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Solar, energy storage, and electric vehicles – joining up the clean technologies

A few eyebrows were raised when in 2015 the Renewable Energy Association (REA) launched its representation of the energy storage sector, and again in 2017 when it did the same for electric vehicles. “What does this have to do with renewables?” Is a question we have been asked often. The answer is key to where the REA sees the energy market going, with more decentralised, yet interlinked, technologies. Storage and EV’s are both enablers that will speed the deployment of renewable power generation here in the UK, but they also represent the change that is already happening which is leading to a cheaper, smarter and cleaner system, with the consumer at its heart.

The REA’s raison d’être is to champion the deployment of renewable energy in the UK. With some of the most cost-effective renewables, such as solar and wind, having a variable power generation profile, any measures to smooth that profile will improve their effectiveness; that’s where our support for energy storage comes in.

Likewise, a rapid rise in the uptake of EV’s will require a corresponding increase in low carbon energy to power them. It’s clear that EV’s can bring immediate air quality benefits to towns and cities as they displace petrol and diesel equivalents. The goal must also be to curb the pollution on both ends, which means steadily phasing out the amount of polluting fossil power that goes into every charge. This will require significantly more deployment of cost-effective, low-carbon generation, which means more renewable energy.

To ensure a speedy and efficient roll-out of EV’s a coherent strategy around EV infrastructure is needed. A clear prerequisite of mass adoption is easy access to charging. Often charging will be carried out at home, but equally important will be the ability to charge vehicles which are left for a period away from the home such as at work, stations, restaurants, shopping centres etc. Carparks are ideal places then for EV charging infrastructure to be deployed. Ensuring that the energy supplied is clean makes the incorporation of solar canopies in the carpark design an obvious choice.

Not only are there the marketing aspects of generating and providing low carbon electricity, there are added benefits in that customers cars (and passengers) are shaded from the heat of the summer and of course the more inclement aspects of the UK’s climate in the winter. Add to this the benefit ‘free’ electricity will give to the revenue models that will surely evolve from selling the power to the car owner.
Co-locating energy (battery) storage in carparks will also benefit the economics of the charging installation as power can be stored and then released when needed thus maximising the use the power generated from the solar canopy.

So there you have it! Solar, energy storage and EV’s, all whose futures are closely interlinked, and all are needed to be deployed at scale if our carbon reduction, and air quality, commitments are to be delivered. That’s why guides such as the Multifunctional Solar Car Parks created by BRE National Solar Centre and FlexiSolar are so important in ensuring that the right information is available to decision makers, thus opening eyes to the potential, but at the same time reducing the risk of poor schemes being developed. That’s why the Renewable Energy Association was pleased to take part in the development of the guide and help promote it as widely as possible.


The guide is available for free download on the BRE Group website.

The REA is the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies. The organisation provides members with analysis and insight, organises events and networking opportunities, and represents it’s around 550 members’ views to Government.  You can learn more about the REA’s work, and about becoming a member, here.