“Game-changing” long-duration energy storage projects win government backing

Invinity Energy Systems flow battery at Energy Superhub Oxford
Invinity Energy Systems flow battery at Energy Superhub Oxford

EDF UK has received £2 million in funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to support four innovative methods to sustain longer periods in energy storage.

The four longer-duration energy storage demonstration projects will help to achieve the UK’s plan for net zero by balancing the intermittency of renewable energy, creating more options for sustainable, low-cost energy storage in the UK.

The funding forms part of the £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio and is delivered through a £68 million programme that aims to increase the options for long-duration storage in the UK by scaling new longer-duration energy storage prototypes. Each of the unique projects will store energy over daily, weekly, or even monthly fluctuations, providing vital backup for times when renewable energy is not being produced.

The first project will store electricity as hydrogen in a chemical form using depleted uranium hydride (UH3). The project will use Urenco’s depleted uranium liability – a waste product from fuel production and reprocessed spent MOX fuel – to safely store hydrogen as UH3, which has approximately twice the volumetric energy density as liquid H2.

The Urenco Group is a British-German-Dutch nuclear fuel consortium operating several uranium enrichment plants in Germany, the Netherlands, United States, and United Kingdom

The project will see EDF R&D lead a consortium combining expertise in engineering and materials from University of Bristol, operating metal hydride storage at UKAEA in Oxfordshire and handling depleted uranium from Urenco.

Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewables, will support the delivery of two demonstration projects. The first project, delivered in partnership with Invinity Energy Systems plc, will establish the feasibility of developing one of the UK’s largest storage-enabled solar power resources. If selected, Phase Two of this project, which includes a utility-scale 10 MW / 40 MWh Invinity Vanadium Flow Battery, would receive funding under the programme.

Pivot Power will also work alongside e-Zinc, with support from Frontier Economics, to ‘metalize energy’, deploying breakthrough technology that stores energy in zinc, an inexpensive and widely available metal that has a high energy density.

The final project will explore how electricity, converted into compressed air, can be stored in EDF’s existing gas storage facilities, where EDF Thermal Generation and R&D will partner with IO Consulting and Hydrostor.

The projects are all supported by funding from BEIS, through the Longer Duration Energy Storage Demonstration (LODES) innovation competition, which was launched last year. The competition aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative LODES projects at different technology readiness levels, through first-of-a-kind full-system prototypes or actual demonstrations.

Larry Zulch, Chief Executive Officer at Invinity said: “The LODES initiatives are yet another demonstration of the UK’s commitment to building a thriving low carbon economy. Invinity greatly appreciates BEIS’s vision for that future, especially the vital role that safe, reliable and robust long-duration energy storage has to play on a Net Zero UK electric grid. In realizing that vision we are tremendously pleased to be working again with BEIS, Pivot Power and EDF to plan the deployment of a vanadium flow battery 8 times the size of the one currently operating at Energy Superhub Oxford.”

Renewable capacity is growing at its fastest-ever rate and is predicted to accelerate further in the coming years1. To balance the intermittency of renewable energy in overcast or still weather conditions and manage seasonal fluctuations, new solutions are urgently required to store energy when supply is high. Research suggests that, by 2040, global LODES capacity must increase 400x compared to present-day levels, to 1.5–2.5 TW (85–140 TWh). Overall, 10% of all electricity generated will be stored in LDES at some point2.

To ensure that the UK’s net zero electricity system is resilient and secure, long-duration storage must be combined with short-duration methods, where electricity is stored on an hourly basis3. Pivot Power is already expanding the UK’s short-term energy storage capacity around the UK, which includes the world’s largest hybrid battery system, located at Energy Superhub Oxford. The project, which is due for completion this year, is one of the most ambitious urban decarbonisation schemes undertaken in the UK to date, combining both long and short-term energy storage with a powerful electric vehicle charging network.

Patrick Dupeyrat, R&D Director at EDF UK, said: “I’m delighted that EDF is involved in four innovative projects within the Longer Duration Energy Storage programme, covering a range of innovative technologies. These all have the potential to complement our zero carbon generation and battery storage assets to help Britain achieve Net Zero.”

Matt Allen, Co-Founder and CEO of Pivot Power, said: “Each of these technologies could be a gamechanger for net zero. Right now, the energy sector faces the trilemma of cutting carbon and costs while ensuring security of supply. While more renewables must be the first step to solving this puzzle, we cannot achieve this without a flexible and resilient grid. By storing electricity for longer periods of time, we can move away from fossil fuels faster, while reducing the overall cost of electricity and ensuring that electricity is secure and reliable.”

Energy & Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “Driving forward energy storage technologies will be vital in our transition towards cheap, clean and secure renewable energy.

“It will allow us to extract the full benefit from our home-grown renewable energy sources, drive down costs and end our reliance on volatile and expensive fossil fuels. Through this competition we are making sure the country’s most innovative scientists and thinkers have our backing to make this ambition a reality.”