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Renewable energy cooperative creates UK’s first net zero domestic housing microgrid

Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) is creating the UK’s first community-owned, net zero, domestic housing microgrid at a new development in Bristol. The project will be part-funded by the public through a £2 million share-offer, which the not-for-profit organisation is currently running.

The new microgrid will combine energy efficiency with on-site renewables, heat pumps for heating and hot water, and battery storage; all linked together through smart technology. The residents will get most of their energy from shared on-site solar generation, topping up from the grid when needed, and exporting any excess energy to it. No gas boilers will be required.

Work is already underway on the microgrid at the Water Lilies housing development in the Lawrence Weston area of Bristol, which developers, Bright Green Futures, will complete in 2021. This first microgrid forms part of the ‘Microgrid Foundry’; a joint venture between Bristol Energy Cooperative, Chelwood Community Energy and Clean Energy Prospector, which is aimed at developing a number of microgrid domestic housing sites across the South West.

Andy O’Brien, BEC co-founder/director said: “The technology for net zero housing schemes is available now, but big housebuilders seem reluctant to adopt it. This simply isn’t good enough in a climate emergency, so we decided to take the lead. In our opinion aiming for net zero should be the norm for all new housing developments.”

The community share offer which will fund this project will also help create Bristol’s first hydro-electric generator, which will be installed near Bristol Temple Meads station, at Netham Weir. This will use the natural force of the water falling across the weir to spin twin turbines, which will produce enough energy to power 250 typical homes. The scheme will cost around £2.4 million and will run night and day throughout the year, with peak output in winter; a time when solar energy generation is at its lowest.

Will Houghton, BEC’s Project Developer at Netham Weir, said: “The climate emergency makes the need for renewable energy ever more urgent, so we’re rising to the challenge with this share offer. We’re inviting people across the UK to invest in BEC with as little as £100, to help tackle climate change, support local communities and earn a projected 3.5% return on investment.”

The not-for-profit organisation will add these new net zero schemes to its existing 16 community-owned renewable projects installed across the South West. These currently have a combined annual electricity output of over 9 Gigawatt hours, which is enough clean energy to power over 3,000 homes.

The share offer is open until 31 December. For more information please see: ethex.org.uk/BEC2020

For more information about BEC please see: bristolenergy.coop

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