Solar-linked battery storage trial begins in Somerset

An innovative solar-linked battery storage project developed by Western Power Distribution is now up and running in Somerset.

The £1 million trial at Copley Wood near Butleigh is connected to both the distribution network and a 1.5MW solar farm. The aim is to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of such an arrangement.

The batteries, which are mounted inside shipping containers, have a combined capacity of 300kW and can store 640kWh of power. The initiative is being funded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance, and will be conducted in partnership with British Solar Renewables and the National Solar Centre.

The trial will last for a year, during which the batteries will be monitored to see how efficiently they operate; to what extent their performance, and therefore value, degrades through usage; and what impact they have on the stability of the power supplied from the solar farm. The trial will also assess seasonal variations in solar generation and the financial case for installing batteries at solar farms.

Western Power Distribution innovation and low carbon network engineer Jenny Woodruff told Utility Week the use of containerised batteries, which can be moved from site to site, opens up the possibility of using battery storage as an “interim” network reinforcement.

By providing a stop gap solution, containerised batteries could enable distribution networks to spend more time to assessing future network requirements before they decide on whether or not to invest in permanent reinforcements. Once a decision is made they could then be moved elsewhere.

“Ultimately, if we’re trying to defer reinforcement because we don’t have the necessary level of certainty, what Ofgem wants is to not have stranded assets that don’t actually earn their keep,” said Woodruff.

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