Skip to content

Scottish Power’s “Vast New Battery”

June 11, 2019

By Paul Homewood

h/t ianprsy



Has Silly Jilly moved to the Grauniad?



Scottish Power is to undertake the most ambitious battery power project in Europe in an attempt to unlock the potential of the UK’s wind and solar farms.

The company will connect an industrial-scale battery, the size of half a football pitch, to the Whitelee onshore windfarm early next year to capture more power from its 215 turbines.

The first major onshore wind power storage project will lead the way for a string of similar projects across at least six of Scottish Power’s largest renewable energy sites over the following 18 months.

It claims the 50MW battery systems promise a “significant step” on the road towards renewable energy, providing baseload, or continuous electricity supply, for the UK energy system

The battery has more than double the power capacity of any existing battery in the UK. It would take an hour to fully charge and could release enough electricity over an hour to fully charge 806 Nissan Leaf vehicles over a total of 182,000 miles, according to a spokesman for Scottish Power.

Keith Anderson, Scottish Power’s chief executive, said: “Batteries will take renewable energy to the next level. It is a nice, neat solution to help use more and more renewable power in the UK, because that’s what we need to be doing to reach a net zero-carbon economy.”

The lithium-ion battery will help Whitelee, already one of the largest onshore windfarms in Europe, to generate more renewable power by storing electricity when wind speeds are high, for use when the wind drops.

“Over a period of time, we will get to use much more wind output from the project, and across the whole of the country, because even at times of low demand we will be able to capture far more of the wind rather than wasting that potential energy,” he said.


As usual, Silly Jilly forgets to mention how long the battery will be able to supply power for.

The clue is that it will only take an hour to charge, suggesting that its capacity will be equally short.

But we can do some sums.

The Nissan Leaf, quoted above, has a battery capacity of 40 KWh, so 806 Leafs would equal just 32 MWh.

Given that Whitelee’s wind farm is rated at 539 MW, the new storage could replace Whitelee’s full capacity for the equivalent of just 3 minutes, in the event that the wind stopped blowing.

Even based on the wind farm’s average power utilisation of 30%, the figure would only rise to 12 minutes.

In simple terms, the battery is utterly irrelevant, even just for storing Whitelee’s power overnight, for use at peak times during the next day.

To put the numbers into perspective, to store enough power to cover a week’s loss of wind power at Whitelee, you would need 27048 MWh, assuming the average of 30% utilisation.

That’s 845 new batteries of this size.

According to Wind Power Monthly, Whitelee’s new battery will cost £20m. I some how doubt that Scottish Power will be prepared to spend £16.9bn on 845 of the things!


It is also claimed to be the biggest in Europe, but this simply shows just how pitifully small the rest are.



But what is the incentive for Scottish Power?

They will no doubt be banking on contracts under the Capacity Market mechanism, set up ironically to provide standby capacity to cover intermittent renewables!

Although currently under investigation by the EU, the CM could well be paying out £30/KW/Yr, which would net Scottish Power £900,000 annually.

The battery storage will also offer the opportunity to store power for sale during peak periods, when prices are much higher.

It may make its owners money, but what it will certainly not do is provide baseload, or continuous electricity supply, for the UK energy system, as Silly Jilly claims.



You may have spotted this boo-boo from Jilly:

The lithium-ion battery will help Whitelee, already one of the largest onshore windfarms in Europe, to generate more renewable power by storing electricity

Perhaps somebody should tell her that batteries do not generate electricity!

If she has left the Telegraph for good, she will no doubt be delighted to see the back of all those awkward commenters there, who regularly rose up to flag up the nonsense she used to write. She will be much happier with the dopey Guardian readers!

  1. cjw1954 permalink
    June 11, 2019 3:31 pm

    1 month in her rightful place –

  2. June 11, 2019 3:46 pm

    You should see the original version before it was edited. In fact I think it is still available here

    In that original version nothing was quantified at all. There was no mention of 50MW or Nissan Leafs.

    Jilly edited the article following some comments and criticisms on twitter.

  3. Mike Jackson permalink
    June 11, 2019 3:48 pm

    Thankyou, Paul. When I first saw this story my first reaction was, “aye! and for how long?” So your analysis is, as usual, much appreciated!

  4. June 11, 2019 3:57 pm

    In related news the BBC (Harrabin drew the short straw and had to visit this place – soon to be your grannies money at work) are touting the use of electric car batteries on a Portuguese island to replace missing solar power at night. The local news report is interesting, as it seems to suggest that the islanders don’t quite recognize the spin presented by Harrabin:

    • Gerry, England permalink
      June 12, 2019 1:33 pm

      My memory bank tells me that there was an experiment on a Danish island to try all these wonderful ideas and yet I have heard nothing about it since. Does this tell you that it didn’t work or else they would be all over it? Anyone else recall this?

  5. Pancho Plail permalink
    June 11, 2019 4:19 pm

    Have just watched Harrabin on BBC lauding some small island’s solution to storage using electric car batteries which are left plugged in to their charge point and have the electric sucked out overnight. I guess this can only work on a small island where they don’t have far to drive.
    I also wonder who is going to foot the bill for replacing the batteries because of the more frequent battery cycling.

    • Adrian, East Anglia permalink
      June 11, 2019 4:47 pm

      Maybe I’m being thick, but I can’t see the sense of having an electric car and rendering it unusable by leaving it plugged in all the time. Seems to be a rather expensive battery container if that is the real intention. Being a small island, perhaps everyone can walk to their destination!!

    • PeterGB permalink
      June 11, 2019 4:58 pm

      Caught the last part, but didn’t get the place name. Must be a fantastic place to live as the sun always shines every day and it only ever rains at night. Also the entire population is so magnanimous that they sell their power to their fellow citizens at the price they paid for it (or not). It must be a very peaceful place as no one ever goes anywhere, their Nissan Leaf having been used as a municipal power source overnight and now having a very flat battery. I was forgetting, we all have to “rethink the way we live”.

      • June 11, 2019 6:23 pm

        This was the place.

        The report did say the cars would be left enough power to get around, but battery life is bound to take a big hit.

      • PeterGB permalink
        June 11, 2019 8:47 pm

        Thanks, Oldbrew. Unforgivably, I was unaware of the existence of this small island despite two visits to neighbouring and much larger Madeira. (Beautifully rugged and recommended!)

        Porto Santo has an area of 16 sq miles, so it looks as if most of the inhabited parts are within walking distance of each other and nobody would have a daily total commute longer than eight or ten miles. In this environment, despite there being nearly 100 precipitation days/year, I would guess the plan does stand a chance of being viable with enough participants from the 5000+ population. Conventional power generation must be an expensive business, possibly diesel generators (?) with the cost of importing fuel from the mainland.

        However, I do not recall the part of the report I managed to catch mentioning any of these specific conditions, so probably irrelevant as far as the rest of us are concerned.

      • June 11, 2019 9:16 pm

        I thought I recognised the name!

        I walked the levadas in Madeira in 2006, and remember that big rock offshore when I flew in.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 11, 2019 9:07 pm

        ‘left enough power to get around’ – That was the point my BS meter exploded. And the magic money tree – half the people in the island making money from their cars. And Harribin wide-eyed at the miracle of a 2-way battery, yes 2-way, able to charge and supply power, oh my, what will they think of next!

  6. Mike Higton permalink
    June 11, 2019 4:40 pm

    Colour me cynical but I wonder whether they are trying to make a virtue out of a necessity, with a small side-benefit of troughing some funds?
    It would be interesting to hear from a power engineer: it is my understanding that batteries like this can help with the short-term control of voltage and frequency. Afaik Scotland has lost all of its big thermal stations so has no “spinning reserve”. Thus they may be resorting to batteries to try and shore up the grid. I have read that this is the prime function of the big Tesla battery in Oz.
    On the side they get to harvest some CM funding.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      June 11, 2019 4:59 pm

      The function of the big Tesla battery in South Australia is much the same as this planned one, namely storing wind when it is plentiful (and the price available is low) and releasing it when the wind drops and the price goes up.
      Claims of stabilisation of the grid are nonsense as a quick check of the figures will show: 100MWh stored with a grid running around 18,000. Even S.A. needs 1200 or more (the last hot spell peaked at over 2800).
      Then there is the matter of timing; the battery can’t be discharged anywhere near fast enough to make a difference, about 20% of capacity per hour and not down below 20-25%.

      On a minor matter the cost given at £20 million or $35 million dollars AUS. seems rather low. The actual cost of the one in S.A. is apparently secret, even the new government won’t issue a figure. Suffice to say that industry estimates at the time were $A100-150 millions, so even for half the capacity it seems a bargain.
      Oh, and the batteries installed weren’t from Tesla but Samsung as Tesla were short of stock.

      • Joe Public permalink
        June 12, 2019 10:32 am

        “The function of the big Tesla battery in South Australia is much the same as this planned one, namely storing wind when it is plentiful (and the price available is low) and releasing it when the wind drops and the price goes up.
        Claims of stabilisation of the grid are nonsense”

        The only nonsense is your false assertion.

        Read this from AEMO

  7. markl permalink
    June 11, 2019 4:43 pm

    This will be built and people will go on believing batteries are a practical method of grid storage until it is first called upon to deliver. Only then will they understand they’ve been duped.

    • DisbeliEVer permalink
      June 11, 2019 9:57 pm

      £16m for 32MWh battery storage capacity = £0.5m /MWh or £500m/GWh…

      Six months ago SP sold 6GWh of storage at Cruachan pumped storage station + 3 CCGTs + 120MW of conventional hydro for £700m.

      6GWh of Cruachan storage @ £500m/GWh = £3bn.

      Something somewhere has been badly mispriced…

  8. Joe Public permalink
    June 11, 2019 5:26 pm

    “It would take an hour to fully charge and could release enough electricity over an hour to fully charge 806 Nissan Leaf vehicles over a total of 182,000 miles, according to a spokesman for Scottish Power.”

    Jilly forgets to clarify whether that claim takes into account the ’round trip’ losses of approx 10% – 15%. Methinks it doesn’t.

  9. June 11, 2019 5:44 pm

    A typical snake oil press release parroted by the Guardian. Fake information by gross omission. The stupidity being the only truth. Or is it a statement of intent to defraud? Who knows?

  10. June 11, 2019 6:20 pm

    Batteries will take renewable energy to the next level.

    Next level of cost, that is. Bill payers getting gouged yet again.

  11. Gamecock permalink
    June 11, 2019 6:30 pm

    ‘could release enough electricity over an hour to fully charge 806 Nissan Leaf vehicles over a total of 182,000 miles’

    A new metric. What is that in Hiroshima bombs?

  12. Barbara Elsmore permalink
    June 11, 2019 6:31 pm

    Telegraph readers would have regularly flagged up negative responses to Jilly’s articles and others like them often helped, in part, by Christopher Booker pointing the way. Let us hope that this proper questioning continues without him.

  13. It doesn't add up... permalink
    June 11, 2019 7:12 pm

    I suspect the main income stream will the the fast frequency support market which might pay £10/MW/hr which is £500/hr for 8760 hours per year or £4.38m.

    Daily arbitrage between low night time prices and rush hour peaks have to account for round trip losses which will be of the order of 20%. So £32/MWh power can be viewed as costing £40/MWh perhaps giving a margin of £20/MWh, or £1,000 per round trip, or £0.365m per year.

  14. June 11, 2019 8:13 pm

    So does this mean the end of constraint payments to Whitelee, given that all this excess electricity is now going to be stored in batteries…?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 12, 2019 12:26 pm

      Of course not. Improving the reliability of the sub sea interconnector from Hunterstone to Deeside might, however. It has been dogged with outages due to cable faults so there has been no diminution of constraint payments since it came into operation.

  15. Robert Best permalink
    June 11, 2019 9:59 pm

    The reason for building such a large battery may be more to do with reactive rather than active power. Reactive power is crucial during major system faults to maintain voltage levels and wind generators might even disconnect from the grid during large voltage transients.

    Whatever small benefit there is from having a reserve of active power is swamped by the necessity of having additional reactive power capacity. The extra cost of the battery to maintain system stability should perhaps be added to the overall cost of wind generation?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 12, 2019 1:00 pm

      So called reactive power correctors usually consists of banks of large capacitors that help to pull out of phase voltage and current back into phase. The phase difference is caused mainly by inductive loads on the grid, and from the grid point of view, common wind turbine designs impose a substantial inductive load. This is not to be confused with the high reaction speed that grid batteries can achieve, which is the main reason for using them. The balance between supply and demand is constantly changing as appliances are switched on and off, and electric machines face differing loads e.g. a saw has a high load when cutting but a low one otherwise. Variations in supply from wind and solar and to the fluctuations and threaten grid stability. When supply and demand do not match, the response of the grid is to reduce frequency in a shortfall or increase it in a surplus. The flywheel energy stored in rotating generators and motors gets used to make up the difference. However, frequency excursions that are too great can damage equipment and so there are points where loads are shed and you get blackouts. Normally, power stations including hydro plants can add more fuel and increase power generated within a few seconds to keep the frequency within safe bounds. But when you depend heavily on wind and solar, inertial energy available from generators declines, and there is no means of changing the wind and sun input in response to changes in demand. Batteries can be used to help plug the gap. Larger changes in supply demand imbalance are beyond the ability of the relatively small capacities of batteries to handle either as power deviations or energy stored, and have to be handled by backup reliable generation.

  16. Joe Smith permalink
    June 11, 2019 11:38 pm

    Yes I saw the announcement yesterday but could not get any capacity measurements.
    So we’ll done for getting t.Ben
    A nominal 50 MW battery is a pee in the wind

  17. Lance permalink
    June 12, 2019 12:52 am

    Li Ion batteries are costing out at between USD 140 per kWh. That’s only 3000 times the cost to produce 1 kWh from coal. How brilliant.

  18. Bruce of Newcastle permalink
    June 12, 2019 12:58 am

    I’m amused that very green left Scotland and very green left Ireland are fighting over Rockall this week.

    Scotland condemns Ireland as feud over Atlantic rock erupts – Sturgeon hints at arrests

    Couldn’t be because of all that yummy oil could it?

  19. Lance permalink
    June 12, 2019 1:00 am

    UK consumes approx 1.6 M bbl/day of petroleum for transportation. At 1.74 Mw/bbl, UK transportation is equivalent to 73 Gw. UK generation capacity is 93 Gw. So the transportation energy in UK is approx 80% of installed grid generation capacity. All those Nissan Leafs could be charged by 180% of existing grid capacity in 24 hrs. If you’d like a 6 hour charging time, then UK needs 420% of existing grid capacity for the bargain price of USD 28 Trillion. So, yes, then, let’s hear it for the batteries.

    • Turboblocke permalink
      June 12, 2019 10:07 am

      Iirc loaf factor for UK conventional generating plant is about 40%. There is plenty of spare capacity for charging evs.

  20. Lance permalink
    June 12, 2019 1:24 am

    oops. 1.8 Trillion USD to upgrade the UK grid for a 6 hr charging rate. 28 Thousand USD per person. My mistake. Still and all, a lot of money.

    If using Wind to do this, at a capacity factor of 30%, then 6 Trillion USD for grid upgrades and prayers the wind is somewhat reliable. If not, then LOTS of batteries required.
    OTOH, if UK goes conventional nuclear, they only need 300 each, 1 Gw reactors. The only place that makes the most reliable casting for reactor PWR HX cores is Japan, with a capacity of 10 units / year. If UK wants to go Solar PV, then at the rate of 1 sq m per second, it should take only 250 years or so of production. And only 200% of known world silver reserves.

  21. Adamsson permalink
    June 12, 2019 7:47 am

    It will be quite spectacular when (and it is when not if) one of these mega batteries catches fire

  22. Mike Higton permalink
    June 12, 2019 9:09 am

    Graeme No3; I have read that the Oz battery is very profitable arbitraging power prices, as you say and, no doubt, this Scottish installation will be much the same.
    Grid stabilisation, to my limited understanding, is not a matter of discharging large amounts of power quickly, it is a very short-term requirement to mitigate the very sudden spikes and surges associated with wind and solar power: a matter of seconds. Historically this function has been one of the strengths of thermal plants with their large spinning reserve. Absent those capabilities, some other resource is needed such as a large battery.
    Hence my cynical suggestion that this was a necessity but the arbitraging opportunity makes it financially attaractive. As Paul makes clear, the capacity is trivial compared to the wind farm output so it cannot be viewed as “backup”.
    There has been some very knowledgeable comments on this issue over on Jo Nova’s site but, being a technonumpty, I can’t find them! They included reports on how the big battery was helping maintain grid stability.
    Robert Best made a similar comment to mine. Perhaps he, or someone with power engineering expertise, could shed some light?

  23. Joe Public permalink
    June 12, 2019 10:38 am

    Big batteries can be ‘sold’ to the public, because their storage ability is perceived as useful.

    They’re not ‘sold’ to the public for their grid stabilisation capability/need, because that’s an admission that they have to be essential for the highly-intermittents.

  24. June 12, 2019 10:50 am

    If they want to store energy from wind power. Why not use the energy to pump water uphill. Then when the want the energy. Release the water downhill driving turbines.
    During my engineering apprenticeship from 1968-1971 I worked for Sigmund Pulsometer Pumps in Reading I worked on a 40 inch diameter pump that could pump 50.000 gallons a minute. Designed with five others for draining a swap in Cuba.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 12, 2019 1:06 pm

      We need lots of sites like Dinorwig to do that. Dinorwig stores about 9GWh, or about 1% of a winter’s day demand. To smooth out seasonal variations in renewables generation and demand for the UK would take over 30TWh of storage, or more than 3,000 Dinorwigs.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      June 12, 2019 5:24 pm

      Ever heard of Dinoweg? Electric mountain in Snowdonia. Some eedjuts think it is a power station……

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 12, 2019 6:01 pm

      First, you need a hill.

  25. June 12, 2019 12:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  26. Ivan permalink
    June 12, 2019 4:02 pm

    The reason a battery can increase the generating output of a windfarm is because wind gets constrained off, especially in Scotland. Whitelee was 19% constrained off in 2018. That should reduce because of the 2GW Scotland to Deeside Western HVDC link. But it hasn’t proved very reliable yet, and has had two long outages (several weeks each) to fix cable manufacturing faults. But 32MWh storage (if that is the real number, I can’t verify it) isn’t going to reduce that constraint by very much at a 532MW wind farm. Interesting question what happens to their CfD and constraint payments for time-shifted wind output.

    From a regulatory perspective, storage batteries are treated as generators and need to have a generating licence. Like any other generator they attempt to convert a cheaper energy input into a more valuable energy output.

    It is annoying when people fail to tell us storage capacity in MWh. From looking at a number of examples where both numbers are published, 40mins is a typical discharge time for large scale lithium batteries at their maximum output rate, though I have seen less than 10mins. But there is an inevitable commercial focus on MW because you make much more money from rapid reaction grid stabilisation services than periodic arbitrage. No one is building batteries to make money from periodic arbitrage, there’s very little money in that game yet. Though if you have the storage facility, you may as well make some pennies on the side by doing a bit of that from time to time.

    Storage, whether battery, pumped storage, or other novel technologies, remains far too expensive for bulk time-shifting from, eg, windy to calm days. If that was our strategy, we’d need storage quantities of the order of TWh. Dinorwig is 9GWh – we’d need those by the hundred. That’s why the CCC reckons even a decarbonised grid will need retain gas generating capacity for calm days, and capture and store their CO2 to make them zero carbon. Gas generators that are used only occasionally are clearly rather expensive, but apparently still far cheaper than batteries, etc. Almost starts to make Hinkley Pt C look like a bargain.

  27. Mike Higton permalink
    June 12, 2019 8:59 pm

    Joe Public and It Doesn’t Add Up; I’ve just caught up with your posts. Thanks for explaining the point about grid stabilisation far better than I could (IDAU) and providing evidence of how this is happening in Oz (JP).

  28. Gamecock permalink
    June 12, 2019 10:42 pm

    Ideally, renewables would charge batteries, and grid power would come from the batteries. Grid stability achieved.

    Adding extreme cost to the already extremely expensive. And intermittency remains an incurable defect.

  29. gallopingcamel permalink
    June 15, 2019 4:41 am

    The people pushing these boondoggles are no good at arithmetic.

    It would be wonderful if the UK had businessmen running the country rather than lawyers.

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 15, 2019 10:13 pm

      They talk of storage as if it were a solution.

      I believe the talk is a head fake, a mental trick to get people to think that intermittency is solvable. It’s not.

      ‘Scottish Power is to undertake the most ambitious battery power project in Europe in an attempt to unlock the potential of the UK’s wind and solar farms.’

      Wut? Word salad, devoid of meaning.

      ‘It claims the 50MW battery systems promise a “significant step” on the road towards renewable energy, providing baseload, or continuous electricity supply, for the UK energy system’

      They can’t. They are intermittent.

      ‘“Batteries will take renewable energy to the next level.’

      In expense?

      ‘It is a nice, neat solution to help use more and more renewable power in the UK’

      ‘More and more’ is not ALL. ‘More and more’ is conspicuously unquantified. In other words, utterly meaningless. As is “significant step” above.

      ‘because that’s what we need to be doing to reach a net zero-carbon economy.’

      If you start burning money today on this nonsense, you’ll be bankrupt way before 2050.

      This is a press release which the Guardian is happy to print without the slightest bit of scrutiny.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: