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UK’s first football stadium battery at Arsenal’s Emirates builds business case around trading

By David Pratt
Image: Arsenal FC/Pivot Power.

Arsenal football club’s Emirates Stadium in London, England, has become home to what could be the first behind-the-meter battery of its size aimed at wholesale energy trading over frequency response.

The 2MW/2.5MWh Tesla system unveiled today is the first battery storage system to be installed at a UK football club’s stadium following three years of development between the club, developer Pivot Power and investment company Downing LLP.

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The installation has a firm frequency response (FFR) contract via demand response and aggregator firm Open Energi, which will use the battery to meet the needs of a 2MW contract won in September’s tender for delivery from 1 October 2019 for six months, ending 31 March 2020.

Until then, Open Energi will automate trading and optimisation of a battery storage system with income to be split between Pivot, Downing and Arsenal, which opted for a share of this over a lease or rental model for the space within its car park.

The battery, which is to be switched on tomorrow (27 November) and will operate for 15 years, will also be used to help Arsenal avoid Triad charges (higher pricing for electricity used at peak times in winter by commercial entities), engage in some arbitrage activity and load shifting. By buying cheaper electricity and storing it for use when prices are high, the club, which competes in the elite Premier League, is expected to make immediate savings by avoiding prices that can be three times higher during peak periods.

However, the main piece will see the battery used to automatically trade in real-time against a combination of day-ahead, intra-day and real-time price signals. This separates it from the battery installation at Amsterdam's Johan Cruyff ArenA, which ​charges from solar on the stadium's roof as well as some grid supply with a function to provide uninterruptible back-up power to the venue.

To power its wholesale trading strategy, the project partners behind the Emirates stadium install will work closely with green utility Octopus Energy, with which Arsenal signed a green supply deal which came into effect in August last year.

This will see the project partners work closely with Octopus Energy, with which Arsenal signed a green supply deal which came into effect in August last year.

Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson said: “Arsenal took a lead in sustainable energy by switching to Octopus in 2016 and we have worked together to make The Emirates ever greener. Arsenal is now the first top flight club with battery storage, allowing it to use cheap renewable energy even at peak times.”

According to the club’s operations direction Hywel Sloman, adding to Arsenal’s sustainability credentials was a key attraction of the project.

“The main draw is that it’s really interesting and innovative, it can give us reuseable energy which is important to us. It's something we're very proud of,” he told our sister site Current± at the project unveiling today.

“Sustainability is very important to us so the ability to present that well is something we're very proud of. We want to do what's right and what's best for Arsenal, the environment and our fan base rather than necessarily what's better than our competitors.”

While the battery could power the stadium for an entire match, it will not be used to provide uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or offset diesel supplies yet, although Pivot Power’s chief operating officer Michael Boulton said this could be possible in years to come.

Sloman added: “This came about from people coming with great ideas to us. Our real focus is to listen, learn, watch and understand things as they come along. The journey is not stopped by any means but we're still working on what the next big thing will be.”

L-R: Mehal Shah, investment manager at Downing; Matt Allen and Michael Clark of Pivot Power; Octopus Energy’s Clementine Cowton; and Arsenal’s Hywel Sloman.

According to Pivot Power chief executive Matt Allen, the project began three years ago and has faced considerable challenges along the way. This culminated in October 2017 when the scale of reductions in FFR prices and de-rating factors applied to batteries began to emerge.

Michael Clark, chief technical officer of Pivot Power, said: “When everything fell apart on the 27 October 2017 when the FFR market crashed, we and Downing didn't just chuck the towel in but sat down, rewrote the model and made it investable.

“What we're kicking off tomorrow is a new way to trade energy with a battery behind the meter, it really is changing how we go about these things. This is one of the most exciting behind the meter battery projects in the UK and I can't wait to turn it on and get trading.”

The project also faced some delays in reaching its full capacity, with a second phase adding a further 1MW/1.2MWh of storage in summer 2019 when the 180 square metre device will have a 3MW/3.7MWh capacity.

Mehal Shah, investment manager at Downing LLP, said: “This was really hard work, sometimes it didn't work because we couldn't find a battery on time or couldn't get things to work out in terms of the commercials and actually in the end it was the conviction of everyone involved and the lead that Arsenal took that has been quite incredible.”

Clark also commended Arsenal for its “buy-in”, adding that projects such as that now at the Emirates stadium “don't happen without the belief and support of the asset owner”.

Commenting on the “legal complexities” associated with carrying out a project at the stadium, Sloman said: “This is a big complicated building – it is the asset we own so protecting that is probably a complexity other organisations wouldn't have had.

“We're lucky in that we have a great team; Mike Lloyd [deputy stadium manager] has almost been a visionary in this area and was really driving it internally and did a really good job of managing the internal stakeholders through that

“It's been a long, complicated project – doing new stuff with lots of lawyers tends to be – so we weren't as quick as we could [have been] but we're very pleased with the outcome.”

Law firms Burges Salmon and Slaughter and May were among those congratulated at the event for their work in developing the project.

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