UK National Grid picks battery firms for EFR contracts

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Seven battery firms won UK National Grid contracts on August 26 to provide 200MW sub-second enhanced frequency response support to the grid. It is the first time that batteries will be used for grid-scale energy storage in the UK.

The bid winners have all signed four-year contracts, which will begin on or before March 1, 2018.

Lead-acid battery manufacturer Belectric, which confirmed on September 1 that it was being bought by German utility RWE, said it had won its 10MW bid with a lithium-ion version of its Energy Buffer Unit, which is also produced with lead-acid batteries.

The National Grid invited tenders on April 15 and by the closing date of July 15 had whittled 37 bids down to just eight, with one of the winners, energy investor Low Carbon, being handed a total of 50MW in two contracts, one in Kent, one in Cumbria.

The six other providers, RES, Eon UK, EDF Energy Renewables, Element Power and Vattenfall, will all supply lithium-ion technology.

Cordi O’Hara, the director of UK System Operator at the National Grid, said: “We are constantly looking to the future to understand how we can make the most of the energy available to us.

“This project is at the very core of our power responsive work, to balance the grid by the most efficient means possible, saving money and energy.

These awards show that we can work with industry to bring forward new technology and I believe storage has much to contribute to the flexible energy system of tomorrow. This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the industry.”

Adam Sims, senior account manager at the National Grid, said the beauty of batteries lay in their flexibility.

You can use them for congestion management, frequency response, all sorts of things,” he said. “Costs are going down and we think it’s going to be a major penetration into storage in the UK.

We have looked at other countries and how they use them, and Germany is the biggest player. But the model they look for is very short term, far smaller scale. We have a different approach.

We want to give people certainty over a longer period of time to drive costs down. It will be a four-year investment time for the right balance.”

The requirement for EFR is driven by the change in generation mix from thermal plant to renewable plant,” said Gilly West, an official, at the UK National Grid, who said the new systems would need to transform existing EFR provision times from more than ten seconds to less than one.

The different technical characteristics result in the system frequency becoming less stable, with smaller imbalances in supply and demand creating larger fluctuations than previously experienced.

With fast acting battery technologies becoming financially viable, EFR is an economic solution to this issue that also creates a route to market for a new class of technology.”