Before we can make the switch to renewable energy, we need to solve the problem of storage. Thankfully, these ingenious innovators are already on the case.
If we want to tackle the climate emergency, we need to switch to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.
The good news is the odds of making the transition in the not-too-distant future have never looked better. The cost of renewables has fallen dramatically over recent years while public support for green energy is booming.
However, other barriers to adoption remain. For one: while solar, wind and tidal power can produce more than enough energy to meet our society’s needs, they don’t always produce it at the right times.
It might be extremely windy in the middle of the night, for instance, but if no one’s awake to use all that power coming out of Dogger Bank, it’s just going to go to waste.
The solution to this problem is storage–stockpiling renewable energy when it’s produced and then feeding back into the grid when demand is higher. Unfortunately, storing energy is still relatively expensive. And although the UK is experiencing an “energy storage boom”, grid-scale storage is still in its infancy.
But things are moving fast. And a collection of innovative UK businesses are working hard to create technologies that could rapidly increase our storage capacity in the years ahead.
Here are five tech companies thriving in this important space.
Gravitricity’s gravity battery
Of all the energy storage solutions in the works, Gravitricity’s ‘gravity battery’ might be the most elegant.
The Edinburgh-based company has developed a unique system that stores renewable energy as gravitational potential energy, essentially by lifting a large weight into the air.
Gravitricity’s battery takes in excess renewable energy and uses it to drive motors that pull the weight upwards like an elevator. Then, to release the stored energy, Gravitricity simply lowers the weight again, using the force of gravity to drive turbines that produce emission-free power.
Gravitricity has already developed a working prototype of their system that can store 1200 kWh of electricity. According to managing director Charlie Blair, that’s enough energy to power an entire town. But only for a few seconds.
You can learn more about Gravitricity and its system on GrantTree’s innovation and technology podcast, What Comes Next?.
OXTO Energy’s Inertia Drive
OXTO Energy’s Inertia Drive utilises a flywheel that converts electrical energy into kinetic energy by spinning a mass very quickly.
According to OXTO’s website, the drive is based on the flywheel mechanical battery concept, where electricity is used to accelerate a motor to speeds of up to 50,000 rpm. This energy can be syphoned off by connecting the motor to a generator.
Each drive can hold up to 7.5 kW of energy and deliver maximum power output in just four milliseconds. OXTO’s drive can be used for grid-level storage or as an on-site charging solution for EVs.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, the Guilford-based company says its inertia drive could be used in public transportation as a form of regenerative braking, which captures energy from slowing vehicles that is otherwise lost as heat and noise.
H2GO’s Hydrogen Sponge
H2GO is working on a unique reactor that can store gaseous hydrogen in a solid state.
The reactor does this by trapping hydrogen in nanoscopic pores inside a flexible sponge-like material. Once the material is heated, the hydrogen is released again as a gas and can be used to power fuel cells which generate emission-free electricity.
H2GO’s reactors can be deployed as a ‘plug n play’ solution and transported in shipping containers around the world. H2GO’s AI algorithms make sure the management, storage and deployment of hydrogen energy are handled in a cost-efficient way.
Besides its utility-scale solution, H2GO is also developing a compact hydrogen storage system that will increase drone flight times by 300%.
Highview Power’s CryoPower Batteries
Highview Power’s field-tested CRYObatteries use liquified air to store spare energy.
Highview’s technology, which successfully harnessed waste heat from GE’s Jenbacher landfill gas engines, will use off-peak renewable energy to power an industrial liquefier that cools air to -196 degrees Celcius.
To release this bottled energy, Highview Power’s system simply reheats the supercooled liquid, turning it back into a gas. As its molecules gain energy, the gas expands rapidly. This forces air through a turbine to produce electricity.
Highview Power is currently constructing its first commercial plant in Carrington, outside of Manchester. Once the facility is completed in 2022, it will be capable of storing up to 250 MWh of energy, enough to power 100,000 homes.
Rhe Energise’s Pumped Hydro
Rhe Energise utilities a process called pumped hydro to store renewable energy.
Like Gravitricity’s gravity battery, pumped hydro turns electrical energy into gravitational potential energy by lifting up a large weight.
Only, instead of winches, mine shafts and solid material, Rhe Energise’s system uses low-cost renewable energy to pump a ‘high-density fluid’ into storage tanks at the top of an incline.
To release energy, the system lets liquid flow downhill again, powering a turbine as it goes.
Instead of using regular H2O, Rhe Energise will use a fluid that is 2.5 times denser than water. This will enable Rhe Energise to move liquid over a significantly shorter distance – hillsides instead of mountainsides – while capturing the same amount of energy. This will cut down on both the cost and environmental impact of production.
Rhe Energise’s hydro systems will store between 10 and 50 megawatts of power.
Let’s close the funding gap
The world of energy storage is an exciting and inspiring place, populated by innovators working to make a meaningful difference in our struggle against climate change.
As always, funding remains one of the main obstacles to the development and deployment of these important technologies. And to the positive changes they could yield for our society.
If you’re looking for funding for your own renewable energy storage or low emissions storage, we’re here to help.
GrantTree is the UK’s leading innovation funding agency, specialising in innovation grants and R&D Tax Credits. Our funding experts can help identify the various government funding opportunities open to your business and maximise your chances of applying successfully.
If you want to learn more about your funding options, just drop us a line.