A Toshiba-made lithium titanate battery cell

Toshiba provides giant battery for energy storage research project

Japanese engineering firm Toshiba will provide a 2MW lithium titanate battery to a UK-based team researching industrial energy storage.

The first of its kind to be connected to the UK grid, the battery will allow grid operators to store excess energy if too much is generated in particular by renewable resources such as wind and use it later during the time of higher demand.

“Large scale batteries could reduce the need to keep energy generators on standby to respond to peaks in demand, but it’s as yet unclear how this might be best managed commercially,” said Professor Dave Stone from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, who is leading the project.

The giant battery will form part of a new 11kV Grid Connected Energy Storage Research Demonstrator based at the Willenhall primary substation, near Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, which is part of the Western Power Distribution’s network. The demonstrator, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is due to open in October 2014, will also test the viability of used electric vehicle battery packs for domestic or industrial electricity storage.

“Because this is a dedicated research facility, we’ll be able to explore the advantages of grid connected energy storage in a real operating environment, but without commercial constraints,” Professor Stone said. “We’ll be able to openly assess the impacts of the technology on our energy infrastructure, which should ensure faster adoption by the sector, to help improve how the grid functions and its overall stability.”

Energy generators worldwide are increasingly looking at installing large scale batteries, mainly for storing excess electricity from renewable sources, but their high capital costs and uncertainties over how they might work commercially has meant uptake of the technology is still low.

The lithium titanate battery – supplied by Toshiba – was chosen because it is faster to charge, longer lasting and much safer than its common alternative, lithium ion, particularly in terms of reduced fire risk. It will be the largest battery of its type installed in the UK.

The research involves both industrial and academic partners: the Universities of Sheffield, Aston and Southampton, Toshiba, distribution network operators Western Power Distribution, power and automation technology company ABB, specialist equipment housing supplier Portastor, electrical engineering specialists Sterling Power Utilities, electronic engineering consultants Converter Technology, and civil engineers Alpha Construction.

Feasibility studies for the project were funded by both the TSB and DECC and additional partner organisations in all projects include G&P Batteries, Energy Cost Advisors Ltd, Renault and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC).

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