In the U.K., the electricity grid isn’t quite up to snuff. The Brits of today might even say it’s pure duff. And that’s not going to cut it, especially as Chancellor George Osborne has publicly stated that he wants the U.K. to become a world leader in energy storage moving into the future.
If that is ever going to happen, a complete overhaul of the U.K.’s existing power grid is needed. And the only way for the nation to become a world leader is to be innovative, cutting-edge, and incorporate the use of renewable energy.
To start, a new project aims to take a modern approach in an effort to develop commercial-sized energy storage. The goal of the project would be to capture energy from solar and wind power and release it at a steady pace over time.
The trick: getting both of these power sources to coincide on a large scale to offset the dips in supply that are associated with both.
If a balance of energy storage can be created, it would solve the peaks and valleys that the British community currently deals with on a regular basis in supply and demand.
Finding a way of storing power from wind and solar is the key to that balance.
The government is already catching flack for not providing enough incentives for the kind of technology companies like ABB Ltd (NYSE: ABB) are developing.
And the major road block thus far is the difficulty of translating energy storage to a large scale. In fact, the scale would have to be enormous if it ever hopes to reach application on a national grid like that of the U.K.
But the U.K. is steadfast and determined not to let yet another ship sink. While the government has taken some heat, as of yesterday, the pendulum might just be swinging back in its favor.
That “new project” I mentioned above, worth £18.7 million (roughly $28.52 million), was confirmed in an agreement between S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI (KRX: 006400), and the German energy utility Younicos.
Together, they will conduct what is being called the Smarter Network Storage (SNS) project: deploying equipment, supplying and installing batteries, and providing software needed to deploy the largest battery in Europe.
U.K. Power Networks will run the project for the next three and a half years in Bedfordshire, England at its Leighton Buzzard substation.
The 6 megawatt battery, using lithium manganese technology, will test ways to store energy from wind and solar.
Sometime in 2016, we’ll know just how successful it is and whether it has the capability to transform not only the British electricity grid but the entire renewable energy sector. If proven, it could bring billions of dollars in savings to the U.K.
And that’s what we’re looking at in the immediate future – avoiding all the millions of pounds spent, the countless upgrades, and the mass disruptions that would take place if the U.K. fixed its problems the traditional way, uprooting roadways and replacing the existing damaged infrastructure.
The SNS is not only designed to revolutionize the British electrical system but to save the country a fortune.
There aren’t a whole lot of large-scale energy storage projects in the U.K., and that could pose a problem down the road. Plus, there is a lot of uncertainty swirling around current policy and financial constraints in the energy market.
Energy storage is the only green technology that doesn’t receive subsidies right now, but lobbyists are doing their part to make that change.
The technology is still just a demonstration on a small scale, something the next few years will have to drastically improve upon. But if it is successful, it will be a vital part of the U.K.’s transition into the worldwide leader it hopes to be.
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