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Posted: Oct 04, 2013

Renewable - and continuous - electricity from solar energy

(Nanowerk News) Globally, renewable energy technologies now exploit wind, water and the Sun to deliver electricity to power grids. However, despite the fact that all these energy sources are renewable, they are not renewable on demand yet.
Supply from renewable sources can be inconsistent in the short term when the wind dies down, the waters become calm and the clouds hide the Sun. Development of energy- and cost-efficient storage will enable power systems to store excess energy beyond immediate requirements and retrieve it when needed.
With EU funding of the project 'Thermochemical energy storage for concentrated solar power plants' (TCSPOWER), scientists are developing ways to store the Sun's thermal energy for electricity production during the night. Concentrated solar power (CSP) is particularly well suited to accommodating intermittent demand as it can be combined with large-scale thermal energy storage.
Although simple in concept, storing heat at high temperatures cost efficiently and for long periods has not been easy to accomplish. TCSPOWER is approaching the task with a reversible thermochemical reaction, endothermic in one direction to take in the heat for storage and exothermic in reverse to free heat for the power block. Thermochemical energy storage (TES) has not been demonstrated yet in a commercial or even prototype system. Using low-cost materials with high storage densities and large operating temperature ranges, TCSPOWER is evaluating its potential for use with CSP plants.
During the first project period, scientists focused on developing the overall system specifications from which storage materials, reactors and operating conditions were delineated. Researchers characterised the two reactions and associated materials systems, optimising various options. Preliminary results from simulations developed within the scope of the project have been analysed and will be verified experimentally in the upcoming period. Finally, experimental test beds are being constructed or adapted from existing ones for concept validation.
TCSPOWER expects to deliver an efficient and cost-effective thermal energy storage solution to be used with CSP generation for more stable energy supply. High-density storage will significantly reduce the size of the storage unit and low-cost materials will minimise investment costs. In addition, the concept has the potential to make reactor cost independent of storage capacity, a tremendous benefit compared to other technologies. Taken together, project outcomes are expected to significantly enhance market penetration.
Source: Cordis
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