University of Sheffield engineers trialling new energy storage methods

Researchers from the University of Sheffield are currently testing a groundbreaking energy storage technology at the University of Nottingham’s Creative Energy Homes.

This development, comprised of seven houses, serves as a dynamic test site for energy-efficient innovations. The trial is a pivotal step for the Advanced Distributed Storage for Grid Benefit Project (ADSorB), a consortium spearheaded by Sheffield researchers, aiming to commercialise novel thermal energy storage technologies developed at the University of Loughborough.

The technology stores excess energy generated from renewable sources, such as solar or wind power, enabling its use during peak times or to compensate for supply shortages. The Sheffield team previously conducted a feasibility study assessing Thermochemical Storage (TCS), suited for long-term storage, and Phase Change Material (PCM) technologies for shorter-term storage. Together, these technologies could significantly decrease carbon emissions and offer a more adaptable solution for renewable energy storage, aligning with the UK’s net zero ambitions.

These technologies have evolved into modular thermal energy stores, designed to integrate with existing household energy systems, applicable in retrofits or new builds. Prototypes have been installed at Nottingham’s test site for resident use.

Dr. Rob Barthorpe from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering remarked: “This is an exciting milestone to have reached and we are now looking forward to generating the data, and creating an evidence base to demonstrate the benefit that distributed energy storage can provide. We hope this will validate our modelling that showed not only consumer benefits through reduced bills, but grid and carbon reduction benefits that will make significant contributions to the UK’s net zero goals.”

The project team includes researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham, and Loughborough, as well as Mixergy. Professor Mark Gillott from the University of Nottingham stated: “Soaring household bills have been hitting headlines for months as the cost-of-living crisis continues. Therefore, finding an effective alternative has never been more important. Thermal energy storage has the potential to solve two issues in one – not only is it cost effective, but it also removes renewable energy’s dependency on specific weather conditions.”

He added, “This is the first of two installations scheduled to take place at Nottingham this year. We’ve started with PCM technology and will follow with TCS later on in autumn, which will provide us with comparable data for both types of technology. By undertaking these trials at lived-in homes, we’ll be able to provide accurate results that will allow us to scale up the technology and bring it to market as quickly as possible.”

Komal Siwach, a resident of one of the homes where the trials are being conducted, shared her enthusiasm: “We’ve been living in our Creative Energy Home since 2019, and we’re really excited to be part of the first phase of installations as heat pumps are more efficient than more conventional boilers and furnaces. I’m expecting this will lower our energy bills by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.”

Funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Longer Duration Energy Storage Demonstration programme, this £2.6m project is a part of the £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP).