South Somerset investment in advanced battery energy storage facilities

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Tonight at a full council meeting of South Somerset District Council approval was given to invest in a cutting edge renewable energy project, building a 25MW battery storage facility.  The decision was made at an in camera meeting of the council as it was considered commercially sensitive.

There are several parties to this deal: South Somerset District Council will be the investor and co-owner of the facility, Opium Power Limited will be the project manager and co-owner, BYD Europe BV will be the battery supplier and BSR Connect is the project roll out connection contractor. Western Power Distribution will be the local distribution network operator.

The District Council claim this will put Somerset at the cutting edge of renewable energy storage and it is hard to argue with that, certainly in UK terms. By investing in battery energy storage, the Council is taking its first step into ownership and development of renewable energy which will provide essential support to the National Grid for balancing power demand and storing renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted.

The idea of battery energy storage is simple – batteries store excess energy production at low usage periods, that would otherwise be wasted, and resupply it to the grid when needed at peak times. However this could be a substantial facility and the announcement is conspicuously silent on where it will be located, something that will be of concern to residents assuming it is to be within the SSDC area.

Following decisions to invest in commercial property in Yeovil, this decision sees a rolling out into new areas of  the Council’s vision to create more income generation opportunities through investment in areas that in the past would have beyond its natural remit.

The lead time is extremely short for the project, especially given SSDC has no experience in this area. The aim is for it to be rolled out and operational by the end of 2018. It is certainly innovative and the move into green energy will undoubtedly be popular.

But as with the investment in commercial property, this is a high risk investment. It may well generate a high return and if it does the council will win plaudits and rightly so. It does however beg the question what will be the impact on the council finances if things don’t turn out so well.