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An interview with Nick Heyward, project manager of the 6MW/10MWh plant in Leighton Buzzard, UK.


Europe’s Largest Energy Storage Plant Began Its Trial Run

An interview with Nick Heyward, project manager of the 6MW/10MWh plant in Leighton Buzzard, UK.

Originally published on the ECOreport.

Europe’s largest energy storage plant began its trial run. Energy & Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd switched on the new UKPN SNS facility in Leighton Buzzard yesterday. The fully automated 6MW/10MWh energy storage unit has commenced its trial run. As the existing infrastructure dates back to the 1970s, this facility represents an immediate +£6m savings over traditional network reinforcement methods such as transformers, cable and overhead lines. More important, this could be the beginning of a technology transition that research from Imperial College could save the UK £3bn a year by in the 2020s, based on the deployment of 2GW of energy storage.


“The project will shortly enter into the trial phase – where the performance of the system, and its use for a wide range of different network applications and benefits will be explored over the course of two years. In addition, the project is researching how different business models might work for storage, as well as recommendations into appropriate changes to the regulatory frameworks,”said Project Director Nick Heyward, UK Power Networks.

Nick Heyward

There are other smaller scale storage systems already installed in England, including another on UK Power Networks distribution network at Hemsby, near Gt Yarmouth. These are mainly looking at the technical impact of storage, rather than the economic and market challenges.

While we’ve no immediate plans to build any more; there is much interest from developers and investors who are considering energy storage. It is very likely there will be more storage installed in future years, as the level of intermittent renewable generation on the system grows further.

Two of the world’s leading energy storage companies collaborated on this £18.7 million project. S&C Electric fosters the improved efficiency and reliability required for intelligent grids in North America, the UK and around the world. Berlin-based Younicos contributed custom-built intelligent software architecture and components.


In their press release:

Andrew Jones, Managing Director, S&C Electric Europe, said, “Energy storage can play a major role in balancing the grid as it solves the problem of renewable intermittency by absorbing surplus power and releasing it when needed. This function simultaneously helps to securely balance capacity and supply and protects the grid from Stress Events (e.g. power outages) on the grid. The introduction of energy storage in substations like the one at Leighton Buzzard can decrease the need and cost of traditional reinforcement, such as transformers and cabling.”

Clemens Triebel, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, at Younicos said, “This ground-breaking project forcefully demonstrates the many revenue streams and savings that energy storage can enable today. We are particularly proud to have contributed our intelligent control software and experience in frequency regulation and battery management, which ensures that the battery system automatically reacts to price and other signals. Together with UKPN, S&C, and other partners, we are showing grid operators, utilities and other stakeholders both in the UK and around the world an effective way to cost-efficiently reinforce and improve grid infrastructure, hile facilitating increased deployment of clean energy from wind and solar.”

Heyward explained, “The size of the facility is 6MW, which is the full response that can be provided to help to stabilise the grid for National Grid for significant parts of the year (when it is not required for supporting the local electricity network at Leighton Buzzard).”


It’s challenging to say exactly how much space that makes for renewables, because of their intermittent nature – but 6MW of capacity does theoretically allow more than 6MW of renewables to connect, because of the lower load factors of most renewable generation. Some estimates put it at around 2-4 times more renewables in terms of nameplate MW capacity (i.e. 12 – 24MW).

The storage output can be produced very rapidly, with a full swing of -6MW to +6MW in milliseconds – this faster, and more accurate response actually helps to reduce the overall amount of reserve capacity that the Transmission System Operator (National Grid) requires to balance the system (because the ramp rate of thermal generators is in the range of seconds to minutes, many more MW are needed to support very short duration balancing.)

“The facility is connected to the distribution network directly, so doesn’t take energy from any particular local generation source – just the mix on the grid at the time. As the GB system is all inter-connected, the storage can support renewables anywhere in the country by helping to absorb power at times when there might be excess renewable energy, or inject power back at times where generation is scarce,” said Heyward.


The primary function of the battery is to support security of supply, helping to reduce peaks on the network in times of high demand. The storage cannot help avoid power failures, which can be caused by trees or other objects making contact with cables, or other equipment failures however UK Power Networks is investing heavily into improving the reliability of the networks across all our network regions.

By providing power into the network at the existing Leighton Buzzard substation, the storage helps to support demand for electricity in the town. This means that the lines feeding the substation need to deliver less power – which in turn reduces the stress on these lines, and other assets such as the transformers, which helps extend their operating life.

Images Above, in descending Order:

  • Energy & Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd switches on the new UKPN SNS Facility in Leighton Buzzard – Courtesy UK Power Networks.
  • Project Director Nick Heyward, UK Power Networks – – Courtesy UK Power Networks.
  • Image Courtesy S&C Electric
  • the UKPN SNS Facility in Leighton Buzzard – Courtesy S&C Electric
  • Innovation Project Manager Ian Cooper talks to Energy & Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd and UKPN Director of Asset Management Barry Hatton during their visit to the SNS Facility in Leighton Buzzard – Courtesy UK Power Networks.
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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.


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