Massive energy storage system goes online in UK • The Register

Europe’s largest battery energy storage facility has come online in the UK with a storage capacity of up to 196 MWh of electricity, leading the way towards greater use of the technology to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Developed by Harmony Energy Limited, the Pillswood project near Hull on the North Sea coast of England aims to provide load balancing services to the electricity grid. It should store enough energy to supply around 300,000 households with electricity for two hours.

According to Harmony, the project is based on Tesla’s battery technology and uses several units of the company’s Megapack system. Each unit is about the size of a shipping container and can store over 3 MWh of energy. The construction of the project was also led by Tesla.

The same technology is already being used in the Victoria Big Battery in Australia, one of the world’s largest storage facilities for renewable energy.

That new facility is near National Grid’s Creyke Beck substation, which is set to serve as the connection point for the giant Dogger Bank offshore wind farm, Harmony said, the first phase of which is expected to come online next year.

The Pillswood project was originally scheduled to be commissioned in two phases in December, but Harmony claims the activation was brought forward to help National Grid’s efforts to provide stable and secure power during the winter period.

The move follows reports of possible power outages this winter, which prompted the UK government to hold talks with data center operators about keeping the infrastructure operational.

Such high-capacity energy storage systems could help keep data centers online and potentially replace the diesel-powered generators that are often used for backup power at data center sites.

Earlier this year, Google began testing such a system at one of its data centers in Belgium, with a stated goal of running entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. In its data center in St. Ghislain, the search giant replaced its battery system with the diesel emergency power supply. The battery system is also used to load balance the local power grid.

According to a study by research firm Omdia earlier this year, data center operators could feed some of their excess energy storage capacity back into the grid during times of high demand. Microsoft and UPS provider Eaton have also evaluated whether this is possible in Azure data centers.

Meanwhile, Harmony said five energy storage systems are under construction, with turn-on dates slated for some time between now and October 2023.

Director Peter Kavanagh said the completion and powering of the Pillswood project is a significant milestone for the company as it is the first project in the portfolio to come online.

“All parties involved have recognized the importance of pre-winterizing this project to ensure that the BESS services can be provided during the early months of winter and we would like to thank Tesla, G2 Energy and Northern Powergrid for their efforts ahead of schedule in delivering the project despite a very challenging geopolitical and global supply chain environment,” he said.

Andrew Buss, senior research director at IDC Europe, said battery power has its place, but plans like the Pillswood project may not be the best model for data centers. “It is true that battery-based energy storage systems have the potential to decouple infrastructure power from the grid and take over even larger neighborhood, block or metro area power in the event of a power outage.

He added, “One of the biggest issues is scale and cost, and while there are some good examples of grid-based systems like Hull, it might not be all that feasible for campus data centers.”

Buss said it might be more viable to switch from lithium batteries to the old-fashioned lead-acid type or hydrogen-based fuel cells that some data center operators are experimenting with.

“Ultimately, diesel generators are fairly compact, very cheap, well known and generally reliable, so the case for replacement in already built plants based on ROI or emission reductions is relatively small.” ® Massive energy storage system goes online in UK • The Register

Rick Schindler

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