British long-duration energy storage innovations get £32.9m funding boost from BEIS

Image: Malcolm Cochrane for Sunamp

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has today (28 November) allocated the second tranche of funding under its Longer Duration Energy Storage (LODES) initiative. This round of funding includes £32.9m of support out of a total £68m pot, created under the Department’s £1bn Net-Zero Innovation Portfolio. £2.7m was awarded in the first phase.

Long-duration energy storage will be needed in greater quantities to maintain energy security as more renewable electricity generation comes online, given the intermittent nature of generation using methods like wind and solar. Battery energy storage can go some way to solving this challenge, but batteries can typically not store energy for long durations. Moreover, they deteriorate over time and require critical minerals to create.

The UK Government is notably aiming for 95% of all electricity generation to be low-carbon by 2030. This proportion should rise to 100% by 2035.

Winners of funding under this LODES phase have already been supported by the prior phase and have shown BEIS prototypes and demonstrators which have impressed the Department.

Two of the winners are developing thermal energy storage systems. A team at the University of Sheffield is seeking to develop a modular thermal energy storage system that would be suitable for storing heat within homes. They are working with Loughborough University to manufacture prototypes and the University of Nottingham to demonstrate the technology in inhabited homes. Elsewhere, in East Lothian, scale-up Sunamp is receiving support to trial a thermal storage system in 100 homes.

The other technology options receiving backing are pumped hydro, hydrogen storage and single liquid flow batteries.

On the former, Plymouth-based RheEnergise is getting funding for a demonstrator project using a mineral-rich fluid more than 2.5 times denser than water, thus enabling the use of gentle slopes. This could see pumped hydro used in non-traditional settings without mountains. RheEnergise expects to have its first grid-scale project in operation by 2026.

In the hydrogen space, BEIS is choosing to support a consortium comprised of EDF UK’s R&D arm, the University of Bristol, the UK Atomic Energy Authority and nuclear service supplier Urenco. This consortium will deliver a hydrogen storage demonstrator, capable of storing hydrogen and electricity generated by nuclear, at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. The UK Government is notably targeting 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen generation capacity by 2030 and, this decade, sees natural gas and renewables playing key roles. Nuclear may have a major role post-2030.

The final funding recipient under this LODES round is Edinburgh-based StorTera, which is building a prototype single liquid flow battery. These batteries have the potential to store energy for longer, will less loss of quality, than predecessor technologies like lithium-ion.

Back in August, BEIS reiterated its commitment to “ensure” adequate scaling up of the nation’s long-duration energy storage by 2024, publishing the findings of a key consultation on expanding the sector. Read our full story on the consultation and what may come next here.

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