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'First of its kind' Drax inertia contract commences with National Grid ESO

Image: Drax.

Image: Drax.

Drax’s Cruachan Power Station has started to provide National Grid ESO with inertia as part of a six-year contract.

One of the generating units of the Cruachan hydroelectric pumped storage plant has been contracted to provide support services such as inertia to help the security of the grid.

It was announced earlier this year, with National Grid awarding the contracts – worth £328 million – to five companies, including Statkraft, Triton, Rassau Grid Services (Welsh Power) and Uniper.

Drax will provide the inertia by using a small amount of power to spin the unit’s turbine 600 times per minute. It will help manage changes in grid frequency without generating electricity.

Finding new ways of providing inertia is becoming more of a priority as decarbonisation accelerates. Traditionally, inertia is provided by the large fossil fuel generators, which typically have the spinning parts that can create the inertia using the kinetic energy generated.

As more and more renewables come onto the grid, that source of inertia is therefore lost.

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, said that Cruachan has played a “critical role” in the growth of renewables over the past decade, with this new contract to enable more wind and solar to come onto the grid in the coming years.

The five contracts are to provide 12.5GVA seconds of inertia, equivalent to the amount that would have been provided by five coal-fired power stations.

Julian Leslie, head of networks at National Grid ESO, lauded the contracts are being “cheaper and greener” and praised the emissions reductions and savings for electricity customers, which could come to £128 million over the six years.

“This approach – creating a market for inertia and other stability services – is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is a huge step forward in our ambition to be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free by 2025.”

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