Mark Tarry, Managing Director, Urban Reserve
There has probably never been a more interesting time to work in energy. Renewables and low carbon energy sources continue to rise, creating an unprecedented reduction in our use of fossil fuels. The UK Government has recently signed up to an ambitious net zero future. And we continue to see our energy system shift from a national to a local distributed heat and power model.
Large scale decarbonisation of our electricity, transport and heating networks is now vital if we are to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In terms of heat decarbonisation, there is much to be done with the UK currently off track to meet its target to source 12% of heat from renewable sources by 2020.
So, it is particularly exciting to be involved first-hand in a ground breaking project which will create a highly efficient heat storage solution, capitalising on waste heat to generate and store low cost, low carbon heat to businesses and communities.
AMP Clean Energy, working with the University of Birmingham, has been awarded funding from Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme to develop a thermal energy storage system. Led by Prof Yulong Ding, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham, we are developing a real-life application of a study conducted by the University, designing novel Phase Change Material (PCM) to turn solid heat into a liquid which will dramatically reduce the amount of space required to store heat. The university are recruiting for a research fellow to join the project and work alongside Prof Ding.
The system will be applied to AMP Clean Energy’s Urban Reserve flexible electricity generation plants. These peaking plants support the intermittency of renewables by providing on-demand energy to meet our needs when wind and solar are not generating.
Waste heat recovered from Urban Reserve peaking plants will be stored and supplied to nearby buildings at a significantly lower cost. It will store heat in a quarter of the space of conventional systems and will dramatically increase the efficiency of the AMP Clean Energy’s Urban Reserve power plants from 40% to about 90%.
The need for dispatchable heat and power will become even more important as our demand for energy grows and consumption habits change. National Grid forecast 36 million electric vehicles on our roads by 2040 which, combined with the anticipated electrification of heat, could place further strain on the system.
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. The concept is potentially game changing, and as we set off with the University of Birmingham on a 5-year programme, it promises to be an incredibly exciting journey.