“There’s a revolution going on,” explains Lizzie Foot, Development Director for Hoolan Energy - a renewables company run out of Nexus Business Space in Edinburgh.
“Storing energy has been around for centuries, but in recent years American homeowners started using energy storage to complement solar panels fitted to their homes. Solar panels power the house during daylight hours, with the batteries storing the excess energy.
“At night, or whenever it is needed, the energy then gets released back or you can sell the excess energy back to the grid and get paid for it. The result is that it’s enabling households and businesses to come off grid, meaning all their power comes from their own sources. It’s sustainable, renewable and cost effective.”
This trend has arrived in the UK and is predicted to grow as the cost of technology drops. The concept is easy to scale up, and that’s where Hoolan Energy come in - they identify and project manage renewable energy opportunities, like this one.
“Like with solar panels, a wind farm produces energy which can either be supplied instantly or stored to be released back onto the Grid when it’s needed.
“The National Grid system is under strain at peak times. Energy storage allows you to either absorb excess energy from the grid or discharge energy back to the grid when it is needed. This can be done in fractions of a second, providing balancing services and fast response to demand.”
Energy storage is just part of what Hoolan energy do - they are also developing onshore wind and tidal opportunities with support from London-based firm Low Carbon. Wind is a big part of who the company are - even their name comes from an old Norsk word, from which we get the phrase “blowing a hooley” (a strong wind). “We carry out really early stage feasibility for projects, before securing rights to the land. If the site has potential for, say a wind farm, we’ll obtain grid connection agreements and planning consents, providing development and project management throughout the site’s lifecycle. “Low Carbon has an in-house team with a strong track record in raising project finance for renewable developments, before managing construction and procurement. The Low Carbon asset management team then manage the site’s performance when it’s brought into operation.”
Hoolan Energy are team of two: Lizzie and Tom Campbell - a Development Manager. Finance, legal and investment backing from Low Carbon in London. They’ve only been around for a year, with the company being formed as Lizzie went looking for a new opportunity.
“Previously I worked for a large American renewables company. Renewable energy is a really small industry and I had been with them for a decade.
“I was looking for new opportunities and it was just really good timing because at the time Low Carbon were looking for a developer in Scotland. So we set up Hoolan Energy and hired a core group of consultants to help drive the projects forward.
“Now we’re actively looking at other technologies and opportunities across the UK and hoping to expand the team”.
To say the renewable energy industry has a strong tailwind would be an overstatement though in Scotland the devolved government are very supportive of renewable energy - Scotland is largely pro-renewables - but that does not sync up with the overall stance in the UK. Lizzie explains:
“The UK government said, when they were coming into power, that there would be no new wind farm subsidies.
“Solving the energy ‘trilemma’ of reducing carbon emissions, security of supply and cost to the consumer is not easy. With a number of fossil fuel power stations coming off line and uncertainty around the future of new nuclear, there is still a gap in the country’s power supply that needs to be filled.” Despite the challenges, the entrepreneurs at Hoolan Energy are optimistic and enjoying the ride. “It can be ‘seat of your pants’ stuff,” Lizzie says. “There has never been a more challenging time - policy is constantly shifting under our feet.
“We are excited about the future though, and are lucky to work with a team of enthusiastic people who are determined to do something meaningful about climate change.”