5 April 2022

University of Sheffield researchers awarded £1.2m to accelerate the transition to a net zero grid through energy storage technologies

A collaborative team of researchers, led by the University of Sheffield, will use the EPSRC grant to explore how different energy storage devices and technologies can be integrated into the grid to make it more resilient.

energy storage technologies
  • Power grids are at the heart of the transition to achieving the UK’s net zero by 2050 goals
  • The £1.2m EPSRC grant collaborators will explore how different energy storage devices and technologies can be integrated into the grid to make it more resilient
  • Long-duration storage technologies can not only make a zero-carbon electricity system a reality faster, but they can also help it come at a lower cost for consumers

Researchers at the University of Sheffield will lead a collaborative project to determine how different energy storage devices and technologies can be integrated into the grid to achieve the UK’s net zero by 2050 target.

The challenges of balancing supply and demand for energy in the UK have been shown through the recent rapid increases of electricity and gas and the shortage of fuels at the pumps. These can be partly attributed to the capacity of storage at points between production and use, and the capability of the infrastructure to deliver. 

Power grids are at the heart of the transition to achieving the country’s net zero goals. A net zero grid would need to be resilient, robust and reliable, integrating renewable generation and withstanding constantly changing supply and demand patterns as well as extreme weather conditions.

The future energy system will increasingly rely on renewables which supply energy intermittently. We are also then still reliant on carbon-based backup generation, such as gas, to fill any shortfall.  

A collaborative team of researchers, led by the University of Sheffield, working with the Universities of Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Oxford, has received £1.2m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to determine how to increase the current storage capacities and associated scale-up and integration of energy storage technologies into the grid.

Professor Dan Gladwin, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, will lead the programme and said:

“Increased energy storage is needed on the electrical network to support high levels of variable renewable electricity such as wind and solar to enable us to reach our net-zero goals. The GB network currently has 5.3GW of electrical energy storage of which 1.3GW is battery energy storage and this is expected to grow by at least 8GW by 2030.”

“Battery storage is very good at the shorter timescales and the cost of the technology has fallen very quickly due to the demand for batteries in EVs. We have other short term storage technologies available such as supercapacitors and flywheels but these are not being installed at large-scale.”

Long-duration storage technologies, such as pumped water storage, liquid air, hydrogen and thermal, can not only make a zero-carbon electricity system a reality faster, but they can also help it come at a lower cost for consumers. They can reduce the need to curtail, or shut down, excess wind or solar output and store it to be used many days or even months later when required by the grid. These generally require larger installations to make economic sense and therefore require large investments.

Our project will investigate where and how energy storage could be connected to the grid, how it could be controlled and what policies and market conditions would be required to meet the storage requirements of the grid.

Professor Dan Gladwin

The work will be underpinned by experiments using operational grid-scale storage demonstrators operated within the consortium.
 

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