The Rapid Expansion Of Battery Storage

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby


Philip sent me this press release from the CPRE earlier, which has bearings on yesterday’s post on battery storage:



The Government is encouraging the development of backup generation and battery storage in the countryside as means of increasing electricity supply.  CPRE Wiltshire has produced a booklet exploring the issues raised by planning applications to implement these processes.


Backup generation is usually provided by a cluster  of diesel- or gas-powered engines that can be brought into service at short notice .

Battery storage is usually in the form of large numbers of industrial-scale batteries packed together, which take in and store electricity when there is more available than the National Grid needs, and release it when the Grid needs more than is available from usual day-to-day sources.  

For the CPRE, these industrial processes are presenting new problems.   They use large steel-framed structures and converted shipping containers to house the equipment they require.    (For example, a proposed development near Charlton, Wiltshire will include 17 converted shipping containers, each 53ft (16.1 m) long , standing 15 ft (4.5m) above ground level).   These alien features in the countryside are usually enclosed by a steel palisade security fence, which in turn is encircled by hedging and trees to ‘mitigate’ the visual and landscape impacts they create.

We recognise that new supplies of electricity are needed, but we believe the sites chosen for building them should be carefully controlled.  The industrial equipment these processes require should be sited in industrial settings, or on brownfield land.   Only in exceptional circumstances should greenfield sites be used.   Unfortunately, there is little official guidance, either from Government or local authorities, steering these developments away from the countryside.   So with the help of an engineering consultant who was formerly a manager at National Grid, CPRE Wiltshire has produced a booklet, Guidance for assessing planning applications for small-scale battery storage and backup generation facilities.

The full CPRE Report offers more detail:

Over the last decade, the mix of generation providing electricity to the National Grid has undergone a significant change as electricity production has moved to less carbon-intensive fuels and generation from renewable sources. Renewable sources are now providing over a quarter of all of the electricity used.

The output from most forms of renewable generation, unlike that from the conventional generation it is replacing, is intermittent. To manage this intermittency, National Grid is now having to carry increased amounts of “reserve” — a standby supply that can be held on stationary plant for long periods of the day, that can be generating at short notice for the periods when output from renewable sources has dropped.

An established technology that is well suited to provide reserve operation is backup generation (i.e. generation powered by diesel engines fuelled by either natural gas or diesel fuel). A technology that is being adapted to hold a reserve is battery storage.

In addition, National Grid is now also having to carry increased amounts of “response”. When a large generator at any location on the electricity system suddenly ceases to generate because of a fault, the frequency of the system may drop below required levels. Traditionally, to manage such events, a standby response supply has been held on part-loaded conventional generators. They automatically detect the frequency drop and increase output immediately. However, with fewer conventional generators now operating, alternative ways of holding response have had to be introduced. One type of technology that has been adapted to do this is battery storage.

National Grid needs to procure greater amounts of reserve and response now, and this need is set to increase into the future. A wide range of service providers is responding to this opportunity by promoting the construction of new backup generation and battery storage facilities. From an economic and technical perspective, they are quick, cheap and reasonably suited to providing these services.

A fast and simple way to connect such facilities to the National Grid is to construct them in a rural setting and claim that they are needed locally to support the grid, thus avoiding the complications and costs of using an existing "brownfield" site in an industrial location.

In reality, unless the local distribution company has formally identified a need to reinforce local generation, there is no technical reason why these facilities need to be located in a rural setting. Contrary to popular belief, there is no practical benefit that such facilities give to restoring local electricity supplies following a fault or blackout of the local electricity system.

Furthermore, the emissions produced by backup generation can be environmentally significant when compared with those produced by other reserve sources because of the relatively poor efficiency of the diesel engines used for backup generation plant and the fuel used.

Whilst battery storage has its uses as short term response, it is also clear that it is increasingly being used as a reserve, something that is much more critical given the increasing intermittency caused by renewable energy.

Claire Perry admitted as much last September when she opened the Clayhill Solar Farm:

 Battery technology also has an important role to play in making renewable energy a viable part of the UK’s energy network by ensuring energy can be captured and stored for use when needed. The Clayhill development features five battery storage units. These help maximise the usable output from renewable power sources such as solar, which generates different amounts of energy depending on the weather.


At this year’s Capacity Market Auction, for 2020/21, contracts were awarded to 3.2 GW of storage, 6% of the total. At the contract price of £22.50/KW/YR, storage will receive an annual subsidy of £72 million.


Provisional Results Report – T-4 2016.pdf


Without Capacity Market subsidies, it is unlikely that battery storage would be viable.

Indeed, according to Solar & Storage Research, there is 3.5 GW of storage projects in the pipeline:



The National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios, published last year, anticipates much greater growth of storage capacity in years to come:




And looking further ahead, Professor Fankhauser, formerly of the Committee on Climate Change and lead author of a report in March from the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, which concluded that the government needs to go further than the targets set out in the Climate Change Act, believes that the power sector should be zero carbon by the second half of the century thanks to a combination of cheap renewables and improved battery storage.



What is clear is that battery storage is increasingly viewed as one of the main answers to the problem of intermittency. But while it may help to smooth out the peaks in demand for short periods, current battery technology cannot solve the underlying problem of intermittency. Only large scale, dispatchable power can do that.

The danger is that we sleepwalk into Claire Perry’s dream world.


May 31, 2018 at 06:18AM

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