The Thermal Energy Storage Materials Characterisation and Systems Testing Lab facilities at Loughborough enable investigations into alternative energy storage media, materials and properties that will be more robust and suitable for expected changes in both supply and demand. Demand for energy storage in a low carbon energy industry has grown, and energy predictability reduced, as a result of the electrical generation mix evolving to accommodate more wind and solar. The facilities are used in a range of thermal systems (e.g. solar water heating systems, space heating and domestic hot water applications) and facilitates prototype systems to be fabricated, tested and experimentally investigated. The facilities at Loughborough are unique and are primarily used on various high profile EPSRC grants, including the LoT-NET (Low Temperature Heat Recovery and Distribution Network Technologies) Programme Grant in partnership with the University of Warwick, amongst others. The facilities are also used by the Active Building Centre and the Department for International Development (DFID), to develop and characterise prototypes and new systems where material properties under different temperatures and pressures can be investigated.
Work has also focused on high temperature storage for flexible nuclear generation. The proposed approach utilises heat generated by a nuclear reactor to either directly generate steam for power generation or be used to charge a store /stores for generation of steam at a latter time giving great flexibility in terms of generation capacity. The facilities have been used to investigate how a thermal store could be used to be charged at times of low electrical load or when electricity from renewables is in excess and would be shed. At times of peak load or reduction in renewable generation the thermal store would be used to provide additional electricity generation capacity via an additional turbine set. Due to the direct storage of thermal energy rather than using electricity to generate heat/coolth, storage efficiency is very high. In a future with nuclear and renewables, heat storage linked to nuclear could provide large scale low cost energy storage helping balance variable renewable generation to meet variable demand profiles.