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Innovation round-up: turbine ‘fan club’, BEIS backs gravity-based energy store

The latest Innovate round-up includes news of Octopus launching a new development model for renewables and BEIS pledging just shy of one million pounds towards a four MWh gravity-based storage facility project.

Making fans of wind turbines

Utility Week spoke to Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive of Octopus Energy Generation, about the firm’s new ‘Fan Club’ – offering cut-price electricity to local communities hosting their wind turbines whenever they are spinning and providing an alternative to the current development model for renewables.

The Fan Club tariff launched in January offers smart meter customers living within 5km of one its turbines a 20% discount on their electricity whenever they are spinning and 50% off when the wind picks up and output is high.

North-Bond told Utility Week that the company already has a pipeline of “over a thousand towns and villages” asking them to come and build wind turbines and solar panels in their area.

She added that Octopus deliberately acquired turbines that were close to towns and villages as “we wanted to understand how much people cared about them.”

They posed themselves the question: “If you have a wind farm on the side of your village and you can get as much as 50% off your bill for using energy at all the right times, does that change peoples’ opinions as to what renewables look like?”

North-Bond added that they are trying to create an alternative to the current development model for renewables, whereby colossal “industrial-sized” turbines are built in locations where the wind is strongest – mainly in the north of the UK.

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Gravitricity secures grant to develop UK multi-weight energy store

Renewable energy storage firm Gravitricity has secured a £912,000 grant from the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop a multi-weight energy storage system on a brownfield site in the UK.

The Edinburgh-based firm – whose system stores electricity by raising and lowering heavy weights in a shaft – will work alongside control and simulation experts Industrial Systems and Control, winch specialists Huisman and Careys Civil Engineering to deliver the front-end engineering design for a 4MWh, multi-weight system using a custom-built shaft.

The feasibility project will complete in late 2022 and provide the information required to build a full-scale commercial prototype multi-weight gravity energy store immediately thereafter – subject to securing planning permission and the necessary funds.

The £1.5 million project follows the success of the company’s 250kW demonstrator, which was commissioned and operated in Leith, Edinburgh, during the summer of 2021.

The company is also advancing plans to build a full-scale single-weight project in a disused mine shaft in mainland Europe, to commence this year.

1,000 people with dementia benefit from free SGN safety device

SGN has reached a milestone of providing 1,000 people living with dementia and autism free safety devices designed to keep them gas safe at home.

The locking cooker valve (LCV) was first launched in 2015 and helps customers in vulnerable circumstances remain independent.

Fitting to existing gas cooker pipework, the valve stops the gas supply to the cooker when locked and eliminates the risk of a cooker being unintentionally turned or left on.

It’s available free of charge to people living with dementia and autism. A carer or relative can turn the valve on using a key when the cooker is required, enabling the household to continue to use their gas cooker safely.

For its 1,000th installation, SGN received a request to fit an LCV through East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. They had recently visited a property belonging to a customer whose son was autistic and had an interest in lighting fires.

Membership opens for ‘world’s largest’ consumer-owned wind farm

Ripple Energy has opened membership for what it claims will be the “world’s largest” consumer-owned windfarm.

The Kirk Hill wind farm in Ayrshire in Scotland will be comprised eight turbines with a combined capacity of 18.8MW.

Consumers are now able to buy shares in the project from as little £25. Once it is up and running, they will be entitled to receive the power generated from their stake via partnered suppliers, with savings being applied to their electricity bill that reflect that the difference between market prices and the wind farm’s “low and stable” operating costs.

Ripple Energy said around £1,700 will purchase a large enough slice of the wind farm to power a typical UK home. The company estimated the typical savings from this size stake at £3,120 over the 25-year lifespan of the wind farm and said 4,600 people have already reserved shares.

Shares are capped at a level that is equivalent to 120% of owners’ consumption.

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Hydro REIN and KrakenFlex partner on energy flexibility rollout

Renewable energy provider Hydro REIN – part of the global aluminium and renewable energy company Norsk Hydro – and KrakenFlex, the energy flexibility arm of Octopus Energy, have agreed to partner in several projects across Europe and North America to cut emissions and costs for energy-intensive manufacturers.

Hydro REIN aims to help industrial clients move to green and sustainable operations by enabling access to affordable renewable power while the KrakenFlex platform enables asset owners, energy traders, energy suppliers and system operators to monitor and manage asset performance in real-time.

An initial pilot will begin in April 2022 and see KrakenFlex optimise the output from Hydro REIN’s 500kW Tesla battery in North York, Ontario. By making better use of the energy stored in the battery, Norsk Hydro will be able to reduce the energy bills and carbon footprint of its extrusion plant.

Future projects will see KrakenFlex and Hydro REIN scope out sites in Germany, Sweden and Spain for similar solutions.

KrakenFlex currently controls over 1,300 MW across 1,200 green energy assets with a further 2,000 MW of renewable energy to come online in early 2022.

The platform is targeting management of 100,000 devices and 6,000 MW of energy capacity by 2023.

Severn Trent to create £20m smart water data region

Severn Trent has invested £20 million to create a smart water network in Coventry ahead of schedule as part of the green recovery programme.

The company appointed metering and data company Itron and smart technology provider Connexin to turn Warwickshire and Coventry into a smart water data region with more than 150,000 smart meters.

The installation of the meters, which will begin in March 2022, will be complemented with intelligent infrastructure to gather data.

The scheme was accelerated by the company’s application to bring forward work as part of the green recovery programme to help the economy bounce back after Covid-19. Severn Trent is investing £566 million between now and 2025 as part of the programme.

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Gridbeyond and Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund pen behind the meter battery storage deal

Energy technology firm GridBeyond has agreed a project financing facility from Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund to establish a pipeline of behind the meter battery storage projects across the UK and Ireland.

Announced 22 February 2022, the partnership has a phase one commitment of €10M (approximately £8.3 million) and will allow the installation of a pipeline of battery storage projects at GridBeyond client sites.

Discussing the partnership, GridBeyond chief operating officer, Richard O’ Loughlin, said: “Over the last 12 months many businesses have been examining the risks and rewards of installing battery storage on site, however for most the upfront costs of the technology is a firm barrier.”

This transaction marks the first collaboration between Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund and GridBeyond, who are already examining the potential to expand the partnership into other global markets.

“Decentralised energy storage is a valuable addition to the toolbox of companies seeking to achieve carbon neutrality,” Vincent van Haarlem, fund manager of Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund added. “As such we are very pleased to team up with GridBeyond and to proactively contribute to accelerating the energy transition through this collaboration.”

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