Zenobe has officially switched on its 100MW energy storage facility in Capenhurst, Chester, which is the largest battery to be connected to a transmission network in Europe.
Being placed in the Mersey region, the site will support the increasing development of renewables in-line with local and national zero-carbon targets. It will also help to manage network capacity therefore maximising existing Scottish wind flows into the region. By reducing the reliance on local gas plants to provide reactive power services, the delivery of the project represents a significant milestone in the UK’s path to net zero; it will accelerate the uptake of renewable power, lower the risk of blackouts, and reduce energy bills.
It will see large cost savings for consumers as gas plants will not need to run as frequently and fees won’t have to be paid to curtail wind power when the network becomes congested. In December 2022, National Grid paid £82 million to wind farm operators to turn their turbines off in efforts to stop the energy system from becoming overwhelmed. Over the first fifteen years of operation, the battery at Capenhurst will save around £58m on curtailment costs that would have previously been passed on to consumers. This represents a key moment in the dual environmental and cost of living crises – an opportunity for the grid to decarbonise whilst delivering cost savings to consumers.
The site will provide Merseyside and the surrounding areas with a clean, reliable and secure supply of energy at a substantially lower cost to consumers. Through enabling more renewable power onto the grid, the project is forecast to save 1,004,040 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over the next 15 years.
The battery is the largest battery directly connected to the transmission network in Europe, connecting at 275,000 volts, and the first in the world to have a commercial contract to provide reactive power.
The Capenhurst battery was commissioned in direct response to a National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) Pathfinder which sought to find a cost-effective solution to the high-voltage issues seen in the Mersey region. To keep voltage levels on the transmission network at safe limits, it is necessary to find methods to absorb or inject reactive power. Traditionally, these services have been provided by fossil fuel generators, but as we transition to a world where energy comes from zero carbon sources and access to fossil fuel power stations is reduced, we need to find new sources of reactive power.
Up until now, reactive power services in Merseyside have been provided by local fossil fuel power stations, like Fiddler’s Ferry, which have closed in the past few years. Capenhurst coming online will significantly lower the region’s reliance on gas imports to secure the grid. This creates greater energy security, and lowers the risk of blackouts for a more efficient electricity grid. The battery will also ease network constraints by importing electricity at times of peak renewable generation.
James Basden, Co-Founder and Director of Zenobe, noted, “With Capenhurst, we’re solving a key issue on the grid in the Merseyside region whilst significantly enhancing the nation’s use of renewable power. This pioneering project enables us to deliver vital grid services without the need for fossil fuels, supporting cities like Liverpool with their zero carbon targets.
“The activation of the site represents a key milestone for Zenobe as a business and for the UK as it moves towards a zero-carbon power system. Decarbonisation is more important than ever, as we face increasing energy prices and seek greater energy independence. We look forward to taking these solutions into other countries, using our expertise to make clean power accessible across the globe.”
The connection of Zenobe’s 100MW battery is also a big deal for the UK’s decarbonisation efforts, however other sites will not be as lucky. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee of MPs were recently warned that some renewable energy projects likely won’t receive grid connections until late 2030, with energy storage a key technology that is struggling to receive grid connection.