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£5m UK liquid energy storage project to examine waste cold potential

MANIFEST project will build on University of Birmingham research into applications for liquid energy and cryogenic storage with the aim of improving academic collaboration

A £5m energy storage project has been launched to study how approaches such as liquid air could be harnessed to expand opportunities for making use of waste cold and waste heat to address power demand.

The Multi-Scale Analysis for Facilities for Energy Storage (MANIFEST) project is intended to build on work already undertaken by specialists at the University of Birmingham into cryogenic and thermal energy storage. Energy storage technologies are identified as a potentially vital solution to ensure energy demand for building functions such as cooling and heating can be met via more sustainable means.

The MANIFEST project will look at improving the viability and adoption of energy storage technologies by exploring new usage models. This work will look at important research areas such as how energy storage might be integrated into existing systems and energy networks.

The University of Birmingham will also be helping to support the creation of the UK Energy Storage Observatory (UKESTO) as part of the new project to ensure researchers can get online access to data on energy storage compiled at different sites and partner universities.

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe from the University of Birmingham’s Energy systems and Policy Analysis Group will head up the project, helping bring together experts from across the country working in the field of thermo-mechanical and electrochemical storage technologies.

Dr Radcliffe said that the programme would provide a detailed study of different energy storage technologies and the possible impacts of their use in terms of reshaping how power demand is met as the UK attempts to become a net-zero carbon country by 2050.

He said, “There is a focus on batteries now, but that is just part of what will be required to integrate renewables at the scale needed to be on track for net-zero. And whilst there is a growing number of energy storage demonstrator sites in the UK and globally, there is little data available on their operations.”

“UKESTO will connect energy storage pilot plants on university campuses to create a network of national facilities that establish the UK as an innovation hub - allowing systematic study of energy storage technologies to an extent that is not possible with industrial demonstrators.”

Professor Toby Peters, a specialist in the cold economy and clean cold policy at the University of Birmingham, said that the project would be important to understand the potential opportunities of using liquid air and other methods of energy storage.

He said, “Liquid air energy storage is a unique solution to provide low-cost, large-scale long duration energy storage with no geographical constraints. It also can harness waste heat or waste cold in the system to further increase the overall efficiency.

“With the demand now for large-scale, long duration energy storage, liquid air can emerge as the serious competitor to lithium-ion in grid-scale-storage.”

The University of Birmingham’s Professor Yulong Ding, who is identified by the institution as one of the originators of liquid air storage, will also play a vital role in the MANIFEST programme to help lead multiscale modelling of storage systems.

He said, “Technologies such as liquid air and thermal energy storage have a great potential to help crack the energy conundrum: how can variable generation from renewables meet the needs of energy users.”

“We have one of the world’s first experimental cryogenic energy storage facilities on campus and also achieved success with the first commercially available shipping container constructed from cold storage materials that can be charged with cold energy.”

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