GE has entered the grid battery big leagues after being selected to provide a 41-megawatt plant in the U.K. The deal is part of a new strategic partnership with Arenko, a British energy infrastructure developer.

The plant, due to begin operation in the second half of this year, “will integrate GE's and Arenko's advanced control technologies and will be commercially operated though Arenko's software to digitally deploy energy and access multiple services and system needs,” according to the company.

The battery system's reliability and performance will be underpinned and protected by GE's long-term support, it noted.

The project was billed as “one of the largest in the U.K. and globally, with the ability to provide affordable, on-demand power to the equivalent of approximately 100,000 U.K. homes.”

Rupert Newland, Arenko Group’s chief executive, confirmed the plant would be based on lithium-ion battery technology and would deliver services to the U.K.’s National Grid.

“GE's domain knowledge in the batteries space enables [only a] few others to rely upon direct duration and degradation testing of the used batteries, rather than just on the commercial provisions by the battery vendors,” he said. 

Although the companies remained tight-lipped about the location and energy capacity of the plant, Arenko is known to have prequalified a 41-megawatt energy storage project in the U.K. T-4 capacity market register for 2021-2022. 

The project is listed in the register as "Arenko Bloxwich" in Walsall, in England’s West Midlands.

The listing gives Bloxwich a derated capacity of 21.4 megawatts, which, based on the U.K. National Grid’s derating factors, would equate to a storage duration of 1.5 hours, or 61.5 megawatt-hours.   

Besides Bloxwich, four other Arenko storage projects are listed as prequalified in the T-4 capacity market register. They are the 49.9-megawatt Pensnett project and four plants in Edinburgh, totaling 59.8 megawatts, all apparently with 1.5 hours of storage. 

It is unclear who would supply the batteries for these plants, if the projects proceed, but press materials stressed that the relationship between Arenko and GE is intended to be more than a one-off.

“As a leading owner and operator of grid-scale battery systems in the U.K., we are delighted to have established this strategic alliance with GE to deliver large-scale battery energy storage projects,” said Newland. 

“We share the same focus and commitment to the sector, and we have been very impressed by GE’s world-class technology and project delivery of energy storage systems across the globe.” 

GE has been chipping away at the energy storage market for more than a decade, but has struggled to gain traction as it has in wind power. 

In 2007, GE bought a British sodium-metal-chloride battery firm called Beta Research and Development, which was rebranded Durathon. However, “there was a lack of a market for energy storage at the time,” a GE insider acknowledged to GTM last month.  

In 2015, GE mothballed the Durathon brand and started to focus on lithium-ion battery systems instead. Business is better in this area.

In October 2016, for example, GE installed a 30-megawatt/20-megawatt-hour battery system in the Imperial Irrigation District in California.

The system was later used to black-start the district’s El Centro 44-megawatt combined-cycle gas turbine in what GE claimed was a world first. GE said the Arenko installation would be its 19th commercial grid-scale battery project, and its largest so far.

In the meantime, though, other industrial leaders have been racing to build market share in energy storage. Siemens, for instance, recently launched Fluence, its joint venture with AES, featuring a project portfolio of almost 500 megawatts of storage deployed or awarded. 

In press materials, Mirko Molinari, global commercial and marketing executive for energy storage at GE Power, said the Arenko alliance “cements two years of working together towards creating a battery storage solution which addresses the needs of a modern energy system.”