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Installations underway to test Centrica's localised energy marketplace in Cornwall

 Image: Centrica.

Installations of sonnen's latest generation of batteries, including the series 9 hybrid units, are underway in Cornwall alongside 300kWp of new residential solar capacity. Image: Centrica.

Installations of solar and battery units are underway in Cornwall as part of a local energy project setting out to prove that distributed energy resources can power homes and businesses in the region via a smart digital aggregation platform.

The £19 million Centrica’s Local Energy Market (LEM) was launched almost two years ago to build and test the capabilities of a virtual marketplace, allowing participants to trade energy and flexibility to the grid and wholesale energy market.

While around 35 businesses out of a target of 50 have already been signed up, and will likely use a range of technologies under the LEM, 100 homes have started receiving a mix of solar PV and the latest battery storage technology from sonnen.

The German manufacturer was selected as the technology provider for the residential stream of the project following a competitive tender process in which it fought off competition from seven other firms.

It has contracted SunGift Energy to complete the installations of around 700kWh of battery capacity across 100 homes, alongside 300kWp of new solar PV systems to be installed on an estimated 60.

The LEM will see sonnenBatterie eco 9 AC-coupled units installed across the roll-out programme in homes already with solar, with the hybrid iteration to be installed in those where new solar PV is to be installed. These enable the arrays, using panels from Hanwha Q Cells, to be connected directly to the battery units without the need for a separate inverter.

Gabriel Wondrausch, director and founder of Sungift, told sister title Solar Power Portal that the company was looking forward to working with the new technology for the first time.

"It's always exciting having new products with new capabilities [and] to be at the cutting edge on technology. It's good to see the industry moving at such a pace,” he said.

Once in place, the batteries will be controlled remotely via a digital aggregation platform being developed by sonnen’s e-services subsidiary. This will allow the power stored in residential batteries to be supplied to Western Power Distribution and other participants when it is needed, increasing supply and reducing demand during peak times on the basis of price signals from the market.

According to Martin Allman, sonnen’s country director for UK & Ireland, this element of the project will allow the company to build on its experience of using sonnenCommunity, which allows households to share their collective power across a community of battery owners.

He told SPP: “Without doubt one of the most exciting elements of the project for sonnen is the opportunity to develop the aggregation platform, making use of the experience and models that have been developed in other markets.

“The aggregation of battery assets in people’s homes in this way is absolutely how we see the UK market developing and the technology is available now to make this happen. Already we have a number of other projects in the pipeline where we can develop business models like the sonnenCommunity in the UK and Ireland.”

He added: “Through the LEM we want to show that a decentralised and digital energy system is already possible using today’s technology and that we don’t have to wait 10 years.”

 Image: Centrica.
Martin Allman, sonnen's UK & Ireland country manager, with Suzanne Schutte, the first Cornish resident to have technology installed and Centrica's Donna Cooper (right). Image: Centrica.

Once the installations are in place and the model behind their use is proved out, Wondrausch added that projects like Centrica’s LEM will likely grow, taking in a range of industry stakeholders.

"Storage is proving to be much more interesting than just the storing of solar energy and that's really exciting. So I see projects like this really becoming much more commonplace once the model's been proven.

“It's really interesting to see how the different players are going to take part, from residential customers to large energy suppliers like Centrica, in essentially what is the breaking down of large power generating stations [into] a much more localised energy grid that is available for people to partake in and start sharing some of the benefits,” he said.

Allman added: “The energy landscape is seeing huge changes which will continue much faster than many people think. We are thrilled to be able to demonstrate the role that smart batteries in homes can play in the transition towards a secure, affordable and low carbon energy system.”

Completion of the residential installations is expected by January 2019, although this could change as to take into account the condition of the participating homes and their existing PV systems. They will join existing technologies already involved in the Cornwall LEM, such as the 1MWh flow machine energy storage system connected in November at The Olde House.

Other technologies that could be included in the energy market energy monitoring equipment, blockchain-enabled smart meters, combined heat and power (CHP), microgrid technology,

Speaking to Current± earlier this year, National Grid’s acting director of operations Duncan Burt said: “Cornwall's Local Energy Market is at the forefront of deploying technologies and the way it is thinking about going right down to the domestic level to deliver that.”

“The lessons that we learn here will absolutely be applicable right across the UK.”

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