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Storage systems increasingly in the research spotlight
Technologies for storing energy will play a decisive role in future. They are essential not just for balancing out the supply of fluctuating renewable resources such as solar power and wind energy but also for continuing to ensure a reliable energy provision. At the same time, storage systems in electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles are paving the way for a mobile future beyond the fossil fuel era. Future storage systems formed the focus of attention at the first "Energy Storage Symposium", which was held by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) at the beginning of March.
“Storage concepts are strategic components of our future energy system,” explained the DLR Director for Energy and Transport, Professor Ulrich Wagner. He anticipates that there will soon be a constantly increasing requirement for different energy storage systems. He pointed out that in order to stabilise the electricity grid in the long term, possibilities are needed to store energy on a short- and long-term basis. He added that since there has been a lack of affordable and sufficiently powerful technologies until now, the right time has come to intensify research in this area. Science and industry presented their latest research findings at the event, which was organised by the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics. “DLR researchers have been working for decades on chemical storage systems such as, for example, hydrogen and electro-chemical storage systems. In particular, the DLR has many years of experience in the field of heat storage systems for solar thermal power plants, and is even a global leader in this area,” said Wagner, referring to the DLR’s research approach. In addition to heat storage systems, DLR energy researchers are also developing chemical and electro-chemical storage systems, whereby the focus is on generating hydrogen from surplus electricity and developing new and more powerful batteries.
Insight into the Lead Study 2011
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Dr. Joachim Nitsch regularly outlines the long-term development path for energy supplies and has reflected on the role of storage systems in the soon-to-be-published Lead Study 2011. He said that the use of electricity from renewable energies as a future “primary energy” requires the increased use of thermal storage systems for the “surplus” utilisation of, for example, process heating and cooling. By storing it in the form of chemical fuels such as methane and hydrogen, green electricity can replace fossil fuels in the heating and transport sectors. He therefore believes that a blanket electricity saving target would be inappropriate. He also said that the expansion of conventional power plants and storage systems has to be entirely based on the flexible, efficient coverage of the residual load.
The 120 participants at the symposium provided testimony to the considerable interest in energy storage shown by the professional community. In order to focus further attention on the research area, the DLR wants to organise another Energy Storage Symposium in March 2013.