A 2MW energy storage facility has officially opened today with E.on’s fossil fuel and energy trading division Uniper set to test storage technologies at the Wolverhampton site.
The research centre’s 2MW, 1MWh Toshiba lithium titanate battery can respond to grid fluctuations in 0.4 seconds, the kind of response times National Grid needs for its fastest frequency response services. Such services help balance the power grid and will become increasingly important as more intermittent renewable generation comes on to the system.
The facility is based at the Willenhall substation, part of the Western Power Distribution Network.
While distribution networks are not yet allowed to own and operate energy storage facilities, which are classed as generation, the facility is owned and operated by the energy storage research team at the University of Sheffield. It forms part of the Energy2050 initiative, in conjunction with partners at Aston University and the University of Southampton.
However, the rules around energy storage ownership and classification may soon change after the government backed the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations.
Those recommendations made energy storage a key infrastructure priority and Treasury pledged “at least £50m” in funding for energy storage and demand-side response in yesterday’s budget.
Along with National Grid’s push to balance the power system by asking companies to be flexible with their power usage, on-site generation and storage, energy suppliers and aggregators are launching services that make battery storage economics much more viable.
But while the first commercial storage projects are coming on line, there are many technical issues to resolve to bring down costs and increase efficiency, says Professor David Stone, director of the Willenhall Facility and the Centre for Electrical Energy Storage at the University of Sheffield.
Stone said the centre was designed to provide enhanced frequency response services – or ‘superfast’ balancing – to National Grid and that other academic and industrial projects were welcome to use the facility for R&D and testing.
Eon’s Uniper is one of the first to take up the offer.
Arne Hauner, head of innovation economics at Uniper said Eon’s two arms would use the Willenhall battery system to provide ancillary services to the electricity network.
“The reason for doing this is to test the operation of a battery in a new market and to gain operational experience of a different battery storage technology compared to those which we currently operate,” he said.
The next project off the blocks sees the University of Sheffield team, with partners from Aston and Southampton, looking at how used electric vehicle battery packs could test the viability for domestic or industrial electricity storage.
This ‘second life’ system aims to combine the energy from the battery packs so that it functions as a single larger battery unit.
Watch a video about how the battery connects here: