Large battery storage gets a boost in the green recovery

The government has relaxed planning rules around the construction of large batteries to store renewable energy from solar and wind farms.

Following consultation with groups within the sector, the government has removed barriers for energy storage projects which previously discouraged bigger investment in larger battery facilities. Secondary legislation has been introduced to remove barriers for storage projects above 50 MW in England and 350 MW in Wales.

The move could see the creation of hundreds of new green jobs. The change in regulations could treble the number of batteries attached to the National Grid, creating the ground for storage cells that are 5 times bigger than those currently available.

The UK has the largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world. As of this June, wind power production came from 10,790 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 23.3 gigawatts: 13,361 megawatts of onshore capacity and 9,701 megawatts of offshore capacity.

Renewable energy lost

The problem is that the availability and speed of wind is not constant with energy sometimes produced when it is not needed and so is lost. Bigger batteries mean that more clean energy can be stored and used all year round.

Large-scale energy storage projects can now move ahead without the complexities and higher costs of navigating the national planning system. Developers will be able to apply for permission to build their energy storage projects using local planning rules, which are quicker and easier to manage.

Energy storage has played a central role in balancing the UK’s electricity system during the 20 per cent drop in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring electricity produced has been used efficiently.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Minster for Energy and Clean Growth said:

“The key to capturing the full value of renewables is in ensuring homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy even when the sun is not shining, or the wind has stopped blowing. Removing barriers in the planning system will help us build bigger and more powerful batteries, creating more green-collar jobs and a smarter electricity network.”

Flexible technologies like batteries will form part of the UK’s smarter electricity grid, supporting the integration of more low-carbon power, heat and transport technologies, which it is estimated could save the UK energy system up to £40 billion by 2050.

Liquid air battery

The government last month agreed £10 million investment in the world’s largest and first liquid air battery facility in Manchester. The 50 MW project in Trafford will be able to store energy for longer than a conventional lithium battery – helping power 200,000 homes. The relaxation of planning rules should see the construction of batteries that are even bigger.

Battery storage could help save National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) up to £40 billion by 2050, which would mean less pressure on household energy bills.

Kayte O’Neill, Head of Markets at National Grid Electricity System Operator, said:

“How we operate Great Britain’s grid is changing, with record levels of renewable sources generating our power. Storage can help us make the most of this green energy, using it to manage peaks and troughs in demand and operate the electricity system as efficiently as possible – keeping costs down for consumers too.”

The government is investing more than £3 billion in low-carbon innovation, as the UK aims to be Net Zero, ending its contribution to climate change entirely, by 2050.

Battery storage projects

Official figures currently suggest there are 4 GW of storage projects in planning which could power a combined 6 million homes, in addition to the 1 GW of battery storage already in operation.

And according to sector trade association Regen, the UK has a “huge” 61GW pipeline of green electricity projects with 18GW deemed “shovel-ready”, with offshore wind generating half the total figure at 31.7GW, with onshore wind at 11.9GW, solar PV at 8.6GW and storage at 8.5GW.

It says that the developments could provide 200,000 jobs. and add £125 billion to the value of the UK economy and called on the government to “unlock” these projects by publishing the delayed energy white paper, commit to annual Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions and remove barriers to onshore wind projects.

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