Blackburn Meadows storage facility is set to come online this week. The E.ON (FWB: EOAN) run facility in Sheffield is one of the first of a new fleet of industrial-scale battery plants developed to help the UK grid cope with the rapidly growing amount of renewable power.

E.ON said the facility, which is next to an existing combined heat and power plant, has the equivalent capacity of half a million phone batteries and marksa milestone in its efforts to develop storage for electricity from wind farms, nuclear reactors and gas power stations.
Site of Blackburn Meadows energy storage
At 10MW, the Blackburn Meadows battery, housed in four shipping containers, is one of the biggest in Britain so far, but will soon be eclipsed by much larger plants.

Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, is building a 49 MW facility on the site of a former power station in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, while EDF Energy is working on one of the same size at its West Burton gas power station in Nottinghamshire.

David Topping, the director of business, heat and power solutions at E.ON, said: “This is a milestone for E.ON in the new energy world and an important recognition of the enormous potential for battery solutions in the UK.”

The utility-scale batteries are being built in response to a request from National Grid, the owner of Britain’s power transmission network, for contracts to help it keep electricity supply and demand in balance, which is posing an increasing challenge for the grid as more intermittent wind and solar comes online.

Guardian reports that balancing supply and demand is essential for keeping the frequency of electricity constant at 50Hz across the UK. The ability of batteries to respond to demand in less than a second makes them ideal for the task, with earlier sources of backup power much slower at just under 10 seconds.

E.ON has secured £3.89m of the £65.9m of contracts awarded for the service, though National Grid estimates the batteries will save it £200m over four years.

The new generation of batteries will also earn their owners money by helping with the government subsidy scheme for providing backup power during winter, known as the capacity market. The storage plants will also be able to take power off the system when supply is unexpectedly high, such as on a particularly windy or sunny day.