University of Nottingham: Pioneering community energy scheme on the banks of the River Trent in Nottingham scoops national sustainability award

A pioneering community energy scheme in Nottingham, which enables residents to generate, store and use solar electricity, has been recognised for its innovation and eco-friendly credentials with a national award.

The Trent Basin green energy initiative, led by experts in the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering, has been named among the winners of the British Renewable Energy Awards 2022.

The scheme, which is being delivered by developer, Blueprint, has seen 76 low-carbon homes being built on the banks of the River Trent as part of the re-development of a 250-acre brownfield site on the edge of the city centre. Blueprint, partnered early on with the University to develop the Trent Basin vision and push the boundaries in terms of energy efficiency targets in a commercially viable development in Nottingham.

Trent Basin scooped this year’s Community category, celebrating community groups that have been active in delivering a renewable energy project or programme of installations in their local area.

I am delighted our scheme has received such important recognition. This is a result of a decade of efforts from various parties and very effective partnerships. Most importantly, this is a recognition of the most important asset the project has – an active community.
Lucelia Rodrigues, Professor in Sustainable and Resilient Cities
Mark Gillott, Professor of Sustainable Building Design, added: “A key part of the scheme is the innovative ways of managing the energy assets, both financially and technically. Our pioneering business models and control systems are helping to advance the integration of renewable energy into communities, making UK Net Zero carbon targets more viable.”

Trent Basin, which will soon be joined by a further 100 homes and a school, features community solar energy generation, Europe’s largest community energy battery and a hub with a digital twin of the development where residents and visitors can visualise the site’s energy usage and generation, allowing them to better understand their role in saving energy and helping mitigate climate change. Each participating home is equipped state of art wireless smart energy monitoring and control equipment, including voice activated technology.

Industry insights and technology
Samantha Veal, chief executive of Blueprint, said: “Winning this award is a fantastic achievement and a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire team involved. Blueprint homes always place high quality design and thermal, sustainable performance at the top of the list, so working with the University to create the Trent Basin green energy initiative has been a fantastic and fruitful experience. The partnership has meant that we can use the latest industry insights and technology to continue to provide homes that perform to the highest standards for our Trent Basin community, especially at a time when energy efficiency is of paramount importance for householders.”

The University team brought lesson from various sustainability projects to the Trent Basin initiative before embarking on Project SCENe, which helped to fund the implementation of the community energy scheme, while engaging with the community. SCENe drove the design, installation and monitoring of the community energy scheme technologies and the formation of the Trent Basin Energy Service Company (ESCo), managed by partners SmartKlub.

A follow up project, Active Building Centre Behind-the-Meter, has encouraged the direct involvement of the residents in the energy trading decisions between the community and the grid. The Trent Basin ESCo has been permitted by Ofgem to supply Trent Basin participants directly with locally-generated energy. Different energy supply scenarios around the best use of the renewables and storage facilities are currently being tested, with a view to providing residents with solar electricity directly, bypassing the grid meter. Any profits would flow back into the community, making the scheme appealing to customers and offering the local community a stake in the energy system.

So far, the scheme is estimated to have saved the equivalent of 34 tonnes of CO2 per year and benefited at least 262 people.

The scheme’s vision is to eventually enable all future housing developments to embrace renewables to lower their energy costs and carbon footprint, providing a no-hassle energy solution for homeowners and developers.

The British Renewable Energy Awards, run by the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, celebrate the next ‘Game Changers’ and recognise the work of organisations and individuals pushing for system change to help the UK meet its target of becoming Net Zero by 2050.