Energy storage is a trending topic right now. Indeed, a Google news search brings up 15.9-million results.

 

Not surprising, perhaps, when storage is set to become an integral part of our future energy system – and with so many potential methods of storing energy under investigation.

 

A rapidly growing market

Currently, the UK has around 60 MW of installed battery storage.

 

But that market could increase to as much as 12 GW (12,000 MW) by 2021, according to a recent report by the Renewable Energy Association and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Energy Storage.

 

The report’s authors believe this increase will mostly be driven by demand from solar or wind energy producers, looking to increase flexibility in grid supply to maximise income.

 

But the number of businesses using batteries is also expanding, with many wanting to tap into energy storage as a means to earn revenue from demand side response initiatives such as National Grid balancing schemes, or arbitrage services such as Market Access (contact us at nBS@npower.com to find out more).

 

Focus on new techniques

Currently, traditional lithium-ion battery storage technologies lead the pack. But there’s a lot of focus on finding other methods to store energy cheaply, efficiently and sustainably.

 

For example, this week a new ‘proof-of-concept’ facility opens near Oxford to test the use of ammonia as a storage fuel.

 

Unlike traditional ammonia production, which uses fossil fuels, this new technique uses electrolysers to turn electricity, water and air into ammonia, without releasing carbon emissions.

 

The ammonia can then be stored in a tank where it can be burned to generate electricity or sold as a fuel for industrial purposes, such as refrigeration. Hydrogen can also be extracted to power vehicles.

 

The £1.5m operation, which is being funded by Siemens and government agency Innovate UK, will seek to establish a workable model that can then be upscaled and rolled out commercially.

 

Making energy out of air

Another new storage facility opened earlier this month in Bury, Greater Manchester.

 

The world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage plant, it works by cooling air to turn it into liquid form, which is stored in high-pressure tanks.

 

When the energy is needed, it’s pumped and heated back to gas form, which is then used to drive a turbine to generate electricity.

 

Located on a landfill gas site, the energy storage plant can also generate power using waste heat from landfill gas engines – and releases no carbon emissions in the process.

 

The project’s developers claim the 5MW plant could “easily” store enough electricity to power a 100,000-home town like Bury for many days. It’s also expected to have a life span of about 40 years, which is far longer than any current battery storage facility.

 

The technologies Bill Gates is backing

Other avenues of research include using underground rocks and sulphur to create storage facilities.

 

The companies pioneering these approaches are both recipients of the first investments to be made from the $1bn Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, which was set up by Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Alibaba founder Jack Ma to support new technologies which reduce carbon emissions.

 

The first – Quidnet Energy – harnesses traditional pumped hydro storage technology, but instead of being restricted to mountainous terrain, it instead pumps water underground into shale rock or old oil wells, where it can be compressed until ready to be released through a turbine to generate electricity.

 

The other company, Form Energy, is designing a new type of battery that it hopes can store renewable energy for months at a time at a fraction of the current cost.

 

It is also using sulphur rather than lithium, which it believes can store energy over longer durations for a tenth of the cost – and is also in plentiful supply.

 

Business benefits from storage

Although the mainsteam uptake of these new technologies may be some way off, you can still harness the benefits of energy storage for your business now, and tap into potential revenues from demand side response and arbitrage services.

 

We are already working with a number of businesses to deliver behind-the-meter storage solutions. Talk to your Client Lead (existing customers) to find out more, or email us via nBS@npower.com.