SSE Renewables has announced plans to develop a 150MW battery storage facility on the site of a former coal-fired power plant in West Yorkshire in the north of the UK. The conversion of former coal plants into net-zero projects has become a growing area of interest as renewable developers can benefit from pre-existing infrastructure and workforces.

In this case, SSE Renewables decommissioned the coal plant in question (Ferrybridge) in 2016. Construction on the battery plant is due to begin later this month with Ferrybridge’s reconnection to the grid confirmed for June 2024. Sungrow Power Supply will supply battery technology alongside construction partner OCU services. Lewis Li, president of Sungrow Europe, said that it will provide its “liquid cooled energy storage system, the PowerTitan, to this landmark project”.

The conversion of coal power plants to net zero

In the US earlier this year, $160m (£127.63m) in initial funding from the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) was awarded to TerraPower and X-Energy to build two advanced nuclear reactors that will be operational before 2028. Both companies have said they are looking at coal plant-to-nuclear conversion.

Additionally, in the UK, a number of disused coal mines have been recommissioned to provide heating to nearby homes and businesses. Water can be heated in the pre-existing mine networks, which can offer a sustainable alternative to gas boilers. The UK Government has set a target of no new gas boilers in new-build housing and businesses by 2025.

Drax, now the largest renewables developer in the UK, announced last month that its power plant in North Yorkshire will no longer use coal. Instead “sustainable biomass” will be used to power the plant. The company is also looking to install carbon capture and storage, according to Will Gardiner, Drax’s CEO.

“The global momentum for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass is growing as more countries work to reduce their emissions by moving away from fossil fuels to renewables while maintaining their energy security. In recent months, new projects have been announced in countries from Japan to Hungary,” Gardiner added.

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According to Richard Cave-Bigley, director of solar and battery at SSE renewables, the new battery storage project “located next to the former Ferrybridge coal power station” clearly demonstrates “the transition to net zero while supporting new green jobs”. SSE renewables will develop the site as part of its $31bn Net Zero Acceleration Programme. SSE Renewables has almost 2GW of battery and solar projects currently in development or under construction.