Image credit: Matthew Wiebe

07 Nov 2014 ICARB workshop looks at the future for Energy Storage Technologies

Guest Contribution by Dr Keith Baker – The Initiative for Carbon Accounting (ICARB)

Energy storage is becoming an increasingly talked about topic, as politicians and the media are beginning to grasp the idea that decarbonising our energy supplies is about more than just switching over to renewables. It is also becoming increasingly multidisciplinary as technology is diversifying and more recent innovations are moving out of the labs and into the real world. However it seems we are still at least a decade or two away from the sort of full scale grid integration that we will need to achieve our emissions targets for 2030 and 2050, whilst electric cars are still fairly niche due to the lack of charging infrastructure and still not quite being within the price range of the average motorist.

But energy storage is about much more than balancing renewables and replacing the internal combustion engine, as delegates to ICARB’s Energy Storage Workshop found out. The workshop, held in Edinburgh this October, was attended by over 80 speakers and delegates from across the UK and Europe, and the presentations and a full conference report will shortly be available on our website. Highlights included Prof Henrik Lund of Aalborg University’s analysis of the benefits of using gas and liquefied fuel conversion over batteries for balancing smart energy grids; and Ebbe Münster of the Danish organisation PlanEnergi’s work on large scale thermal storage in a new type of reservoir.

Most memorably for me, and a sign of how far we could already have got with what we already have, was Prof Klaus Vajen of Kassel University’s talk on thermal storage in buildings. Building scientists and engineers have known about and made use of thermal storage and other truly passive ways of saving energy for millennia, and whilst new methods involve some 21st century technology they would still be familiar to an ancient Roman. However in the UK using thermal mass has been disincentivised by the Building Regulations and shrinking average house sizes. Retrofitting these homes with external panels that incorporate heat storage technologies is certainly feasible, as is inserting large water storage tanks into multiple occupancy buildings, however some of Klaus’s photographs neatly illustrated why it’s still preferable to design these in from day one, and this needs to be incentivised by the relevant standards and regulations.

Finally, we also heard from Orkney, where the islands’ wind farm is producing more energy than it can sell due to the lack of capacity of their interconnector to the mainland. The development of their new hospital is providing the opportunity to incorporate energy storage into an existing grid anchor, and if successful should become an important demonstrator for other island communities.

Dr Keith Baker

ICARB (The Initiative for Carbon Accounting) is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes best practice in carbon accounting. Full details of who we are and how we are funded, along with a growing volume of carbon accounting-related resources, can be found on our website. Neither ICARB nor Dr Baker have received a fee for this article.

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