UK blackout near misses could signal potential for lead battery storage

UK blackout near misses could signal potential for lead battery storage

UK blackout near misses could signal potential for lead battery storage 150 150 Batteries International

February 12, 2021: The UK’s National Grid says energy storage will have to play a bigger part in keeping the country’s lights on during a winter in which the operator has already had to issue four warnings about the limited electricity capacity cushion it has to rely on.

News agency Bloomberg said the National Grid had identified a shortfall of 584MW in the spare capacity it needs, and as demand surged on lack of supply, prices shot up to £4,000/MWh ($5,500) — a level not seen for 20 years — then dramatically down to just £50/MWh ($69) just half an hour later, according to consultancy firm PX Group.

“Energy storage and demand flexibility will play an ever-increasing role in balancing supply and demand,” said National Grid operability strategy manager Matt Magill.

“From energy users changing their profiles in line with the availability of energy through to various mixes of storage helping to support the operation of the system, storage already plays a critical role in supporting the energy system. This is from fast acting batteries acting to control the frequency though our two premium services of enhanced frequency response and Dynamic Containment, through to longer term storage, which is expected to take advantage of the low prices during high renewable periods to store energy and release it at times when the prices are higher.

“Units have been doing this for decades in the form of pumped storage but as the pricing gap increases between the low and high prices we expect more market players to take advantage.”

The market players could include lead battery makers, although the vast majority of grid-scale batteries are coming from the lithium battery sector, such as smart energy firm SMS, which is one example of many that have made strides in this area.

SMS has announced it has just started building a 50MW battery in Cambridgeshire to mark its entry into the grid-scale storage market, with a second 40MW project being planned for the next couple of years.

One lithium battery maker told Batteries International that customers were not even considering lead batteries for this kind of application, and the Consortium for Battery Innovation in London also said it was not aware of any being used in this way in the UK, although they were a potential option.

“Lead batteries definitely can be used for this application and are used for this in other regions such as Germany, the US and China for grid-scale frequency regulation,” said the CBI. “We have full case studies on these projects but we’re not aware of any in the UK.

“Many essential services in the UK rely on lead batteries, such as fixed phone networks, mobile phone networks, data centres, hospitals, transport infrastructure. They are backed up by a large installed base of lead batteries to provide secure power supplies if the public network is interrupted.”