Sheffield set to welcome UK’s first mega-battery plant

A new 10 MW mega-battery facility located next to an existing power plant and boasting the equivalent of capacity of half a million phone batteries is set to come online this week in the English city of Sheffield.

The project has been described as a milestone in its efforts to develop energy storage capacity as the U.K. grid seeks to balance an energy mix with increasing amounts of wind and solar power.

This is to be the first of many facilities of its type, with business secretary Greg Clark praising the project as crucial to the transformation of the U.K.’s energy into a greener eco-system.

This development comes after the government unveiled plans for a better, more adaptable energy system, pledging £246 million for funding for battery research, with Clark stating that a smarter grid would mean cheaper energy bills for all.

“Energy, for the last 100 years, for good reasons, we’ve rationed the consumption of [because] it’s been very expensive and environmentally damaging to consume fossil fuels,” said Clark. “But given the possibilities we are on the cusp of at the moment, we might move to a world where energy is clean and abundant.”

The Blackburn Meadows battery is the largest in the U.K. thus far at 10 MW, but will soon be eclipsed by much larger storage plants.

A 49 MW facility is being built by the parent company of British Gas, Centrica, on the site of a power station in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. Furthermore, EDF energy is working on a plant of the same size at its gas power station in West Burton in Nottinghamshire.

David Topping, the director of business, heat and power solutions at E.ON told the Guardian that “this is a milestone for E.ON in the new energy world and an important recognition of the enormous potential for battery solution in the U.K.”

Utility-scale batteries are being built after a request from the National Grid to help balance electricity supply and demand, which is posing an increasing challenge for the grid as more solar and wind electricity generating projects come online.

The balance between supply and demand is important in keeping the frequency of electricity across the U.K. at a constant 50Hz. The ability to respond to demand in less than a second makes batteries ideal for this task, with previously known sources of backup power being much slower, responding in just under 10 seconds.