Centrica starts installation of Cornwall Local Energy Market

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Centrica is moving forwards with its Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM) project. According to an announcement made by the company, the roll-out of the storage system is set to start this month. Energy service company Centrica said the 100 participating homes will receive a free storage system from German company sonnen. Exeter-based Sungift Energy is the chosen installer and will start work shortly.

The company says the homes could receive residential battery storage to absorb excess power from the local distribution grid or their rooftop PV system. Other participants could use smart storage heaters to consume energy during off-peak hours and release it as heat energy at a point when demand is high. On the production side, participants can receive either a solar rooftop system or micro-combined heat and power units.

In this first stage of the project, the company will install 100 battery storage systems in Cornwall, in the south west of the UK, to launch the LEM, under which grid loads can be managed according to the market mechanism.

The project aims to establish a virtual marketplace for electricity, to relieve local distribution grid Western Power Distribution. That will be achieved by connecting the batteries in a virtual marketplace where an algorithm decides when to sell, store or purchase electricity. The batteries are participating in the wholesale electricity market.

To that end, the technology enables batteries to react to market impulses that disclose whether the grid has an overcapacity of electricity. In such events, the electricity price would go down, and the system would decide to store rather than sell electricity produced on a rooftop. According to Centrica, the batteries are controlled remotely to perform the task of maximizing their utilization.

EU funding of €14m has been allocated to the project

The recipients receive free storage systems as the project is eligible for funding under the Europe Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Centrica has received EU funds of more than €14 million ($16.4m) and participating homeowners will enjoy a share to cover their system costs.

The company found 100 homes to take part in the three-year programme, which will see successful applicants take a share of a €900,000 fund to cover the cost of new generation and storage technologies. The England ERDF funding stream is providing £13m ($17m) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. An additional €6.7 million was set aside for deployment to commercial and industrial customers or other large energy consumers in the region.

In addition to the household batteries, Centrica said two large commercial off-takers in the region are participating in the first phase of the program. The Carbis Bay Hotel and Goonhilly Earth Station will take part in the LEM using a combined heat and power system (CHP). The CHP systems are reportedly rated at 35kW and have an efficiency of 90%, as the excess heat from power generation can be used for heating. Aside from relieving stress on the local grid, the installation can save up to 70 tons of COper year, Centrica claims.

Centrica says it is looking to recruit 60 businesses for the project and add many more residential participants. The power company will be awarding funds to cover the cost of a variety of initiatives including energy audits, smart technology upgrades and new energy storage units. A larger participant base would improve the functionality of the concept.

Centrica launched the project in December 2016, when it first called for participants. The initiative is being carried out in cooperation with Western Power Distribution, the local distribution grid provider, as well as the University of Exeter and National Grid.