Battery optimisers and traders Zenobē have begun operations at the weekend from their new 100MW installation at Capenhurst, Cheshire.

It is Europe’s biggest to be connected directly to a transmission network, and the first in the UK. Tests ended with the project being plugged in last week at 275kV.

On a global stage, the power storage firm claims the Capenhurst facility is the world’s first to have a commercial contract to provide reactive power services, such as DSR.

Capenhurst is Zenobē’s answer to a Pathfinder invitation from National GridESO, intending to relieve grid choke points affecting Merseyside and the North West. It is configured in hopes of avoiding at least part of repeated expensive curtailment fees, paid to renewables generators to cut their output during peaks of grid congestion.

In December 2022 alone, National Grid paid £82million to wind farm operators around the UK to stop their turbines, so that regional and national nets should not be overwhelmed.

Over its first 15 years of working life, the Capenhurst battery will save around £58m on curtailment costs that would have previously been passed on to consumers.R

Reactive power services in the Merseyside region were previously provided by local fossil fuel stations such as Fiddler’s Ferry near Warrington. That closed in March 2020 and is now scheduled for demolition. Peel Natural Resources & Energy, who bought the 820 acre site from SSE in July 2022, want to build homes on the plot.

As storage advocates have long argued, amp-absorbent power ‘sponges’ hooked up at large scale provide an opportunity for the grid to decarbonise the power it distributes, while also delivering indirect cost savings, from which consumers can benefit.

Capenhurst coming online will significantly lower the North West’s reliance on gas imports to keep the grid working. Greater energy security is the outcome, along with reduced risk of blackouts, eliminated at least partially from a more efficient network.

Zenobē’s co-founder James Basden said the new plant can now help Liverpool, Manchester and the north-west’s conurbations in meeting municipal targets to address the climate emergency.

“With Capenhurst, we’re solving a key issue on the grid in the Merseyside region whilst significantly enhancing the nation’s use of renewable power”, Basden declared.

“The activation of the site represents a key milestone for Zenobē as a business and for the UK as it moves towards a zero-carbon power system. Decarbonisation is more important than ever, as we face increasing energy prices and seek greater energy independence”.

“We look forward to taking these solutions into other countries, using our expertise to make clean power accessible across the globe”, the Zenobē boss concluded.

Basden’s firm currently has c. 1.6GW in its UK construction and development pipeline, a figure it believes equates to c. 25% market share by 2026.   Its EV fleet and charging operations encompass around 25% of Britain’s EV buses and c.1,000 electric vehicles contracted globally. The company is the largest owner and operator of EV buses in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The Capenhurst facility may be surpassed in size in coming years.   Penso Power have hinted at upgrading to 150MW their battery at Minety, Wiltshire.


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