Last week a new type of storage battery was connected to the local electricity distribution network on the Isle of Orkney.
The new battery has the potential to be hugely important to the UK’s renewable energy ambitions as it could allow for far easier management of energy demand and would address the issue of power intermittency in renewables.
The battery was installed by Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD). The two megawatt lithium ion battery was installed at Kirkwall Power Station and represents the first use of a large scale storage battery anywhere in the UK. The battery was provided by Mitusbishi Power Systems Europe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry after extensive trials in Japan. A similar piece of technology has been in constant use in Nagasaki for the last two years. Additionally similar battery technology, on a smaller scale, has been taken up by the electric car industry and has begun to enter the UK market. The battery will be operated by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). The level of cooperation involved in this trial is worth noting. Domestic energy companies, overseas developers and manufacturers, government and regulators have all been involved in this project. This demonstrates the importance with which storage and smart grid technology is being taken. Such technologies could be key to Scotland and the wider UK achieving their renewable energy targets and are being pushed hard at all levels.
The battery has been integrated with Orkney’s Active Network Management scheme. This network, or smart grid, has been in place since 2009 and was also delivered by SHEPD. Indeed, it was a world first. The Active Network Management scheme was implemented due to the relatively high level of intermittent renewable energy generation which existed on Orkney. Of course the level of renewable energy developments on the isle has only increased since then. The scheme allows the grid operators greater flexibility in managing and balancing loads and grants quicker access to back up power. This scheme has also proven highly beneficial to renewable energy developers as it has allowed them cheaper and quicker access to the grid following the completed development of a renewable energy project.
Reaction to the installation was universally positive. SHEPD’s Head of Commercial Mark Rough commented:
“This exciting trial will provide valuable research into the viability of using batteries for electricity storage. This is likely to become increasingly important to help balance the variable output from renewable forms of generation as we move to a largely decarbonised electricity generation mix.
“Although the installation of the battery will not provide an immediate solution to the current constraints on the Orkney distribution network, it is hoped that in the long term the result of the studies will help demonstrate that batteries could provide a cost effective way of freeing up capacity on the network to help facilitate new connections of low carbon generation.”
Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney remarked:
“Today’s announcement by SSE reinforces that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to developing and testing new ideas that may help us meet the electricity and energy needs of the future. Smart grid technologies such as these being pioneered in Orkney are increasingly important as we move to a low-carbon economy.
“Scotland has an incredible wealth of energy resources from a range of generating technologies, capable of both meeting our energy needs and significant exports to parts of the UK and Europe. We have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity.”
MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur stated:
““This is an exciting initiative and I am delighted to see Orkney leading the way in the development of energy storage options. “Our islands have huge potential for generating renewable energy, but a lack of sufficient grid capacity is a growing problem. The active network management system has freed up capacity to allow many local projects to be connected to the grid in recent years, but new solutions now need to be found if Orkney is to realise its full potential in renewables. “I am certain that battery storage has an important role to play in ensuring we make best use of the resources at our disposal. While it is not a short term solution, the work being undertaken as part of this initiative could deliver significant and long-lasting benefits to Orkney and more widely.”
Peter Clusky, Senior Manager Renewables and Head of Government Relations for Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe said:
“We are delighted to be working with our strategic partners SSE to bring this globally significant R&D project to Orkney. We are confident that this Orkney-based project will make a significant contribution to the further development of Lithium-ion battery technology. Mitsubishi is grateful for the ongoing support of SSE, NEDO, and Ofgem.”
The battery project was funded by industry regulator Ofgem through their Low Carbon Network’s fund. Through this vehicle Ofgem has provided funding for several storage and smart grid projects across the UK. Again, it is worth re-emphasising the level of cooperation that has been involved in this scheme. It gives a very strong indication that the UK continues to view renewable energy as the future. Smart grid and other storage technologies will be key to realizing it.
This can also be seen in two other pieces of recent news. Firstly, UK Power Networks has announced it’s intention to trial a six megawatt battery system at the Leighton Buzzard substation in Bedfordshire. When completed, which is expected to occur in 2016, this will be the largest battery system in Europe. Secondly, last week, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the creation of a new Catapult Centre (centre for technology and innovation).The Energy Systems Catapult is expected to begin operation in 2015/16 and is intended to help accelerate the commercialization of smart grid and storage technologies, serving to reduce costs. Mr Cable gave the following comment:
” By committing to investment in new technologies now, we are laying the foundations for the high-growth businesses of the future. This will allow them to grow, take on more employees and keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation.”
The various developments which have occurred in this field over the last few weeks have demonstrated the commitment that the UK and Scottish Governments have to renewable energy technologies. Smart grid and storage technologies, such as the battery system currently being trialed in Orkney, will be key to unlocking the full potential of the UK’s renewable energy resource. The more energy which can be stored the more renewable energy developments can be utilized and less baseload backup will be required. Recent research produced by Imperial College London has estimated that large scale use of energy storage technologies could save the country £3 billion a year in the 2020s.