What does an energy system fit for the future look like? Sustainable energy company Thrive Renewables, a longstanding Triodos Bank customer, is helping to build just that. We explore five key elements of Thrive’s investment portfolio, from community energy to geothermal technology.
Through a creative funding model known as the ‘Thrive Community Energy Funding Bridge’, Thrive supports communities in taking ownership of their local energy supply. Using this structure, it recently enabled the construction of what will be England’s largest wind turbine with a £4m loan to Ambition Community Energy CIC.
The new turbine will produce enough energy to meet the residential electricity needs of Lawrence Weston, an area of Bristol where many homes have poor insulation and low-energy efficiency, but whose local community group is committed to regeneration. Because it is owned by the community, the turbine will bring in an estimated £100,000 a year for projects that support people in the local area.
Flexibility and storage
If we are to increase the capacity of renewable generation to the levels required to achieve net zero, then we need greater flexibility in the energy system. Because weather in the UK can be inconsistent, we must find ways of storing energy that is generated through wind and sun. Good storage also helps us to move from a centralised system, where a few big fossil fuel plants provide large amounts of energy, to a more nodal one, with many smaller clean energy projects.
Thrive recently invested in the development of battery storage on Feeder Road, in central Bristol (another project close to the office that Thrive shares with us at Triodos Bank). The project enjoys significant support from the local community, who previously campaigned to prevent a diesel-fuelled Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) plant from being built on the site.
Economic and social impact
Direct wire projects offer on-site renewable electricity generation to an industrial host organisation – for example, a manufacturing company. The zero-carbon energy produced doesn’t go to the grid, but instead is offered directly to the host organisation at a competitive price. In the current climate, this energy cost-saving has big social benefits, enabling manufacturing businesses to stay in the UK, and therefore safeguarding jobs for local people.
Thrive has several impactful direct wire projects in its portfolio, including a 1.8MW rooftop solar project in Birmingham. The host organisation is an automotive company that manufactures metal panels for cars, including electric vehicles. A future-fit energy system will enable many businesses to benefit from hosting renewable generation in this way, increasing clean energy capacity in the UK and safeguarding stable electricity prices for industrial hosts.
Thrive has invested in geothermal energy at United Downs, the UK’s first geothermal electricity generation project. Construction is due to start in late 2022 on the site in Cornwall. Geothermal technology is very exciting, because it can produce electricity 24 hours a day, all year-round. This is because the naturally hot rocks, deep underground, provide enough constant heat to be generating non-stop.
The ability to provide baseload electricity to the grid in this way is an essential part of a net zero energy system. This innovative project also has the potential to provide renewable heat for use in the local area.
The UK requires a fourfold increase in clean electricity generation to achieve the government’s legally binding net zero target. Thrive has investments in wind, hydro and solar generation in the UK and will continue to build and operate renewable generation projects.
Onshore wind and solar now represent the cheapest way to generate electricity and offer long term stable energy pricing, since most of the cost is upfront, with relatively low running costs and zero fuel costs. As Matthew Clayton, Managing Director of Thrive Renewables, explained during our recent webinar on the energy crisis, it’s an exciting time for renewables.
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The Triodos Crowdfunding platform was launched in 2018, to help connect impact investors with UK organisations working for positive change. A share offer for Thrive Renewables is currently open for investment on the platform.