UK Power Networks has unveiled plans to create a “virtual power station” made up of solar panels and batteries to relieve pressure on the electricity network in London.

The company is teaming up with battery manufacturer Powervault to install a fleet of storage systems in 40 homes across the London borough of Barnet.

The batteries will be used to reduce the load on the power grid during the weekday evening peak in demand, helping UK Power Networks (UKPN) to cope with local constraints and thereby avoid the need for expensive reinforcements.

They will be remotely discharged during peak hours via Powervault’s control software, which will also ensure they are fully charged beforehand using electricity generated by domestic solar panels. Participants will receive a payment each time the batteries are discharged.

The launch follows a successful trial of the technology in February, during which 45 Powervault batteries were installed in customer homes and operated remotely.

On average, the batteries were able to reduce the evening demand on the grid of participating households by 60 per cent.

Barry Hatton, director of asset management at UKPN, said: “We are committed to harnessing new technology to deliver direct benefits to our customers. Our plans to create the capital’s first ever ‘virtual power station’ are paving the way for a smart, flexible electricity network that puts people in charge of their energy use.

“London is a world-leader in technology and projects like this are just the start as we move towards a decarbonised, decentralised and digitised network that will offer significant benefits to our customers.

“It will help to keep down electricity distribution costs by providing a viable alternative to the traditional approach of simply adding more cables and substations to increase capacity.”

Povervault managing director, Joe Warren, added: “A payment for supporting the local networks, on top of the savings from solar and time-of-use tariffs, will enhance the business case for our customers, moving us a step closer to our goal of delivering a mass-market product as commonplace as a dishwasher.

“It also proves the value of domestic battery storage to the whole energy system. We think this contract is just the first step in what will be a huge growth area.”