Householders near the UK’s largest community-owned solar farm will be able to consume the electricity it generates as part of a new ‘locally grown energy’ trial.

The trial will use technology developed by De Montfort University and its spinout company Exergy Devices, and is claimed to be the country’s first trial of local renewable energy consumption.

Around 50 homes in the Wiltshire area have signed up to take part in the locally grown energy trail. The technology used in the trial will allow users to see their current energy use, the forecasted generation of local energy available and automatically schedule energy-intensive appliances to run when local energy peaks.

De Montfort University estimates that the range of measures being applied in the trial could help reduce energy bills by as much as 15%. Dr Peter Boait, senior research fellow at De Montfort’s Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, who developed the technology, said: “This project will show how the combination of  ‘smart home’ and ‘smart grid’ technologies can deliver additional community-scale benefits from the solar panels people are installing everywhere.”

Ramsay Dunning, general manager of Co-operative Energy, explained the rationale behind the project, stating: “In the same way that we should be eating local, seasonal fruit to reduce air miles, we should be using local energy when it is available to us. 

“We believe that this trial will be the start of a new movement within the energy industry that will see local communities taking control of their energy production and usage. We wholeheartedly look forward to that shift.”

The government currently does not allow local community groups to offer any energy generated by renewable projects for local consumption. Carbon cutting charity 10:10 is putting pressure on the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd to implement a ‘right to local supply’ which would allow local generators to become local suppliers – something that is currently impossible under UK electricity market rules.