Jun 30, 2021

5 Mins With ... Professor Michael Short

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Professor Michael Short, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Engineering at Teesside University, outlines its key research areas on the road to net zero

Professor Michael Short is Professor of Control Engineering and System Informatics at Teesside University, and leads the Centre for Sustainable Engineering

Tell us about your role and research areas? 

I am a Professor of Control Engineering and System Informatics at Teesside University, which I joined in 2010, and lead the Centre for Sustainable Engineering. Our priority research areas span smart energy and smart grid, construction innovation and research, and hydrogen engineering and decarbonisation technologies.

What are some of the most exciting developments and findings you’ve made so far?

We created novel AI and control techniques for monitoring the state-of-health of Li-Ion battery packs and participating in new forms of demand response. Our results indicate we can significantly extend the lifetime of batteries, the range of electric vehicles and help to stabilise the grid with a combination of these techniques. We also collaborated with EU energy companies to create new methods to optimise CHP plant and district heating systems and worked with a company in Sedgefield to develop control and informatics techniques to more efficiently integrate offshore wind onto the UK grid.

On offshore wind, how many renewable energy plants will we need and how quickly? 

The UK target is a capacity of 40GW installed and operational by 2030, which will require significant investment to ensure we have capacity to manufacture and put in place the required infrastructure. Recent investments in this area, especially focusing upon Teesside, North Tyneside and Humber, are very promising but there is still much work to be done.

Will the ‘holistic’ approach to offshore, hydrogen and transport be achieved? 

This seems to be the right approach, as there are actually several different pathways for the UK to reach net zero, the ratio between green hydrogen powered vehicles compared to electric vehicles, as one example. However, different regions have differing requirements, and careful planning and re-planning will need to take place as the transformation increases pace.

What will be the role of the Net Zero Industrial Innovation Centre on Teesside?

This is one of a number of key developments in the Tees Valley related to technology transfer and industrial engagement (click here to read about the UK Hydrogen Transport Hub project). Its goal is to provide a focus point to accelerate research work on digital engineering and sustainability, engage with companies and ease the process of scaling up from research labs to generate real-world impact.

Are you optimistic that UK net zero targets can be reached?

Achieving net zero is not a straightforward process, and there are lots of known challenges ahead – and surely a lot of unforeseen complications! However, with continued investments in infrastructure, research and innovation, and training/upskilling to create the next generation of engineers and scientists, I am confident we can.

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Jul 26, 2021

Form Energy receives funding power for iron-air batteries

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Startup Form Energy receives $200 million Series D financing round led by ArcelorMittal’s XCarb innovation fund to further develop iron-air batteries

Form Energy believes it has cracked the conundrum of commercialising grid storage through iron-air batteries - and some of the biggest names in industry are backing its potential.

The startup recently announced the battery chemistry of its first commercial product and a $200 million Series D financing round led by ArcelorMittal’s XCarb innovation fund. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is backed by investors Eni Next LLC, MIT’s The Engine, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group and Macquarie Capital.

While solar and wind resources are the lowest marginal cost sources of electricity, the grid faces a challenge: how to manage the multi-day variability of renewable energy, even in periods of multi-day weather events, without sacrificing energy reliability or affordability.

Moreover, while Lithium-ion batteries are well suited to fast bursts of energy production, they run out of energy after just a few hours. Iron-air batteries, however, are predicted to have theoretical energy densities of more than 1,200 Wh/kg according to Renaissance of the iron-air battery (phys.org)

The active components of Form Energy's iron-air battery system are some of the cheapest, and most abundant materials: iron, water, and air. Iron-air batteries are the best solution to balance the multi-day variability of renewable energy due to their extremely low cost, safety, durability, and global scalability.

It claims its first commercial product is a rechargeable iron-air battery capable of delivering electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with conventional power plants and at less than 1/10th the cost of lithium-ion and can be optimised to store electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with legacy power plants.

"This product is our first step to tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonisation: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather, grid outages, or periods of low renewable generation," it states.

Mateo Jaramillo, CEO and Co-founder of Form Energy, said it conducted a broad review of available technologies and has reinvented the iron-air battery to optimise it for multi-day energy storage for the electric grid. "With this technology, we are tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonization: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather or grid outages," he said.

Form Energy and ArcelorMittal are working jointly on the development of iron materials which ArcelorMittal would non-exclusively supply for Form’s battery systems. Form Energy intends to source the iron domestically and manufacture the battery systems near where they will be sited. Form Energy’s first project is with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy, located near the heart of the American Iron Range.

Greg Ludkovsky, Global Head of Research and Development at ArcelorMittal, believes Form Energy is at the leading edge of developments in the long-duration, grid-scale battery storage space. "The multi-day energy storage technology they have developed holds exciting potential to overcome the issue of intermittent supply of renewable energy."

Investors in Form Energy's November 2020 round included Energy Impact Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners III, and Temasek.

In May 2020, it signed a contract with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy to jointly deploy a 1MW / 150MWh pilot project to be located in Cambridge, MN. Great River Energy is Minnesota's second-largest electric utility and the fifth largest generation and transmission cooperative in the US.

Last week Helena and Energy Vault announced a strategic partnership to identify additional opportunities for Energy Vault’s waste remediation technologies as the company begins deployment of its energy storage system worldwide. It received new investment from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) in June.

Maoneng has revealed more details of its proposed 240MWp / 480MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in Australia (click here).

The BESS represents hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that will improve electricity grid reliability and network stability by drawing energy from the grid during off-peak periods for battery storage, and dispatching energy to the grid during peak periods. 

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