Nowadays, the topic of climate change is an economic, social, and most notably an environmental concern that can no longer be considered theoretical. As of July 2021, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2)????????in our atmosphere reached 416 parts per million, and nearly 40 percent of US CO2 pollution comes from power plants burning fossil fuels. This has led to an increased emphasis on sustainability from enterprises of all industries, and even consumers and investors as well.
Among the new priorities related to sustainability, the inefficient use of heat has become one of the more pressing issues. Heat is the largest energy end-use, as it provides heating for homes, industry and other applications, which accounts for around half of total energy consumption. However, in 2021 direct emissions from heating buildings grew by 5.5 percent, reaching a new high of 2500?Mt CO2, which made up 80 percent of direct CO2 emissions in the buildings sector, a number that enterprises are now searching for ways to drive down.
Currently, the most promising solution for driving down heat consumption is the use of thermal batteries. These are physical structures used for the purpose of storing and releasing thermal energy, allowing for energy available at one time to be temporarily stored and then released at another time. Thermal batteries offer longer-term thermal stability and longer life cycles thanks to energy storage, as well as enhanced portability, and most importantly for enterprises, increased cost savings.
Overall, the global thermal energy storage market was valued at $23.7 billion by the end of 2021, but experts expect the market to grow at a CAGR of 9.45 percent, reaching a predicted market value of $53.4 billion by 2030. However, as the world continues to preach the importance of sustainability for a safer, healthier future, these numbers are sure to grow as more organizations begin to adopt thermal batteries for the environmental, and of course monetary benefits.
Recently, thermal battery company Sunamp signed an agreement with Sheen Parkside, an infrastructure arrangement and operations group, to work together on establishing mobile heat networks across the UK. These will use Sunamp’s Plentigrade phase change material technology in Central Bank container-sized thermal batteries.
Heating with natural gas accounts for 37 percent of the UK’s territorial carbon footprint. At the same time, the UK’s low-carbon waste, biomass and nuclear thermal power stations today throw away 80 TWh a year of direct, accessible heat, at 90 percent lower carbon than gas. The main reason this heat isn’t used is that it’s in the wrong place. This is an approach that’s scalable around the world.
“Sunamp is the perfect fit for this project. Their heat storage technology is well established, world leading, and commercially proven. Combined with well-understood techniques for accessing heat by CHP, we can de-risk a simple, high impact and novel concept: moving low carbon, affordable heat in physical stores,” said David Carter, Managing Director, Sheen Parkside.
“This concept is something that Sunamp has been looking at across various projects, including moving heat generated by spare renewables capacity in Orkney, and moving heat by barge in Bristol. We plan to build on that technical know-how, with long experience of delivering first of a kind infrastructure projects at scale.”
Sheen Parkside and Sunamp will initially work with waste-to-energy plants, to either access spare heat, or retrofit these power stations to provide direct heat, known as Combined Heat and Power or CHP. This heat will be used to charge Sunamp’s thermal batteries, holding multiple MWh each, which will then be transported by electric vehicles, rail or barge, to provide thermal energy for district heat networks, commercial and industrial users. Discussions are underway with several heat providers and users.
Sunamp has already produced over 20,000 thermal batteries, principally for domestic use, but increasingly for a range of industrial applications. These use Plentigrade, a technology developed over a 15-year R&D project with the University of Edinburgh. Over 250 patents have been granted and are pending, worldwide.
The Sheen Parkside team has already delivered some of the most challenging infrastructure and energy projects around the world, including the London Olympics and Crossrail in the UK.
“When we realized it could be possible to tap unused heat from “Energy from Waste” plants in Avonmouth and transport it by road, rail or barge to district heating in central Bristol, avoiding the costs of tens of miles of heating pipes and thousands of wayleaves, it opened up huge potential for new ways of tackling fuel poverty and decarbonising that can be replicated globally,” said Andrew Bissell, Sunamp CEO.
“There is worldwide potential to transport heat from industrial sources in containers using existing infrastructure such as road, rail, canal and short-sea networks, and to use it for heating and hot water in other residential and commercial developments. We look forward to working with the highly experienced team at Sheen Parkside to roll out the concept for the first time at scale in the UK and prove it for the world.”
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