Clean and sustainable energy solutions will dominate this year’s POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe conference in Amsterdam. Several ways to innovate the European power market will be discussed in detail, one of which will be energy storage – could it be the ‘missing piece of the jigsaw’ for renewable energy generation?
An energy storage system, both practical and cost effective, would help manage the peaks and troughs of demand – a potential game changer in the integration of renewables. Yes, storage technologies are developing fast and a number of technologies exists at a sufficient level of technical and industrial maturity for deployment but are not competitive yet, but innovation is highly needed in order to unlock the significant potential inherent to the services that storage technologies can provide to the system. So what’s the best way to store energy?
Reflecting technical need various solutions are possible depending on whether a larger number of small, local storage facilities or a smaller number of large, central facilities are to be used. Storing energy in the form of heat could well be one of several viable options. This involves storing surplus electricity on a sunny or windy day by heating up water, and either keeping it in that form or using it to heat or chill buildings. The latter can be achieved using thermally activated absorption chillers, adsorption chillers, or desiccant dehumidification systems.
Let’s get technical. Absorption chillers, for example, produce chilled water by separating two different substances that are in thermal equilibrium using heat, then reuniting them through heat removal. Two substances that may be used for this process are water (acting as the refrigerant) and lithium bromide (the absorbent).
So how exactly does this process work? It is driven by heat from natural gas combustion or a waste-heat source. Absorption chillers can be used in conjunction with combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration projects to provide tri-generation or combined heat power and cooling (CHPC) schemes that are typically embedded close to the end user. They help to reduce transportation and distribution losses and, in theory, improve the overall performance of the grid.
So why not put this into practice? The ability to store enough electricity generated from renewable energy – at commercially viable cost – would open the door to an even greater supply of renewable energy sourced power.
However it is not yet quite technically feasible. But a great deal more research is being undertaken in a variety of storage systems, such as chemical (e. g. hydrogen), electrical (e. g. capacitors) electrochemical, (e. g. lithium-ion batteries), mechanical (e. g. compressed air systems), and thermal (e. g. molten salt). There is some way to go before these technologies become widely used. But sure enough, exciting projects incorporating large-scale storage but also decentralised small-scale storage are starting to emerge.
This year’s event will be led by some of the most influential people committed to the development and transition of power generation in Europe, and will highlight views on existing and future EU energy and climate policies. POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe will involve exhibitors, at-show events and detailed discussion of several key areas, including storage technologies; the session chaired by Patrick Clerens will be held on the 9th June at 2pm. For the opportunity to learn from industry specialists register now to attend this year’s event: www.powergeneurope.com/register