While much media attention has been put on projects such as Hinkley Point and the battle for the fracking soul of the nation recently, one project seems to have slipped quietly under the radar and it could have big ramifications for the future of renewables in the UK. A solar PV site in Somerset is about to get its first Tesla storage batteries and will be the first grid scale project to use them in Europe.
Why Storage is Important
For solar and wind in particular, the development of storage capability has long been the holy grail for large installations as well as domestic use. The problem is that solar only produces electricity when the sun is shining and wind only does it when there’s a good breeze. The issue is how you store all that electricity when you are not producing any so that it can be used during the evening or at times when there isn’t much wind blowing.
Tesla have been at the forefront of developing storage technology but it has taken a while to get large scale projects such as the one in Somerset to adopt it. The solar farm managed to get approval before the recent reduction in subsidies by the government and the addition of the batteries could be seen as a demonstration of the true power of solar, if only we can just manage to store all that energy.
Camborne Energy Storage, the company involved in this new development, has made an arrangement with a major UK landowner to deliver 100 MWh for energy projects all around the UK. This could make a major difference to our energy infrastructure and may even call into question the current Government’s adoption of technologies such as fracking and nuclear. Of course, these are still early days for solar storage batteries and Camborne Energy will have to prove that it works well enough to be adopted elsewhere.
But the signs are good.
According to Poweri Services, who have acted as EPC for the project, the fact that the system was able to share the existing grid connections helped to keep the costs down. Director Chris Roberts said:
“It’s a great modular technology I must admit. It’s slotted together like Lego really…It’s a very elegant product that’s been very well thought through. There’s nothing that I can see that would cause a problem in deploying these in large numbers.”
The Future of Solar Storage
Key to the future of renewable technology has always been the issue of storage. In recent years we have seen grid scale batteries being developed and now we’re beginning to see their implementation and use.
This is the first place in Europe where the Tesla batteries have been used on such a large scale but it certainly won’t be the last. Add in technologies like molten salt storage that we reported on recently and things are starting to look a whole lot better for renewable energy storage. If we can settle this particular conundrum once and for all, it may mean we can get most of our power from renewables and have access to all the energy we need whenever we need it.
While it remains disappointing that a story like the Camborne Energy Storage project has largely gone unnoticed, there’s no doubt that this kind of development will continue to shape our energy future.