Innergex brings online 9MW/9MWh first standalone battery storage project in France

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Renewables developer Innergex has completed a battery energy storage system (BESS) project in France, using a BESS solution designed by a subsidiary of utility Hydro-Québec.

Full commissioning has taken place of the 9MW/9MWh Tonnerre BESS at Joux-la-Ville, a small commune in the north-central French region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Innergex, which is also headquartered in Quebec, Canada, said on Friday (22 July).

The battery system has been built close to two existing Innergex wind farms, Yonne, built in 2016 with 44MW gross generation capacity and 30.6MW net capacity, and Yonne II, commissioned in 2021 with 6.9MW gross and 4.8MW net capacity.

The plant will contribute to local grid stability and help maintain network security of supply. Innergex was handed a 7-year capacity contract for the plant from France’s grid operator RTE. When it isn’t being called upon by RTE to provide system services, Innergex will be able to use the asset to participate in other revenue-generating market opportunities.

It’s the latest in a wave of BESS projects being developed and constructed in France, a battery storage market which to date has been slower to develop compared to those in neighbouring Germany or the UK.

In fact, Innergex’s Tonnerre plant represents about 1% of the amount of publicly announced battery storage expected to be deployed at grid-scale in France during 2022 and 2023, according to figures provided in March to Energy-Storage.news by energy storage consultancy group Clean Horizon.

Clean Horizon tallied together project announcements and found about 900MW of projects this applied to. Analyst Corentin Baschet from the firm said in an interview that this rapid progress was remarkable given that – unlike the UK where battery operators can access several different revenue streams – batteries in France can basically access only two.

One of those is long-term contracted revenues for capacity market participation and the other is the European frequency control reserve (FCR) aka primary control reserve (PCR) ancillary services market. However, a third revenue stream, secondary reserve, or automated frequency restoration reserve (aFRR) is in the process of being opened up.

aFFR’s introduction had been scheduled to already happen in France late last year, but the ongoing crisis over rising electricity prices in the country led regulators to put a pause on it. It is expected in the coming months in France and its introduction is being staggered across the various European markets by 2025 in coordination with each territory’s regulators, grid operators and other main stakeholders.

While there have been solar-plus-storage sites built in France’s island territories through tenders over the past few years, the biggest battery storage site in mainland France so far is a 61MW/61MWh project in Dunkirk, northern France, developed by TotalEnergies and supplied by battery storage company Saft, which TotalEnergies owns.

Chart of French grid-scale battery developers and their publicly announced assets, as of March 2022. Image: Clean Horizon Consulting.

At the Tonnerre site just commissioned, Innergex contracted EVLO to supply the BESS solution used. Utility Hydro-Québec, which has the provincial government of Quebec as its main shareholder, launched EVLO in late 2020 to capitalise on opportunities in the growing energy storage market.

EVLO Energy Storage, to give its full name, designs and makes battery systems based on lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells. Prior to launch to the wider market, the systems were tested in operation on Hydro-Québec’s own grid network, performing a range of applications.

The Tonerre project was partially announced to be the subsidiary’s first project, and its expected commissioning date had been for late 2021, which appears to have been pushed back.

In December last year EVLO launched EVLO1000, a modular, containerised BESS unit with 1MWh capacity equipped with battery management system (BMS) technology developed by Silicon Valley company Nuvation.

Innergex noted that EVLO’s BESS enclosure at Tonnerre is IEC 62933 certified and UL 9540A tested, while the system’s energy management system (EMS) developed in-house at EVLO made it capable of meeting RTE’s stringent requirements for frequency reserve providers.

Founded in 1990, the developer to date has put 3,484MW net capacity of renewable energy assets into operation, most hydroelectric and wind, with some solar sites in Canada, France, Chile and the US. The Tonnerre project marks its first-ever standalone battery energy storage project.  

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