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Needs For New Storage Assets In The Bulk Power Systems

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Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Expert Independent Consultant ,Electric Power Systems Engineering Self

Summary- Full Academic Qualification by obtaining B.Sc. (1971), M.Sc. (1980) and Ph.D. (1991) of Electric Power Engineering.- Active continuous education by participating in long periods of hands...

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LFDD is very painful for those affected but 5% suffered so that 95% stayed connected to a functioning grid. Trains were left waiting on the tracks for hours. Tunnels on the London Underground went dark. A backup generator at Ipswich Hospital failed to start, leaving some to struggle down stairs after the lifts ground to a halt. In total, nearly a million people faced blackouts. This was the last defense measure which ensures grid frequency will return to normal. This triggered a storm of questions about how to avoid another failure.

London Blackout 2019 Experience

Within seconds of problems hitting the grid, a fleet of batteries dotted around Great Britain were able to pump power into the system, preventing a rapid drop off in transmission frequency.Upside Energy is one firm that lent a helping hand by supplying six megawatts (MW) from five large lithium-ion batteries located on a solar farm near Luton Airport. Those batteries responded immediately – actually it was sub-second. Six megawatts may not sound like much. It’s about the same capacity as a single medium-sized wind turbine, but in the context of national electricity supply that can make a difference. The big advantage of batteries is they are not hampered by stalling frequency. They just switch on and send electricity straight out, at 50Hz.

Storage benefits

In recent years, more companies that manage battery storage have signed up to provide National Grid with a stand-by service. If there is a sudden fall in electricity supply, the batteries are ready and waiting to switch on.

Another company that manages battery assets is RES. It provided 80 megawatts of power at the critical moment. And Limejump had 91 megawatts’ worth of battery power at its fingertips. Most of those batteries were only installed in the last two years.

Battery supplies provided a much-needed safety net that held the fort while heftier power sources came online, such as the pumped-storage hydroelectric station at Dinorwig in Wales. Batteries alone couldn’t replace all of the lost generation , but they did help to prevent the downward cascade of frequency loss tumbling out of control.

Fail-safes have always been important to the grid. But in the past, operators had to rely on generators or power plants able to boost their generation at short notice. Such sources of electricity have one major drawback versus batteries: they don’t come online as quickly.

Plans and Cost Impact

As National Grid Plc, the regulator (Ofgem) and plant operators investigation underlined the need to bolster an electricity grid increasingly fed by intermittent flows from renewable such as wind and solar. One way is by encouraging construction of new storage assets such as hydro power and batteries that can be called upon almost instantly.

Investors suggested that to improve the power system’s ability to cope with plant failures, the government should change its capacity backup system market, by guaranteeing prices for storage assets for 10 to 12 years to help attract institution investors. That would unlock “huge orders of capital” to fund storage projects for renewable energy sources.

An analyst saw that National Grid does have plans in place to pick up the slack when one source goes down, but there may be a limit to what’s practical. The company could pay for enough capacity in case two power stations go out in a few minutes, but that cost would fall to the consumer. And then what if a third goes out?

Another analysts at Aurora Energy Research Ltd. wrote in a note that the price tag might not be too painful. Doubling the current spending on frequency response, which helps balance supply and demand in the grid, would add about 2 pounds ($2.4), or about 0.4%, to an average annual household bill for electricity.

Motivations for deploying hybrid generator-plus-battery storage

Variable renewable energy (VRE) technologies, such as wind and solar photovoltaic (PV), have proliferated world wide with the help of technology improvements, cost reductions, and policy support. Although many storage technologies exist , declining battery costs have helped stimulate interest in integrating batteries onto power grids at an unprecedented scale.

Such battery capacities could be physically sited at various locations within a grid system; it need not be co-located with VRE technologies or other generator types to provide benefits. Siting choices depend on various considerations including, but not limited to, effective VRE integration. However, project developers have demonstrated increasing interest in “hybrid” projects that co-locate generation with batteries at the point of interconnection.

The concept of hybridization can encompass various technologies and configurations ,such as PV co-located with geothermal or wind , concentrating solar power with thermal storage, wind with pumped hydro storage, combined-cycle plants, and combined heat and power systems. Hybrid systems can also consist of elements that are not co-located; virtual hybrids can employ distributed combinations of demand-side response, generation, and batteries to participate in whole sale power markets.

pros and cons

The economic arguments for hybridizing plants focus on opportunities to (1) reduce project costs, and (2) increase project market value.         

- Opportunities to reduce project costs arise from policy incentives, construction and operational synergies, and transaction cost mitigation. Hybridized project construction synergies include shared permitting and siting costs, shared power electronic and general power plant equipment, and shared interconnection agreements. 

- Market value benefits from hybridization involve design and operations optimization as well as market participation rules.

Hybridization also poses challenges.

- First, coupling a battery system to a generator behind a point of interconnection might result in operational constraints that reduce the battery’s ability to provide maximum value during critical times. These constraints will depend on the nature of the coupling—e.g., alternating current(AC) vs. DC—as well as the size of the shared interconnection.

- Second, hybridization could result in sub-optimal system siting. When developers site their conventional or VRE plants, they typically optimize based on fuel (or renewable resource), capacity factor, and cost considerations, but for hybrid systems these considerations might result in sub-optimal battery siting, away from areas of congestion and load. Finally, the regulatory uncertainty surrounding direct financial incentives and rules for market participation designs could result in conditions that promote or hinder hybridization.


Hybrid resources pose new technical challenges that must be addressed to enhance participation in energy assets, and capacity markets while clarifying the associated market efficiency and reliability implications. Some of these are:

- Forecasts are needed to ensure reliable operations of VREs.

- Resource plans are conducted through a combination of integrated resource plans (IRP).

- Operational simulation tools (i.e., production-cost models) are also used to evaluate operational and production-cost impacts on future systems given a number of different scenarios.


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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 28, 2020

Within seconds of problems hitting the grid, a fleet of batteries dotted around Great Britain were able to pump power into the system, preventing a rapid drop off in transmission frequency.Upside Energy is one firm that lent a helping hand by supplying six megawatts (MW) from five large lithium-ion batteries located on a solar farm near Luton Airport

Are battery systems like this paid for their ability to be on standby for such an event, or do they only profit from this ability when the event occurs and they respond? 

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Jul 28, 2020

Hi Matt

Thanks for your interest. Usually these battery systems are paid for being standby and securing high resiliency for the grid. But , do not forget they charged in from the grid, too with the regular tariffs. Therefore , needs arise to hybridized battery with PV projects or hybridized wind turbines with hydro pumping and storage ( today known as hydro battery) to make use of excess power than contracted (free power). 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 4, 2020

Dr. Amal, the reason for London's 2019 blackout  can be placed squarely at the feet of the irregular, unreliable output of wind energy.

Frequency instability of AC electricity on grids in the UK, or the U.S., or anywhere else was virtually unknown before the introduction of wind power. Frequency can be tightly controlled at dispatchable plants by varying the speed of the huge rotors that turn DC generation in to AC. Unfortunately the speed of wind in the North Sea is very hard to control - some might say, impossible. So juggling irregular output from 174 3-megawatt turbines has become a massive problem for maintaining UK grid stability.

"High volumes of renewable energy can make it more difficult for National Grid to balance the frequency of the grid, which was originally built to accommodate fossil fuel power plants.

"To prepare for the UK’s energy transition National Grid has developed 'frequency response' tools – such as quick-fire backup supplies of extra electricity – which should make it technically possible to run the energy system without any fossil fuels by 2025."

Because there is often not enough wind generation (and occasionally, none at all), even in the North Sea, it will never be possible to "run the energy system without any fossil fuels."  Whether it should be possible, or not.


Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 5, 2020

Hi Bob

Thanks for clarifications.


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