network and enable more homes to install solar panels.
The £250,000 trial's backers say households with solar panels and batteries can halve their electricity bills, helping tackle fuel poverty - but grid constraints can prevent widespread roll-out of solar power without expensive upgrades.
Domestic solar panels generate electricity for the home, or export it to the grid if it is not needed by the household, which can put a strain on existing networks.
Batteries provide an alternative by storing power when solar panels are generating electricity but it is not needed and then supplying it to homes when required for lighting and appliances.
The scheme aims to allow households to use more locally-produced clean energy and show clusters of batteries can reduce peak amounts of solar power going into the network when demand is low.
This could mean more homes can get panels without upgrading infrastructure - potentially saving millions of pounds for UK customers.
Community energy company Energise Barnsley rolled out solar panels to homes in the area but network constraints in the village meant five houses could not be connected within the project's time scale.
The trial by battery company Moixa, distributor Northern Powergrid and Energise Barnsley will install the compact batteries, which are smaller than a boiler, in 30 council homes with solar panels on their roofs and 10 without panels.
Simon Daniel, chief executive of Moixa, said: "By managing clusters of home batteries in a virtual power plant and allowing homeowners to use more of their solar energy, thereby exporting less, we believe we can significantly reduce peak generation output onto the network.
"This will allow more homes to go solar without imposing new costs on network operators."
He said solar homes with batteries could halve their electricity bills and it would become increasingly popular as the costs of electricity storage and solar panels fell.
Andy Heald, director of Energise Barnsley, said they had only been able to install panels on two-thirds of homes in the area because of grid constraints, while a project in Carmarthenshire had only been able to connect 37% of homes.
But solar was of particular benefit to elderly people who were at home and using electricity during the day, including many of the residents of the trial at Oxspring, with major savings on bills.
He said: "Solar power is a key part of Barnsley council's plan to reduce high levels of fuel poverty in the region.
"Battery costs are falling rapidly and storage has huge potential to accelerate the national roll-out of solar and improve the lives of vulnerable people."
Northern Powergrid is funding the installation of Moixa's smart batteries in properties owned by Barnsley Council and managed by Berneslai Homes.