Birmingham leads on shaping energy systems of the future

Energy storage is the capture of energy produced at one time for later use. Identified by the UK government as one of “eight great technologies” in which the UK can be a world leader and that will help drive future economic growth and innovation, energy storage will play a vital role in shaping the energy systems of the future.

In particular, energy storage has the potential to help manage the supply and demand challenges posed by the increased deployment of renewable energy. However, in order for energy storage to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing energy landscape, advances in energy storage devices themselves and a greater understanding of their role in the current systems are needed. 

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, will lead a multi-institutional £5M project in Multi-scale Analysis for Facilities for Energy Storage (MANIFEST) starting in September 2016. The project, which will draw on the collective expertise and facilities that exist in the UK, will address research questions that span the storage technologies currently being developed and tackle key issues in the use of this technology. These include the materials used in storage technologies and integration into existing energy systems, as well as using process modelling and data from pilot plants to improve our understanding of these technologies. One such technology, Cryogenic Energy Storage, is a focus of research at the University of Birmingham where a 300kW test-bed has been installed alongside state-of-the-art labs investigating a range of thermal energy storage technologies.

MANIFEST will lead to improved understanding of physical processes and accelerated technology development, which will help maximise the impact from existing UK facilities in both the national and international energy landscape. A new ‘Observatory for Energy Storage’ will be based at Birmingham.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC), the project will bring together interdisciplinary expertise from field-leading academics across the UK to tackle key challenges facing energy storage technology. The project will involve senior investigators with internationally leading reputations from across the UK, including academics from Imperial College, Loughborough University, University of Sheffield and University of Manchester, as well as drawing significant industrial support from the energy sector.

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Dr Jonathan Radcliffe is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and Policy Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute. His research focuses on energy systems, energy technologies and innovation, and energy policy. He combines his scientific background with extensive knowledge of policy-making, having worked in Government and Parliament for 13 years. He has received funding from EPSRC, industry and the European Union for his research in energy storage.