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Varco Energy enlists Fluence and GE Vernova for UK BESS projects

By Cameron Murray, George Hynes, John Lubbock
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Developer Varco Energy has enlisted Fluence and GE Vernova to supply battery energy storage systems (BESS) for two separate UK projects.

Varco Energy, a vehicle of Adaptogen Capital, announced last week that it had partnered with GE Vernova to deliver a transmission-connected 57MW/138MWh BESS south of Liverpool.

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GE Vernova’s solar and storage solutions business will supply the complete BESS for the project, which has been named ‘Native River’, and be located in an area which historically is a congested part of the UK electricity grid.

The project will be comprised of modular units of GE Vernova’s FLEXInverter, FLEXReservoir and FlexIQ solutions. All of these will be scaled to meet the capacity of the project and be able to provide balancing and capacity services to the national grid.

Construction of the project commenced in Q3 2023 with connection to the grid anticipated in early 2024.

“BESS are critical infrastructure to help balance the intermittent nature of renewable energy generation and break the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. We are therefore delighted to be partnering with GE on one of our first projects, the 57MW Native River project,” said James Mills, director of Varco Energy.

A few days later, Varco Energy announced it had chosen the largest BESS provider globally Fluence to provide a similarly sized project – 57MW/137.5MWh – also near Liverpool.

The project, called Sizing John, will be deployed at a substation in Rainhill, south of St Helens. It will support National Grid ESO by providing ancillary services as well as trading on the wholesale power market.

In related news, EDF Renewables UK last week won planning permission for a new grid-scale BESS in Braintree, Essex, near London, originally reported by our sister site Solar Power Portal.

The BESS will have an output of 57MW and is expected to begin construction in early 2024, becoming operational in 2025. Essex aims to become a net-zero county by 2050, in line with UK government emissions targets.

EDF Renewables says it is developing a national network of BESS projects close to National Grid substations and other infrastructure. The Braintree BESS application was submitted in 2022, and will be connected to the transmission network, providing flexibility that should help to reduce curtailment of large renewable assets, such as those off the East coast of England.

While all three have been described as 57MW projects, Energy-Storage.news notes that the figure could be in direct current (DC), which would enable the projects to provide 50MW of alternating current (AC) to the grid while allowing for some loss of power from the conversion of DC to AC via the inverters.

Prior to a rule change in 2020/21, projects with a grid interconnection of higher than 50MW in the UK had to go through a separate planning process as part of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects scheme. While that is no longer the case, grid connections are secured years in advance of construction so many projects going ahead today in the UK are still 50MW.

The UK market continues to soar with some 3GW/3.4GW online as of July 2023, as per Solar Media Market Research’s UK Battery Storage Project Database Report.

However, projects are having to contend with a sharp fall in revenues in 2023 compared to 2021 and 2022, as ancillary service markets increasingly begin to saturate. LCP Delta this week said that revenues have fallen 71% this year, also reported on Solar Power Portal.

The Native River project story was originally published on Solar Power Portal.

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