Storage is the missing piece of the UK’s renewables jigsaw, according to grid energy storage developer QBC.
In a paper published last month, the energy storage specialist estimates that the UK could cut the cost of decarbonising its electricity system by more than GBP3.5 billion a year if it builds new grid-scale electricity storage to balance the variable output of renewable sources of power such as wind turbines and solar panels.
More storage would also strengthen the country’s energy security and enable carbon reduction targets to be met more quickly, the company believes.
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has established renewable electricity supply benchmarks of lowest cost, most secure supply and lowest carbon.
QBC chairman Peter Taylor commented: “Storage is the missing piece of the jigsaw for renewables and successive governments have ignored it for too long. At the moment we are all being forced to pay for a serial failure of foresight that, ironically, undermines all three pillars of the DECC’s renewables strategy. Our paper shows a strategy that omits storage is not the lowest cost, not the most secure and not the least carbon intensive.”
QBC converts disused quarry systems into pumped storage batteries, which can store huge amounts of energy and release it very quickly. As the company explains on its website, two quarries are required – one at higher altitude than the other. When the national grid has spare electricity, the battery charges by pumping water to the upper quarry. At peak times, when more power is needed, the water is released through a hydro generator turbine.
QBC is currently developing its first pumped hydro site in North Wales, and says it has identified locations throughout Britain with low planning risk that could deliver 10GW of storage.
Taylor continued: “Our survey shows that Britain could achieve as much as 50GWh of storage using innovative pumped hydro alone. We don’t claim pumped hydro is the sole answer to the UK’s storage needs. Certainly it is the tried and tested option, but we see a future where the UK incorporates different storage technologies at different layers in the system, with pumped hydro providing big capacity, fast reaction storage at grid-level, other technologies at distribution network substations, and even domestic storage playing a part.
“However, the starting point has to be a recognition that the path pursued by the UK for the last 20 or so years has failed – and that storage must now be a core part of the UK’s renewables strategy.”