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Electricity stored in batteries in Ellesmere Port

Posted on 25 October 2018.

At a hazardous waste incineration plant in Ellesmere Port in the United Kingdom, Veolia is experimenting with storing electricity in lithium-ion batteries. A first!

The principle is simple: batteries store electricity during off-peak hours when demand is lower and then supply the plant during peak hours.

Over recent years a number of countries have begun fighting climate change by introducing energy transition programs. The main issue is reducing CO2 emissions, which are chiefly responsible for global warming. These emissions come mainly from burning fossil fuels. There are two possibilities: firstly change our production methods by using clean energy (wind, solar, etc.) and secondly reduce our energy consumption, or at least optimize the use of energy resources.

It’s a high priority for Ellesmere Port (around 55,000 inhabitants) near Liverpool. This leading UK industrial hub is home to numerous energy-intensive factories and facilities. The boom in its activity over recent years has led to an increase in the population and consequently the construction of new infrastructure with the result that the local power grid has come under pressure.

Ellesmere Port is also home to a Veolia plant that incinerates around 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste annually. Its high-temperature incinerator (up to 1,200°C) is one of the most technologically advanced in Europe, but is also very energy-intensive – which puts extra pressure on the local energy network.


Reduce pressure

To ease this burden, Veolia has for the first time decided to install lithium-ion batteries in its plant. Currently, it is the most mature energy storage technology available. The principle? Batteries store electricity during off-peak hours (when demand is lower) and then use it to supply the plant during peak hours.

This solution helps reduce pressure on the network during consumption peaks. A good way of optimizing the use of energy resources - one of the most important circular economy principles.

Another significant advantage: purchased during off-peak hours, electricity costs less, which reduces the plant’s energy bill. And finally, should the power supply fail, the batteries can run for one hour, which is enough time for the incinerator to be powered down safely.


Stabilize the network

And that's not all! Battery storage technology can also help stabilize the local power grid. In Europe, national operators have a legal obligation to maintain a network frequency of 50 Hz. Which is a challenge for Ellesmere Port where demand often outpaces production capacity.

Veolia estimates that just one of the batteries in its plant (the size of a small family car) can supply about 385 kWh: the equivalent of the energy required by 1,000 households for one day. The batteries could therefore stabilize Ellesmere Port’s electricity network frequency by compensating for energy shortages (for example following an unexpected power station failure) and absorbing surpluses (at night, for example).

This solution is even more promising because the United Kingdom is turning to renewable energy. The government has announced the end of the use of coal in power plants by 2025. And according to the association Wind Europe, the country accounts for 53% of wind capacity in Europe.

However, since renewable energy is by its very nature intermittent - we don’t control the wind or the sun - battery storage technology ensures network continuity. The electricity is stored in a battery, which takes over when there’s no wind or sun.