Photo by Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon

By Eleanor Watts

The recent celebration of Project ERIC was great! We packed out the ballroom – kept getting out more chairs! There were fascinating presentations about the learning from this ground-breaking project, which links solar PV to batteries on 82 local homes, the Community centre, Rose Hill Primary School and to a community electric car.

Ed Gunn from Moixa explained what has been learned about battery technology over the two years – in particular the importance of understanding the needs of the people using it. In future, Moixa has learned to provide clearer guidance and feedback to residents. He stressed the importance of residents keeping online so that their batteries can be monitored.

Professor Rajat Gupta, from Brookes University, evaluated the lessons to be learned for community energy. One of the key points was that the batteries need to respond to a wide range of energy consumption and to usage at different times of day. For example, those who benefitted most from the batteries were people who use quite a lot of electricity in the evening, but are out during the daytime.

Terence Eden and Eleanor Watts talked about their experience of using the batteries as local residents. Terence had been sceptical initially, but became a convert when he saw that he saved a lot of electricity by drawing from the battery in the evening. Eleanor spoke about the supporting role of Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon over the past two years. She thanked residents for their patience, as although there have been problems along the way, these will teach us how to solve the major problem of how to use solar energy at night.

Debbie Haynes explained the learning of the City Council, which has put enormous resources into ensuring that the project works well. She and her team have worked hard to sort out flickering LED lights and meters going backwards! Her finding is that the PV panels have been hugely successful in saving money for residents, so these will all be retained. The batteries have not benefitted those who use very little energy or those who use up their solar energy during the day, so the batteries will be de-installed in these households.

Andy Edwards summed up from the viewpoint of Bioregional. He looked ahead to ways that Rose Hill can build on this learning to pilot future new technologies for our community. One may be to have solar PV on south-facing houses and batteries in nearby households that can benefit most from them, creating a localised energy grid. He also pointed out the importance of behaviour change to maximise benefit – for example, putting on the washing machine when the sun is shining.

MANY THANKS to all who participated – mainly the 82 local residents who participated in ERIC, taking on trust the new solar, battery and LED technologies to promote future learning. We also thank those who designed and evaluated the project: BioRegional, Moixa, Oxford Brookes, the City Council and Green Square Housing Association. Finally, we thank those who helped it along the way: members of Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon and Rose Hill Tenants and Residents Association, the Low Carbon Hub and our City Councillors Ed Turner and Michele Paule. It was great to see other groups represented the event: Climate Outreach, other Community Action Groups and our MP, Anneliese Dodds.

Thank you to all for your time and support. Now for the next step towards a zero-carbon Rose Hill and Iffley!