E.ON goes live with first EFR battery project

A battery storage project developed by E.ON has become the first in Great Britain to provide Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR) services to the grid. Plant Manager Luke Ellis explains how the 10MW installation near Sheffield came to life.

When we pushed the button to begin operations at our new battery project at Blackburn Meadows it was an exciting moment for all the team. E.ON has been investing in battery storage systems around the world for a number of years and the EFR process offered us the chance to deploy this emerging technology in a new way.

It’s fitting in a way that Blackburn Meadows has seen such a technological breakthrough. This was a brownfield site when E.ON took it over. It had been home to a coal-fired plant from the early 1900s until its closure in the 1980s.

Now we have a ground-breaking battery project running alongside our biomass plant that turns recycled waste wood into low-carbon electricity. It produces enough power for 40,000 homes. The facility also provides district heating to customers in the local area, including Sheffield Forgemasters and Sheffield Arena.

Battery first

We are at the forefront of keeping the nation’s electricity grid stable using battery storage. One challenge is making sure that frequency stays within strict limits.

The battery system works by discharging power to the network when frequency falls or withdrawing power if supply is greater than demand. The speed of response is the big step forward. All this happens in just a fraction of a second.

The battery is housed inside four 40-ft shipping containers. It’s made up of more than 1,000 lithium-ion batteries divided into racks. The battery holds the same amount of energy as 500,000 mobile phone batteries. It operates around the clock and is constantly making tiny adjustments that help to balance the grid.

One of the big pluses for us was the ability to integrate the battery’s control system with our biomass power plant. It means that our operators can monitor both 24/7.

Journey to switch-on

E.ON took part in the EFR auction run by National Grid in autumn 2016 and we were named as one of the successful bids. Under the contract, we’ll be providing EFR services to the grid for the next four years.

The battery system works by discharging power to the network when frequency falls or withdrawing power if supply is greater than demand. The speed of response is the big step forward. All this happens in just a fraction of a second.

It’s fantastic that we’re the first project to go live. We’d already done a lot of detailed work to be ready to go. In fact, when the auction took place, we were only a couple of weeks away from signing contracts to start construction.

The process from design through to commissioning took about a year. One of the biggest challenges we faced was dealing with a technology that was new to all of us. It was important to build a good relationship with the Distribution Network Operator (DNO).

The DNO needed to be sure that our planned operation wouldn’t have any negative effects on the local network. We worked closely with our supplier Nidec to provide this reassurance. Nidec also carried out modelling work on our behalf to understand how the project would integrate with the wider grid.

E.ON’s renewable goals

The Blackburn Meadows project shows that battery solutions have enormous potential in the UK. It certainly fits with E.ON’s aims of helping our customers access new renewable solutions such as solar and storage technologies. There will undoubtedly be more opportunities for batteries as the technology matures.

As for the future, we’re taking a keen interest in National Grid’s System Needs and Product Strategy to see what opportunities lie ahead. Having the right regulatory environment is also important. Several consultations involving Ofgem and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are under way on the road ahead for storage.

In the meantime, we’re all very proud of what’s been achieved at Blackburn Meadows. It’s great to see the project come to fruition.