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Water companies keen on energy storage for renewables

Energy storage via batteries is the technology that water companies are most keen to see develop in order to transform their renewable energy strategies, delegates heard at the WWT Water Industry Energy conference yesterday (June 22).

Effective on-site energy storage would help smooth out the peaks and troughs that are inherent in renewable generation via solar panels and wind turbines, the conference in Birmingham heard. It would help large treatment sites become more self-sufficient by making the most of their own generation capability in order to avoid using grid power, especially at peak times when energy is more expensive.

When asked by conference chair Professor Tom Stephenson of Cranfield University to name the technology that would make the most difference to their energy strategy, batteries were the near-unanimous choice of the panel of expert speakers.  

“We are looking into energy storage. Battery storage is everybody’s favourite at the moment,” said Ray Arrell, Renewable Energy Engineer at South West Water. “I think there’s a real operational opportunity at some of our sites.” He said that sites with solar installations could particularly benefit, as it would be possible to store energy from times of peak generation during the day and use it during times of higher demand in the evening.

Steve Slavin, Head of Renewable Energy and Programme Delivery at United Utilities, agreed that solar power in conjunction with battery storage had great potential, but said he was yet to see technology that meets all the requirements. “We keep hearing they’re coming but nobody’s put one in front of me and said ‘this will work’,” said Slavin. “There’s promises out there, and the best intentions, but at the moment it’s all talk – the responsibility is on suppliers to turn and up and get the technology on the table.”

Mike Pedley, Head of Energy at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, gave the conference a case study of renewable energy in action at the utility’s Five Fords Wastewater Treatment Works near Wrexham. The site, which serves 96,000 households, had anaerobic digestion and CHP engines put in in 2012; last year, a gas-to-grid connection was made and 2.5MW of solar PV generation was added. The site is a fully-fledged ‘Wastewater Energy Park’; said Pedley; the challenge for operators is to get the different elements working together to provide the maximum benefit for the business.

Energy storage would certainly help with these efforts and Welsh Water is now investigating the possibility of incorporating it, even though it was not envisaged in the plans for solar power at the site drawn up two years ago. “That reflects how quickly things are moving with energy storage,” said Pedley.

He said that the use of multiple energy generation sources at Five Fords had opened people’s eyes to the potential of energy projects. “By packaging this together, we created something where people in our business were encouraged to think about what is possible. If we can do this and make it work, what else might we manage to do? It has encouraged lateral thinking,” said Pedley.

WWT’s Water Industry Energy conference was held on June 22 at the Holiday Inn, Birmingham City Centre and sponsored by Wipro EcoEnergy, Grundfos and British Gas.

Author: James Brockett,
Topic: Energy/Water Nexus
Tags: storage , solar , energy

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