As renewable energy sources like solar and wind become more prevalent, energy storage is playing an increasingly vital role in balancing supply and demand on the grid. But what are the opportunities, and planning factors to consider for developers looking to get involved? Let’s break it down.
The Benefits of Energy Storage
Energy storage opens doors to maximising clean energy usage. By storing excess renewable output during off-peak times, it:
- Improves grid flexibility and resilience – Filling gaps when renewable production drops off;
- Supports decarbonisation goals – Helping displace gas peaker plants; and
- Saves consumers money – Deferring network upgrade costs through localised balancing.
With the right project, storage can deliver dual revenue streams from grid services and energy arbitrage. There’s clearly demand from utilities and independent system operators to contract these flexible assets.
Opportunities relating to energy storage systems include:
- Wholesale market participation: Storage can charge when prices are low and discharge during peak price periods, arbitraging those price differences.
- Rooftop solar + storage: Pairing residential solar panels with batteries allows households to better utilize self-generated electricity.
- Community energy storage: Larger shared battery storage can support multiple prosumers and help power community buildings during outages.
What are the different types of energy storage technologies?
The most promising energy storage technologies for wind power include:
Battery storage – Lithium-ion and other battery technologies are the most commercially available storage options for wind farms. They provide flexibility, quick response times and can scale to both small and large applications.
Pumped hydro storage – Pumping water between reservoirs of different elevations is a mature, large-scale storage technology. It provides the capacity to store large amounts of wind energy for longer durations.
Hydrogen electrolysis – Using excess wind energy to produce hydrogen via electrolysis has great potential. The hydrogen can then be stored and used as a fuel in industries that are difficult to electrify.
Compressed air energy storage – Using excess wind power to compress air into reservoirs is another large-scale storage solution. The compressed air can then be expanded to drive turbines and generate power when needed.
Thermal storage – Storing heat in molten salts or other materials and using it later to generate power provides a relatively low-cost form of storage for wind energy.
Power to gas – Similar to hydrogen, this involves using excess wind power to produce synthetic methane or other gases that can be injected into the existing gas network.
Flywheel energy storage – Mechanical flywheels that can store kinetic energy for later discharge provide a smaller-scale, potentially cost-effective solution for short-duration balancing of wind power.
Supercapacitors – These electrochemical storage devices offer very high power density and ability to charge and discharge quickly. They show promise for enabling more instantaneous balancing of wind energy.
The optimal technology depends on factors like power/capacity needed, location, intended applications and lifecycle costs. Hybrid and mixed technology solutions are also emerging.
Considerations for Developers
While energy storage presents opportunities, developing projects requires navigating several design and policy factors:
- Planning permission – Early engagement with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to establish if approval is needed;
- Site selection – Consider grid connection, space needs, noise/visual impacts;
- Technology choice – Lithium-ion often best, but evaluate alternatives;
- Revenue stacking – Model all potential income streams carefully;
- Policy landscape – Incentives like Capacity Market are evolving; and
- Community engagement – Address local concerns transparently.
Storage can be a win-win – providing societal benefits while earning returns for developers. Done right, projects should gain community support.
Tips for a Smooth Process
To help navigations run smoothly, consider these best practices:
- Partner with grid operators to understand network needs;
- Screen sites through pre-app meetings with local authorities;
- Incorporate feedback into designs that blend sensitively into the landscape;
- Engage community groups to share details and benefits early;
- Highlight job creation and other local economic impacts; and
- Keep plans dynamic to respond to input where possible.
Why is town planning important in terms of energy storage?
These systems can store electricity generated from renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, which are intermittent in nature, and release it when needed.
The town planning system plays a crucial role in the development of energy storage systems. It can provide a clear framework for planning decisions, reducing uncertainty and risk. The town planning system can also provide support for renewable energy projects, including funding and planning permission. However, the system can also hinder the development of these systems if the planning process is too slow or complex.
For developers looking to build energy storage systems in the UK, it’s important to understand the planning rules and obtain all the necessary permits and approvals. Working with the local planning authority to gain their support can also facilitate the process.
Overall, energy storage systems are critical to the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable future. By understanding the regulatory landscape and utilising available resources, developers can effectively navigate the planning process and contribute to a cleaner energy future.
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Resources are available for those interested in learning more about energy storage systems in the UK. The Planning Portal website provides information about planning rules, permits, and working with the local planning authority. The GOV.UK website provides information about the benefits of energy storage systems, the different types available, and how to find funding. The Energy Saving Trust website offers information on choosing the right energy storage system for specific needs and the benefits of these systems.