Is UK energy security more important than ever?

Andy Willis, founder of Kona Energy, explores…

Improved energy independence in the UK has evolved from an abstract hope to an urgent national priority. Coupled with our net zero ambition, this presents a unique challenge for policymakers in the short and long term.

what happens in Ukraine has horrified us all and it feels awkward to talk about our own problems in the face of such barbarism, but the cold reality bites us energy prices explodes, leaving millions of families worried about their future.

Pointing out the problem is easy, providing constructive solutions is not. That’s what we’re trying to do at Kona Energy with our battery storage systems for renewable energy sources.

It is a common misconception that wind turbines are taken off the grid due to strong or dangerous winds – this is extremely rare and only occurs in exceptional cases. Far more frequently, almost every day, the turbines are shut down because the grid cannot cope with the energy produced.

Not only does the bill payer (you and I) have to pay for the turbines to stop spinning, there is the wasted energy that could have been produced if the grid could have accepted it.

Figures on which our recent #WastedWind campaign is based are released daily. For example, on March 9th £15,486,033 was spent shutting down wind turbines (other sources account for a tiny fraction of this figure). The wasted energy was 40,827 MWh, which could power 13,170 homes for a whole year.

AW Kona Energy
Andy Willis, founder of Kona Energy

How do we solve this? If that money and energy could be redirected, millions of people would feel the benefits.

Battery storage is used to balance supply and demand in the grid. By storing electricity during times of high renewable generation and discharging during times of high demand, batteries keep the light on in a clean and cost-effective manner.

In addition to balancing the increasing influx of renewable energy into our power system, batteries play a crucial role in ensuring grid stability. The national grid operates at a frequency of 50 Hz, which is due to the fact that the turbines of historical power plants (coal, gas, nuclear) rotate 50 times per second.

As the UK transitions from large traditional synchronous generators to a more renewable energy-led system powered by power electronics rather than turbines, the system’s inertia is decreasing, meaning grid frequency is more difficult to manage and maintain. The frequency must remain stable at 50Hz, and a small rise or fall of as little as 1% can cause damage to National Grid equipment or even worse power outages. When there is a sudden influx of power generation, the frequency increases and when there is a sudden demand for power, the frequency decreases. A classic example of this is the rush to turn on the kettle halfway through a major sporting event.

The National Grid must maintain this frequency in real time and ensure that the frequency does not deviate too far from 50 Hz. Traditionally, to maintain system frequency, National Grid instructs large thermal generators to either increase or decrease their turbine speed to manage frequency. As these older power plants have been retired, National Grid has turned to battery storage technology.

Batteries can respond incredibly quickly to changes in frequency, it can be a matter of milliseconds and up to 20 times faster than traditional generators, ensuring National Grid can maintain system frequency in a cost-effective manner. This means that National Grid does not have to instruct thermal generators to run at low system inertia, e.g. B. at low demand on summer days when the system is heavily permeated by renewable energies. Batteries can perform this service by acting as a shock absorber and keeping the lights on.

Grid-scale battery storage systems are often compared to a Swiss army knife due to their ability to offer multiple services to power grid operators and ensure lower costs to the end user across multiple markets.

Current regulations are not favorable to these systems and we are in the process of working with political leaders and officials to make the installation process as easy as possible.

Kona has several ongoing projects and as renewable energy is more valuable than ever, we anticipate significant growth.

National Grid’s estimate puts the UK battery storage market expected to multiply 40-fold over the next 30 years – a remarkable forecast.

If we are to realize ours Net Zero Ambitions and also improve our energy security, battery storage will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role. Is UK energy security more important than ever?

Fry Electronics Team

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