How Centrica's new 'peaking' power station will complement renewables growth

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 8 Oct 2018

A new power station built to dovetail with the increasing scale of renewable energy generation has been opened on the South Bank.

Centrica’s new 50MW fast response plant can provide electricity for 50,000 homes in less than two minutes, and is the first part of a four-phase £180 million investment in flexible answers to meet the challenging new demands of the energy sector.

Built beside the existing power plant at Brigg, which can be up and running in less than 20 minutes, five huge gas-fired engines – kept at a constant 60 degrees centigrade – wait for the call at peak times, with the first coming on Wednesday following commissioning trails that began in July.

Mark Futyan, Centrica’s distributed energy systems director, said: “This is designed to start very quickly, it starts in under two minutes. Most take 20 minutes to two hours from cold to run. This takes two minutes and can do it very efficiently too.

“It is very important in the new energy landscape. More and more renewables are coming on the system, and there are going to be times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, and at these times we need to ramp up very quickly and respond, and this is what this plant does.”

It comes just 24 hours after proposals to double Grimsby’s Race Bank offshore wind farm were announced, with the town soon to control 8GW of installed capacity out of the Humber.

The Brigg site has a twin sister at Peterborough, and the £180 million also included a 50MW state-of-the-art battery at Roosecote, Cumbria, and the refurbishment of the 370MW combined cycle gas-powered plant at King’s Lynn, Norfolk. The investment was announced in December 2016, with work starting 

Constituency MP Nic Dakin was invited to cut the ribbon alongside Mr Futyan, by the control room door, after hearing how it was delivered on time, and on budget, at a rapid pace, having won a 15-year capacity market contract with the Government to underpin the investment

He said: “Centrica’s continued commitment to the Brigg site is positive for the area. As the amount of our energy that comes from renewable sources rightly grows the sort of flexible supply from new gas stations like this one at Brigg will be a crucial part of ensuring energy security and supply across peaks of demand.

“I know this will make a significant contribution as we move to more renewables. It is absolutely crucial that we can get energy to the grid in less than two minutes. We are in the Energy Estuary, and it shows how important it is to open an energy plant here."

Centrica station manager David Theakstone. 

A team of 16 work in Brigg, with the investment ensuring the maintenance team remains on site, albeit not creating new jobs, with a 100-strong team overseeing the build.

Centrica’s Lee Read, head of engineering and projects, led the projects. Living in northern Lincolnshire, though now based in Windsor, he was previously site manager of the South Humber Bank power station, before it was sold to EPI-UK. 

The five huge engines, weighing more than a Boeing 757, arrived from Vaasa, Finland, travelling 1,586 nautical miles to get to Immingham, completing the final miles by road convoy.

Melle Kruisdijk, European vice president for Wärtsilä Energy Solutions, the supplier, said: “It is a great pleasure for us to be here at the inauguration of the Brigg plant. Technological developments are leading us to continuous reductions of cost and as a result we are seeing more and more renewables coming on line, which is a really good thing for the economy, for our families, for our children.

“To make it work in a safe manner we need flexibility and security. This plant at Brigg provides the flexibility we want in a reliable and safe manner. We’re really happy to be part of the solution, and congratulate Centrica on the foresight. The engines here today in 15 to 20 years will still be a viable and reliable part of the system.” 

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