The thing that critics of renewable energy overlook is progress, but progress coming from somewhere else.
The cost of renewable energy is falling – and has been to a staggering extent for decades. But, when the wind is becalmed, then wind power loses its effectiveness, when it goes dark, solar is not so useful. And that means the National Grid, which does not have the luxury of being able to turn off the electricity every time the sun goes behind a dark cloud, needs back-up, and back-up is expensive. Hence the case for the hugely expensive Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. But if the problem of energy storage could be cracked, things look different.
The story of energy storage, and how it will eventually develop to solve the problem of renewables is one of convergence. Battery technology, initially developed to power laptop PCs, mobile phones and then smart-phones, now sits in Tesla cars that travel from nought to sixty in less than three seconds. It could yet solve the problem of what to do when it is dark, or there’s a lack of wind.
The National Grid has just completed a tender, there was a grand and a practical aspect of the tender. The big/grand objective was to support the decarbonisation of the energy industry, the more practical element: to award contracts to companies supporting the National Grid being able to provide sub-second response solutions to volatility.
The seven winners are EDF Energy Renewables, Vattenfall, Low Carbon (two projects), E.ON UK, RES and Belectic.
Stephen Holdroyd, Senior Development Manager at Vattenfall said: “Our four-year contract with National Grid means Battery@PyC will help maintain stability of power supply on the grid within milliseconds of when it’s needed.”
Renewable Energy Association, head of policy and external affairs, James Court said: “In 2012 energy storage was identified as one of eight great industries the UK could lead the world in. The industry is starting to deliver on this promise, with the right support in place we can go even further. It is yet another example of new technologies that can provide alternatives to Hinkley for cost effective, low carbon electricity.”