Market Insight

Belectric Announces Two Grid-Scale Energy Storage Systems in UK

February 17, 2015

Sam Wilkinson Sam Wilkinson Associate Director, Solar & Energy Storage
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German solar developer, Belectric, has announced that it will develop, construct and operate two large-scale battery energy storage systems in the UK. One of the systems will be co-located with a 3.8 MW ground-mount PV system, and the other will be in the grid. The systems are part of the Enhanced Frequency Control Capability (EFCC) project which is led by The National Grid.

Key Points

  • The rapid development of the UK’s utility-scale solar market has led to increasing challenges in balancing the grid.
  • The Ofgem funded EFCC project is intended to evaluate potential ways in which the frequency of the grid can be maintained, and prevent blackouts and shutdowns, including the use of energy storage.
  • German solar developer, Belectric, will  design, construct and operate the systems. It recently added a similar battery to a large PV plant in Northern Germany.
  • The systems are further evidence of demonstration and pilot projects that will help to highlight the benefits of grid-scale energy storage systems.
  • Source: BELECTRIC applies solar energy to grid stabilization


IHS Insight

The UK has experienced a rapid expansion of its ground-mount solar market in recent years, with total utility-scale PV capacity growing from zero in 2011, to 2.6 GW by the end of 2014. In 2014, it accounted for over 70% of utility-scale PV installations in Europe. This has led to increasing challenges in maintaining the frequency of the grid due to the uncontrollable and intermittent nature of the output of PV (and wind) systems. The Ofgem funded EFCC project is intended to evaluate potential ways in which these challenges can be overcome, including the use of energy storage and demand side management.

The alternative methods of upgrading distribution infrastructure and substations would clearly prove extremely expensive, hence potentially favouring the adoption of alternative technologies such as energy storage.

Belectric is one of Europe’s largest solar developers and EPCs, and was the largest EPC worldwide in 2010. It has recently begun to increasingly demonstrate a move into the energy storage market. Given its experience and existing pipeline and portfolio of renewable projects (to which storage could be attached in many cases), it is well placed to serve this industry, along with other similar companies.  It recently added its ‘Energy Buffer Unit’ (EBU), a 2 MWh lead acid battery, to a 68 MW PV plant in Northern Germany. Although no details of the technology to be used in the UK projects have been confirmed, IHS considers it likely that similar technology to the system in Germany will be used. Belectric will also operate the energy storage systems, mirroring its position in the solar industry where it owns a large portfolio of PV projects in Germany, acting as an Independent Power Producer (IPP).

One of the energy storage units will be co-located with a 3.8 MW PV system that was completed by Belectric in 2014. This is likely to take the form of a relatively short duration battery which can be used to smooth rapid changes in the system’s output. The second battery system will be connected directly to the grid, and will be used to absorb power when a surplus is generated and dispatch it later to help meet peaks in demand. Depending on the local generation and demand characteristics, this system could potentially require a longer duration battery.

Demonstration and pilot projects such as these are becoming increasingly common across Europe, and the largest battery system in the region was also recently completed nearby in the UK. Pilot projects such as these will be required to demonstrate the benefits and business case for energy storage both co-located with PV systems and centrally located in the grid. The increasing frequency of such projects certainly points towards an increasingly strong long-term outlook for large-scale battery energy storage systems in UK and Europe.

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