Collaboration on optimisation of large batteries to revolutionise future energy use

A collaboration between SSE Energy Solutions and the University of Sheffield is exploring how to optimise the performance of battery sites in order to better store clean energy, a crucial tool in the battle against climate change.

SSE Energy Solutions’ software grid balancing technology, Enhance, is designed to help maximise the efficiency of mega batteries. Now, the Enhance platform has been deployed at one of the world’s leading energy research centres, managing the operation of the 2MW battery at the University of Sheffield’s Willenhall Energy Storage facility.

The £4m research facility is part of the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Research into Electrical Energy Storage and Applications (CREESA), which aims to advance the development of an affordable and clean energy future that is secure and sustainable.

The intermittency of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have been seen as a limiting factor in their adoption. Energy storage solutions have the potential to balance such fluctuations. SSE’s Enhance provides the means to monitor and manage costs and performance of battery sites.

The Enhance platform works by preventing the battery from taking power from the grid at times of peak usage and by feeding stored energy back to the grid when local demands on the battery are lower. The platform grants access to the wholesale energy market as well as the ‘Balancing Mechanism’, the open auction through which the National Grid buys power to keep the grid in balance.

SSE has engaged with researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering on a knowledge exchange project relating to the operation of grid-connected energy storage assets. The project has enabled SSE to connect their first energy storage control system into their SSE Enhance platform.

Willenhall Battery outside Sheffield Uni Inline

Image credit: University of Sheffield

The partnership has also provided SSE with the opportunity to integrate new ideas coming from the UK research community, accelerating the development and optimisation of its software platform. Professor Dan Gladwin, who works within the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, has been operating and optimising the energy storage assets at Willenhall for over eight years. He has brought his established expertise to the project, working with SSE’s system at the site.

The research and refinement of the Enhance platform in energy storage solutions at the Willenhall site will also benefit SSE as Enhance will be deployed at its first 50MW battery project in Salisbury. The battery will be the first of SSE Energy Solutions’ grid-scale solar and battery projects to support access to clean, reliable energy by balancing the intermittency of renewables.

Eunice Mabey, director of digital services at SSE Energy Solutions, said: “Our new Enhance software solution is part of SSE’s mission to develop a resilient, sustainable energy system in the UK. The solution has been developed to meet the opportunities of a decentralised, more complex energy market driven by the need to decarbonise energy using intermittent renewable generation.

“It enables SSE to flex and optimise our own energy assets and also third-party energy assets. It gives users the information and control they need to get their whole system performing at its best, from energy generation to peak-balancing to the sale of excess capacity.

“SSE’s ‘decade of delivery’ is well underway, and we see leveraging technology and optimisation software like our Enhance platform as a key component to unlocking the solutions for our net-zero targets. By having access to Enhance, the University of Sheffield will have an opportunity to pioneer research into energy market optimisation strategies and enabling technologies. We are proud and excited to be able to work together on this project.”

Inner Workings Of Willenhall Battery Inline

Image credit: University of Sheffield

Professor Gladwin said: “Our research is focused on achieving net zero across the energy system through the increased integration of energy storage. We have completed many successful pilots of new technologies and continue to operate assets at grid-scale that enables us to innovate in real-world conditions.

“Working with companies such as SSE is essential to ensure that our research and knowledge can be translated to achieve the environmental and economic impact that energy storage can deliver.

“We are pleased that we have been able to support SSE in the successful development of the Enhance platform for energy storage applications and look forward to the continuing this exciting partnership.”

To date, in pursuit of its ‘Net Zero Acceleration Plan’, SSE has increased clean energy investments by 65 per cent to a total of £12.5bn by 2026. The ambitions of the plan by that date are that it will have delivered £1bn of additional capital investment per year versus previous plans, a doubling of existing renewables net installed capacity to 8GW, a sustainable renewables development pipeline in excess of 15GW including solar and battery storage, and over 2.5 times more capital allocated to renewables growth.

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