With energy bills rising and the costs of renewables falling, more businesses and communities around the world are powering their homes and premises using standalone renewable energy systems – small renewable energy systems that can operate separately from the main grid. Wood Mackenzie data shows an estimated 420 million people now use standalone off-grid solar, with another 47 million people relying on minigrids for access to electricity. Off-grid renewable energy systems typically use diesel generators to provide power when there is no sun or wind. However, the increasing costs of diesel and concerns around air quality make them unsuitable for most applications.
Energy storage offers a way forward for energy users developing independent electrical systems, providing reliable, round-the-clock electricity in case of emergency. Learn more about offgrid renewables and how energy storage can bring businesses and communities closer toward energy independence.
What is driving the growth of offgrid renewable energy?
For businesses, the motivation to go off-grid is typically driven by concerns around power outages and ever-increasing commercial energy costs. For communities and island grids, connecting to the main grid can be costly and take years, slowing down economic development. These communities often rely on diesel generators that operate inefficiently with high air polluting emissions, which is a growing public health concern
The introduction of offgrid renewable energy systems is an extremely promising opportunity for businesses and communities, with a persuasive business case. Solar and storage is already cheaper than diesel generation in many areas and avoids almost all of the negative impacts on the local area.
What are the benefits?
The offgrid renewable energy sector has made tremendous strides in the past decade. Here we look at some businesses and communities already tackling energy challenges with offgrid renewables and energy storage.
Offgrid Housing, Orkney
The Orkney islands are host to a number of groundbreaking renewable energy developments that allow the island’s inhabitants to operate disconnected from the mainland grid. Island communities in Northern Scotland often pay premium rates for their energy because they have less access to the gas network and are reliant on electricity or oil, which is more expensive. The additional electricity demand required for meeting heat loads also increases the likelihood of island residents experiencing fuel poverty. Luckily for Orcadians, the islands are endowed with extensive renewable energy resources of wave, tide and most importantly, wind. Orkney regularly records wind speeds above 90 mph, making the islands a renewable energy powerhouse.
Orkney has over 650 wind turbines and thousands of solar panels, generating 130% of the electricity needed. A pioneering pilot project in Orkney saw solar and storage systems deployed in a housing development to boost self-consumption and overcome grid constraints. The Grainbank project linked Tesla battery units to rooftop solar on 30 households to make better use of the renewable generation throughout the day.
These batteries were intended to stop excess solar generation from ‘spilling’ onto the local grid, which is already constrained by high levels of intermittent renewable generation. The storage units also charge using wind energy, making use of the plentiful wind energy the island’s turbines produce that would otherwise be curtailed.
Solar & Storage Factory, Germany
In 2019, multinational tech firm ABB unveiled its CO2 neutral factory in Luedenscheid, Germany. The manufacturing site which produces electrical equipment like sockets and switchers, employs 800 people and consumes a lot of energy
As part of the firm’s target to reduce its GHG emissions, the company installed a massive solar photovoltaic array over the site’s car park. According to ABB, it can produce 1,100 megawatt hours of power each year, enough to meet the annual needs of 3,360 homes. On days when the sun doesn’t shine, a battery system with an output of 200 kW and a capacity of 275 kWh, provides needed energy storage to allow the site to continue running efficiently. The site also boasts chargepoints where staff and visitors can charge their electric vehicles free of charge.
Africa’s First Solar Village, Morrocco
Near Morocco’s sunny Atlantic coast lies the village community of Id Mjahdi – also known as Africa’s first completely solar-powered village. While many villages across Africa use solar power, Id Mjahdi secures all its energy needs from solar energy. Morocco is known around the world as a leader in renewable energy with renewables making up almost two-fifths of its electricity capacity. The country enjoys over 3000 hours of sunshine per year – one of the highest rates in the world, making it an ideal location for solar energy projects.
In Id Mjahdi, energy is supplied by 32 solar photovoltaic panels, which generate 8.32 kilowatts of electricity for distribution via a minigrid. The power station is connected to around 20 homes in the village, serving more than 50 people and providing power for home and street lighting and mobile phone chargers. The solar network also has energy storage that can supply up to 5 hours of electricity for use during the night. By training the men and women in the village how to manage and maintain the solar network, the project ensures Id Mjahdi’s energy independence and offers a blueprint for how to power rural villages that are too expensive to connect to the main grid.
The future of the offgrid renewable energy sector looks bright. With volatile energy commodity prices increasing globally and renewables growing steadily cheaper, the next decade presents a huge opportunity for the offgrid sector.
Cheesecake Energy is working with a number of businesses developing offgrid renewable projects to help reduce their energy bills and achieve their decarbonisation goals. Have a project in mind? Get in touch with us today.
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