DECC to award funding for energy storage R&D

by James Martin II on October 15, 2012

DECC to offer funding for energy storage research

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is hoping the storage the country’s energy storage industry by crowdsourcing innovation into the topic. DECC will run 2 contests and award prizes totalling £20 million to innovators whose submissions are selected as winners.

The synergy between renewables and energy storage

Energy storage is seen as key to cracking the intermittence problem for renewable energy generation sources such as wind and solar power. Solar photovoltaics (PV) technology such as rooftop solar panels only produce power when the sun is shining, just as wind turbines only generate electricity when the wind is blowing. Although there are ways to get around this issue on the large scale, doing so can be tricky and require  building generation capacity well in excess of what is required.

Viable, affordable energy storage would increase the versatility and dependability of electricity infrastructure around the world. The problem is that, at the moment, despite the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy technologies such as solar PV, energy storage technologies such as batteries are still prohibitively expensive and therefore not deployed on the ‘grid scale’. If connected to the grid in distributed locations, these storage units would essentially act as dispatchable power plants that can be recharged when electricity demand is low but the elements are active.

There is a preponderance of ideas and technologies available that could potentially play a role in bridging the gap, but most of them are not affordable. This is the main reason for DECC’s strong support. Although the price of lithium-ion battery technology is coming down as electric vehicles (EV’s) grow in popularity and numbers, battery banks comprised of these or even their less costly counterpart–the lead acid battery–is not yet something that makes economic sense on either small or large scales. Similarly, even though there are a number of promising and intriguing energy storage technologies being that have become part of the renewable energy vocabulary–e.g. the liquid battery, the fuel cell, and flywheel energy storage–the most advanced of these have only just stepped out of the research and development stage and into the commercialisation stage. They are therefore still pricey.

Closing the gap: DECC’s energy storage competitions

To address this issue and accelerate the commercialisation of energy storage technologies by supporting R&D, DECC is now accepting expressions of interest from those who have ideas about how to bridge the gap between renewable energy generators and storage technologies. The projects that are selected will start receiving funding as early as the beginning of 2013.

The first contest is to encourage innovation in energy storage component field, whilst the second is aimed at ‘system level’ innovations. The 2 categories of contest are described as follows on the DECC website:

component level research for storage technologies to improve particular components or materials within an energy storage system which could be deployed to meet grid-scale storage needs in the UK electricity network; or

system level feasibility studies to investigate deployment issues and operational aspects of electricity storage systems, including integration of storage systems into the UK electricity network

Those who are interested can register and get information obligation-free here: Energy Storage Scheme – Registration

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