UK-Based Energy Cooperative Raises Financing for Solar Community Microgrids

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Bristol Energy Cooperative, a UK-based community-owned energy cooperative, is in the process of raising the equivalent of $2.7 million to finance a portfolio of renewable energy projects, including solar powered community microgrids.

community microgrids

Bristol, England cityscape by Sion Hannuna

The organization is raising funds through its seventh community share offer, with a projected 3.5% return on investment.

The Water Lilies housing development in Bristol, England, will be home to the community microgrid project included in this offer. This will be the first community-owned, net zero carbon domestic housing microgrid in the U.K., according to Bristol Energy Cooperative.

Construction started on the 33 properties and community hub in May 2020 and is due to be completed later this year. A 444 kWh Tesla battery energy storage system and 117 kW of on-site solar PV, scheduled for installation this month, will serve the development. Air source heat pumps will provide space heating and hot water for the residents.

“When you get it right, there is no need to have gas boilers on-site,” Andy O’Brien, co-founding director and project developer at Bristol Energy Cooperative, told listeners during a recent investor event.

Grid-balancing services

The microgrid will meet the majority of the residents’ energy needs. Additional demand will be met by the grid, and excess energy generated will be exported to it. As well as storing electricity for the site, the battery will provide grid-balancing services, generating additional revenue for the microgrid project.

The Microgrid Foundry, a joint venture between Bristol Energy Cooperative, Bristol-based startup Clean Energy Prospector and Chelwood Community Energy, will deliver the community microgrids. It was set up in 2019 to integrate renewable energy and batteries into residential housing, with the aim of demonstrating the benefits and catalyzing the rollout of domestic microgrids.

As well as the microgrid, Bristol Energy Cooperative’s share offer aims to finance solar roof installations and a 300 kW microhydro power station. Since 2011, the cooperative has raised over $16 million and installed 9 MW of solar and battery assets, contributing to the city of Bristol’s target of being carbon neutral by 2030.

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