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The Rapid Expansion Of Battery Storage

May 31, 2018

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby


Philip sent me this press release from the CPRE earlier, which has bearings on yesterday’s post on battery storage:



The Government is encouraging the development of backup generation and battery storage in the countryside as means of increasing electricity supply.  CPRE Wiltshire has produced a booklet exploring the issues raised by planning applications to implement these processes.


Backup generation is usually provided by a cluster  of diesel- or gas-powered engines that can be brought into service at short notice .

Battery storage is usually in the form of large numbers of industrial-scale batteries packed together, which take in and store electricity when there is more available than the National Grid needs, and release it when the Grid needs more than is available from usual day-to-day sources.  

For the CPRE, these industrial processes are presenting new problems.   They use large steel-framed structures and converted shipping containers to house the equipment they require.    (For example, a proposed development near Charlton, Wiltshire will include 17 converted shipping containers, each 53ft (16.1 m) long , standing 15 ft (4.5m) above ground level).   These alien features in the countryside are usually enclosed by a steel palisade security fence, which in turn is encircled by hedging and trees to ‘mitigate’ the visual and landscape impacts they create.

We recognise that new supplies of electricity are needed, but we believe the sites chosen for building them should be carefully controlled.  The industrial equipment these processes require should be sited in industrial settings, or on brownfield land.   Only in exceptional circumstances should greenfield sites be used.   Unfortunately, there is little official guidance, either from Government or local authorities, steering these developments away from the countryside.   So with the help of an engineering consultant who was formerly a manager at National Grid, CPRE Wiltshire has produced a booklet, Guidance for assessing planning applications for small-scale battery storage and backup generation facilities.

The full CPRE Report offers more detail:

Over the last decade, the mix of generation providing electricity to the National Grid has undergone a significant change as electricity production has moved to less carbon-intensive fuels and generation from renewable sources. Renewable sources are now providing over a quarter of all of the electricity used.

The output from most forms of renewable generation, unlike that from the conventional generation it is replacing, is intermittent. To manage this intermittency, National Grid is now having to carry increased amounts of “reserve” — a standby supply that can be held on stationary plant for long periods of the day, that can be generating at short notice for the periods when output from renewable sources has dropped.

An established technology that is well suited to provide reserve operation is backup generation (i.e. generation powered by diesel engines fuelled by either natural gas or diesel fuel). A technology that is being adapted to hold a reserve is battery storage.

In addition, National Grid is now also having to carry increased amounts of “response”. When a large generator at any location on the electricity system suddenly ceases to generate because of a fault, the frequency of the system may drop below required levels. Traditionally, to manage such events, a standby response supply has been held on part-loaded conventional generators. They automatically detect the frequency drop and increase output immediately. However, with fewer conventional generators now operating, alternative ways of holding response have had to be introduced. One type of technology that has been adapted to do this is battery storage.

National Grid needs to procure greater amounts of reserve and response now, and this need is set to increase into the future. A wide range of service providers is responding to this opportunity by promoting the construction of new backup generation and battery storage facilities. From an economic and technical perspective, they are quick, cheap and reasonably suited to providing these services.

A fast and simple way to connect such facilities to the National Grid is to construct them in a rural setting and claim that they are needed locally to support the grid, thus avoiding the complications and costs of using an existing "brownfield" site in an industrial location.

In reality, unless the local distribution company has formally identified a need to reinforce local generation, there is no technical reason why these facilities need to be located in a rural setting. Contrary to popular belief, there is no practical benefit that such facilities give to restoring local electricity supplies following a fault or blackout of the local electricity system.

Furthermore, the emissions produced by backup generation can be environmentally significant when compared with those produced by other reserve sources because of the relatively poor efficiency of the diesel engines used for backup generation plant and the fuel used.

Whilst battery storage has its uses as short term response, it is also clear that it is increasingly being used as a reserve, something that is much more critical given the increasing intermittency caused by renewable energy.

Claire Perry admitted as much last September when she opened the Clayhill Solar Farm:

 Battery technology also has an important role to play in making renewable energy a viable part of the UK’s energy network by ensuring energy can be captured and stored for use when needed. The Clayhill development features five battery storage units. These help maximise the usable output from renewable power sources such as solar, which generates different amounts of energy depending on the weather.


At this year’s Capacity Market Auction, for 2020/21, contracts were awarded to 3.2 GW of storage, 6% of the total. At the contract price of £22.50/KW/YR, storage will receive an annual subsidy of £72 million.


Provisional Results Report – T-4 2016.pdf


Without Capacity Market subsidies, it is unlikely that battery storage would be viable.

Indeed, according to Solar & Storage Research, there is 3.5 GW of storage projects in the pipeline:



The National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios, published last year, anticipates much greater growth of storage capacity in years to come:




And looking further ahead, Professor Fankhauser, formerly of the Committee on Climate Change and lead author of a report in March from the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, which concluded that the government needs to go further than the targets set out in the Climate Change Act, believes that the power sector should be zero carbon by the second half of the century thanks to a combination of cheap renewables and improved battery storage.



What is clear is that battery storage is increasingly viewed as one of the main answers to the problem of intermittency. But while it may help to smooth out the peaks in demand for short periods, current battery technology cannot solve the underlying problem of intermittency. Only large scale, dispatchable power can do that.

The danger is that we sleepwalk into Claire Perry’s dream world.

  1. May 31, 2018 10:58 am

    One of the other findings of the CPRE Wiltshire report is that batteries are definitely not ‘low carbon’ and so will not enable a ‘zero carbon’ power sector. Of course, solar and wind power are also not ‘low carbon’, so a ‘zero carbon ‘ power sector is just another example of wishful thinking without much in the way of thought.

  2. May 31, 2018 11:19 am

    They are fixing a problem of their own making and ballsing that up at the same time. It is hard to escape that this madness will result (Hopefully) in some major financial repercussions to public service pensions and I do not mean increases!

  3. HotScot permalink
    May 31, 2018 11:43 am

    This seems like a tacit admission by our government that they hadn’t considered the intermittent nature of renewable energy when they went hell for leather at it, handing out subsidies like sweeties.

    The problem is, of course, that the law of unintended consequences will rear it’s ugly head when they start handing out vast subsidies for battery storage. e.g. when there’s a localised shortage and they flick the switch to batteries, only to find the supply lasts a matter of hours, if that.

    How about doctors surgeries, now able to conduct minor surgical procedures to relieve pressure on A&E departments? They don’t have the benefit of back up diesel generators hospitals have, so a days worth of reduced, or zero electricity, will have a considerable effect on numerous people. NHS funding will of course be blamed yet again for screw ups, outwith its control. Just a small example of unintended consequences.

  4. Dave Ward permalink
    May 31, 2018 12:06 pm

    “The Government is encouraging the development of backup generation and battery storage in the countryside as means of increasing electricity supply”

    If the government wants to pay me to uprate the very basic back-up I have already put together, fine. With my modest consumption I could store all my daily electricity requirements at night (on Economy 7) or similar, if the unit rates were substantially lower. I would also be very interested in a domestic CHP unit, but the few that are available are hideously expensive. Some basic maths quickly shows how financially futile such projects are, given the long payback periods & ongoing service/repair costs. But hey, if some of the money being thrown at wind, solar, CCS etc was redirected towards a genuinely integrated energy system, I would be happy to take it! Now if I lived out in the wilds (like Phillip Bratby), I would be building my own system based around an old Lister diesel set. I watched a YouTube video of just such a project recently.

    Speaking of higher bills, in view of Paul’s recent post about small energy suppliers going to the wall – – It’s a bit rich for “consumer experts” to be advising people to look for cheaper deals: And it strikes me that if more people do switch, there is an increasing likelihood of their new supplier folding, leading to even more grief… And as for “Energy minister Claire Perry describing the round of price hikes as ‘unjustified'” – she REALLY doesn’t get it, does she?

  5. Sheri permalink
    May 31, 2018 12:27 pm

    There is no longer a line between science and science fiction, math and made-up fantasies. We live more and more in a very bad science fiction movie, where reality ends up devouring us. In part, it’s because the overlords have too much money and power (pun intended) and the rest of us can live in the dark. This will not end well. Storming their ivory towers cannot be far off. The loss of social media and the fantasy it allows people to live in will be devastating. Yet, the “leaders” plunder on, ignoring the coming fall.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      May 31, 2018 1:23 pm

      “The loss of social media and the fantasy it allows people to live in will be devastating”

      Sadly, it will probably take such a thing to get through to the masses…

  6. Douglas Brodie permalink
    May 31, 2018 1:00 pm

    I recently drew the attention of Clair Perry and other politicians (primarily Ruth Davidson as she just happened to offer a great pretext) to my online post on the theme that the fairy-tale of the Emperor’s new clothes was the perfect analogy to the establishment’s blinkered, reality-denying approach to “climate change”. I challenged these politicians to respond on four particularly glaring problems in their climate and energy policies, namely:

    1. The fact that the renewables technologies chosen to supposedly “tackle climate change” are hopelessly ineffectual.

    2. The fact that these ineffectual renewables are ruinously expensive.

    3. The fact that the Paris Climate Agreement is hopelessly ineffectual and unworkable.

    4. The fact that the UN IPCC’s climate science is seriously flawed.

    A BEIS minion sent me a reply on behalf of Ms Perry with arguments lifted straight out of the Skeptical Science denier-bashing playbook. Needless to say it was a classic fobbing-off and a total denial of reality.

    For details of my exchange see

    Thanks to Paul for quite a few of the links used therein.

    • Douglas Brodie permalink
      May 31, 2018 1:08 pm

      Oops, my comment above was intended for the Claire Perry post.

  7. markl permalink
    May 31, 2018 3:49 pm

    As long as the MSM keeps promoting ideas like this people will believe them. That is until reality sets in and then it’s too late.

  8. Bitter@twisted permalink
    May 31, 2018 4:03 pm

    Now that Government cretinism has destabilised the National Grid, the same cretins propose local, inefficient and more polluting local generation as a solution.
    Talk about “Back to the Future”
    You couldn’t make up this crass stupidity.

  9. Richard Woollaston permalink
    May 31, 2018 5:39 pm

    Clearly the subsidies are very generous then!

  10. Gamecock permalink
    May 31, 2018 9:22 pm

    ‘and release it when the Grid needs more than is available from usual day-to-day sources.’

    Your day-to-day sources better be able to meet your day-to-day needs. Else, you are Sofa King Dead.

  11. GEORGE LET permalink
    June 1, 2018 1:25 am

    More greatly hazardous environmental junk like all of the solar and wind.

  12. June 1, 2018 3:51 am

    A Megawatt of storage is an oxymoron. You might as well measure miles in miles per hour.
    Gee Wizz! I have just filled my car up with 300 miles per hour!

    Are there no engineers left in the civil service? Seems there is a total dearth.

    • dave permalink
      June 1, 2018 8:22 am


      I think this idiocy comes straight from the National Grid itself, as “Future Energy Scenarios Summary” describes “storage capacity” as 4 GW. From the context, what they (must) mean is that if a nuclear station,say, suddenly went off-line so that the power supply was reduced by 4 GW, the store could replace it by discharging power at 4GW.

      That, of course, immediately raises the £64,000 question, “For How Long?”

      “Batteries can be either high-power or high-energy but not both.”

      • June 1, 2018 10:28 am

        Yes Dave. googling Dinorwic power station gives good info. here. This produces 1650 MW for 7 hours before it runs out of water. Said to store 9.1 GWhrs. Efficiency about 75%.; but great for boiling everyone’s kettle when the TV program finishes. Useless for a Beast from the cold.
        Cost £425 million. I visited it during construction, circa 1974- very impressive.

  13. Coeur de Lion permalink
    June 1, 2018 6:07 am

    Instruct me. Is DC turned into AC without loss? Does the instrument cost anything?

    • dave permalink
      June 1, 2018 4:43 pm

      “Is DC turned into AC without loss?”

      No; 5-10% of the energy is lost as (dangerous because concentrated) heat.

      “Does the instrument cost anything?”

      Oodles of money.

      Final point: the batteries can only be trickle-charged. So energy is only occasionally available.

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