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THE ENERGY STORAGE QUESTION: SPINNING FLYWHEELS, PUMPED HYDRO AND COMPRESSED AIR

Introduction:

E-ON recently completed a 10MW lithium iron battery, designed to hold roughly the same amount of power as 100 family cars, at the 30MW Blackburn Meadows biomass plant near Sheffield. (https://www.eonenergy.com/about-eon/media-centre/eon-completes-uk-first-battery-installation-at-blackburn-meadows-biomass-power-plant/).

The unit has been hailed as a breakthrough in the switch towards greener energy and the development of energy storage solutions capable of holding energy generated by wind farms and gas power stations, for release in times of excess demand.

The Issue of Energy Storage:

The National Grid is tasked with producing enough energy to meet supply. Excess energy from one source, such as solar, will prompt the grid’s operators to switch off another.

Currently, renewable energy can only make intermittent contributions to the grid’s output. As the sun does not shine 24/7 and some days are windier than others, the renewables sector eagerly awaits technology capable of storing energy.

There have been numerous suggestions as to how the energy storage conundrum may be solved.

Spinning Flywheels:

Through storage of kinetic energy, a flywheel operates like a mechanical battery, with some designs now able to spin at rates of up to 60,000 revolutions per minute. Although early models were generally very heavy, modern carbon fibre flywheels have the ability to contain twenty times more energy then a steel wheel (http://www.economist.com/node/21540386).

A spinning flywheel will speed up when it receives electrical energy, and slow when there is a need to release the energy that it stores, at which point the kinetic energy will be transferred back into electrical energy.

Flywheels are an efficient method of storing energy. Round Trip Efficiency is generally 85% – 90%, meaning a spinning flywheel only wastes a seventh of the energy it absorbs. In comparison, coal and gas generators are half as efficient.

Compressed Air:

Compressed Air Energy Storage is currently the second biggest method of energy storage, and works by transferring electrical energy into high pressure compressed air that is stored underground

In times of short supply, the compressed air will be heated and expanded to drive a turbine generator.

Currently there are two CAES plants in operation; one in Huntorf, Germany, and another in McIntosh, Alabama (http://www.powersouth.com/mcintosh_power_plant/compressed_air_energy).

Aquifers and porous rock are generally the ideal sites for CAES systems. Underground salt domes, which have long since been used to store natural gas, have also been used in the past, and are generally found at coastal sites where the potential to generate a lot of wind energy is high.

Geographically, there is thought to be good potential for CAES systems across Europe, including in Great Britain.

Pumped Hydro:

Pumped Hydroelectric Storage requires an upper and lower reservoir, and works by using excess energy to pump water to the higher reservoir, for storage as gravitational potential energy.

In times of short supply the water will be allowed to flow down to the lower point through a turbine and generator, transferring back to kinetic and then electrical energy in the process.

Whilst PHS schemes have been considered the best mass energy storage solution, they can only be installed at very specific terrains. The largest PHS scheme is currently near Dinorwig in Snowdonia National Park, one of four across the UK, and has become something of a tourist attraction (http://www.electricmountain.co.uk/Dinorwig-Power-Station).

It is thought that the hydroelectric facilities across Europe are now able to hold roughly 5% of the continent’s electrical generating capacity.

Conclusion:

Renewables provided nearly 30% of UK Energy Generation between April and June 2017, and it is thought that the UK will need to be able to store around 200GWh of electricity by 2020.

E-ON’s unit at Blackburn Meadows, designed to offer the grid energy in less then a second, comes as National Grid recently released a tender with a view to helping it manage supply and demand.

There is clearly as yet no clear answer to the energy storage question, but battery storage appears to have become very topical.

Other energy firms are developing similar projects to the one at Blackburn Meadows. EDF Energy is developing a 49MW plant at West Burton Power Station, Nottinghamshire, whilst Centrica are developing a project of the same size at a site in Barrow-on-Furness, Cumbria (https://www.centrica.com/news/centrica-start-construction-new-battery-storage-facility-roosecote).

About the Author

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

For more information please contact Adam Mikula on 020 7947 5354 or by email on: adm@prospectlaw.co.uk.

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CHRIS KAYE JOINS PROSPECT’S NUCLEAR TEAM

Prospect is pleased to announce the further development of its multi-disciplinary infrastructure practice through Chris Kaye joining the firm as an expert on the negotiation and management of multi-billion pound infrastructure projects, particularly in the nuclear sector. On behalf of the Department of Energy, Chris led the review of Hinkley Point C’s waste and decommissioning plans, providing advice to the Secretary of State on the approvability of the power station’s Funded Decommissioning Programme, and liaising with private and public sector advisory bodies.

Prospect remains the only regulated firm to offer combined legal and technical services to clients in the infrastructure sector and its position is further strengthened by the addition of Chris Kaye.

Chris has over 40 years experience in negotiating, managing, and assuring the performance of multi-billion pound strategically and technically complex contracts within Government and private sectors. From 2006 to 2016 and prior to joining Prospect Group, Chris was a function head of a major UK Non-Departmental Public Body, where he was responsible for assurance and oversight of the private sector nuclear operator’s decommissioning strategy, planning and costing where the Government has an interest in its funding and risks. This work was primarily directed at assuring the robustness of detailed plans for decommissioning the UK’s most modern nuclear power station fleet and associated spent fuel liabilities, with a total value of c. $25bn.

Chris has also led the assurance, on behalf of the UK’s Department of Energy, of all three of the UK’s new nuclear power plants’ decommissioning plans and cost estimates, in order to support the UK Government’s decision on whether or not to approve the operator’s liabilities funding arrangements for this first of a kind development. This included Hinkley Point C.

Outside the UK, Chris also led assurance reviews of Canadian, Swedish and Swiss nuclear facilities’ decommissioning plans on behalf of their respective governments and has provided consultancy advice to the Taiwanese and Chinese governments and private enterprises. Prior to 2006, Chris worked as an independent consultant on various technical assignments for major clients including the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Arthur D Little and the UK Government, significantly influencing the eventual decision to create the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chris also participated in reviews of private sector companies’ performance as part of the UK Business Excellence Award process utilising the European Foundation for Quality Management Business Excellence model. He has also worked in a variety of roles in the UK electricity supply industry. Initially covering waste management R&D and policy, for 12 years Chris led the negotiation and management of all contracts for the supply of uranium, new fuel, and spent fuel management services for the UK’s private sector nuclear fleet. Chris has also been a ‘high risk projects’ reviewer for the UK Cabinet Office Infrastructure and Projects Authority, participating in major government infrastructure projects in overseas construction, justice, immigration, rail franchise and national emergency planning. He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.       

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law Ltd and Prospect Advisory Ltd and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

For more information please contact us on 020 7947 5354 or by email on: info@prospectlaw.co.uk.

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“THE BIGGEST HOUSE BUILDING PROGRAMME SINCE THE 1970s?”

George Osborne’s Autumn budget statement has this week pledged £2billion to the Housing Budget, more then twice the amount currently earmarked, as part of a drive to create a more sustainable housing market by building 400,000 more affordable homes by 2020.

A pilot scheme allowing housing association tenants the ‘right to buy’ has gone live, and many of the restrictions on shared ownership are now also due to be lifted. An increase in the availability of loans for small building firms has also been promised.

With house building currently at a six year low, Osborne’s approach also incorporates significant planning reforms, intended to release enough public land to build 160,000 homes and allow vacant plots of commercial land to be used for the building of starter homes, to be offered to first time buyers aged under 40 for 20% less then their market price.

The statement has provoked a reaction in the stock market, with shares in housebuilders such as Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey significantly rising upon news of the announcement. The former saw a rise of 6pc on the morning of 25th November, although this rise has since eased to 2.1pc more then its pre announcement level.

Despite their apparent proactivity, the government clearly has a long way to go before it can properly convince the British public of it ability to cure the current shortage of housing land supply. House prices have already risen 15% since 2010 and critics of this statement have questioned the likelihood of Osborne’s vision for affordable housing ever coming true, with some also pointing to the apparent failures of the ‘help to buy’ scheme, which has come into criticism for extending to less then 4% of the 2.4 million property transactions in the past 2 years.

Prospect Law and Prospect Energy provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resources projects in the UK and internationally.

For more information, please contact Edmund Robb on 07930 397531, or by email on: er@prospectlaw.co.uk.

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THE NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE COMMISSION

Chancellor George Osborne has overseen the creation of a National Infrastructure Commission.

The Commission came into existence on 5th October and will supervise the spending of £100billion on roads, rail lines, energy and flood defenses. It will be headed by a team of seven Commissioners and has been tasked with putting forward full, impartial recommendations on how money should be spent on economic infrastructure at the beginning of each parliament.

The Commission’s plans will look at the infrastructure the UK might need in 30 years time. The intention is for the Commission to publish proposals after extensive public consultations and it is hoped that its plans will go some way towards helping safeguard future investment in the national economy and allowing the UK to compete with its Western European rivals.

Spending on infrastructure has fallen 5.6% since 2010 and George Osborne has previously commented that the UK’s reputation for world leading infrastructure had ‘slipped’. Currently only in existence provisionally, it is expected that the Commission will be given a statutory grounding in upcoming legislation.

Criticism of UK infrastructure spending emphasizes, amongst other things, disproportionate investment in the Greater London area.

Whatever strategies the Commission proposes, it is extremely hard to envisage it ever appeasing all sides. Many have already expressed concern that the creation of this Commission could exacerbate inequality and hamper investment in the North.

Prospect Law and Prospect Energy provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resources projects in the UK and internationally.

For more information, please contact Edmund Robb on 07930 397531, or by email on: er@prospectlaw.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here