LSBU Wins €7m Research Grant to Study Potential of Energy Storage in Warehouses

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Published: 23 September 2015


Refrigerated warehouse - ACR Journal
Photo courtesy of Tim Richardson
London South Bank University (LSBU) announced it recently won a €7 million (~£5.1m) to study the potential of using the cooling systems in refrigerated warehouses and food processing factories could store and supply electricity.
The LSBU will also look at whether cryogenic energy storage (CES) could overcome the challenge of storing excess renewable energy. 

As the amount of renewable energy available grows (i.e. wind, solar and tidal power), the more likely it is that the electricity supply will vary because of unpredictable weather. Storing energy when it is not needed and then releasing it when demand is higher is a problem now with renewable energy. However, solving this challenge could have a significant impact on the energy industry. 

LSBU will use the grant from the EU to work with researchers across Europe over the next three and a half years on project 'CryoHub'. LSBU will control €2.2 million of the grant. Professor Judith Evans led the bid with the help of Dr Alan Foster and Tim Brown. 

CryoHub's focus will be on how to use CES to store and generate electricity on a massive scale. Professor Evans explained how CES works:
“CES essentially uses cheap, off-peak electricity to convert air into a liquid, which can then be stored over a long period of time in a storage vessel. Turning the liquid back to gas, by removing it from the store and applying heat to it, will produce a huge increase in volume and pressure – enough to power a turbine to generate electricity which can then be supplied back to the grid.”
She continued:
“Because the liquid can be taken out of storage on demand, the technology can be used to restore electricity to the grid when energy demand is predicted to outstrip supply. It could also be used locally, also saving grid energy. 

"CES is therefore a great complement to renewable energy sources, as it effectively safeguards against any periods of intermittent supply and helps to stabilise the energy grid.”
CES is a technology with potential. But, there is not enough of it around to be used on a large scale. And, it is not yet efficient enough beyond a 'low round trip' in comparison to the energy input to the energy output.  CryoHub will look at how it can make CES more efficient by tying it together with the existing, powerful cooling and heating systems found in industrial refrigeration warehouses and food processing plants. 

Professor Graeme Maidment, director of LSBU's Centre of Air COnditioning and Refrigeration Research, said:
"This grant win is a fantastic success and builds on a portfolio of research funding totaling over £6 million in the last 10 years. It strengthens LSBU’s position as an internationally leading research team working in an important engineering discipline that contributes to many aspects of everyday life."
Researchers believe that, if the CES technology is applied to 10% of the existing refrigerated warehouses and food processing plants across the EU, it could save around 9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. That is equivalent to the UK producing no carbon emissions for 18 years*.

*Based on the EIA figures from 2012