Orkney hosts UK's first 2 MW energy storage trial

The remote Scottish islands of Orkney are the latest testing ground in the battle to solve the perennial problem of renewable energy storage.

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) has connected what has been reported as the U.K.’s first large-scale battery to the grid at the Kirkwall Power Station on Orkney. It is hoped that the trial battery will prove its efficacy at storing excess renewable energy that would otherwise go to waste.

"This exciting trial will provide valuable research into the viability of using batteries for electricity storage," said Mark Rough, SHEPD’s head of commercial. "This is likely to become increasingly important to help balance the variable output from renewable forms of generation as we move to a largely decarbonized electricity generation mix."

The battery – with a 2 MW capacity and lithium-ion technology – was created by Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and has already been trialed successfully in Nagasaki, Japan, where for two years it ran continuously.

"Although the installation of the battery will not provide an immediate solution to the current constraints of the Orkney distribution network," Rough continued, "it is hoped that in the long term, the results of the studies will demonstrate that batteries could provide a cost-effective way of freeing up capacity on the network to help facilitate new connections of low carbon generation."

The trial is being funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund, and has been welcomed by Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur: "This is an exciting initiative and I am delighted to see Orkney leading the way in the development of energy storage solutions," he said. "Our islands have huge potential for generating renewable energy, but a lack of sufficient grid capacity is a growing problem.

"I am certain that battery storage has an important role to play in ensuring we make the best use of the resources at our disposal. While it is not a short-term solution, the work being undertaken as part of this initiative could deliver significant and long-lasting benefits to Orkney and more widely."

Breakthroughs in energy storage are seen as key for the future of solar power, with skeptics quick to point to ‘wasted’ energy as reasons to denigrate the industry. However, analysts IHS predict that residential PV storage capacity could reach 2.5GW by 2017.