Storage wars

For decades, the UK has been expanding its wind energy capabilities, with thousands of turbines now scattered across its fi elds and around its coastlines. Until recently, however, the country struggled to store all that new electricity. But with loosened regulations, the UK could be at the start of an unprecedented energy storage boom. Andrea Valentino talks to Kayte O’Neill, head of markets at National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), and Professor Phil Taylor, pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at the University of Bristol, about how wind has transformed the UK’s energy portfolio, the new importance of battery storage units and how the technology might develop in future.


n 1998, when most of the UK was preoccupied with the latest Spice Girls single and David Beckham’s disgrace against Argentina in

the World Cup, an innocuously named trade organisation was rolling up its sleeves and preparing to transform how the country was powered forever. Known then as the British Wind Energy Association – it has since been rebranded RenewableUK – it spent the year lobbying for the creation of offshore wind farms along the UK’s coastline. Its hard work soon produced fruit: by 2003, the UK’s first offshore blades had started spinning. Wind power has since become a fundamental part of the country’s energy regime. From just over 3,000MW capacity in 2008, the UK can now boast

World Wind Technology /

capacity nearly eight times that, with over 20% of the nation’s electricity now created by turbines on lonely moorlands and in rough seas far from land. This is an impressive achievement, but preserving all that new power is a different story. Between technical hurdles and tangles of red tape, much of the energy that the UK’s wind turbines spun into existence has historically disappeared – there was just nowhere to keep it.

But with the government finally making energy storage units easier to build and maintain, the country could finally be on the verge of fully exploiting the potential of its winds. A proper storage regime, after all, means the UK could finally build up a reliable depot of renewable energy, whatever the weather – in turn freeing



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