Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, Senior Research Fellow, University of Birmingham is the Principle Investigator on project MANIFEST, a new £5m EPSRC-funded project to tackle challenges facing energy storage technology, which he discusses.
In the transition to a decarbonised economy, with increasing electricity generation from variable renewables, energy storage has the potential to provide valuable flexibility to supply and demand, improving the overall system efficiency. However, in order for this family of technologies to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing energy landscape, advances are needed in energy storage devices themselves and a greater understanding of their future role.
In 2013, the government identified energy storage as one of the “eight great technologies” in which the UK can be a world leader and drive future economic growth and innovation, on top of its role as an enabling technology which would help meet national CO2 reduction targets. This led to a wave of public sector investment, including £30m into new equipment at universities around the country. Birmingham was successful in being awarded £6m to establish the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage [link] comprising new laboratories, state-of-the-art equipment and a major 350kW/2.5MWh pilot plant on campus.
Building on this capital injection, the University of Birmingham will now lead a multi-institutional £5m project in Multi-scale Analysis for Facilities for Energy Storage (MANIFEST). Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC), the project will bring together interdisciplinary expertise from field-leading academics across the UK to tackle key challenges facing energy storage technology. The project will involve senior investigators from across the UK, including academics from Imperial College, Loughborough University, University of Sheffield and University of Manchester, as well as drawing significant industrial support from the energy sector.
The project will integrate the collective expertise and facilities funded under the “eight great technologies” call, and address research questions that span the storage technologies currently being developed and tackle key issues in their use. These include the materials used in storage devices, their integration into existing energy systems, as well as using process modelling and data from pilot plants to improve our understanding of how these technologies perform operationally. A new national ‘Observatory for Energy Storage’ will also be based at Birmingham to collect data and present the growing body of knowledge in the UK to the wider world.
MANIFEST will lead to improved understanding of physical processes and accelerated technology development, which will help maximise the impact from existing UK facilities in both the national and international energy landscape. Recruitment is underway, and the project will commence in September 2016.