Britain has built no new storage for more than 30 years and now has a deficit in capacity of some two gigawatts, growing to six gigawatts by 2020
Britain’s first new grid-scale electricity storage facility for over 30 years has taken a major step nearer to its planned opening in 2018 with the success of a GBP 3m interim funding round, it is announced today.
The injection of cash will enable scheme developer Snowdonia Pumped Hydro (SPH) to strengthen its delivery team for the 600MWh Glyn Rhonwy pumped hydro site, Llanberis, and to design and carry out ground exploration works prior to negotiating with potential construction company partners.
And the scheme has received a further boost with the news that it is eligible to bid for a 15 year contract to supply grid balancing services under the terms of the UK government’s Electricity Market Reform Capacity Mechanism. Success in the auction which is due to take place later this year will enable the Glyn Rhonwy facility to earn a predictable annual top-up to revenues generated by trading in the market to supply National Grid with short-term balancing services.
Pumped hydro is the only proven grid-scale electricity storage technology. It stores electricity by using low-cost energy to pump water from a lower lagoon to a higher one. When the power is needed, the water is allowed to flow back downhill through a turbine which re-generates the electricity.
Pumped storage is being deployed by other countries around the world as an integrated part of their shift to intermittent renewable generation sources such as wind and solar. But despite an ambitious roll out of renewables, Britain has built no new storage for more than 30 years and now has a deficit in capacity of some two gigawatts, growing to six gigawatts by 2020. As a result, National Grid is finding it increasingly hard to balance electricity supplies to homes and businesses. Meanwhile energy bills are being inflated by a costly grid reinforcement programme, and by constraint payments made to wind farms to cease generating when strong wind causes imbalances in supply.
More storage on the electricity network would enable supply and demand to be more easily balanced, lessen the need for grid reinforcement, and reduce constraint payments by absorbing over-generation for later use when demand is high.
SPH Parent Quarry Battery Company (QBC) was granted planning permission for the Glyn Rhonwy scheme in late 2013 and formed SPH to take the project through to completion. Today more details were revealed of the scheme which is expected to take three years to build, employ as many as 300 construction workers at its peak, and create up to 30 full time local jobs once operational.
QBC managing director, Dave Holmes, who is leading the SPH delivery team, said: “The confirmation that we qualify to bid in the auction for a contract within the Capacity Mechanism is a bonus. It provides a significant and welcome addition to our fully worked trading model and means payback on the £100m-plus build cost of the site will be more quickly achieved.
“We believe the UK government now recognises the importance of more storage for the welfare of the economy. Storage is the only way to capture excess production on windy and sunny days and our Glyn Rhonwy scheme is right there at this moment of opportunity – we are currently the only company with the know-how and options on sites necessary to satisfy a significant percentage of the immediate need.”
Holmes said the ground investigations to prove the integrity of the slate geology under the site are expected to begin in the spring of 2015. “We’ll be looking at the ground where the upper and lower dams are planned, along the 1.5km length of the tunnelled connecting pipe that will run 50m or more below the surface, and at the intended location of the turbine house.
“Once we’ve completed this we will be shovel-ready, and able to invite contractors to tender for the construction phase. We are also working now to conclude negotiations with the District Network Operator over how underground cables will connect the site to the grid.”
Councillor Trefor Owen Edwards, Gwynedd Council member for Llanberis and chairman of the council’s Glyn Rhonwy Working Group, said: “This is very encouraging progress. It’s fantastic news for the regional economy and for the people of Llanberis. The hydro scheme will deliver a huge uplift to our local economy during the construction work and support as many as 30 full time jobs once it is operational. The lower part of the site where the hydro scheme’s pump house is planned is already equipped with services and access roads. I and my colleagues on the Glyn Rhonwy Working Group are hoping that the hydro scheme will act as a catalyst and attract more companies to the site.”
Councillor John Wynn Jones, Gwynedd Council cabinet member for the economy, said: “The Glyn Rhonwy site has been identified as a strategic development site which has the potential to create new employment opportunities for the area. The progress being made by Quarry Battery is welcome news indeed and we look forward to working closely with the company over the oncoming months.”
The Quarry Battery Company (www.quarrybattery.com) was founded from a concept developed at the Centre For Alternative Technology near Machynlleth. QBC’s scheme for Glyn Rhonwy was designed in consultation with AECOM, Gwynedd Council, Cadw, Countryside Council For Wales and Environment Agency Wales.
As part of the scheme, which is expected to have an operational life of more than 100 years, QBC is establishing an independent trust to manage initial grants totalling GBP 250,000 and then on-going direct contributions of GBP 10,000 a year to support community projects.
Further editorial information:
Dave Holmes, QBC - 07999 552875
Gwynedd Council Media Unit – 01286 679503
Kevin Fiske, Sage Partnership – 07798 876941 and 01189 344007 - email@example.com
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