Europe’s ‘giant battery’: Energy storage project buzzes into life

Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire is the location of Europe's largest battery storage project which has been switched on as part of an extensive trial to assess the role of energy storage in delivering the UK's Carbon Plan.

The fully-automated 6MW/10MWh system, known as the Smarter Network Storage facility, is able to power more than 27,000 homes for an hour or 1,100 homes for a whole day during periods of low demand.

It will be trialed for two years by UK Power Networks in an effort to demonstrate how batteries can be used to make electricity networks more efficient and enable more low-carbon technologies to be incorporated into existing electricity networks.

Officially opening the £18.7m project yesterday (15 December), Energy Minister Amber Rudd 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.”

The building itself is approximately 8,200sq.ft – 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, while the other room houses the battery racks and modules where the energy is actually stored.

Energy storage potential

Smarter Network Storage was awarded £13.2m of funding from the Low Carbon Networks Fund for the project. This was supplemented with £4m from UK Power Networks and £1.2m from project partners- a mix of businesses and academic institutions which are helping to deliver Smarter Network Storage.

The knowledge and learning from the trials will be shared with other network operators, trade associations, the Government and regulator Ofgem; supporting the energy industry in assessing the full potential of electrical storage.

Andrew Jones, managing director of the project’s lead supplier 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.”

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie