Solar home smart battery trial to demonstrate virtual power plant

Solar home smart battery trial to demonstrate virtual power plant

Business news |
By Rich Pell

London-based Moixa Smart Batteries is working with electricity distributor Northern Powergrid to install battery systems in 40 homes around Barnsley with solar panels to connect them up into a virtual power plant. Some areas have a problem of too much power being exported from solar panels at peak times, and the virtual plant manages power from multiple battery systems to reduce the overall load.

“By managing clusters of home batteries in a virtual power plant and allowing homeowners to use more of their solar energy, we believe we can significantly reduce peak solar generation output onto the network,” said Simon Daniel, CEO of Moixa,which sees itself as a UK version of US battery and car maker Tesla. This will allow more homes to go solar without imposing new costs on network operators. 

Solar homes with batteries can halve their electricity bills, and this solution will become increasingly popular as costs of storage and PV fall. We are working closely with Northern Powergrid and this project will deliver insights to develop incentives which we hope will allow us to roll out solar plus storage to tens of thousands of homes in their region, by creating a business case for homeowners to invest and also by increasing the number of solar connections allowed on each substation.”

The £250,000 trial will seek to demonstrate that the virtual power plant can reduce peak solar output onto the network sufficiently to enable panels to be installed on more homes using existing substations and cable networks. If successful, Northern Powergrid believes UK network operators could save millions for customers by reducing the need to upgrade infrastructure. The trial will also feed into national design guidance for low voltage networks supplying housing estates.

Moxia supplies 2kWh and 3kWh LiFePO4 battery packs for two bedroom and three bedroom houses respectively that combine the inverter and control electronics, linked by WiFi and Zigbee protocols. The battery packs take 5A inputs from the solar cells and provide three DC outputs at 23-32V with a combined maximum 14A load, an internal connector to micro-inverter, rated at 17A DC, and an AC micro-inverter output aat 430W. The LiFePObattery modules are replaceable and have a projected life of over 10,000 full charge cycles over 20 years.

“Batteries will play a key role in the smart energy system of the future, keeping costs down for customers whilst allowing the power network to support greater concentrations of solar power,” said Andrew Spencer, System Planning Manager for Northern Powergrid. “This project will provide valuable data on how the inclusion of batteries in solar schemes can enable our designers to connect more PV panels before further network reinforcement is required.”

The first batteries will be installed at the end of January and Moixa will manage the cluster of batteries to reduce peak generation output onto Northern Powergrid’s local electricity network by storing solar electricity instead of exporting it to the grid. Its software includes ‘learning algorithms’ which respond to solar generation, electricity network needs and each user’s behaviour to maximise the benefits of storage.

By linking the batteries in a virtual power plant Moixa will also be able to provide services that make the wider electricity grid more efficient, greener and cheaper to run, such as maintaining a stable frequency, reducing the need for back-up power from coal, oil and gas. In the future, residents will also receive a share of income from Moixa for these grid services.

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