UK power outage highlights need for grid-scale Li-ion and Vanadium batteries

UK power outage cuts critical services and highlights need for grid-scale batteries or additional capacity to balance wind and solar power.

Lithium-ion and Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries ‘VFRBs’ could contribute a key part of the solution for grid balancing and backup power.

Friday afternoon saw a significant power failure in many parts of the UK as the network automatically cut power to major parts of the country.

The outage was caused by the failure of a 727MW gas-fired power generator alongside a major 1.2GW wind-farm off the East coast.

While other generators scrambled to make up for the near 2GW power loss the 15 minute incident triggered widespread power cuts causing major disruption on trains and at one hospital where the back-up generators failed to work. Many consumers were also left without power.

The windfarm possibly went offline due to unusually high-gusting winds in which wind farms cannot operate. The issue highlights the risk of moving to wind and solar power without adequate backup power supplies.

The UK grid wanted to tender mixed backup power but the EU halted the tender process in a court ruling last year.

The EU suspended the UK Capacity market auction which provides for back-up electricity generation and opened an investigation into its compliance with EU state aid rules. UK power outage cuts critical services and highlights need for grid-scale batteries or additional capacity to balance wind and solar power. The next power tender / auction has been indefinitely postponed pending the EU court ruling.

The UK 2016 Capacity Market auction for 2020/21 period permitted 500MW of battery projects. Capacity market prices have fallen from £22.50/kw per year to £8.40/kw per year for 50.4GW procured in 2018 for 2021/22 winter.

Battery storage was awarded only 153MW out of 1.344GW that pre-qualified. Arenko won 15-year contracts for 73MW.

UK has 900,000 homes with solar installations. The UK FIT ended in 2016. Smart energy storage is growing strongly e.g. products such as Powervolt.

UK Balancing Mechanism market worth £350m pa – this for Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). The market is expected to grow 179% to 145MW.

The UK may look to install sizeable grid-scale battery power capacity with Lithium-ion and Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries ‘VFRBs’ potentially offering robust, credible and reliable source of back-up and distributed power to balance the imperfect supply of wind and solar power generation.

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