One of the UK’s first battery energy plants has just gone online at E.ON’s Blackburn Meadows biomass plant between Sheffield and Rotherham.

The 10 megawatt (MW) lithium-ion battery is the size of four shipping containers. It puts out the same power as 100 family cars and holds the same amount of energy as 500,000 mobile phone batteries.

“This is a milestone for E.ON in the new energy world and an important recognition of the enormous potential for battery solutions in the UK,” said David Topping, director of business heat and power solutions at E.ON.

“Having undergone successful grid testing by National Grid we are the first EFR operator to complete the installation and bring our system online. The success of this project, two months ahead of plan, is tribute to the excellent work done by colleagues across E.ON as well as our contractors.”

The battery plant will help keep power supplies stable and balance the range of power generation sources feeding into the UK’s national grid. As well as helping to make more efficient use of renewable energy sources, the batteries will also be able to provide extra power to the network at times of peak demand as part of the Capacity Market.

Work began on site in January and was completed in September, two months ahead of programme.

The Blackburn Meadows battery was successful in National Grid’s Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR) tender to deliver technologies capable of responding in less than one second at times of either an over- or under-supply of energy to the grid.

Power supply and demand on the UK grid have to be matched closely in real-time to maintain a safe frequency so household electrical appliances function properly. Balancing the grid is becoming more challenging because the growing range of renewable generation sources make the electricity system less stable and more prone to changes in frequency.

Battery systems work by immediately discharging power to the network when the frequency falls – either when supply drops or when demand increases – bringing the frequency back up. The battery is also available to take power off the network if supply is greater than demand.

Leon Walker, Commercial Development Manager at National Grid, added: “Using battery storage is a significant development for managing the national grid. It’s an ultra-fast way of keeping electricity supply and demand balanced. Over four years we estimate that this service will save the system operator around £200m. This is good news for consumers who benefit from our cost efficiencies, and paves the way for battery technology to establish itself as an important component of our energy system.”