From dirty coal to state-of-the art battery storage

By Mark Futyan
Distributed Power Systems Director

Our Distributed Power Systems Director, Mark Futyan, explains how one site in Cumbria is playing its part in shaping the energy landscape of the future.

This week, I was invited onto BBC Radio Five Live to share some insights on how Centrica is playing its part in a cleaner, greener future for the UK. Part of the station’s ‘Cool Planet’ series, the discussion focused on how the UK’s existing energy infrastructure can be transformed into a technologically advanced system fit for the future. 

One of the best examples of this type of evolution in practice is our work at Roosecote in Cumbria where, just before Christmas, I was proud to announce the completion of a major project to construct one of the largest and most sophisticated battery storage facilities in Europe. 

The new storage system contains over 100,000 battery cells and can meet the needs of around 50,000 homes and businesses when discharging, responding in less than a second. Rather than producing power like a traditional power station would, the plant helps to manage the frequency of the grid. It’s a delicate balancing act - not a million miles away from tuning into the right frequency of a radio station pre-DAB - and an essential part of supporting the increasing amount of renewable generation on the system, which due to its intermittent nature, creates new challenges we need to solve as we decarbonise. Energy storage is thus the unsung hero of the low carbon transition. 

This isn’t the first time that Roosecote has undergone a radical makeover. When it first opened in the 1950s the plant was coal-powered, and as the UK shifted towards the use of gas – a cleaner fuel source – the plant was transformed into a first-of-its-kind gas-fired power station.

Today the site is operated remotely from our Energy Centre in Peterborough. From this central site we’re able to manage a portfolio of projects, both owned by us and on behalf of our business customers, bringing together multiple assets and operating them as a single unit – forming what we call a ‘virtual power plant’ or VPP.

At Centrica, we believe the principle of VPPs in place of traditional centralised power plants will be an important part of the future energy landscape, both here in the UK and around the world. By unlocking the power of digitisation and connectivity, a single control centre can coordinate the production and storage of energy, and even combine those assets with customer load to unlock revenues for businesses in exchange for offering flexibility to the grid.

If it sounds complicated, it is! But one thing I think is clear is that the UK is making huge strides to deliver cleaner, greener solutions to how we all use power, and I am exceptionally proud to know that Roosecote is part of that.

Listen to the recording of my BBC Radio 5 Live Interview - fast forward to the 40 minute mark.