Tag: energy storage

Capacity Market Agreements

Cruachan pylons

Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)
RNS Number : 8747R

T-4 auction – provisional results for existing pumped storage and hydro assets

Drax confirms that it has provisionally secured agreements to provide a total of 617MW of capacity (de-rated 582MW) principally from its pumped storage and hydro assets(1). The agreements are for the delivery period October 2024 to September 2025, at a price of £18/kW(2) and are worth around £10 million in that period. These are in addition to existing agreements which extend to September 2024.

T-4 auction – provisional results for new build system support assets

Drax confirms that it has provisionally secured 15-year agreements for three new 299MW (de-rated 284MW) Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) projects at sites in England and Wales(3). The agreements are for the delivery period October 2024 to September 2039, at a price of £18/kW(2) and are worth around £230 million in that period.

Artist’s impression of a Drax rapid-response gas power station (OCGT)

Artist’s impression of a rapid-response gas power station (OCGT)

These assets are intended to operate for short periods of time to meet specific system support needs. As the UK transitions towards a net zero economy, it will become increasingly dependent on wind generation and as such, fast response system support technologies such as these OCGTs are increasingly important to the energy system as a means to enable more wind to run more often and more securely.

The total capital cost of these projects is approximately £80-90 million each, with a build time of around two years.

A further OCGT project participated in the auction but exited above the clearing price and did not accept an agreement.

Drax will now evaluate options for all four OCGT projects including their potential sale.

Continued focus on biomass strategy and the development of negative emissions

In December 2019 Drax announced an ambition to become a carbon negative company by 2030 using Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and the Group remains focused on its biomass strategy. In January 2021 Drax completed the sale of its Combined Cycle Gas Generation (CCGT) assets and in March 2021 ends commercial coal generation. Drax believes that its remaining portfolio of sustainable biomass, pumped storage and hydro will be amongst the lowest carbon generation portfolios in Europe.

Enquiries

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

Pumping power: pumped storage stations around the world

Loch Awe from Cruachan

Changing the world’s energy systems is a more complex task than just replacing coal power stations with wind farms. Moving to an energy system with more intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar will require greater levels of storage that can deliver electricity when it’s needed.

One of the long-established means of storing energy and using it to generate electricity when needed is through pumped hydropower storage. With upper and lower reservoirs of water, and turbines in between, these facilities act a bit like rechargeable batteries.

When there is excess electricity on the grid, the turbines are switched on to pump water from the lower to the higher reservoir (for example up a mountain or hill) where it’s stored. When electricity is needed, the water is released to flow from the higher reservoir toward the lower reservoir, passing through the turbines which generate electricity to send back to the grid.

Greater levels of intermittent renewables on energy systems around the world will make pumped storage all the more vital in helping to balance grids. Their mountainous locations also make pumped storage stations some of the most dramatic and interesting monuments in energy.

Here are some of the most interesting pumped hydro stations generating power and pumping water up mountains in the world:

1. The largest in the world (currently)

Bath County in Virginia, USA is dense with forests and mountain retreats, but below the scenery of the Allegheny Mountains lies the world’s biggest pumped hydro power station.

View of Appalachian mountains along Highway 220 in Warm Springs, Bath County, Virginia

The Bath County Pumped Storage Station has a maximum generation capacity of more than 3 gigawatts (GW) and total storage capacity of 24 gigawatt-hours (GWh), the equivalent to the total, yearly electricity use of about 6000 homes.

Construction began in March 1977 and upon completion in December 1985, the power station had a generating capacity of 2.1 GW. However, its six turbines were upgraded between 2004 and 2009 to over 500 MW per turbine. The power station’s upper reservoir can hold 14,000,000 cubic metres (m3) of water and its water level can drop by as much as 32 metres during operations.

While the amount of earth and rock moved during the construction of the dam and facilities would make a mountain more than 300 metres tall, the actual station occupies a relatively small amount of land to minimise its impact on the environment. The water from the upper reservoir has a use beyond power too – at times of drought it’s used to supplement river flow in the recreational area that surrounds the site.

2. The future largest in the world

Bath County will not be the world’s largest pumped hydro station for much longer. While China is already home to more of the top 10 largest pumped storage power stations than any other country, the Fengning Pumped Storage Power Plant in China’s Hebei Province will take the top position when completed in 2023, thanks to its 3.6 GW capacity.

Landscape of the Bashang grassland in Hebei, China

Construction first began on the monster project in June 2013 and is being developed in two 1.8 GW stages. The first stage is scheduled for completion in 2021, when six of the 12 planned 300 MW reversable pump turbine units roar into life.

The plant will serve Beijing-Tianjin-North Hebei electrical grid and highlights the rapid growth of renewables in the region. Fengning will act as a peaking plant to balance the expansive wind and solar parks in China’s northern Hebei and Inner Mongolia regions.

China has more installed pumped hydro storage capacity than any other country, thanks in large part to its extensive mountainous terrain (which can accommodate such facilities), as well as an increasing need to support growing intermittent renewable installations. The construction of Fengning, part of a pipeline of projects, will further the country’s capabilities, helping China reach as much as 40 GW of installed capacity in the coming years.

3. Most reversable turbines

Fengning will also take the record for the most individual turbine units in a pumped storage facility when it’s finished in 2023, a title that is currently jointly held by Huizhou Pumped Storage Power Station and Guangdong Pumped Storage Power Station. These two plants are the respective second and third largest pumped storage plants in the world today, each with eight reversable turbines.

Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, China

While Guangdong Pumped Storage Power Station has a capacity of 2.4 GW, Huizhou has a slightly larger capacity of 2.448 GW. The increased number of turbines might mean more machinery to maintain and operate, but also offers the plants greater flexibility in how much electricity they absorb and generate.

4. Multiple dams and reservoirs

The Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme, located in the Drakensberg Mountains in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is a unique hydro facility thanks to its use of four dams. The Driekloof Dam, Sterkfontein Dam, Kilburn Dam and Woodstock Dam give the facility a generation capacity of 1 GW, and a total storage capacity of over 27 GWh. However, Drakensberg is not the largest facility in South Africa.

Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa

Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa

South Africa holds a total installed pumped storage capacity of nearly 3 GW from its four large facilities. The newest, and largest, is the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, which has a generation capacity of over 1.3 GW. Its name, ‘Ingula’, was inspired by the foamy river waters surrounding the facility and comes from the Zulu word for the creamy foam on the top of a milk vessel.

5. The oldest working pumped storage plant

Another country with the ideal terrain for pumped storage is Switzerland. The Alpine country’s landscape feeds water into Europe’s rivers such as the Rhine, making water a plentiful supply for the country’s energy. Hydropower as a whole accounts for around 57% of the country’s energy production and the country was one of the first to begin deploying pumped storage systems in the 1890s, although these were initially used for water management rather than supporting electricity generation.

Water dam and reservoir lake in Swiss Alps to produce hydropower

Switzerland is also home to the world’s oldest working pumped storage plant. The Engeweiher pumped storage facility was built in 1907 before reversable turbines were introduced in the 1930s. It was renewed in the early 1990s and is scheduled to continue operating until at least 2052.

6. The biggest in Europe

The Alps are also home to Europe’s biggest hydroelectric facility. In France, the Grand Maison hydroelectric power station operates in the Isère area of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and has a capacity of 1.8 GW. During peak demand, it takes only three minutes for the station to supply its full 1.8 GW of power to the National Electricity Grid of France.

Grand Maison Hydroelectric Power Station

Sitting at an altitude of 1,698 metres the majority of the water that fills the upper reservoir, created by the Grand Maison Dam, comes from melted snow. This reservoir has a storage capacity of 140,000,000 m3 of water.

7. The biggest in the UK

Across the Channel, the UK also boasts impressive hydropower and pumped storage credentials, having used water for electricity generation since 1879. The UK has a total hydropower capacity of over 4.7 GW, including 2.8 GW of pumped storage, with the wet, mountainous landscapes of Scottish Highlands and Welsh countryside particularly well suited to hydropower facilities.

Dinorwig hydroelectric power station

The largest of these is the Dinorwig Hydro Power Station which sits at the edge of Snowdonia National Park in north west Wales, although it’s hard to spot as most of the machinery is found underground. With a total capacity of over 1.7 GW, this pumped storage plant can power 2.5 million homes and is known by locals as ‘Electric Mountain’.

8. The station lying between the lochs

Surrounded by Loch Etive and Loch Nant, and perched on the north side of Loch Awe, Drax’s Cruachan Power Station was built between 1959 and 1965, 1 km inside of a hollowed-out mountain in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. Upon completion, the power station, also known as the ‘Hollow Mountain’, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and can currently generate 440 MW of hydroelectric power in 30 seconds, helping to maintain stability on the electricity grid.

Cruachan Dam in Argyll and Bute

A proposed sister station, Cruachan 2, which would stand adjacent to the existing facility, could enable Cruachan to produce up to twice as much power, increasing its support of renewables coming onto the grid.

9. The world’s smallest

The Goudemand apartment building in the city of Arras, France is home to an extremely small pumped storage hydroelectricity system, with no mountain in sight. The residential building was transformed in 2012 to become grid-independent through the installation of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and a 200 square metre (m2) open air water tank sitting on its roof. This tank, 30 metres above the ground, acts as an upper reservoir and is connected to five 10 m2 plastic water tanks in the basement, the lower reservoir.

Arras, France

While the 3.5 KWh (kilowatt-hours) capacity of the building’s micro facility is small, it provides useful knowledge to researchers, opening up the possibility of small, modular pumped storage systems to be developed and deployed at scale in the future.

The myths, legends and reality of Cruachan Power Station’s mural

Down the kilometre-long tunnel that burrows into the dark rock of Ben Cruachan, above the giant rumbling turbines, sits something unusual for a power station: a work of art.

The wood and gold-leaf mural might seem at odds with the yellow metal turbines, granite cavern walls, and noise and heat around it, but it’s closely connected to the power station and its ties to the surrounding landscape.

The entrance tunnel might take engineers and machines to the heart of Ben Cruachan, but the mural transports viewers to the mountain’s mythical past. It tells the story of how this remarkable engineering achievement came to help power the country.

The narrative of the mural

Much like the machines and physical environment surrounding it, the Cruachan mural is big, measuring 14.6 metres long by 3.6 metres tall. Combining wood, plastic and gold leaf, the relief is interspersed with Celtic crosses, textures evocative of granite rock and gold orbs that resemble the urban lights Cruachan helps to power. Running from left to right, it tells a linear narrative that spans the history of the mountain.

An artist’s impression of the mural in the Visitor Centre at Cruachan

In the first of the mural’s three segments is a Scottish red deer, a native species that still thrives in Scotland today. Below it is the figure of the Cailleach Bheur, a legendary old woman or hag found across Gaelic mythology in Scotland, Ireland and on the Isle of Man. The Cailleach has a symbolic representation of a variety of roles in different folklores, but she commonly appears as a personification of winter, and with that, as a source of destruction.

In the context of Ben Cruachan, Cailleach Bheur is often taken to mean the ‘Old Hag of The Ridges,’ a figure who acts as the mythical guardian of a spring on the mountain’s peak. The mural tells her story, of how she was tasked to cover the well with a slab of stone at sundown and lift it away at sunrise. One evening, however, she fell asleep and failed to cover the well, allowing it to overflow and cause water to cascade down the mountain, flooding the valley below and drowning the people and their cattle.

The mural within the Turbine Hall at Cruachan Power Station undergoing maintenance  [November 2018]

This serves as the legendary origins of Loch Awe, from which Cruachan power station pumps water to the upper reservoir when there’s excess electricity on the grid.

The story claims the water washed a path through to the sea, creating the Pass of Brander. The site of a 1308 battle in the Scottish Wars of Independence, where Robert the Bruce defeated the English-aligned MacDougall and Macnaghten clans.

The mythical first section of the mural is separated by a Celtic-style cross from the modern second segment, which portrays the power station’s construction within Ben Cruachan. Here, four figures represent the four lead engineers of the project from the firms James Williamson & Partners, William Tawse Ltd, Edmund Nuttall Ltd and Merz & McLellan. They stand by the mountain, a roughly cut path running through its core.

At the base of the mural are the faces of 15 men lying on their sides. These are the  15 who were killed in  1962 when the ceiling of the turbine hall caved in during construction. Their uniform expressionless faces, however, turn them into symbols of the 30-plus workers who died while digging and blasting the power station’s tunnels and constructing the dam at the upper reservoir.

Next to this is a fairy tale portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, who wears a gold grown and holds a sceptre from which electricity flows in a glowing lightning bolt through rock, commanding the power station into life.

The final third of the mural shows the whole power station system within the mountain. The upper reservoir sits nestled in the slopes of Ben Cruachan with water flowing down the mountain to the four turbines and Loch Awe below. Viewed as a whole, the mural takes the audience from mythology to the modern power station, which continues to play a vital role in the electricity system today.

Carving the Cruachan mural

The mural was created by artist Elizabeth Falconer, who was commissioned to create it to celebrate the power station’s opening by the Queen on 15 October 1965. At the time, only two of Cruachan’s four 100 megawatt (MW) reversible turbines were completed and operational, but it was still the first station of its kind to operate at such a scale. Two of the power station’s  turbines were modified with increased capacities meaning Cruachan can both use and generate up to 440 MW.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II opening Cruachan in 1965

HRH Queen Elizabeth II opening Cruachan on 15 October 1965

The project came to Falconer through her husband, a native of Aberdeen who worked as an architect partner to one of Cruachan’s engineering firms. The brief simply requested she create a piece to fill the empty space on the wall of the turbine hall. Deciding to dive into the history and mythology of the mountain, she initially carved the mural in London and only ventured into Hollow Mountain years after it was first put in place, to make renovations on the work.

Cruachan Power Station was a visionary idea and represented a considerable technical and engineering achievement when it opened. The designs and construction of the reversable turbines put this site at the cutting end of modern energy technology.

So, it’s fitting the mural appears distinctly modern in its design, yet tells a story that connects this modern power station to the ancient rock it lives within.

It’s Cruachan’s mural’s location inside the mountain that makes it so unique as a work of art. However, at a time when the electricity grid is changing to an increasingly renewable system, based more around weather and geography, the connections the mural makes between Scotland’s landscape and the modern power station, make it relevant beyond the turbine cavern.



Find out more about Cruachan Power Station

Capacity Market agreements for existing assets and review of coal generation

Drax's Kendoon Power Station, Galloway Hydro Scheme, Scotland

RNS Number : 6536B

T-3 Auction Provisional Results

Drax confirms that it has provisionally secured agreements to provide a total of 2,562MW of capacity (de-rated 2,333MW) from its existing gas, pumped storage and hydro assets(1). The agreements are for the delivery period October 2022 to September 2023, at a price of £6.44/kW(2) and are worth £15 million in that period. These are in addition to existing agreements which extend to September 2022.

Drax did not accept agreements for its two coal units(3) at Drax Power Station or the small Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) at Blackburn Mill(4) and will now assess options for these assets, alongside discussions with National Grid, Ofgem and the UK Government.

A new-build CCGT at Damhead Creek and four new-build Open Cycle Gas Turbine projects participated in the auction but exited above the clearing price and did not accept agreements.

T-4 Auction

Drax has prequalified its existing assets(5) and options for the development of new gas generation to participate in the T-4 auction, which takes place in March 2020. The auction covers the delivery period from October 2023.

CCGTs at Drax Power Station

Following confirmation that a Judicial Review will now proceed against the Government, regarding the decision to grant planning approval for new CCGTs at Drax Power Station, Drax does not intend to take a Capacity Market agreement in the forthcoming T-4 auction. This project will not participate in future Capacity Market auctions until the outcome of the Judicial Review is known.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations
Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications
Matt Willey
+44 (0) 0771 137 6087

Photo caption: Drax’s Kendoon Power Station, Galloway Hydro Scheme, Scotland

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

How will 5G revolutionise the world of energy and communications?

Smart cellular network antenna base station on the telecommunication mast on the roof of a building.

What should be made of the 5G gap? It’s the difference between what some commentators are expecting to happen thanks to this new technology and what others perhaps more realistically believe is possible in the near future.

What we call 5G is the fifth generation of mobile communications, (following 4G, 3G, etc.). It promises vastly increased data download and upload speeds, much improved coverage, along with better connectivity. This will bring with it lower latency – potentially as low as one millisecond, a 90 per cent reduction on the equivalent time for 4G – and great news for traders and gamers, along with lower unit costs.

Trading desk at Haven Power, Ipswich

The latest estimates predict that 5G will have an economic impact of $12 trillion by 2035 as mobile technology changes away from connecting people to other people and information, and towards connecting us to everything.

Some experts believe the effects of 5G will be enormous and almost instantaneous, transforming the way we live. It will have a huge effect on the internet of things, for instance, making it possible for us to live in a more instant, much more connected world with more interactions with ‘smart objects’ every day. Driverless cars that ‘talk’ to the road and virtual and augmented reality to help us as we go could become part of our everyday lives.

Others see 5G as a revolution that will begin almost immediately, but which could take many years to materialise. The principal reason for this is the sheer level of investment required.

The frequencies being used to carry the signal from the proposed 5G devices can provide an enormous amount of bandwidth, and carry unimaginable amounts of data at incredible speeds. But they cannot carry it very far. And the volume of devices connected to this network will be enormous. The BBC estimates that between 50 and 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020 – more than 12 for every single person on Earth.

So in order to support the huge increase in connectivity that is anticipated a reality, there will be a need for a comparably large increase in the number of base stations – with as many as 500,000 more estimated to be needed in the UK alone. That’s around three times as many base stations as required for 4G.

To carry the amount of data anticipated without catastrophic losses in signal quality will require the stations to be no more than 500m apart. While that may be technically possible in cities, it will only happen as a result of huge amounts of investment. And what will happen in the countryside, with its lower population density? It seems doubtful in the extreme that any corporation will regard it as a potentially profitable business decision to build a network of base stations half a kilometre apart in areas where few of their customers live. And that’s without taking into account the town and country planning system or the views of residents, who may not welcome new base stations near their homes.

Until this year, the only two workable examples of functional 5G networks are one built by Samsung in Seoul, South Korea, and another by Huawei in Moscow in advance of the 2020 Football World Cup. Although the first UK mobile networks have now begun to offer the new communications standard, 5G is still clearly a long way from being able to deliver on its potential.

What will 5G mean for the world of energy?

A report from Accenture contains a number of predictions about how 5G may change the energy world by helping to increase energy efficiency overall and accelerating the development of the Smart Grid.

  1. 5G uses less power than previous generations of wireless technology

This means that less energy will be used for each individual connection, which will take less time to complete than with 4G devices, thereby saving energy and ultimately money too. It is important to remember that even though such savings will be significant, they will need to be offset against the huge global increase in communications through 5G-connected devices.

  1. Accelerating the Smart Grid to improve forecasting

5G has the potential to help us manage energy generation and transmission more efficiently, and therefore more cost-effectively.

The report’s authors anticipate that “By allowing many unconnected energy-consuming devices to be integrated into the grid through low-cost 5G connections, 5G enables these devices to be more accurately monitored to support better forecasting of energy needs.

  1. Improve demand side management and reduce costs

 “By connecting these energy-consuming devices using a smart grid, demand-side management will be further enhanced to support load balancing, helping reduce electricity peaks and ultimately energy costs.”

  1. Manage energy infrastructure more efficiently and reduce downtime

By sharing data about energy use through 5G connections, the new technology can help ensure that spending on energy infrastructure is managed more efficiently, based on data, in order to reduce the amount of downtime.

And in the event of any failure, smart grid technology connected by 5G will be able to provide an instant diagnosis – right to the level of which pylon or transmitter is the cause of an outage – making it easier to remedy the situation and get the grid up and running again.

5G could even help turn street lighting off at times when there are no pedestrians or vehicles in the area, again reducing energy use, carbon emissions, and costs. Accenture estimate that in the US alone, this technology has the potential to save as much as $1 billion every year.

More data, more power

Although 5G devices themselves may demand less power than the telecoms technology it they will eventually replace, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

More connected devices with more data flowing between them relies on more data centres. This has led some data centres to sign Power Purchase Agreements to both reduce the cost of their insatiable desire for electricity and also ensure its provenance.

Data centre

As well as data centres, the more numerous base stations needed for 5G will consume a lot of power. One global mobile network provider says just to operate its existing base stations leads to a £650m electricity bill annually, accounting for 65% of its overall power consumption.

Base station tower

Contrary to the findings of the Accenture report, a recent estimate has put the power requirement of an individual 5G base station at three times that of a 4G. Keeping in mind that three of these are needed for every existing base station, the analysis by Zhengmao Li of China Mobile, suggests a nine-fold increase in electricity consumption just for that key part of a 5G network.

With the Great Britain power system decarbonising at a rapid pace, the additional power required to electrify the economy with new technologies shouldn’t have a negative environmental impact – at least when it comes to energy generation.

However, as we use ever-more powerful and numerous devices, we need to ensure our power system has the flexibility to deliver electricity whatever the weather conditions. This means a smarter grid with more backup power in the form of spinning turbines and storage.

What is a fuel cell and how will they help power the future?

A model fuel cell car

NASA Museum, Houston, Texas

How do you get a drink in space? That was one of the challenges for NASA in the 1960s and 70s when its Gemini and Apollo programmes were first preparing to take humans into space.

The answer, it turned out, surprisingly lay in the electricity source of the capsules’ control modules. Primitive by today’s standard, these panels were powered by what are known as fuel cells, which combined hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity. The by-product of this reaction is heat but also water – pure enough for astronauts to drink.

Fuel cells offered NASA a much better option than the clunky batteries and inefficient solar arrays of the 1960s, and today they still remain on the forefront of energy technology, presenting the opportunity to clean up roads, power buildings and even help to reduce and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power stations.

Power through reaction

At its most basic, a fuel cell is a device that uses a fuel source to generate electricity through a series of chemical reactions.

All fuel cells consist of three segments, two catalytic electrodes – a negatively charged anode on one side and a positively charged cathode on the other, and an electrolyte separating them. In a simple fuel cell, hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is pumped to one electrode and oxygen to the other. Two different reactions then occur at the interfaces between the segments which generates electricity and water.

What allows this reaction to generate electricity is the electrolyte, which selectively transports charged particles from one electrode to the other. These charged molecules link the two reactions at the cathode and anode together and allow the overall reaction to occur. When the chemicals fed into the cell react at the electrodes, it creates an electrical current that can be harnessed as a power source.

Many different kinds of chemicals can be used in a fuel cell, such as natural gas or propane instead of hydrogen. A fuel cell is usually named based on the electrolyte used. Different electrolytes selectively transport different molecules across. The catalysts at either side are specialised to ensure that the correct reactions can occur at a fast enough rate.

For the Apollo missions, for example, NASA used alkaline fuel cells with potassium hydroxide electrolytes, but other types such as phosphoric acids, molten carbonates, or even solid ceramic electrolytes also exist.

The by-products to come out of a fuel cell all depend on what goes into it, however, their ability to generate electricity while creating few emissions, means they could have a key role to play in decarbonisation.

Fuel cells as a battery alternative

Fuel cells, like batteries, can store potential energy (in the form of chemicals), and then quickly produce an electrical current when needed. Their key difference, however, is that while batteries will eventually run out of power and need to be recharged, fuel cells will continue to function and produce electricity so long as there is fuel being fed in.

One of the most promising uses for fuel cells as an alternative to batteries is in electric vehicles.

Rachel Grima, a Research and Innovation Engineer at Drax, explains:

“Because it’s so light, hydrogen has a lot of potential when it comes to larger vehicles, like trucks and boats. Whereas battery-powered trucks are more difficult to design because they’re so heavy.”

These vehicles can pull in oxygen from the surrounding air to react with the stored hydrogen, producing only heat and water vapour as waste products. Which – coupled with an expanding network of hydrogen fuelling stations around the UK, Europe and US – makes them a transport fuel with a potentially big future.

Fuel cells, in conjunction with electrolysers, can also operate as large-scale storage option. Electrolysers operate in reverse to fuel cells, using excess electricity from the grid to produce hydrogen from water and storing it until it’s needed. When there is demand for electricity, the hydrogen is released and electricity generation begins in the fuel cell.

A project on the islands of Orkney is using the excess electricity generated by local, community-owned wind turbines to power a electrolyser and store hydrogen, that can be transported to fuel cells around the archipelago.

Fuel cells’ ability to take chemicals and generate electricity is also leading to experiments at Drax for one of the most important areas in energy today: carbon capture.

Turning COto power

Drax is already piloting bioenergy carbon capture and storage technologies, but fuel cells offer the unique ability to capture and use carbon while also adding another form of electricity generation to Drax Power Station.

“We’re looking at using a molten carbonate fuel cell that operates on natural gas, oxygen and CO2,” says Grima. “It’s basic chemistry that we can exploit to do carbon capture.”

The molten carbonate, a 600 degrees Celsius liquid made up of either lithium potassium or lithiumsodium carbonate sits in a ceramic matrix and functions as the electrolyte in the fuel cell. Natural gas and steam enter on one side and pass through a reformer that converts them into hydrogen and CO2.

On the other side, flue gas – the emissions (including biogenic CO2) which normally enter the atmosphere from Drax’s biomass units – is captured and fed into the cell alongside air from the atmosphere. The CO2and oxygen (O2) pass over the electrode where they form carbonate (CO32-) which is transported across the electrolyte to then react with the hydrogen (H2), creating an electrical charge.

“It’s like combining an open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) with carbon capture,” says Grima. “It has the electrical efficiency of an OCGT. But the difference is it captures COfrom our biomass units as well as its own CO2.”

Along with capturing and using CO2, the fuel cell also reduces nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from the flue gas, some of which are destroyed when the O2and CO2 react at the electrode.

From the side of the cell where flue gas enters a CO2-depleted gas is released. On the other side of the cell the by-products are water and CO2.

During a government-supported front end engineering and design (FEED) study starting this spring, this COwill also be captured, then fed through a pipeline running from Drax Power Station into the greenhouse of a nearby salad grower. Here it will act to accelerate the growth of tomatoes.

The partnership between Drax, FuelCell Energy, P3P Partners and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy could provide an additional opportunity for the UK’s biggest renewable power generator to deploy bioenergy carbon capture usage and storage (BECCUS) at scale in the mid 2020s.

From powering space ships in the 70s to offering greenhouse-gas free transport, fuel cells continue to advance. As low-carbon electricity sources become more important they’re set to play a bigger role yet.

Learn more about carbon capture, usage and storage in our series:

The small devices that use lots of power and the big buildings that don’t

When Texas Instruments set about attempting to create the world’s first handheld calculator in the early sixties, it estimated that such a complicated device might require a battery as big and powerful as a car’s.

With some innovative thinking, the team were eventually able to power the device with just a five-volt battery, turning the calculator into a truly handheld device and kickstarting an electronics efficiency revolution. Continuous advances in the space mean that today’s super-powered smartphones run on more efficient, powerful – and smaller – sources than ever before.

But as more of our devices become ‘smart’ and grow in usage, their electricity demand is also increasing. On the other hand, many bigger objects that traditionally have used a lot of power are becoming more efficient and consuming less electricity than before.

The small devices eating up electricity

Think of the most electricity-intensive appliance in a home. Something constantly running like a fridge-freezer might come to mind – or something intensive that operates in short blasts like a hairdryer or kettle.

However, a surprising drain of electricity in homes is TV set-top boxes and consoles, which as recently as 2016 were reported to account for as much as half of all electricity usage by domestic electronics. This is because of how often they are left in standby mode, which means they are constantly using a small amount of electricity.

In 1999 the International Energy Agency (IEA) introduced the One Watt Initiative, which led to the electricity consumption of many devices on standby falling from around five watts to below one watt. And while this has helped reduce standby or ‘vampire power’, multiplied across the country – the electricity consumption becomes significant (in the UK there are an estimated 27 million TVs).

This is not just a TV-specific problem, however, it is symptomatic of many of the modern devices increasingly found in our homes, from smart lightbulbs to Amazon’s Alexa. These are constantly using small amounts of electricity, listening and connecting to the cloud even when not being directly used.

In 2014 the IEA estimated that by 2020 these networked-devices could result in $120 billion in wasted electricity. Adding to this is the increasing demand of the cloud and data storage, which has been estimated could account for 20% of the world’s electricity consumption by 2025.

Previous alarm bells surrounding the bitcoin network’s electricity usage highlights that it’s not just physical, connected objects that will put increasing pressure on electricity supply, but also entirely digital products.

Yet even as little things become smarter and require more electricity, some big things that have previously consumed huge amounts of electricity are becoming more efficient.

The big things becoming more efficient   

Buildings are a big source of electricity demand globally. Office blocks full of lights and blasting heating and air-conditioning units are among the main offenders, but poorly insulated homes that leak heat also have a significant impact.

Efforts are constantly being undertaken to reduce this via technological means such as companies generating their own electricity onsite from installed renewables. But cutting interstitial demand to a minimum doesn’t always have to be hi-tech.

The Bullitt Centre in Seattle is a 50,000 ft2office aiming to be ‘the greenest commercial building  in the world’. This is achieved in part through a rooftop solar array that allows the building to generate more electricity than it consumes, but is complimented by more straightforward steps such as maximising natural light and ventilation, collecting rainwater, and the use of geothermal heat pumps. On average the building consumes 230,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh)/year compared to the average of 1,077,000 KWh/year for Seattle offices.

Retrofitting can also make notable reductions to energy usage and New York art-deco icon, the Empire State Building, has been updated to consume 40% less electricity. This is largely thanks to straightforward renovations such as ensuring windows open properly and temperatures can be easily controlled.

Energy efficiency is even extending beyond the confines of the planet. The International Space station only consumes about 90 kW to run, which comes from a solar array stretching more than 2,400m2. When its solar panels are operational about 60% of their generation is used to refill batteries for when the station is in the Earth’s shadow.

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah

Technology like this will be essential if humans are going to put buildings on other planets where we will not have vast electricity generation and transmission systems we enjoy on earth. And if that is the ambition, continuously striving for ever more efficient devices on a smarter power grid is only going to help progress us further.

Result of General Meeting

RNS Number : 2803L
Drax Group PLC
No.Brief DescriptionVotes For%Votes Against%Votes TotalVotes Withheld
1. To approve the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of ScottishPower Generation Limited268,580,49485.7544,619,02714.25313,199,52121,841

The resolution was carried. Completion of the acquisition is expected to occur on 31 December 2018.

The number of shares in issue is 407,193,168 (of which 12,867,349 are held in treasury. Treasury shares don’t carry voting rights).

Votes withheld are not a vote in law and have not been counted in the calculation of the votes for and against the resolution, the total votes validly cast or the calculation of the proportion of issued share capital voted.

A copy of the resolution is available for inspection in the Circular, which was previously submitted to the UK Listing Authority’s Document Viewing Facility, via the National Storage Mechanism at www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/NSM.

The Circular and the voting results are also available on the Company’s website at www.drax.com/northamerica.

Enquiries

Drax Investor Relations

Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 1757 612 491
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media, Drax External Communications

Matt Willey
+44 (0) 7711 376 087

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

END

Dude, where’s my autonomous car? How self-driving vehicles will impact electricity

The self-driving car is a sci-fi stalwart. The blend of familiar vehicle combined with advanced-artificial intelligence makes it a perfect symbol of a not-too-distant future which is fast approaching. But what a sci-fi movie is unlikely to show is a self-driving car pulling over for half an hour to fill its tank or recharge its batteries.

As autonomous vehicles gradually inch into our everyday life, the question of how they will be powered arises, as does whether they will be capable of refuelling or recharging without a helping human hand.

With governments around the world setting ambitious targets for the phasing out of diesel and petrol car sales, it’s safe to assume the driverless vehicles of the future will be electric.

But will they be able to charge themselves? More than that, how would a large influx of these cars coming onto our roads affect our national electricity demand and emissions?

How will driverless cars charge themselves?

Development is already well underway to bring human-free charging to the auto world with a variety of approaches being trialled:

  • Robotic charging points

The most straightforward way to enable self-driving electric vehicles (EVs) to charge themselves is through updating existing infrastructure. Adding on robotic limbs to standard charge points would be one way of removing the need for human hands. Tesla previously demonstrated a porotype of a snake-like arm that plugs into its vehicle’s charge points that does exactly this. 

  • Under-car charging

Easier than flailing robotic arms is the idea of charging cars from underneath a parked car. Unsurprisingly, Tesla has patented a version of the technology, too.

While building the technology into the ground adds complications, it could potentially allow cars to be charged while moving – which is exactly what one road in Sweden is doing.

The two kilometre stretch outside Stockholm features a metal track that an arm under EVs can connect to – much like a Scalextric track. The route is divided into 50-metre sections which are electrified separately as vehicles travel over them. Sweden is now planning to roll the concept out nationally.

  • Wireless charging

A step up from under-car charging, wireless technology uses inductive charging rather than physically connecting with the car, and can be installed into parking spaces, or be set into the tarmac.

The problem with this is it’s not as fast as directly connecting with the car. However, implemented at scale, entire roads could constantly charge vehicles when they need a top up.

It would mean that rather than taking EVs home and plugging them in, the city and roads themselves would charge it. But even the idea of keeping a car at home might fade as cars become increasingly autonomous.

Rethinking vehicle ownership

As more of the world’s population move to cities and they grow increasingly congested, car ownership is declining – a trend being further fueled by ridesharing services, like Uber, Lyft and Didi Chuxing in China.

And as services such as these continue to grow in popularity, it could point to a future where rather than owning self-driving cars, they will be shared among urban populations. Lyft Strategist Raj Kapoor suggested the reduced cost of maintenance of shared EVs would make rides cheap enough for the average person to ride in every day.

This could result in fewer cars on the roads as intelligent systems allow them to coordinate sharing across the population, which in turn could lead to a reduction in demand for charging. However, the more intense computing power needed in self-driving vehicles means they will each use more electricity than a standard EV.

Powering these sufficiently will depend on technology and coordination, rather than producing significantly more electricity.

Smarter cars, smarter cities, smarter electricity

Changes in car ownership could mean the total reshaping of cities. If cars don’t need to park for long periods of times on central roadsides and in garages, vehicles could instead be stored on the outskirts of cities when demand for transport is low and make their way into towns as people begin commuting.

This vision of cars, seemingly independently rolling around cities to exactly where they’re needed, depends not on a single car reacting to a single command, but to a network of data points connected to almost every aspect of a city. More than this, there’s even potential these cars could provide power as well as use it.

Vehicle-to-gird (V2G) technology means they can essentially act as batteries and return electricity to the grid when needed. A fully connected network of autonomous cars, linked to buildings, cities and entire electricity networks could be used to help meet demand on a local or national scale, helping avoid fossil fuel usage at times of stress.

While increasing EV usage will likely contribute to an increase in electricity demand, self-driving, smarter vehicles will ensure power is used at efficiently as possible and reduce the number of cars drawing electricity from the grid.

It ultimately means global investment in the charging infrastructure that will create a more connected and economical transport system, which will make widespread EV and autonomous cars a reality.