New technology that could store heat for days or even months, helping the shift towards net zero, is the focus of a new project involving the Active Building Centre Research Programme, led by Swansea University, which has just been awarded funding of £146,000.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is funding the project through the Longer Duration Energy Storage Demonstration programme, part of the £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP).
Thermal energy storage - storing heat so it’s available when needed – has the potential to cut rocketing energy bills.
It also solves one of the main problems with renewable energy sources, known as intermittency: wind and solar power are dependent on the weather conditions. Thermal energy storage means excess energy generated at times when renewables are in abundance can be stored and released to make up future shortfalls.
The project, called Adsorb (Advanced Distributed Storage for grid Benefit), is aiming to demonstrate a modular system that could improve a building’s energy performance and reduce pressures on national energy systems. The system could be installed into new-build properties or retrofitted into existing properties.
The team will be evaluating two different types of advanced thermal energy storage technology, both of which are being pioneered by Loughborough University.
The first is Thermochemical Storage (TCS), which could provide storage for weeks - or even months - with zero heat lost. It works by drawing heat from a thermal source such as a heat pump, electrical heating element or solar thermal collector to dehydrate an active material, thereby ‘charging’ the thermal store. Once charged, the system can be cooled to ambient temperature and the energy stored. When required, moisture is reintroduced, which then releases the heat for use within the home.
The second technology is Phase Change Material (PCM). This has the potential to provide day-to-day storage of thermal energy at densities far greater than traditional technologies. The PCM system also employs a thermal source, this time to heat a chemical store to transition the solid material into its liquid form. The effect of this is to store latent heat for several days. The heat stored can be released to provide hot water or space heating simply by pumping lower temperature water through the system.
Combined with intelligent control systems, these technologies could significantly reduce consumer bills and tackle the problem of intermittency, boosting renewables and taking more carbon out of the UK’s energy supply.
The new funding will support a preliminary feasibility study, to assess the potential benefits of these technologies.
The Active Building Centre Research Programme will be working alongside Loughborough University, University of Sheffield and Mixergy.
Working with industry is a critical element of this project. Mixergy bring valuable experience of commercialising innovative technologies developed within academia, but they also have proven supply chains and distribution models which can help these technologies reach mainstream markets quickly.
Having developed, launched, and grown a market for their intelligent stratified domestic hot water tank, the Mixergy team, as part of this project, are also investigating how the proposed smart thermal storage system could be integrated with existing domestic energy systems.
Dr Ahsan Khan, Principal Investigator of the Active Building Centre Research Programme, said:
“The decarbonisation of heat simply won’t happen fast enough without innovation in thermal storage. So, to see BEIS prioritising this critical pathway, and our thermal storage team developing industrial partnerships to make these technologies a reality, feels like a huge step change on our journey to net zero.”
Greg Hands, UK Government minister, said:
“Driving forward energy storage technologies will be vital in our transition towards cheap, clean and secure renewable energy.
It will allow us to extract the full benefit from our home-grown renewable energy sources, drive down costs and end our reliance on volatile and expensive fossil fuels. Through this competition we are making sure the country’s most innovative scientists and thinkers have our backing to make this ambition a reality.”
Notes to editors
Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university offering a first-class student experience and has one of the best employability rates of graduates in the UK. The University has the highest possible rating for teaching – the Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2018 and was commended for its high proportions of students achieving consistently outstanding outcomes.
Swansea climbed 14 places to 31st in the Guardian University Guide 2019, making us Wales’ top ranked university, with one of the best success rates of graduates gaining employment in the UK and the same overall satisfaction level as the Number 1 ranked university.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results saw Swansea make the ‘biggest leap among research-intensive institutions’ in the UK (Times Higher Education, December 2014) and achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK.
The University is in the top 300 best universities in the world, ranked in the 251-300 group in The Times Higher Education World University rankings 2018. Swansea University now has 23 main partners, awarding joint degrees and post-graduate qualifications.
The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020 and aims to continue to extend its global reach and realise its domestic and international potential.
Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit www.swansea.ac.uk
For more information:
Kevin Sullivan, senior press officer, Swansea University firstname.lastname@example.org