Energy storage technologies for a renewable future
In recent years, the emphasis on renewable energy has increased dramatically as environmental awareness has shifted and the scale of the climate crisis has been recognised globally. The transition to renewable clean energy has been a direct response to our over-reliance on fossil fuels and the plethora of environmental impacts that have resulted from this dependency. The uptake of renewable energy has increased and it is becoming more accessible, however there are still large steps to take before we can truly become reliant on renewable energy.
There are many forms of research taking place in order to develop the most efficient and dependable renewable energy sources in regards to its production and generation. Developments in solar energy, wind power, hydropower, geothermal, biofuel and hydrogen are taking place, with new solutions being tested with the hope of them becoming viable for mass use.
As well as technologies to sustainably generate renewable energy, there is also a focus on the storage of this energy. Energy storage technologies are becoming more efficient and less intimidating from a financial standpoint, both for large-scale sites and residential storage. As we move our attention towards a renewable future, it’s worth asking ourselves, how can energy storage technologies help to ease the transition and enhance the capabilities of renewable energy? However, we first need to consider the current state of our fuel usage and the global impact it’s having.
Alternatives to fossil fuels are currently being used in a variety of sectors. The automotive sector is one that is making significant strides to reducing fossil fuel usage, in the form of electric vehicles. There are further positive signs, expressed by our decreasing dependency on fossil fuels over the past decade. In 2010, 89.6% of UK energy consumption was sourced from fossil fuels, whereas in 2020, the share of consumption had decreased to 76.8%. However, there is still a long way to go, with a concerning volume of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions still being produced from this 76.8%.
In the first quarter of 2022, European GHG emissions totalled 1028 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents. This is an increase of 6% when compared to the previous year, and while this can be partially attributed to economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still concerning implications for our efforts to reduce harmful emissions. The significant contributors to GHG emissions include heavy industry, transport, agriculture and both residential and non-residential buildings.
These GHG emissions are responsible for the climate crisis that we are experiencing globally. Between 2022 and 2026, it is predicted that the annual mean global near-surface temperature will be between 1.1°C and 1.7°C higher than pre-industrial levels. These temperatures cannot be sustained and are having detrimental impacts on the environment, from rising sea levels and large-scale flooding to agricultural land degradation and loss of biodiversity.
Our reliance on fossil fuels is being limited by multiple governing bodies in order to reach the net zero goal. We’ve seen major projects aiming to tackle the climate crisis and mitigate our impact, from the UK government’s Build Back Greener strategy to the UN-backed Race To Zero campaign rallying non-state actors to reduce our global GHG emissions.
Developments in energy storage technologies
There has been heavy investment into research and development for generating and storing renewable energy. Such technologies will be a key component of net zero strategies, with efficient and safe storage being required to meet capacity targets. Energy storage technologies can come in multiple forms, for different purposes. However, in order for renewable energy storage to become fully viable, the solutions must be large-scale, efficient and safe.
Power storage is going to be critical for the race to net-zero. Great Britain will need at least 30GW of energy storage in order to meet the 2050 target. The main contributor to grid energy storage is hydroelectric power, however the more commercially viable option is thought to be the use of battery storage technology which allows for stored energy during peak production which can be released during peak demand. Large-scale battery storage technology is currently being developed for a renewable future, where grid-oriented systems can become viable. The safety and sustainability of large-scale battery storage technology is improving as our understanding of how the various chemical compounds interact and how degradation and external environmental factors can have on them.
Electric vehicle batteries are another form of energy storage technology that is key to reaching net-zero. There are more electric vehicles on the road each year as people become more environmentally-conscious and the benefits of electric vehicles begin to outweigh traditional petroleum-based vehicles. Automotive battery innovation has been an area of manufacturing that we have personally been highly invested in, as we strive to further our understanding and learn new ideas. Electric vehicle batteries need to perform at a high level while remaining safe and long-lasting. We have supported these technologies by providing dielectric and thermal insulation in order to increase battery density, as well as mica-based materials that reduce the transmission of heat energy between cells and packs.
Energy storage technologies play a key role in the race to net-zero. They come in many forms for a wide range of industries. The characteristics of these technologies that are applicable across all industries is their need to be efficient and safe with a long useful life. Finding suitable alternatives to fossil fuels is difficult and the energy being generated from renewable sources needs to be of high density and volume. The storage technologies similarly need to be able to store this energy and ensure none is wasted.
It is an exciting piece of the puzzle for reaching net-zero and we are proud to be a part of it. Our bespoke products and solutions are readily made available to your specifications, across various applications and industries. To find out more about the work we do in energy storage and our projects that focus on net-zero, download our free whitepaper ‘Achieving Net Zero‘.
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