Successful 'big battery' trial could spark grid transformation

A trial of the largest grid-scale battery in Britain has successfully found that storage technology could transform the energy grid and play a major role in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

The Smarter Network Storage (SNS) facility, the first grid-scale battery storage project in the UK and the only one of its kind currently operating on the energy network, has proved for the first time that energy storage has the potential to be both technically and commercially viable.

The ‘big battery’, designed and run by UK Power Networks and based in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, stores energy when demand is low and releases it at peak times.
 
The trial of the 6MW/10MWh ‘big battery’, which is the size of three tennis courts and can store enough electricity to power 6,000 homes for 1.5 hours at peak times, has been carried out over two years.

The project was funded by £13.2m from the Low Carbon Networks Fund, administered by Ofgem, £4m from UK Power Networks and £1.2m from other businesses partners and academic institutions.
 
Suleman Alli, Director of Safety, Strategy and Support Services at UK Power Networks, argues that the project has delivered insight for the whole industry at a crucial moment in its evolution. 
 
“As we move towards a low carbon, decentralized, digital energy system, all eyes are on the role of storage – especially batteries – in Britain’s electricity network. We believe that grid-scale storage has a huge role to play in addressing the challenges the industry faces,” he said.
 
“The trial has drawn attention to the fact that the UK’s regulatory framework needs to evolve to help exploit its full potential. For example, energy storage currently incurs a double carbon levy – both when it stores energy and when it releases it.”
 
The trial result follows the recent release of the Flexible Energy System consultation by the Government, which recognises that storage has a key role to play in the country’s future energy supply and makes reference to a number of issues also highlighted by the battery trial. 
 
UK Power Networks will continue to operate the battery in Leighton Buzzard, helping to meet the continuing demands for electricity in the Bedfordshire town.

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