By Jason Deign
AES Energy Storage Solutions has stepped up its European presence with the completion of two 10MW battery plants so far this year.
Last week the company announced the start of commercial operations for a storage array in the Netherlands, six days after confirming completion of the UK’s largest-ever battery plant, in Northern Ireland.
The AES Netherlands Advancion Energy Storage Array was completed in December, “enhancing European grid reliability with fast response ancillary services,” said the company in a press release.
It uses Panasonic lithium-ion batteries to serve TenneT, the Netherlands national electricity transmission system operator (TSO), with up to 60 minutes of primary operating reserve, a company spokesperson said.
AES UK & Ireland’s Kilroot Advancion Energy Storage Array, at Kilroot Power Station in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, is broadly similar, also boasting an Advancion 4 management system and 10MW, but with 5MWh of capacity instead of 10MWh.
Batteries provided by LG Chem
And the Kilroot installation is just the first phase of a much wider project that is currently being scoped by Queen’s University Belfast, with funding from Innovate UK Energy Catalyst, a government-sponsored agency.
The study aims to show how the energy storage array can support the all-island grid comprising TSOs EirGrid in Eire and System Operator Northern Ireland north of the border.
It is due to run this year with a view to extending Kilroot to up to 100MW in 2017, with a storage duration yet to be determined.
Already, however, with the completion of the Netherlands and Kilroot arrays AES said its Advancion system was powering the largest fleet of advanced energy storage in Europe.
World’s largest energy storage fleet
Globally, the company claims its systems represent the world’s largest advanced energy storage fleet, with 116MW and 3m megawatt-hours of delivered service.
The tender is due to start and finish in April and is expected to procure up to 250MW of enhanced frequency response capacity, which in theory could all be met through energy storage.
“AES is very excited about the potential of energy storage in the UK and Ireland,” communications and stakeholder manager Claire Addison told Energy Storage Report. “It’s a proven technology.”
In the eight years that AES has been operating in the sector, lithium-ion battery costs have fallen by 80%, she said. This meant companies such as AES were increasingly able to make storage work financially without subsidies.
Enormous demand for peaking capacity
“What’s exciting about the UK is there’s already significant renewable energy penetration, aging thermal plants and enormous demand for new peaking capacity,” Addison said.
This demand could rise to around 16GW by the mid 2020s, she said, and “storage could provide 50% of that.”
As evidence of storage’s potential, AES points to its experience with the PJM Interconnection regional transmission organisation grid in East USA.
So far, the company has introduced 128MW of storage capacity within the PJM footprint, at an installed cost lower than gas peakers and with a real-time response at least 100 times faster than conventional generators, AES claims.
The storage assets are said to have yielded more than USD$20m in savings to PJM in 2013, “proving that energy storage resources are both cost-effective and reliable,” said AES in a case study.
Making a virtue of a problem
AES even appears to have made virtue of a problem that vexes most regulators and developers: whether energy storage should be treated as a load or a source for the purposes of grid connection.
Using both definitions and re-labelling storage as ‘flexible resource’ allows AES to effectively double the capacity of its installations, from a grid operator’s point of view.
And while AES’s exposure to Europe has mostly been on the traditional generation side, with more than 1.9GW of capacity in the UK, for example, in future the company clearly expects growth to come from energy storage.
“We are excited to offer Advancion to European utilities and industry participants so they may benefit from the experience built in their markets,” said Steve Corwell, AES Europe vice president, in press material.
“We look forward to working with them.”
NB: Our newsletter version of this story mistakenly said both of AES’s European storage plants had 5MWh of capacity.