Charity partnership helps Energise Barnsley drive use of solar power

The organisation is offering battery storage tech to older social tenants to help them keep the savings from their solar panels

Yorkshire-based community solar group Energise Barnsley is working with charity Age UK to increase the take up of solar and battery technology.

Director Andy Heald says the organisation has already run fruitful schemes with the local authority and with Northern Power Grid to deploy battery storage to homes, in order to reduce stress on the grid.

This is in addition to its efforts to install solar, with pV fitted to more than 300 council homes, alongside local  schools, sheltered housing blocks and community buildings.

“Homes with solar panels were only using 20 or 30% of the energy generated, the rest was going to the grid,” he said. “We wanted to see if we could save more energy to the battery for householders to use themselves.”

This fed into the organisation’s newest project with Age UK, which secured funding from Ofgem to install 75 batteries in older social housing. The batteries mean tenants can use 85% of the solar generated on their rooftops – saving them money, relieving pressure on the grid and driving the take up of new energy tariffs. 

Working with Age UK brings the benefit of a partnership with a trusted intermediary to educate tenants in the use and benefits of new smart energy systems when couple to solar and battery storage.

“A home smart device rewards you for not using power when everyone else is, and a battery brings that flexibility – you can use more solar and charge your battery up at off-peak times when it’s cheaper,” said Mr Heald. “We want houses to not use power when others are.”

Projects like this mean social tenants are not left out of the energy transition, he added.

Energise Barnsley has previously partnered with Community First Credit Union, donating £20,000 so the lender can deliver budgeting advice and debt servicing.

Other funds from the solar revenue have gone to healthy cooking classes for people with low income and a ‘solar for skips’ scheme in Goldthorpe village – which brings a skip to a street so residents can clear out their rubbish and smarten their gardens.  

The organisation is now working with Barnsley Council to install solar on another 1,000 homes.

It also looking to refinance its assets with a second community bond offer through Ethex, with expected returns of 4% helped by an income stream that it linked to inflation.