Farms of the future are set to become an important source of renewable fuel and energy
Powersystems UK attended the Energy and Rural Business Show. The event took place on the 6-7 February 2019 at the Telford International Centre.
The Energy and Rural Business Show is a pioneering event. Which was attended by the Powersystems renewable energy team. The event showcased the latest opportunities for farms, land owners and rural businesses who are looking to maximise profitable and sustainable land use.
Celebrating ten years of success, the show has been created to bring key areas together. These key areas are set to define farm businesses going forward. The Energy Now Expo, was joined by the Rural Business Expo and the Low-Emission Vehicles Expo.
Over the next decade an ‘energy revolution’ is being predicted for the UK. As farmers and landowners look to invest in energy storage technology. Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, James Court, said ‘Around 2.5GW of subsidy-free solar and energy storage projects are set to be deployed in the UK over the next two years.’
If a farmer has already invested in renewable technologies, energy storage would add extra value to their onsite generation. Historically, one of the drawbacks of renewable energy such as solar and wind, has been its production variability. However, battery technology could help to overcome these peaks and troughs.
Charging stations on farms and Time of Use tariffs
Renewable energy also opens up a range of future diversification opportunities, such as the prospect of hosting charging stations on-farm for electric vehicles. Time of Use tariffs are currently under consultation, but will allow farms to use electricity when it’s cheapest to do so, with the right control system in place.
Reducing the size and cost of technology
Developments in lithium ion batteries have also reduced the size and cost of the technology. This has led to more feasible behind the meter domestic storage and commercial-scale systems, which support existing grid infrastructure for wind and solar farms.
It’s been a busy year for energy storage on a policy framework level, which can be seen in the latest Government targets. The UK is currently one of the best places in the world for advancing this technology, and farmers are positioned to be at the forefront of these developments.
Localised renewable energy
There is now a greater need for localised renewable energy. If the government’s target to ban diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040 is to be met, we will need new sustainable refuelling infrastructure in rural areas.
Farms as key players in renewable infrastructure
Farms could become key players in the production and supply of renewable transport fuels.
There are a number of exciting developments in the agricultural sector. What’s key now, is understanding where the best opportunities lie for farmers in the immediate and longer-term future, so that provisions can be made.
Energy storage challenges and opportunities
The agri-renewables industry has previously been about mass generation of energy. Now the focus is on more smart and targeted use of power and heat. This includes storing energy for later use. Battery storage technology has moved on leaps and bounds, and suppliers are now focusing on developing more affordable solutions. Decreasing battery size paired with increased efficiency is a focus for this, and innovations in lead acid and heat battery technology, could help to make this a reality.
Energy storage growth
Energy Storage is poised for significant growth in the UK. This is due to a resurgence in confidence for renewable energy, making it the cheapest most sustainable power available. Opportunities in energy storage are aplenty. Farmers are being urged to source sound advice, as there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
Storage is overcoming the limiting issue of intermittent renewable energy and is widely understood as the missing piece in the puzzle. According to experts speaking at the event, the many opportunities presented require careful consideration. There generally isn’t one revenue stream that storage can use to create a viable business model – it’s more about tapping into multiple revenue streams and being creative about how you make the most of your asset.
Energy storage – the below topics provided some great insights
- What are the opportunities? A look at STOR and behind the meter options, including costs and income figures
- Smart Systems & Flexibility: electricity storage policy focus
- Hybrid storage – onsite use and export – getting the best of both worlds
- On the grid session about understanding the regulations, innovations and opportunities available
- Energy Storage, guidance on selecting the right size of battery system for your home and/or business
- Applying battery systems to existing renewable energy schemes
- Growth prospects and market outlook for energy storage
- Flexible power programme
- Taking advantage of market volatility
- Opportunities session
- The integration of batteries for EV charging points and other smart systems
Low emission farm vehicles
Discussions at Government level indicate that a policy framework for energy storage as a sector is in the pipeline. They recently announced their ultimate goal of removing diesel vehicles.
This confirms that electric cars and therefore, battery storage is likely to be the future. Bearing in mind that the UK agricultural machinery market includes about 10,000 to 15,000 new tractor sales per year, these developments within the low emissions vehicle sector are incredibly exciting.
According to a new study of the opportunities and challenges of ‘vehicle to grid’ (V2G) technologies on farms and in other rural business and community situations. Farms could become key players in the generation, storage and supply of renewable transport electricity and fuel in rural areas. As well as supplying decentralised power networks.
Electric Vehicles (EV), grid technology and battery storage
Farmers and landowners wanting to find out how they could tap into the opportunities presented by electric vehicles (EV) and machinery, were invited to attend the event and learn more about electric and autonomous vehicles operating in farm and rural situations. And also identify how local grid technologies, battery storage and V2G systems can come together to make this happen.
Farm generated electricity and transport technology
Leading the initiative was the NFU, alongside Warwickshire transport specialist Greenwatt, working in association with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), to investigate the practicalities of linking farm-generated renewable electricity and innovative transport technologies.
They are exploring the opportunity for rural vehicle-to-grid (V2G) trials. This involves electric tractors and other off-road agricultural machinery. This has highlighted the potential challenges of vehicles charging from often weak rural electricity networks.
Farm machinery manufacturers, electric vehicle specialists and battery storage experts, as well as university and government research bodies, are all participating with the common purpose of adding value to farm-generated renewable electricity.
Farms are perfectly placed to be pivotal in the generation, storage and supply of renewable electricity
Mike Woollacott from Greenwatt Technology is a co-coordinator of the V2G Task and Finish group and is positive about the future. “Farms are perfectly placed to be pivotal in the generation, storage and supply of renewable electricity. Thus enabling much greater deployment of electric vehicles on our farms, horticultural and forestry businesses.
Smarter farming will mean the adoption of battery powered and sometimes driverless vehicles on our farms. “There is now a greater need for localised renewable energy. And in light of the government’s target to ban diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040, the need for new sustainable refuelling infrastructure in rural areas is more pressing than ever.
As the National Grid decentralises, we need to test and demonstrate the practicalities of integrating the generation, storage and use of renewable energy as a clean and locally accessible source of transport fuel for rural businesses and communities,” said Mike.
Progress through innovation
The farming industry has already made great progress. For example, John Deere promoted their Li-ion battery-powered electric tractor prototype, at SIMA earlier this year. And Landover has been busy hiring software engineers for their electric vehicle fleet. The NFU has also reported that they anticipate diesel-electric hybrid and battery-electric tractors will be widely available from 2020 onwards.
Powersystems, Electric Vehicles (EV) and the Top Gear trio
The BBC Top Gear’s new presenters filmed an item for the forthcoming series involving three Electric Vehicles (EVs) at the Energy and Rural Business Show. The move reflects advances in the EV market; with ‘substantial’ growth reported over the last 12 months and high expectation at new models launching this year.
EV Custom-made model
Each EV was a never seen before custom-made model. The show was the only place the vehicles were available to view until the Top Gear episode is aired later in the year. Speaking on Top Gear’s appearance, David Jacobmeyer, the event director, was enthused about the new addition. “Having Top Gear, including the new presenting trio of Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris at the show was testament to how far low emission vehicles have come.
This bodes well for the future of the sector, ‘transport is one of the most polluting sectors in the UK, this is why we have introduced the Low Emission Vehicles Expo at the event for the first time this year, and we were over the moon to have Top Gear in attendance.’
The future in renewable energy
The next few years for farms appear challenging. There are some fantastic opportunities for rural businesses wanting to future-proof and to drive change. The event showcased the most innovative diversification options available in one space over two days.
In the future, Powersystems see opportunity for farmers with the right infrastructure to host charging stations for electric cars, or become sellers of biodiesel or Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for low emission cars.
Feedback told us that the key focus for next year will be on the opportunities within energy storage and low emissions vehicles.
However, in the current climate, it’s also about making the most of what you’ve got on-farm, and maximising returns on current investments.
New developments are of course still achievable, but need to be carefully managed, with long-term planning and future opportunities in mind.
The Powersystems renewable energy team see their role to educate and share information on how this is likely to be applied practically over the next five years and beyond.
To speak with the Powersystems renewable energy team, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org