Low carbon microgrid could power new homes and businesses

A new 300-home development in Somerset could be net zero carbon – thanks to a project funded by the South West Rural Community Energy Fund.

Frome Renewable Energy Co-op (FRECo) has secured a £40,000 grant to investigate the feasibility of a low carbon microgrid and heat network at a large development site called Saxonvale.  The site will include 300 homes and 35,000 square feet of commercial space. FRECo is working on the project in partnership with Frome Town Council, the Microgrid Foundry and the Saxonvale development team.

It is proposed that the microgrid will consist of a network of photo voltaic panels and a bank of smart batteries. Households and businesses will be able to connect directly to the network, allowing them to maximise their use of renewable energy while keeping fuel costs to a minimum.

Anna Francis, Director of FRECo and Resilience Manager at Frome Town Council, said: “Ensuring that a new development is net zero carbon and that homes and businesses have affordable clean energy is vital. This funding will enable us to develop a robust plan to ensure Saxonvale is carbon neutral, enabling around 1 megawatt of solar to be installed.

“In the longer term the microgrid and heat network will be community-owned, ensuring that community benefit is maximised.”

The group intend to apply for planning permission this autumn with the aim of starting construction in winter 2020/21. Once completed, the scheme could save around 670 tonnes of carbon per year.