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‘Europe’s largest’ grid storage battery trial goes online in UK

The project was partly paid for by the Low Carbon Networks Fund, which allows for testing of storage systems and sees the findings shared across the network. Image: S&C Electric.

A grid storage trial which has been billed as the largest of its kind in Europe became operational yesterday.

A 6MW/10MWh lithium-ion battery has been installed at a substation in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire as part of a two-year trial. The project, completed by S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos, has been designed to help assess the potential role of energy storage in the future of the UK grid.

The £18.7 million (US$29.1 million) project is predicted to provide an array of benefits to the wider electricity system by helping reduce capacity constraints and to balance the flexible energy generated by low carbon sources such as solar PV and wind.

Andrew Jones, managing director, S&C Electric Europe, explaining why the project has been implemented, said: "Energy storage can play a major role in balancing the grid as it solves the problem of renewable intermittency by absorbing surplus power and releasing it when needed. This function simultaneously helps to securely balance capacity and supply and protects the grid from stress events, e.g. power outages, on the grid. The introduction of energy storage in substations like the one at Leighton Buzzard can decrease the need and cost of traditional reinforcement, such as transformers and cabling.”

Ben Wilson, UK Power Networks’ director of strategy and regulation and chief financial officer, added: “The project will allow us to explore and improve the economics of electrical energy storage, and assess the potential benefits to the electricity system in a number of sustainable and flexible ways. We have also been developing a first-of-a-kind platform to help us optimise and manage a wide range of different services that the storage can provide. This project will have an impact not only for the local area but also nationally and internationally. What we learn here from this exciting and important development will be vital for future similar schemes.”

Another objective of the project is to explore and define alternative revenue streams for energy storage. It is predicted that the grid storage project will negate the need for over £6 million of network reinforcement costs. The developers note that, by using frequency regulation and load shifting, the grid can be stabilised more effectively than traditional thermal generators, freeing up more grid space for renewables.

“This ground-breaking project forcefully demonstrates the many revenue streams and savings that energy storage can enable today,” said Clemens Triebel, co-founder and chief technical officer, Younicos. “Together with UKPN, S&C, and other partners, we are showing grid operators, utilities and other stakeholders both in the UK and around the world an effective way to cost-efficiently reinforce and improve grid infrastructure, while facilitating increased deployment of clean energy from wind and solar."

The 6MW/10MWh battery was partly funded by a £13.2 million grant from Ofgem in 2012 as part of the Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF), a scheme in the UK whereby projects are tested in "real world" scenarios and the findings shared across the network. While the Leighton Buzzard trial is the largest of its kind in Europe, a 5MW / 5MWh battery park is already in commercial operation in West Meklenberg, Germany, integrating renewable energy, also made by Younicos.

Tags: grid stabilising, trial, trials, utility-scale, grid-connected, lithium-ion