In the battle against climate change, the push for renewable energy sources is gaining momentum. Leading the charge in the UK are two pioneering companies, SynchroStor and Caldera. They’re creating unique solutions to store and use heat energy in ways that can transform how we power our world.
SynchroStor: storing power for when we need it
One of the challenges with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power is their intermittency – the wind and sun are naturally variable!. That’s where energy storage comes into play. SynchroStor is a company that has developed a clever way to store this power for later use.
Their solution is a Pumped Thermal Energy Storage (PTES) system. It’s a method of storing energy by using it to heat or cool a substance, in this case, locally sourced materials that are readily available and have a minimal impact on our planet.
When the system is running, it works a bit like a heart, pumping energy in and out. This ‘pumping’ action can happen very quickly – in just a few milliseconds – which is crucial for managing the ups and downs of energy supply and demand. The system is also flexible, allowing it to be adapted to different needs, whether it’s a small local project or a large-scale energy grid.
Thanks to recent funding, SynchroStor is now in a position to take their technology to the next level, developing and testing it further. They have been awarded £9.4 million to build a Pumped Thermal Energy Storage (PTES) grid-connected demonstration plant operating at 1MW, with the ability to charge and discharge for a period of 10 hours, longer than current battery technology.
Caldera: powered by hard rock and metal
Shifting our focus to the industrial sector, is Caldera, a start-up based in Hampshire. They’ve received a hefty £4.3m grant to develop industrial heat cells made from recycled aluminium and volcanic rock. These heat cells work like super-efficient batteries.
They use a special mix of scrap aluminium and rocks (either basalt or granite) that can store heat incredibly well, holding onto it for hours until it’s needed.
The cells are designed to charge up during the night when electricity is cheaper and greener, or they can use renewable energy generated on site. Then, when the heat is needed, the cells can release it quickly, providing hot water or steam on demand.
Another smart feature is that Caldera’s storage boiler can automatically switch from using electricity from the grid to solar or other low-carbon sources when they’re available. Each unit of contains ten heat cells, each capable of storing a hefty 200kWh of energy, providing a total storage of 2MWh. And these units can be combined to create as much capacity as needed.
Caldera is already hard at work on this ambitious project, which is due to be completed in 2025, offering a significant step towards greener industrial processes.
Stepping into a Greener Future with Thermal Storage
In the face of the climate crisis, we need creative solutions to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The work of SynchroStor and Caldera shows how thermal storage technology can be part of that solution, paving the way to a future where renewable energy is not only viable but able to reach its full potential. In doing so, we take a leap towards a greener, more sustainable world.
In the most recent LDES funding round by DESNZ, Stream 2, Phase 2, there are also further development projects which we will be monitoring closely;
Funding received: £5,019,402
StorTera has developed a sustainable, highly efficient, and highly energy dense lithium sulphur based single liquid flow battery (SLIQ) technology. In Phase 2, StorTera will manufacture a prototype SLIQ that utilises a novel cylindrical cell architecture in a modular format to optimise the manufacture, installation and maintenance of the system. With a focus on sustainability, the SLIQ will utilise recyclable materials and by-products of the wood industry. Towards the end of Phase 2, eight modular units will be combined to build a 200kW/1.6MWh first of a kind demonstrator SLIQ that will be installed at Midlothian Innovation Centre outside Edinburgh.
Funding received: £8,242,965
RheEnergise has developed High-Density Hydro® (HDH), a cost optimised energy storage solution to create stable, dispatchable power grids from ultra-low-cost renewable energy. During Phase 2, HDH will go through several R&D iterations culminating in the deployment of a 250kW/1MWh (4 hours) first-of-a-kind demonstrator with full subsystem functionality.
Cheesecake Energy Ltd
Funding received: £9,447,225
The FlexiTanker technology stores electricity using a combination of thermal and compressed air energy storage (CAES) and uses a reversible air compression/expansion train to charge and discharge. Phase 2 will involve testing the demonstrator at the company’s site in Nottingham, followed by installation of pilot units at two sites within a microgrid development in Colchester. The microgrid will be co-located with up to 8 MW of solar PV, helping the site residents to maximise their use of the onsite solar, and the development will also have a district heating network with a central heat pump.