Our Generation Storage Consumption Supply (GSCS) Project is creating innovative Local Energy Centres in South Wales and the Valleys (and, in the future, for rollout across the UK) to offer businesses the chance to buy cheaper and greener electricity from renewable sources.
The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which allocated £8.9million to back our development of up to seven Local Energy Centres, so that local industry would have access to low-cost, green power, without any capital outlay. Albion Community Power have invested £5.6million into the project.
Depending on a site’s individual energy requirements and location, the Local Energy Centres can integrate power generated from a variety of technologies such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaics (ground mounted or roof mounted installations) and combined heat and power units. Excess power can also be stored in a battery and used at times of peak demand.
The centres are connected to each community by a private network in the form of a micro-grid, which sits alongside the national electricity grid. The ground-breaking and innovative solution has a number of benefits for both commercial and industrial energy consumers including:
• Supplying commercial consumers with a combination of renewable, stored and grid power, resulting in a significant reduction in electricity costs and revenue earning potential for the industrial and wider community;
• Enabling renewable energy from multiple renewable technologies to be retained and used by the community through storing surplus power for when it is needed;
• De-centralising power distribution by enabling centralised management of that power supply, providing greater flexibility in meeting changing local power peaks and operational demands;
• Using a private micro grid and smart metering to reduce electricity transmission and non-commodity charges;
• Enabling sleeving supply models to access a greater number of consumers;
• Providing greater energy security for the community and less reliance on the national electricity grid;
• Reducing C02 emissions in the area to support the national drive to become net zero by 2050;
• Once up and running, the Local Energy Centres will establish a community fund for other sustainable projects or complimentary initiatives such as supporting women in STEM or projects of importance to the Local Energy Centre communities.
GSCS is a complex project which requires a team with experience and knowledge across a range of areas from technical to planning, through to legal. It’s crucial to have a competent team leading from the start to focus on the targets and maintain the clarity and decision making needed to keep progressing the project.
Make sure the project is fundable; European funding is now drawing to a close, but The Development Bank of Wales are one of many organisations in Wales who offer financial support to businesses for renewable energy schemes. GSCS is providing a blueprint to enable business communities to benefit from low-cost renewable energy.
It is also important to communicate and seize opportunities with parties who have a shared agenda and can add value to an idea or project.
Working closely with Planning Authorities is essential. The world is calling out for renewable energy, but real challenges exist; it can take years to prepare for a planning application with numerous reports and studies that need to be recorded over 12 monthly cycles. Listening to what your planning authority needs is critical.
Each site is unique and will present site specific challenges. It can take time to overcome these challenges, but sometimes by thinking ‘outside of the box’, ultimately, a resolution can be found, even if it was unexpected. The process can be challenging, but don’t give up, as the reward of installing renewable energy projects provides a worthwhile legacy.