A new trial beginning this month will test the potential of batteries to shave the peak output of domestic solar installations to increase the capacity of the electricity network and reduce the need for costly improvements to the local grid.

Smart batteries from Moixa have been selected by distributor Northern Powergrid to be installed in 40 homes and linked in a virtual power plant. The trial will use 30 homes fitted with solar through the Energise Barnsley community energy initiative and will test how the solution can reduce peak solar output onto the electricity networks when there is low local demand.

Simon Daniel, chief executive of Moixa, said: “By managing clusters of home batteries in a virtual power plant and allowing homeowners to use more of their solar energy, thereby exporting less, we believe we can significantly reduce peak solar generation output onto the network. This will allow more homes to go solar without imposing new costs on network operators.

“We are working closely with Northern Powergrid and this project will deliver insights to develop incentives which we hope will allow us to roll out solar plus storage to tens of thousands of homes in their region, by creating a business case for homeowners to invest and also by increasing the number of solar connections allowed on each substation.”

If successful, the project would enable panels to be installed on more homes using existing substations and cable networks.

Northern Powergrid, which is funding the £250,000 project, believes UK network operators could save millions for customers by reducing the need to upgrade infrastructure, which will help ensure network-related charges on customers’ electricity bills remain good value.

Andrew Spencer, system planning manager for Northern Powergrid, said: “Batteries will play a key role in the smart energy system of the future, keeping costs down for customers whilst allowing the power network to support greater concentrations of solar power. This innovative project will provide valuable data on how the inclusion of batteries in solar schemes can enable our designers to connect more PV panels before further network reinforcement is required.”

This would help projects like Energise Barnsley, which has rolled out solar to homes in the area but came up against some network constraints in the village which meant that five houses could not be connected within the timescales of the project.

If proven successful, the project is also expected to help ensure network-related charges on customers’ electricity bills remain good value.

The first batteries of the two year project are due to be installed at the end of January and will be managed by Moixa which will manage the cluster of batteries to reduce peak generation output onto Northern Powergrid’s local electricity network.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal Jim Cardwell, head of trading and innovation at Northern Powergrid, said: “What matters for us is to get a good variation but also we also want to get a bit of clustering. From a local power grid perspective we can always model the effects of individual properties and what might happen when they're all bundled together however there's nothing like observing things in action.

“We can do desktop modelling we can do analysis away from the real network but there's no substitute sometimes for working with real customers, real networks [and] real everyday circumstances.”

For residents, Moixa will be able to aggregate the capacity stored on its batteries using its smart GridShare platform to provide network services and distribute a share of the income to the participating homes.

In addition, the batteries are expected to add to the energy cost savings already provided by solar, which Moixa has said typically provide a 30% reduction to bills. These additional savings are of particular interest to social housing providers like Berneslai Homes which is providing some of the homes for the trial.

Stephen Davis, Director of Assets, Regeneration and Construction, for Berneslai Homes, said: “We are keen to explore the savings potential that battery storage can bring to our tenants’ energy bills.  Our tenants face ever increasing energy costs from the energy suppliers they buy their electricity from and solar panels coupled with battery technology have the potential to ease some of that cost.”