Innovations in Energy – the Nottingham Trent Basin Project
The way that we produce energy needs to change. If we want to tackle global climate change head-on with sustainable energy solutions, then we need a fundamental shift in the way that we create, store, and distribute energy. Ultimately, this means a breadth of changes also occurring in our homes, which could prove challenging. As is often the case with new technologies, the disruption they cause to people’s lives creates pushback that slows their diffusion into general use; people aren’t predisposed to compromise on comfort or convenience.
That’s where efforts such as the Nottingham Trent Basin project come in – providing sustainable solutions that integrate seamlessly with people’s existing routines. The Nottingham Trent Basin project, for example, aims to transform electricity generation in homes by producing it communally.
That's one big battery...
The Nottingham Trent Basin housing development is a £100 million scheme currently trialling a new way of generating household electricity using Europe’s biggest communal battery. Importantly, the way it works is – outwardly – relatively simple; the battery stores energy, which comes from an on-site urban solar farm, for the entire complex, and then distributes this energy to the various homes throughout the development as required. Surplus energy goes back to the grid and residents share the profits equally.
One of the benefits of this battery system is the ability to store energy at night, when there is less demand. This helps to reduce carbon emissions and lower costs by working on a supply-and-demand basis. According to Professor Gillot of Nottingham University, moving away from individual household energy production, storage, and usage towards larger community systems will be more energy efficient. Having one large battery instead of many smaller ones is a simple way of doing so.
The lithium battery, made by Tesla, has a storage capacity of 2.1 MWh and provides 500kW of power to the development. A 500kW inverter turns DC into 3ph AC for use on the grid circuits. This low ratio increases the life expectancy of the battery.
In addition to the battery, solar panels and ground source heat pumps reduce the costs of heating the buildings. Producing energy this way not only benefits the environment and reduces costs for residents, but it also brings people together as a community (something which is, sadly, missing in most housing complexes around the UK).
The housing development
To meet the project’s aim – delivering a greener lifestyle for all residents – engineers amalgamated a variety of sustainable practices and devices throughout the complex. Living spaces, for instance, are all connected through IoT technologies that reduce or track energy use, both making it easier for residents to be aware of their usage and reducing their overall drain on the system.
The future of the project
The scheme recently won an award for ‘Sustainable Development of the Year’ at the East Midlands Bricks Awards, but the developers are hoping that this is just the beginning – aiming for similar developments to be rolled out across the UK using this sustainable technology. Students at the University of Nottingham are developing software that shares data from this project with broader communities. Their goal is to raise awareness for homeowners and the general public.
Energy – the bigger picture
Since 1990, the UK has cut greenhouse emissions by 42%. But there is still a way to go. The energy we use to heat our homes makes up a third of total emissions, and so projects such as this are an important step in the search for alternative, more sustainable energy solutions that help reduce the effects of climate change. The UK Government has been funding projects such as this as part of the UK Government’s clean growth initiative.
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