Cutting carbon with our home solar and battery storage trial

Wednesday, 4 August 20215 minute read
Pure Planet

Our latest Pure Planet Futures trial is all about solar and battery storage. In this blog, Will explains how the trial could help our Members save cash and carbon.

Pure Planet team member Doug standing next to his new solar panels ahead of their installation for our solar and battery trial

It’s an exciting time for Pure Planet Futures, as we launch our latest trial in partnership with Lightsource Labs. This time around we’re trialling solar and battery storage, which allows users to generate and store their own renewable electricity, saving cash and carbon.

In this blog, Will, our Head of New Products and Services, delves into the details of the technology we’re testing out, what we’re hoping to learn from the initial trial, and how it could help our Members in the future.

What’s the solar and battery storage trial all about?

We’re installing solar panels, battery storage and a home energy management system made by Lightsource Labs, called Tribe, in five Pure Planet team members’ homes. This technology allows homes to generate, store and use their own renewable energy, massively reducing their energy bills as well as their carbon footprint.

We hope to extend the trial to Pure Planet Members later in the year, and eventually offer all our Members solar and battery storage.

How can solar and battery storage help Members?

Solar panels generate electricity from the sun – a typical 12 panel installation (with 3kW of generating capacity) generates around 2,800kWh of electricity every year. That’s about the amount a typical household in the UK uses annually.

But if you don’t have battery storage, any ‘excess’ electricity you don’t use will be exported back to the grid – up to 70% of the electricity generated through solar panels ends up being fed back to the grid. While you can earn money by selling ‘excess’ electricity through our Smart Export Guarantee tariff, you will still have to pay for electricity when your solar panels are not generating enough.

Battery storage can help reduce this export and increase your ‘solar self-consumption’ – the amount of electricity you use in your home that’s generated by solar panels – from 30% to up to 75%. The battery will charge up with any ‘excess’ electricity generated by the solar panels and discharge this later when there’s not enough solar generation to meet your home’s demand, for example at night.

a graph showing a typical day of energy consumption with a solar battery system Credit

The final piece of the puzzle is Tribe, the home energy management system from Lightsource Labs. Tribe acts a bit like the brain of the system, allowing households to monitor and control their solar and battery storage. It also allows us, as the energy supplier to a home, to optimise how the battery storage system is working and remotely charge and discharge the battery to reduce the cost of supplying the home with electricity.

We can also use Tribe to group all the battery storage systems into something called a Virtual Power Plant – this allows us to control them as a single source of energy, in a similar way to a traditional power plant. Our Virtual Power Plant can then provide energy services to the National Grid.

What are we hoping to learn from the trial?

Our trial will explore the installation and usability of the technology – we want to deliver the best possible experience for our Members which means picking the right kit and installing it perfectly.

Our five trialists will be giving us feedback on everything from the site survey process and the installation itself to their thoughts on using the Tribe app, so we can ensure the journey is as simple and clear as possible.

We’ll also be exploring how we can use Tribe to optimise the solar and battery storage systems as part of a Virtual Power Plant – in turn reducing the costs of supplying electricity to these homes and helping balance the grid.

And we’ll be testing the functionality of Tribe, first starting with simple instructions to charge or discharge the battery, and eventually ending up with dynamically optimising the battery on a half-hourly basis. We hope to show that by using Tribe in this way, we can reduce the upfront cost of the solar and battery system to our Members as well as their energy bills.

Keep an eye on the blog as well as the Pure Planet Futures section of the Community, where we’ll be posting regular updates on the progress of the trial, as well as information for Members who might like to get involved in the trial themselves.

Getting involved in Pure Planet Futures

If you’re interested in taking part in an upcoming trial simply sign up to our Community and head to the Pure Planet Futures section. We post the details of upcoming trials and updates on how they’re progressing.

Your feedback is really important – it helps shape our service and what we offer our Members, and helps us all take a step closer to net zero.

Thank you to everyone involved in Pure Planet Futures, trialists past, present and future – and thank you for being part of Pure Planet.

Head of New Products and Services