AMP and The University of Birmingham to develop ground-breaking heat storage solution

An innovative project by AMP and The University of Birmingham to develop a thermal energy storage system has been awarded funding from Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme.

  • New heat storage system will store heat in a quarter of the space of conventional systems
  • Businesses will be provided with cheaper heat for 20 years
  • Flexible generation plants which transmit the heat will be 90% efficient

The organisations are working together to develop a real-life application of a study conducted by the University, designing novel Phase Change Material (PCM) to turn solid heat into a liquid, to maximise thermal energy storage.

Phase Change Material (PCM) is a substance with a high heat of fusion which, when melting and solidifying at a certain temperature, is capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy. Professor Yulong Ding – who is leading the two-year project at the University of Birmingham – is an expert in his understanding of PCM and the optimum material for the application, which in this case is storing thermal energy.

It will be applied to AMP’s Urban Reserve flexible electricity generation plants, which provide on demand energy in busy urban areas, helping balance our energy system. AMP aims to build around 13 Urban Reserve plants, representing around 50MW capacity, by the end of the year.

The storage system will store waste heat recovered from a peaking plant, which can be used to supply low carbon heat to nearby buildings at lower cost and will be a quarter of the size of conventional heat storage systems. This will dramatically increase the efficiency of the AMP’s Urban Reserve power plants from 40% to about 90%.

Unlike centralised power stations, Urban Reserve flexible generation plants can store heat generated by small scale plants, making the most of the energy produced.

AMP could also sell thermal stores to other owners and operators in the future. With peaking plant capacity predicted to increase to 5-8GW (from 1.5-2 GW today), this project could open up a new market to store and utilise around £183 million worth of heat each year, which would otherwise be wasted.

Mark Tarry, CFO, at AMP said:

“We are delighted to be working with the team at The University of Birmingham on this exciting project. Recent studies have shown that a decentralised, flexible energy system will be a vital component of future power generation, so projects like this offer new solutions for much needed heat decarbonisation, whilst continuing to support the growth of renewables.  In addition to the vastly increased efficiency it will provide, the small size of the storage system will provide a more versatile application in urban areas, and is set to be a real game-changer.”

“By using this heat storage solution, our Urban Reserve plants will be able to provide on-demand heat and power when it is needed most, and when wind and solar are not able to produce electricity.”

The project is set to begin later this year, and will start at AMP’s Fort William site, to prove the concept, with a view to expanding to cover another 15-25 sites over the next five years.

Professor Yulong Ding, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage in the Birmingham Energy Institute at The University of Birmingham, said:

“AMP is an ideal partner to put the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage’s world-renowned heat storage research into practice with. We look forward to working together to help solve environmental challenges and transform our energy system with this ground-breaking technology.”