July 17, 2020
Local Authorities lead the way in second-life storage
Professor Brian Sturgess

Local authorities across the country are leading the way in making progress towards the government’s Net Zero target. The important, and potentially profitable, role in delivering green energy is being seized by forward thinking Country Councils in West Sussex and Suffolk in the South of England. Bold decisions by these bodies to support and participate in projects in small scale battery storage projects comes as a government announcement will also enhance their role in grid level storage projects. 

Prior to a UK government announcement made on July 14 battery storage projects greater than 49.9MW needed to negotiate a lengthy national infrastructure project system requiring ministerial sign off to go ahead. This was extremely inefficient and meant that developers capped investments in size at 49.9MW irrespective of market needs. Now storage planning decisions will be made where they belong at the local level. 

Both West Sussex and Suffolk County Councils have been willing to support smaller off-grid projects employing used batteries. Suffolk Country Council has decided to use second-life Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries in green energy system at the University of Suffolk’s Ipswich campus to store electricity according to a report in theenergyst.com. A new facility called The Hold, which will also be home to the council’s archive collection, will use a 300kW/360kWh battery storage system built from second life Renault Kangoo batteries to optimise loads and minimise peaks across a system that generates which generates power from solar PV. Second life EV battery systems are growing in use with reduced costs compared to new lithium ion systems. 

Similarly, West Sussex County Council has given the go-ahead to a £31 million project despite COVID-19 restrictions. The SmartHubs Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES) project in Sompting in the County will integrate the decarbonisation of heat, transport and energy across social housing, infrastructure and private and residential commercial properties. The project will deliver a 12 MW in-front-of-the-meter battery energy storage system as well as nine 300 kW behind-the-meter battery systems across the region, and up to five EV charging hubs with integrated photovoltaics and battery energy storage. These systems will use around 1,200 second-life electric vehicle batteries and provide grid balancing across the whole project. The 12 MW system alone has a total capacity of 14.4 MWh, the energy equivalent of powering 1,695 average homes for a whole day. Newcastle University’s Electrical Power Research Group is providing data analysis and system modelling for the project.

The significance of the growing market in second-life batteries is economic as well as environmentally beneficial. During their period of use EV batteries experience high operating temperatures and hundreds of partial cycles a year meaning that they degrade strongly during their first five years of existence. But after remanufacturing, EV lithium-ion batteries can perform efficiently in stationary energy-storage services, where maintaining 80 per cent of usable capacity and only a self-discharge rate of around 5 per cent over a 24-hour period are not necessary. 

According to a report by management consultants Mckinsey, the rising uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) will result in the increased redundancy of batteries that no longer meet required specifications for usage in a new EV. The consultants argue that “finding applications for these still-useful batteries can create significant value and ultimately even help bring down the cost of storage to enable further renewable-power integration into our grids.” McKinsey estimate that the second-life-battery supply for stationary applications could exceed 200 gigawatt-hours per year by 2030. 


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