Hundreds of Asda supermarket stores will help power the UK’s electricity system this winter by using their fridges as a virtual battery pack for the energy grid.

Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain has signed up 300 stores and 18 distribution depots to schemes which can earn the grocery giant extra revenue while helping to balance the electricity grid.

Under the long-term deal with National Grid the supermarket’s nationwide networks of freezer aisles and storage fridges will make up a 13-megawatt power source – enough energy to power about 8,500 homes.

Asda has also signed up to a trial which could mean its fridges are called on at only 10 minutes’ notice to act as a safety net if there is an unexpected power station outage.

Peter Smith, Asda’s energy manager, said the deals were a “no-brainer” for the supermarket, which can easily cut the electricity to its fridges and air conditioning when needed while keeping the temperature of its stores stable.

All industrial fridges are turned off at least once a day as part of a standard defrost cycle but new technology means supermarkets can earn extra revenue by matching the downtime to Britain’s energy needs.

The supermarket is working with Flexitricity, a specialist Edinburgh-based energy firm, which uses technology to aggregate the energy potential of companies across the country.

Tesco is also undertaking trials to test whether cold food could prove to be Britain’s largest battery by using mini-power cuts to its freezer aisles to help balance the grid.

If Tesco harnessed all its fridges across the UK it could create a virtual battery of between 25MW and 50MW, which is on a par with the batteries attracting interest from major energy companies.

National Grid pays out about £1bn worth of contracts through its ‘energy capacity market’.  Most are awarded to power plants so they are ready to ramp up their generation but they can also be given to companies which can cut their electricity use to help reduce overall demand on the grid.

 

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