12 February 2019 15:18
A ground-breaking new technology which aims to deliver much needed relief to the National Grid, has been recognised at the UK Energy Innovation Awards. The Energivault™ Project, which GGS was prominently involved in from the outset, is an exciting development for industrial refrigeration (currently using around 16% of the UK's electrical output) and the ever increasing requirement for Ice Energy storage within this sector.
The Energivault team had become increasingly aware of the pressure that has been placed on the National Grid through the government-backed push to have clean energy and subsequently place a heavy reliance upon renewable energy sources. While much publicity has been made about the fundamental need for these technologies to become the future of electricity production, what has not been so paramount is the fact that many (such as wind power) are intermittent and therefore the periods of generating maximum output do not coincide with periods of peak use (for instance when everyone goes to put the kettle on during an advert break). This has become known as "wrong time" energy and is certainly one of the current limitations on the growth of renewable energy as a clean alternative within the UK. With the expertise of the team being within the water and refrigeration industries, it was decided that a proof of concept would be developed to offer an "ice battery" solution to this problem. While the the headlines have been dominated by 'Elon Musk Lithium-Ion' batteries, an ice battery can offer just as sustainable a solution. These batteries seek to offer relief to the electrical needs of industrial refrigeration through building up a 'battery' of stored cooling energy. The team developed a novel approach to storing this cooling energy at peak generation times in a unit that can then discharge when demand (and the price of electricity) increases. It does this using heat pumps (a speciality of GGS) in a different configuration and optimised for refrigeration. The resulting EnergiVault unit is an effective bank for energy that can be charged and discharged frequently without loss of performance. The Proof of Concept work for this project was partly funded by a grant from the Innovus Technology Investment Fund (administered by the University of Manchester School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering). Dr Frank Allison of Innovus commented on the project "I was impressed by the project team's ability to deliver what they had said they would, to schedule and with clarity on both the technology and its commercial potential". While he went on to confirm the growing need for these types of technology "I have been involved for 20 years in the commercialisation of early stage technologies and it would appear that this technology has considerable immediate potential for providing cooling energy storage, load management and grid frequency response with a marketplace across a range of sectors in the UK and worldwide." Despite the fact that the Energivault concept did not win at the UK Energy Innovation Awards, the recognition that it has gained from being a finalist in the 'Best Smart Grid Innovation' Category has added further proof that the battery can go from concept to full production and subsequently industrial use. However, the team is not getting ahead of themselves, Jonathan Steven (GGS) commented "we still have plenty of hurdles to get over in terms of commercial development but the technology is sound and it has the potential to make a big difference to renewable energy generation and storage in future."