Environment Minister Amber Rudd MP welcomed the start of trials at the largest electricity storage facility of its type in Europe. After extensive testing of the giant battery – known as the Smarter Network Storage facility at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire – it will now be trialled for two years by UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity in the East of England, London and the South East.
By providing frequency regulation as well as load shifting, the project will stabilise the grid more effectively than traditional thermal generators, providing more space on the grid for clean, but intermittent renewable energies.
The building holding the giant batteries is 760 square metres – about the size of three tennis courts - and is divided into two main rooms: one houses the transformers and inverter units that convert electricity from direct current to alternating current. The other room houses the battery racks and modules where the energy is actually stored.
Ms Rudd, who toured the site yesterday before officially switching on the facility, said: "It's great to see first-hand this innovative project – the biggest of its kind not just in the UK but across the whole of Europe.
"Cutting edge smart networks like this will both enhance UK skills and allow us to capture and store new forms of energy generation. This will help us to build a smart grid, which reduces the need for further costly investment in grid reinforcement by enabling greater integration of cleaner renewable energy sources into our existing energy network. That is why schemes like the 'Big Battery' are so important for our ambition to move to a low carbon economy."
Barry Hatton, UK Power Networks' Director of Asset Management, said: "Today marks the start of the two-year trail, during which we will test a wide range of different services that storage can deliver to the network, and the wider electricity system."
The significant knowledge and learning from the trials, which includes research and recommendations into future regulatory and market frameworks for storage, will be shared with other network operators, trade associations, the Government and regulator Ofgem, and will support the industry in assessing the full potential of electrical storage, enabling more efficient use of storage in the future and reducing overall costs for customers.
The fully automated 6MW/10MWh Smarter Network Storage (SNS) project will assess the role of energy storage in cost effectively delivering the UK's Carbon Plan, and is expected to save over £6 million on traditional network reinforcement methods. S&C Electric Europe is the lead supplier to the £18.7 million project, drawing on its extensive experience of deploying energy storage projects in the UK and around the world.
Andrew Jones, Managing Director, S&C Electric Europe, 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, such as 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."
Smarter Network Storage was awarded funding of £13.2 million from the Low Carbon Networks Fund. This was supplemented with £4 million from UK Power Networks and £1.2 million from project partners – a mix of businesses and academic institutions which are helping to deliver Smarter Network Storage.
UK Power Networks
S&C Electric Company
Low Carbon Networks Fund