A Daventry farm has become one of the first businesses in the UK to trial an innovative battery system which would enable electricity from solar panels to be stored and then sold back to the National Grid when it is in demand, potentially increasing returns for greener companies.
The low carbon pilot project will see local farmer Sue Harrison working in partnership with power firm Opus Energy to test the new technology, which has just been installed at family-run Home Farm in Braunston.
Solar panels on the cattle shed at the farm, which produces Aberdeen Angus beef as well as lamb, currently provide power to the farmhouse and the marquee from which they run their successful wedding business, which is already fully booked until 2020.
As the 50 kW panels generate more power than is consumed by the farm, the extra electricity is exported to the National Grid, and Sue and her family are paid for it by Opus Energy through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) – known as ‘prosuming’.
Experts at Opus Energy say the new battery technology being trialled at Home Farm, if successful, could open up revenue streams for businesses as it would allow excess electricity to be stored and then sold back to the grid when it is needed the most, therefore commanding a higher price.
Jonathan Kini, Chief Executive of Drax Retail, which provides power to smaller businesses through Opus Energy as well as to larger companies through Haven Power, said the pilot is one of a number of innovative low carbon schemes being looked at by the energy supplier.
“We know customers and businesses are keen to embrace sustainability wherever they can and we’re keen to help,” Jonathan commented.
“It’s early days for this project. We’ll need to see how it develops now it’s installed at Home Farm, but if it’s successful, this could provide opportunities for more and more businesses in the future to take control, generate their own energy and choose when they sell it to the grid to provide another revenue stream.
“The electricity industry is changing quickly and increasing digitalisation will help customers save money as they learn to use less, help us move to greener, lower-carbon energy sources and also see the rise of prosumers, like Sue and her family. We’re really grateful to the Home Farm team for agreeing to take part in this trial.”
Sue, whose family have been farming in Braunston for over 60 years, and launched the wedding business in 2015 said: “I’m really proud of the way our business has developed but I’m also keen to leave my children and even grandchildren a business which is genuinely sustainable.
“We’ve been on a PPA since 2012 but if this means we get more control of when we sell the energy we produce and don’t need, and make a little more money for the business, then that’s got to be worth doing.
“More and more wedding customers are looking for sustainable, greener venues and it would be great to able to showcase our credentials through innovations like this to future customers.”
If successful, batteries similar to the one installed at Home Farm for the trial could be available to other customers.