Europe's biggest wind battery to slash cost of Northern Ireland electricity bills
It could mean cheaper electricity for Northern Ireland as we finally unlock the full power of our abundant wind energy resources.
Northern Ireland has one of the best wind resources in Europe, yet until now we haven't been able to make full use of them.
That's all about to change with plans to install Europe's biggest electricity storage battery at a site next to Kilroot power station.
One of the biggest problems with wind power is that until now it couldn't be stored - meaning much of that raw power simply goes to waste at times when our wind farms are going at full pelt.
Instead of being able to feed that electricity into the grid when the winds die down, electricity operators have to fall back on costly electricity back-up supplies based on fossil fuels.
AES, which operates Kilroot Power Station in Co Antrim, plans to install the 10MW lithium ion battery array later this year, allowing renewable energy to be stored and electricity costs cut.
It's the first step in a plan that will make it easier for Northern Ireland to reach its target of generating 40% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Meanwhile, there are ambitious plans to expand the plant 10-fold to create a 100MW battery array by 2017, delivering savings of £8.5m a year in system operating costs, AES said. It will be one of the biggest in the world and is expected to draw industry leaders who want to find out how Northern Ireland is solving its renewable energy problems.
The mega-battery is also expected to help reduce electricity costs for customers and boost security of supply in a region on the edge of Europe that is heavily dependent on imported fuel.
AES is currently working with the Northern Ireland System Operator to finalise details of the battery's integration into the grid and is also working on a 100MW array for California.
The company says Northern Ireland was chosen to pioneer the technology because of the problems it faces in making full use of its abundant wind resources and because it is a place where people are willing to look at innovative solutions to these problems. Dr Mike Pitts, Lead Specialist in Sustainability at Innovate UK, said: "The 10MW energy storage project was supported under Innovate UK and is an exciting development for Northern Ireland and the UK as we seek innovative ways to cope with a changing energy infrastructure and incorporate more renewables."
Carla Tully, President of AES UK and Ireland, welcomed Innovate UK, Invest NI and Deti's interest in the project: "We are excited to install Europe's largest battery to date and begin using advanced energy storage to reduce the cost and carbon intensity of managing the UK and Ireland's electric grids. AES provides safe, sustainable and affordable energy, and with this storage project we're helping to modernise national power systems."
AES has eight years of experience with commercial energy storage, having implemented more than 200MW of advanced grid-scale lithium ion battery resources to improve systems around the world.
It recently won a new contract to provide extra capacity for generating electricity in Northern Ireland to avoid a shortfall in the next few years. System Operator Northern Ireland said this will see it provide an extra 250 megawatts of capacity - enough to power 160,000 homes.