Veolia supports the UK’s vision of a decentralized grid
Richard Kirkman - Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Veolia UK and Ireland
“We learned a lot about how to connect to the National Grid, particularly behind the meter. Our top priority was to not destabilize the grid. We had to install new protection to safeguard the grid in case of any unexpected circumstances. Increasingly, because more and more renewable energy is being used in the UK, the National Grid is transforming into a connected and decentralized platform. We knew that we had an asset in Ellesmere Port with our High Temperature Incinerator. For us and our supply chain of electricians and other service providers, this has been a learning experience that has helped us develop expertise that will be crucial as the UK relies on more renewable energy on a decentralized grid.”
Heavy industry dominates the town of Ellesmere Port in the otherwise leafy county of Cheshire. Not far from the city of Liverpool, it is home to a major car factory, chemical facilities and one of the UK’s main oil refineries. Along with a major shopping outlet and a significant number of homes, these large energy users all put stress on the local electricity network, part of the UK’s National Grid. Veolia also contributes to the energy picture with its High Temperature Incinerator (HTI) in the town. Treating 100,000 metric tons of hazardous waste at 1,200°C, it securely disposes of everything from laboratory waste through contaminated electrical equipment to all sorts of liquids and gases. But this comes at the cost of high energy use, potentially placing a further burden on local electricity resources.
Saving costs and securing the grid
Veolia realized that by introducing lithium-ion battery technology on the site, it could not only reduce the pressure on the local network, but also lower the plant’s operating costs by buying energy at cheaper times and storing it.
“We are able to buy low-cost electricity at off-peak times and store it for use at peak times,” says Veolia UK Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Richard Kirkman. “The advantage of this is that we are able to use it later when energy costs are more expensive. Bear in mind that a single battery is the size of a small family car but is capable of storing the equivalent of the energy use of 1,000 homes or 100,000 AA batteries!”
Frequency control: a source of revenue
Energy storage: the lucrative hospital sector
Hospitals still rely on fossil fuel generators to ensure continuance of care in the most sensitive departments. However, they have three disadvantages:
- they take a few seconds to kick in,
- they are expensive to operate and maintain,
- they are environmentally unfriendly.
On the contrary, battery storage technology, offers several advantages:
- it operates instantaneously,
- it is less expensive as electricity can be bought off-peak,
- energy storage can be combined with renewable energy sources.
We are also able to sell our storage capacity to National Grid to help it balance the system frequency. It has an obligation to control the frequency of the grid at 50 Hz, plus or minus 1%. It needs to manage the circumstances that could lead to frequency variations in UK supply, which disrupt the balance between production and consumption and therefore the stability of the grid. The battery is able to help it do this, along with lots of other suppliers. Additionally, there are times when we can sell electricity back to the grid, but helping it meet its frequency obligations is a more likely source of revenue.” In the future, the rise of renewable energy will further boost the potential of this solution. The British government has recently committed to phasing out coal power by 2025. Inherently more intermittent than fossil fuels, renewables require much more complex grid control systems.
April 2017 saw the UK’s first day without coal power since the industrial revolution, with wind power now replacing the fossil fuel on 75% of days last year. The UK is home to the highest number of offshore wind projects in the world and singlehandedly installed 53% of Europe’s offshore wind capacity in 2017, according to WindEurope.
“When the wind is blowing and the UK is generating lots of wind energy, we are able to buy this energy and store it,” says Richard Kirkman. “So there is also the carbon benefit of not using power generated by coal or natural gas.”
- A lithium-ion battery is capable of generating 400 kW/385 kWh.
- This is equivalent to the energy required to power 1,000 homes or 100,000 AA batteries.
- The HTI facility must operate at 1,200°C to securely dispose of hazardous materials.
- The battery provides around 1 hour of back-up in the event of a power outage allowing safe power-down of the HTI.