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Nippon Koei, Aquila bring online 25MW/100MWh battery project in Belgium


One of the largest battery energy storage system (BESS) projects so far in Belgium has been brought online at the site of a former coal power plant.

The European subsidiary of Japanese engineering consultancy Nippon Koei announced the news today, together with its development partner on the project, Aquila Clean Energy EMEA.

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The 25MW/100MWh project is in the town of Ruien, East Flanders, on the site of what was an 800MW coal-fired power station. As with other projects of its type around the world, the BESS plant was able to leverage the thermal power plant site’s existing infrastructure, including the connection point to the Belgian high voltage grid.

This meant the project was able to leapfrog the challenges of connecting to an already congested grid – something that has been a barrier to rapid energy storage, and other new energy resource, deployment in many parts of the world, including the neighbouring Netherlands.

An exact date for when commissioning took place was not given but a release sent to media including this site noted that the Ruien BESS is already participating in short-term grid-balancing flexibility markets.

As noted by when the project achieved financial close in November 2021, shortly after netting a long-term Capacity Remuneration Mechanism (CRM) contract, it had been originally scheduled to go into operation in Q4 2022. The CRM was newly introduced in 2021 and the contract for Ruien was won in the inaugural September 2021 auction.

At that time of financial close, Nippon Koei Energy Europe said it was working with Belgian renewable energy company Yuso on the project, with the engineering company acting as lead developer. Nippon Koei acquired a 29% stake in Yuso back in 2019.

Yuso originated the project’s planning in 2018, and will serve as the optimiser for its route-to-market activities over a 10-year period using its YusoFlex platform.

Meanwhile Aquila Clean Energy EMEA is the development arm of sustainable infrastructure investor Aquila Capital, partnering with Nippon Koei on financing, procurement, development and the BESS’ operation.

Other parties working on the project included technology provider Wärtsilä and independent energy and communications engineering services company SPIE, while Nippon Koei Energy Europe delivered the project through a fully-wrapped EPC contract. Nippon Koei Energy Europe and Aquila Capital are the shared owners of the project.

It is the same size as another BESS project currently underway in Belgium by Nala Renewables – a joint venture (JV) of commodity trader Trafigura and IFM Investors. That one is being built on the site of a zinc smelting plant in the municipality of Balen, and construction began last spring.

Both are rare early examples of four-hour duration large-scale lithium-ion battery storage projects in Europe. As for Belgium, the country’s largest project to date by megawatts, although equal in energy capacity to Ruien and Balen, is a 50MW/100MWh system brought online near the end of 2022 in the Wallonia region, inaugurated by developer Corsica Sole. Belgium’s largest operational BESS project prior to that was the 10MW/20MWh EStor-Lux project, brought online in April last year.

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