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Giant electric battery the size of a shipping container installed at Mildenhall hub

A giant electric battery the size of a shipping container has been installed at new community hub ahead of its opening.

The Mildenhall hub, brings together a new school and leisure facilities, including swimming pools, a health centre, advice centre, library and office space for public sector partners.

It will start to open to the community in a rolling programme from May 24, subject to the final testing of the building and the Government’s Roadmap to Recovery.

The battery is made from 24 electric car batteries. Picture by West Suffolk Council
The battery is made from 24 electric car batteries. Picture by West Suffolk Council

The purpose-built battery, made from 24 recycled electric vehicle batteries, was delivered earlier this month and will store renewable energy generated by solar panels as well as energy generated by a Combined and Heat Power unit, both of which are among the hub’s environmental features.

Connected Energy, the firm behind the storage battery called an E-STOR, built it using 24 second-life Renault Kangoo electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

Electric vehicle batteries last for seven to 10 years in a car before they need to be replaced.

The battery was delivered earlier this month.
The battery was delivered earlier this month.

Working with the battery manufacturer, in this case Renault, the firm tests the batteries before considering them for a second-life application. Connected Energy monitors the efficiency of each battery and individual ones can be replaced as and when required.

The hub already has:

  • 472 solar panels which generate electricity during daylight hours
  • An electricity generator, called a combined heat and power unit, which will use the heat generated as a by-product for the building’s hot water supply and it will contribute to the overall heating of the building.
  • A ground source heat pump which uses ground water temperature to generate heat that will provide hot water for the swimming pools and warm the air in the pool halls, making significant greenhouse gases and money savings.
  • Although West Suffolk Council has already switched energy provider to Ecotricity, meaning Mildenhall Hub will benefit from using 100 per cent renewable electricity, the giant battery allows it to switch to onsite generated renewable energy at peak times, saving costs in the process.

Collectively the greenhouse gas emissions savings from the technologies being installed will amount to 200 tonnes in 2021 and 2,300 tonnes over the 20-year lifetime for the plant – the equivalent of taking 820 cars off of the road.

Cllr Jo Rayner, cabinet member for community hubs at West Suffolk Council, said: “The hub is the future – better education and leisure facilities, better access and better partnership work between services for the benefit of residents.

"It’s replacing old, outdated buildings with modern more energy efficient facilities shaped to residents’ needs both now and for many decades to come.

"That future needs to continue to address greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and our impact on the environment which is a key part of our work at West Suffolk Council.

"These low carbon technologies will further reduce the environmental impact of the Hub as well as saving the Hub partners money on their running costs, making services more resilient to some of the financial challenges that we may all face over the years ahead.”

Matthew Lumsden, Connected Energy Chief Executive Officer, said: “We maximise the value of natural resources already embedded in the batteries before they are later recycled. Our approach to optimising the value of existing batteries, thereby reducing the environmental impact is what makes us different to other energy storage providers.”

Connected Energy Project Manager, Nigel Dent, said: “We already have systems optimising the relationship between EV charging loads and PV generation.

"The Mildenhall Hub system is particularly exciting because of the wider mix of technologies including CHP and ground source heat. By optimising the fit between generation and load we should be able to further decarbonise the ground source heat for example.”

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk

Read more: All the latest news from Mildenhall