UK power firm Drax plans world’s largest battery storage project

Drax, a U.K. power company, has announced that it is seeking planning permission to continue the reinvention of its North Yorkshire coal plant by installing a 200 MW battery onsite.

If approved and commissioned, the storage facility would be the biggest in the world, dwarfing the 129 MW lithium-ion battery project currently being built in Australia by Tesla and Neoen.

Drax first announced plans to convert its 2,500 acre coal-fired plant – which is the largest in the U.K. and one of the largest in Europe – earlier this year, and has already switched three of the six units from coal to biomass.

These new proposals would see the remaining coal capacity idled and replaced with 3.6 GW of new gas generation capacity and the 200 MW battery storage facility. Drax said that the proposal is “subject to a positive investment decision and would need to be underpinned by a 15-year capacity market contract”.

The upgrade would significantly enhance Drax’s flexible and responsive power capability, placing the English county of Yorkshire at the forefront of the global energy storage sector in the process.

“We are at the start of the planning process but, if developed, these options for gas and battery storage show how Drax could upgrade our existing infrastructure to provide capacity, stability and essential grid services, as we do with biomass,” said Drax Power CEO Andy Koss.

“This would continue to keep costs low for consumers and help to deliver the government’s commitment to remove coal from the U.K. grid.”

The U.K. government has announced that it wants to phase out coal from the British energy mix completely by 2025. Current coal production is almost zero, with solar PV alone outstripping coal’s power output in H1 of 2017.

The planning process for Drax’s ambitious proposal could take up to two years given the size and complexity of the task at hand, but the intention of one of the country’s foremost coal generators to add such vast capacities of storage is to be welcomed.

The announcement comes just a day after renewable energy developer Anesco announced that it had been granted approval to claim ROCs for the storage element of three of its large-scale solar+storage solar farms – a decision by power regulator Ofgem that could open the floodgates for massive amounts of battery storage uptake at solar farms across the country.