GE storage system in UK debut

US industrial giant GE has sold the first of its next-generation Durathon energy storage systems through a lead-off order with UK distribution network operator (DNO) Western Power.

Five of the 100kWh sodium nickel chloride (NaNiCl) batteries will be installed later this year at high-voltage substations in Milton Keynes, north of London, as part of the Falcon (Flexible Approaches to Low Carbon Optimised Networks) project being led by the DNO.

“This trial will demonstrate the impact that the Durathon energy storage system can have in a real-world, utility distribution network,” says GE Energy Storage general manager Prescott Logan. “It is designed to provide vital data that can be used to enhance utility services and reduce operating expenses — a saving that could ultimately be passed on to customers.”

The project will be the first time that a Durathon energy storage system is wired into a distribution management system in the European market.  The NaNiCl battery concept has been used in field demonstrations in the US, built-in to a wind turbine to provide integrated storage.

During the UK trial, the Durathon batteries will be look to boost network efficiency through voltage support, improved power quality and electrical noise reduction. 

GE is betting on the NaNiCl batteries as the “most versatile and effective solution” in the fast-changing utility-scale energy storage market.

The Durathon battery works like this: during charging, chloride ions are released from sodium chloride and combined with nickel to form nickel chloride, with sodium ions then migrating from the cathode reservoir through a beta alumina separator into the anode reservoir; the reverse chemical reaction occurs during discharge.

Each cell, hermetically sealed within its own metal case, is strung together with other cells in a thermally-insulated battery module so that the battery’s external surfaces remain within 10°C to 15°C of the surrounding ambient temperature.

Project Falcon, which is partly funded through UK electricity market watchdog Ofgem, aims to develop a new computer-based modelling tool to identify the most cost-effective "smart" or "conventional" way of delivering additional network capacity to facilitate the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan.