Belfast Telegraph

Proposed storage facility 'will help cut' energy bills

By Clare Weir

A new planned storage facility which will collect electricity generated by wind power will work 'just like a Toyota Prius', according to a top energy company boss.

Mark Miller, vice principal for the UK and Ireland for AES, said that the 100MW plant planned for Kilroot Power Station could help slash customer energy bills.

The AES Corporation, a US-based global power company, first entered the local energy market back in 1992 by acquiring the Kilroot power station and increased its stake in Northern Ireland in 2010 by purchasing the larger Ballylumford plant.

AES is Northern Ireland's largest electricity provider and represents nearly 18% of the installed capacity in the all-island market.

In April, AES said that the facility could be operational early in 2015 subject to approval and recently received approval for a connection application to System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI), which operates the electricity grid here.

The battery system would store power when it is abundant and then feed it into the grid at periods of high demand. There are already similar facilities in Ohio, West Virginia and Chile.

Mr Miller said that both Northern Ireland and the Republic have some of the most aggressive renewable energy targets in Europe.

"The entire island, both the north and the south, have been very aggressive and entrepreneurial in capturing these resources," he said.

"People here have been looking at the long term picture and thinking ahead about decarbonising, limiting the use of fossil fuels and investigating a broad range of technology.

"This storage facility would be nothing more than a large-scale warehouse. It will be non-intrusive – Kilroot has plenty of large buildings anyway.

"It falls within our current planning consent – there would be no emissions and no noise.

"Essentially we are using the same technology as a Prius car, but with some pretty sophisticated controls – the operator can shut down particular units and turn them back on as needed. They can monitor change of wind position and alter the system accordingly. It will help re-engineer how the operator manages the system.

"We have considerable experience in other markets. We already have this technology in Chile and the US and when we look at the Irish market, the high level of wind energy and penetration, we see that the market is right for this technology," Mr Miller added.

"Our job now is to educate and align the ministers, the regulatory authorities and the industry at large, what benefits this facility could bring, including huge commercial benefits for the system long term and lower energy prices for customers."

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