On Friday, Britain experienced its most severe power outage in more than a decade, resulting in almost a million homes without electricity and major disruption to travel across the country, affecting trains, railways, roads and airports. Timing of the blackout was also extremely unfortunate, starting just before the evening rush hour as people made their way home to start their weekends.
The outage was a result of a large and unexpected drop in the grid’s frequency, which should stay at 50Hz to maintain the energy system. With the failure of two large generators, an automatic response was triggered to temporarily disconnect electric for safety and network stability reasons.
Understandably, when a power cut happens, essential services like transport and hospitals are immediately affected, the consequences of which heighten in a short space of time. In a scenario like this, time is of the essence.
As serious as the outage was, it could have been far more disastrous if battery storage hadn’t kicked in to provide energy to the grid. When energy supply is affected, companies like Foresight provide a grid frequency stability service to the National Grid, meaning that when the power drops, our battery storage plants are ready and waiting to remedy the problem and get the nation back up and running.
What happened next on Friday evening was just that, within a split second of the outage, our two battery storage facilities of 45MW kicked in to restore the frequency to 50Hz, which took just a couple of minutes.
An unexpected incident such as this is a clear example of the role that battery storage plays in a modern energy grid. The impact of the outage has put further pressure on the National Grid to future proof the system to avoid a scenario such as this happening again. Critics emphasise that the most recent blackout and the ensuing chaos should serve as a warning and a lesson to the grid.
As the grid continues to modernise, we expect to see much more integration of electricity storage facilities and cooperation between storage providers like Foresight and the grid to stabilise the electricity supply and keep the nation’s lights on when the unexpected happens.