STA Blogs: EVs and Solar – a match made in renewable heaven?

31st August 2018

In this STA Blogs, Keenan Gratrick Managing Director of FlexiSolar outlines the harmonious relationship and bright futures of solar and EV’s. 

It is often said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s exactly how I feel about Solar PV and Electric Vehicles (EV); with the interaction of these two elements being hugely powerful and essential for the future.

Solar and EV concepts are more familiar to the general public than ever before. People are more mindful of their own energy usage and EV has been all over the news thanks to car manufacturers’ commitments. UK householders know of solar through consumer rooftop programmes and have more awareness of renewables more widely; often installing renewables in their homes or noticing wind and solar farms on the horizon.

The synergy between EV and solar is clear.
• There’s a growing awareness and an intrinsic need for both
• The innovative products work well together
• Together they clearly provide a solution for a future demand

This isn’t just theory either. Solar and EV synergy is already demonstrated across the UK, with a growing number of solar powered EV charging stations now in place.

However, what’s not yet in synergy is a coordinated rollout. The technology and end products work well together – but the infrastructure is not up to scratch. We need to make sure that we are ready for a whole new source demanding power. This match made in heaven needs further investment, strong planning and fast – so that solar EV solutions are ready before EV demand overtakes availability.

Large scale vision, long term impact.
Solar rooftops are a common sight – but not yet are driveway EV charge points powered by that solar. We are seeing more and more EV charge points at service stations which is an exciting development – but they aren’t often powered by renewable energy sources. There’s still work to do.

We need to get solar powered EV solutions to the places where cars are parked during the day, ready for when the EV demand increases – which we know it will. That’s why we’ve been so proud to have developed the UK’s largest solar carport solution; constructed this year for Bentley Motors in Cheshire – and currently up for ‘Best in Show’ at the 2018 Solar Power Portal Awards.

This isn’t a double act, it’s a trio.

We can’t talk solar and EV without mentioning battery storage. The conversation can’t just be on harnessing energy to serve the EV cars there and then, but how to store power for future use or to send back to the grid. This exciting combination of products and solutions is what the future looks like.

Synergy on its own isn’t enough, where do we go from here?

Despite their incredible capabilities, current solar and EV developments on their own aren’t enough. There are continuing challenges – raising capital for Research and Development (R&D) can be difficult – although Innovate UK continue to be supportive. Investment in R&D is essential, and it’s one of many key drivers for us at FlexiSolar. It can’t just come from us though. The motor industry needs to step up too; to allow the EV charger to ‘talk’ to the car (as part of a longer-term Vehicle to Grid (V2G) vision). Commitment also needs to come from companies offering Energy Management Software; with open protocols in place for the software to ‘talk’ to the EV charger, battery storage and solar PV. When all these technologies can openly communicate they can operate collaboratively and complimentary, and so more efficiently. That’s exactly how our software is built; it is open from the day it is installed.

Smart Land use

Purchasing and developing land to deliver EV charging stations and incorporating the renewable solutions into the land development can also be problematic. That’s why we’re committed to designing and installing integrated large-scale solar carports using existing land resources. This offers the benefits of a system on land that’s already fit for purpose – using space above the car park, without interfering with the car park; just like we now see at Bentley Motors.

I expect to see large developments in the commercialisation of integrated EV/solar partnerships in the UK in the immediate years ahead. Here at FlexiSolar, we certainly have our own plans as to how to build on this essential area – starting with our live SmartHubs vehicle to grid projects, funded by Innovate UK. Through our SmartHubs projects and our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, we’re developing slow, fast and rapid EV chargers as well as V2G technology incorporating battery storage. Solutions set to be powered by solar carports, connected to the grid and sold back to it. It’s an exciting time for the solar and EV sectors – and I can’t wait to see where the current synergies take us. We’ll be sharing further insights and brand-new project launches on our stand at EMEX 2018 in November…

  • FlexiSolar’s
    delivery is led by Managing Director, Keenan, who as well as being a seasoned electrical engineer qualified to 11KVa, brings over 10 years’ experience specialising in the renewable energy sector overseeing the installation of circa 800 MW of Solar PV. Keenan has been responsible for setting up commercial operations and solar park maintenance departments using market leading renewable technologies across the UK and overseas.

About FlexiSolar
FlexiSolar’s vision is to integrate three core technologies to reduce customers costs and to help decarbonise energy generation and transport. With an expert team benefitting from over 100 years working in the solar industry and the wider renewables sector, the design, manufacturing, installation and operations company focusses on offering innovative solar carport solutions, integrated with battery storage and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In April 2018, FlexiSolar announced construction of the UK’s largest solar carport, at the Bentley Motors manufacturing headquarters in Cheshire.