This is the website for the ‘INTEGRATE: Integrating seasoNal Thermal storagE with multiple enerGy souRces to decArbonise Thermal Energy’ project which will evaluate the potential of Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage (STES) systems to facilitate the decarbonisation of heating and cooling while at the same time providing flexibility services for the future net-zero energy system. The project brings together researchers from the School of Engineering’s Institute for Energy Systems, the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, and the engineering departments of the universities of Glasgow and Hull.
We will consider STES systems as a vital part of a future zero carbon energy system. We will evaluate the interplay between regulation and market frameworks, heating/cooling demands, energy storage systems and different energy sources and will design integrated STES systems. This is a first step towards developing a truly low carbon heating and cooling system that provides affordable, flexible and reliable thermal energy for the customers while also improving the utilisation of the grid infrastructure and integration of renewable generation assets and other heat sources.
It is estimated that around 44% of the total energy demand in the UK is due to heating at present. This demand fluctuates substantially between seasons, and is about six times higher in winter compared to summer. Heating demand also increases significantly in the morning, at a rate around 10 times faster than the demand for electricity.
Currently, around 80% of the nation’s heat is supplied through the natural gas grid which provides the flexibility and capacity to handle the large-scale, sudden variations, but also causes large greenhouse gas emissions.
While cooling demand is currently small in the UK, it is expected to increase significantly: the National Grid estimates that the demand for electricity during the summer peak may increase by 100% due to air conditioning by 2050.
Why might STES systems offer a solution?
STES systems could offer a potential solution to these challenges, if they can be integrated within the ‘district’ heating and cooling systems widely used in commercial and educational campuses and proposed for urban districts.
In simple terms, a seasonal or long-term thermal energy storage system can be imagined as a huge hot water storage tank which is charged during periods of surplus energy supply and discharged during periods of high energy demand.
Such a system can store the charged energy over several months and is about 100 times cheaper per unit of energy compared to battery storage, due to the large size of the storage system. One challenge is to integrate these systems with low carbon energy sources and district heating and cooling systems, to transfer the stored energy to consumers.
Integrating seasonal thermal energy storage
The research team will consider the interplay and coordination between energy supply and demand, seasonal thermal storage characteristics, and regulation and market frameworks. The insights gained will be used to develop a holistic and integrated whole system model for the design and operation of “smart” district energy systems with STES. The new model aims to provide sustainable and affordable thermal energy while also enabling the integration of renewable energy.
The research will be used to develop case studies and guidelines to help urban planners, policymakers, renewable project developers, and others to develop urban and campus thermal energy systems based around the smart integration of STES systems.
It will also enable the development and deployment of low carbon heating and cooling systems that provide affordable, flexible and reliable thermal energy for customers, improve use of the National Grid infrastructure and the integration of renewable generation assets alongside other heat sources.