SUV car driving in the countryside
30th June 2021

Unlocking grid constraints in rural communities

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Combining hydro energy, solar generation, and battery storage to provide an affordable three-phase supply

Currently 16.6 per cent of the UK’s population lives in rural areas. Many of these communities are limited to a single-phase electricity supply, and upgrading the network to a three-phase supply, which offers much higher efficiency and capacity, can be prohibitively expensive.

This energy barrier directly impacts these communities by hindering business development, limiting locally generated energy exports, and restricting electric vehicle (EV) charging capabilities.

There are currently no commercially viable solutions in the UK that offer a single- to three-phase conversion system, despite it being identified as technically possible. The key feature is in the storage and conversion process, without the need to upgrade the local grid network.

To address this barrier, Urban Foresight has been awarded innovation funding from Ofgem’s Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme to conduct a feasibility study for an innovative Community Rapid and Renewable Energy Hub (CoRRe Hub) in Applecross.

Applecross is a grid-constrained, rural community in the Scottish Highlands with only single-phase power available. The three-phase supply could be used to support several new developments in the area and would allow the installation of a rapid EV charger, supporting residents in making the switch to EVs.

The project will investigate the ability to combine a limited grid connection, hydro energy, solar generation, and battery storage to provide the community with a practical, convenient, and affordable three-phase supply.

The system will use inverter technology to convert constrained power supplies into usable power for rapid charge points within a fully functioning hub using local renewable energy generation.

This feasibility study will help realise the technical, environmental, and commercial opportunities for Applecross as well as support residents access lower-cost locally produced energy.

It will investigate the benefit of deploying the CoRRe Hub solution as a commercially attractive and innovative alternative to extensive grid upgrades and the opportunities for rollout across other similar communities.

Callum White, Senior Consultant at Urban Foresight said, “We have a detailed understanding of the barriers and opportunities for this innovative concept following the EV study we carried out in Applecross last year.”

“We believe the CoRRe solution will deliver huge benefits to rural areas through connection to localised renewable generation, enabling the growth of local EV charging networks, and leveraging opportunities for income generation.”

Urban Foresight and Applecross Community Company will work with a consortium of technical partners, including Denchi, Supply Design, and Boyd Brothers. This project builds on the work Urban Foresight has undertaken in Applecross for a feasibility study and detailed design for EV charge points with associated infrastructure and battery storage.