Battery Storage In the UK Set To Soar

Solar Storage

Charging their way to the top

As of January 2016 in the UK, the capacity of installed battery storage stood at 24MW. This, however, according to a report by Eunomia, is set to explode to a capacity of 1.6 GW by 2020. So what is causing this enormous growth in capacity?

It is a combination of both large companies and land owners near a settlement that can see the potential benefits of power storage, making income from an instalment that requires very little upkeep and man hours, while also potentially supplying their own needs at a knock down price.

The idea of battery storage is simple – store the energy when it is plentiful and cheap, use it or send it back when it is more scarce and expensive. Why has there become this new increase in installation? There are a couple of reasons. First, the use of an increasing amount of renewable or sustainable energy sources to produce the electricity, which has an obvious production time and non-production time.

Take wind for example: the power is there and plentiful when the wind blows and not when it doesn’t. Similarly with solar: during daylight, the power is there but not at night. This means that a way to constantly supply energy has to be sought. An easy, non-green energy solution would be to use a fossil fuelled power plant to make up for the times when it is needed, but batteries are a solution to keeping the green energy supply as constant as possible at all times. With the major advancement of batteries in recent years, using them to store renewable energy is becoming a real commercial viability.

The second reason for the increase in battery installation is that in the not too distant future, we are expected, as a world, to be using far more electricity than we do now. As heating and transport gradually change to be powered by electricity and not fossil fuels, the consumption per person will increase massively and life will become more reliant on electricity. Ensuring that there are minimal disruptions to the supply will be vital. A combination of renewable energy supply with battery storage could be is an important contribution to protection against the impact of any future shortages.

 Dealing with the fluctuation

Battery storage is not the only method employed to combat the problem of renewable energy fluctuation – hydro pumped storage is also a commercially employed method to store the power generated when conditions are optimal.

This method is what it says on the tin: when there is excess energy, from any source, it is used to pump water from a low point to an elevated point where it is stored in a reservoir. This now has stored gravitational energy as it is higher than the turbine. When the power is needed in periods of high demand, the water is released through a turbine and produces electricity. This is not the most efficient method of storage, as energy is lost in the process, but it does work and enables supply to be kept at more of a constant rate, just as a battery would. The main benefit of this over battery storage, however, is the fact that the capacity can be greater depending on the size of the reservoir.

In August 2016 the National Grid auctioned a contract to supply 200MW of storage in 8 battery systems, so that supply and demand could be balanced on a second by second basis. They were won by companies such as EDF and Eon, two very large suppliers in the UK, showing signs of the beginning of a fully green energy supply.

This feeling is cemented in the general mood, as May 2016 saw many large oil companies (Shell, Exxon Mobil and Total) lay out plans for renewable and battery twin systems to diversify away from petroleum and invest large amounts of capital ($500m and $1.4bn acquisition of solar power company, SunPower by Total) into the renewable market.

Why it has improved so much

The advancements in recent years of battery capacity are largely due to one factor: whoever is first to make the best functioning battery, with the largest capacity, will be the market leader when it comes to future supply. This will buy valuable time and an invaluable asset to push ahead of other companies in the industry, much the same as the electric vehicle race. Notably in March 2016, one of the UKs best known and arguably, best living inventor and entrepreneur, James Dyson and his company, Dyson, announced that they would be investing a billion pounds into storage development.

The cost of supplying remote regions with electricity makes the twin usage of renewable energy sources and battery storage a real financial asset. The implication of this combination would mean a constant power supply from a localized grid, no infrastructure costs for installations and upkeep, and not having to pay for any energy consumed.  Regions like the Pacific Island of Ta’u in American Samoa, which previously relied on shipments of oil, can now supply themselves with energy more reliably than ever before in history, thanks to Tesla’s Solar City and battery storage.

Given all the investment and adoption of the technology, one last major factor affecting the increase in uptake is the market force of economies of scale. The technology is simply getting cheaper as more people adopt and invest in it, making it more competitive and reliable than other sources. It is a combination of these reasons which has led to the current battery boom.


Floating Solar Panels

Floating Solar Panels

You may have heard about floating solar panels from the French company Ciel and Terre, who have been involved in the development of the technology since 2006. Pioneers in their field, they have come up with some fantastic solutions for the placement of solar panels. Allowing them to float on water means that they can take up more space, but also won’t cause complaints that they are an eyesore. Why is this? Because they are floating on reservoirs. More recently, the concept has moved to Britain under the company Floating Solar UK. Here, we look more at who they are as well as more information on floating solar panels themselves.

Who are They?

Floating Solar UK are actually partnered with Ciel and Terre, working to provide the UK with better means for the production of solar energy. The first site in the UK that had the Hydrelio floating solar PV system installed was Sheeplands farm, in 2014.

The Hydrelio floating PV system was developed by Ciel and Terre, who have been working tirelessly on it for over a decade. The important thing to note about Floating Solar UK is that they are the first official and agreed distributor of Hydrelio technology in the UK.

They are a company that is committed and determined to keep promoting the use of renewable energy sources. They are strong believers in energy production that result in a lowered environmental impact, and the eventual discontinuation of conventional energy methods like fossil fuels.

One of the exciting things that Ciel and Terre and Floating Solar Panels UK are working towards, is the continued expansion across the market. Currently, a floating solar panel array is under development in Japan – one that is twice as big as the one found in London. It is expected to be completed by 2018. Their presence also extends to South Africa, the USA, Israel, Thailand, and India.

What are Floating Solar Panels?

They are a new, reliable, and cost-effective solution for the production of solar energy. They are able to turn bodies of water into solar power plants, all while continuing to conserve the land and water by allowing the farm to utilise the reservoir for the generation of free, green energy. This energy is then used on-site to power the pump and other areas, saving a massive amount of energy that would have been provided by less eco-friendly sources.

The installation of solar panels on water allows landowners to increase their energy independence, but without taking up valuable space on their land. At the same time, it also helps them to unlock the full potential of any unused bodies of water. On top of this, Hydrelio installations are also able to benefit from the government’s Feed-in Tariff, so you can even make money from your floating solar panels.

The Sheeplands farm installation is made up of 800 Trina panels, all of which are assembled on the land before being lowered into the water by professional installers. The Hydrelio system is able to perform more efficiently than a land-based system of a similar size due to the cooling effects that the water has on the panels. Evaporation is also reduced as the water is shielded from the sun.

Due to the fact that the solar panels are only placed on the water found in reservoirs, there is also no disruption to the ecosystem, as any fish that live there are considered “accidental visitors”. They are also not a disruption to the birds that like to sit on the water, especially as the array only takes up around 6% of the reservoir.

The Benefits of Floating Solar Panels

There are actually quite a few benefits to floating solar panels. Here is the main bulk of them:

  • Cost effective
  • Return on investment is boosted by low lease price and installation costs
  • Streamlined manufacturing process to ensure low production costs
  • Competitive system prices
  • Higher electricity production due to cooling effect of the water
  • All the materials can be recycled
  • Reduction of water evaporation to conserve irrigation or drinking water
  • Slower algae growth thanks to the shielding from the sun the panels provide
  • Low environmental impact overall
  • No excavation work and no impact on water quality
  • Reduced erosion of reservoir embankments due to reduced number of waves
  • Easy to adapt to any electrical configuration
  • Scalable from low to high power generation
  • No tools or heavy equipment required

Want to Know More?

Have you found yourself interested in solar panels? If you want to know more then make sure you head to our marketplace where you can find our full range of products, each with the relevant information. Or simply give us a ring using the number at the top of this page and have a chat.


What will Brexit mean for renewables?

Brexit renewables

If ever there was a word which could be worn out, ‘Brexit’ would be in with a real shot at being it – there hasn’t been a day since the referendum, that I can remember, where I haven’t either heard it being debated amongst colleagues, friends, family or by different media outlets. But what will Brexit mean for renewable energy and the politically whipped industry in the UK? As with all things Brexit, there is no straight answer and there is, as always, plenty of confusion for both investors and the general public. The very short and simple answer is that nobody knows, but we can expect some changes, and thankfully, they aren’t all as gloomy as some may have predicted.

The changes

One worry is that the UK government may give up on, and not replace the 2020 targets for green energy, meaning that we will no longer be aiming to produce 15% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. The reality here though, is that a lot of the planning is already in place to meet this, not to mention our obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement. As long as these obligations are not disrupted, then any efforts already made seem to be secure. This is because the construction, planning permission, grants, subsidies and all the rest that goes with it, require a long lead time and so many, particularly wind farms have already been set in motion in preparation for completion before 3 years’ time.

The second reason why it is unlikely to change a lot in the first instance, is that Britain’s own unilateral climate change act imposes tougher requirements for cutting carbon emissions. Under this the UK has aimed to cut its emissions by 80% from 1990s levels by 2050. This will still remain in the post Brexit era.

The largest problem caused by Brexit is one, not only for the renewable sector, but for every sector. During the complete uncertainty of the whole thing, our Prime Minister’s words of clarity – “Brexit means Brexit,” left things as clear as a snowman in a blizzard. Investors’ trust was gone, and then it was buried by the manifesto promises of the current government to ‘halt the spread’ of onshore wind farms and then came the icing on the cake, Theresa May’s decision to scrap the energy and climate change department!

What has happened?

This led to the UK dropping on the renewable energy country attractiveness index, and left investors looking for more secure assets in which to invest their capital. This change in investor mind-set and the sudden drop in the value of the pound after the vote, did however, have one positive effect on the UK sustainable industry.

Particularly in forestry, investors possibly saw it as an opportunity to tie capital to a more perceptively secure asset – forestry. As a real asset, it will hold its value through any economic troubles to hit the digital world, for many of the same reasons as agricultural land does.  A tree is still worth a tree, no matter how bad the cyber sphere gets.

The drop in the value of the pound and the uncertainty of what’s to come, perhaps also married to the fact that the Scottish government is very friendly towards the forestry industry as it is a large part of the economy in rural Scotland, meant a boost to the investment in forestry. Capital that may have been tied up abroad was liquidised and moved back to hold in real asset value. Another factor may have been the potential that has been seen by some in the industries future, outside of the EU’s CAP (common agricultural policy), which had a devastating effect on the UK forestry industry, leaving planting schemes hugely lacking and the future very gloomy.

Confor (Supporting sustainable forestry) released a leaflet outlining the ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity which has arisen and their vision for a thriving timber and forestry sector in a post Brexit world, their 5 key points needing to be addressed, and how to address them. The positivity has been criticised though, in that it must be supported by the UK government and not just the Scottish.

Support for the sector

Public attitude towards the renewable sector is certainly now in a position of agreement that something should be done to change the way we source our energy. When polled recently in a survey undertaken by Cleanearth energy, an overall majority of small and medium-sized enterprise business owners (SME’s), 88% to be precise, agreed that businesses have a duty to be environmentally responsible. This, however, only converted to 33% saying they believed that current policies adequately supported efforts to combat climate change, and as a result, 51% had not undertaken measures to adopt renewable technology in their businesses.

The Future

Bearing in mind that as of February 2017 (the time of writing this article), we haven’t actually Brexited yet. The effects cannot have been felt from something that hasn’t happened. What we have experienced prior to this time is a movement in the market of investors trying to secure their capital and businesses, preparing for the changes that are about to happen – nothing more than market forces so far.

The reality is that at this time we have to wait to really know what will happen to the sector once we leave. With the public vigorously opposed to fracking, our secure energy future will rely heavily on the government actions undertaken in an EU-free environment.  With a renewables-friendly government, the future could be an investor-friendly, cleaner and more productive one. Combined with a reduction in regulation, it could easily lead to a boost in the industry and greater uptake of technologies, so long as technologies can still become, and remain, cost effective. As they are currently on track to Brexit, this could mean a new lease of life for a sector riddled with past uncertainty, but until anything material actually happens we are stuck in the Brexit limbo.