Northumbrian Water set to power treatment works with battery storage technology

Water utility Northumbrian Water has unveiled plans to install battery storage systems made using end-of-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries at several of its water treatment works, in a move to store power generated using its onsite renewable arrays.

The company will install the storage technology, which is made using lithium-ion units recovered from Renault EVs, at several of its desalination and treatment facilities across Essex, Suffolk and the North East next year, after partnering with energy technology firm Argonaut Power.

Northumbrian Water will charge the batteries during the night, when grid demand is low and electricity prices are too, before using them to power the sites during peak evening hours. The technology will be installed behind the meter, in a bid to minimise the amount of power Northumbrian Water will need to purchase from the grid.

Work to install the storage arrays is expected to be completed by autumn 2019, with Northumbrian Water set to sign a revenue-sharing contract with Argonaut Power and investment manager Ingenious Infrastructure, which is partly funding the project, ahead of the completion date.

“Large-scale battery storage is going to be a major feature of the electricity industry going forward and this is a great opportunity for us to develop our understanding of these processes,” Northumbrian Water’s energy development manager Anthony Browne said.

“We expect that having batteries on site can also help us obtain more value from any renewable energy we generate on our sites.”

The move to install storage comes after Northumbrian Water switched to 100% renewable power for its entire estate in April. The company has been powering its 1,858 sites using power generated by renewable arrays since May, after signing a deal with Danish energy supplier Ørsted.

Northumbrian Water also owns several on-site renewable generation facilities, including a 931-panel rooftop solar array at its Bran Sands plant in Teeside and its flagship hydropower facility at Kielder Water.

Utility leadership

The move from Northumbrian Water comes at a time when several other utilities are choosing to use technology in order to improve their energy efficiency, reduce their waste footprint and source more renewable power.

Anglian Water, for example, installed an energy storage machine controlled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology at one of its water treatment facilities earlier this year. The company claims the move will increase the solar generation of its ‘pathfinder’ site in Norfolk by 80%.

Elsewhere, United Utilities is in the process of rolling out an AI-powered energy flexibility platform across its entire water network, after a three-month trial generated energy savings of 22%.

Battery boon

More widely, the global energy storage market looks to mirror the rapid growth the solar industry experienced between 2000 and 2015, with a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Bloomberg NEF) report predicting that investment in the battery sector will reach $1.2trn by 2040.

In the UK specifically, new energy storage installations are expected to help create savings to the tune of £8bn by 2030.

The business community is beginning to take advantage of this technology, with Arsenal FC having installed battery storage at the Emirates Stadium last month and Kingfisher investing in solar panels, battery storage and air source heat pumps for its first ‘net-zero’ distribution centre. The likes of Landsec and Marks & Spencer (M&S) are now moving to explore how the technology could complement renewable generations across their estates.

Sarah George 

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