Don’t forget thermal storage along with batteries

It’s increasingly clear that local electricity storage is a key part of efforts to maximize the benefits of decentralized energy ” allowing local generators to make best use of the power they generate, particularly from intermittent renewables but also from heat-led cogeneration plants. In addition, the use of battery-stored electricity can help power grid operators by reducing peak loads on the distribution system.

It is for this reason that the government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is encouraging what is said to be the second-largest roll-out programme of household storage batteries in the world (after Germany). It has launched a new support scheme that aims to incentivize local generators to maximize their use of battery storage, rather than to stimulate new local renewable generating capacity.

Previously ACT, the district within the state of New South Wales that contains capital city Canberra, supported the installation of PV arrays for householders, but the ‘next generation’ programme will focus on battery storage itself. Reported in the World Energy Council’s latest World Energy Focus, the ACT government says this new programme ” to support the installation of 36 MW of distributed batteries ” will also provide considerable benefits to the distribution network infrastructure; reducing the needs for network upgrades, for example.

Battery electricity storage is getting all the attention at the moment, but let’s not forget the role that thermal energy ” heat, sometimes cooling energy too ” storage can also play in the transition to local green energy. Heat storage has a long history within a district energy setting, and does a similar time-shift job that batteries do for electricity. When heat loads are low, generated heat is sent to storage, and drawn off when needed.

And thermal energy is important ” heating and cooling is responsible for half of all final energy consumed in Europe. So Europe’s Association for the Storage of Energy (EASE) is lobbying the EU to support the growth of heat storage, arguing that: ‘smart heat concepts’, including thermal storage, could provide the flexibility options needed to decarbonize the energy sector, including the often ‘underexposed’ heating and cooling sector, in a cost-effective way. EASE is asking the EU to support some demonstration projects of new, pre-commercial thermal energy storage options.

Energy storage is not just batteries for electricity ” thermal storage can do a similar job of adding flexibility for heating and cooling systems too.

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