The UK is going through a period of sustainable transformation, and it isn’t slowing down. It has begun the development of a new gigafactory to begin production on electric vehicles, it’s advancing plans to source energy from more renewable means such as wind and solar farms, and it’s funding projects to combat the level of food waste nationwide. But as the deadline approaches for the country’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK is far from satisfied with its sustainability progress.
That’s why the UK government has launched its energy storage solution initiative - or, more precisely, its competition. Calling on all innovators, inventors, and environmental enthusiasts, the UK is rallying forces to generate an influx of ideas to provide solutions to the renewable energy industry. And the reward? £1mn to the winners of the first phase, and a whopping £11mn to the worthy winners of phase two!
Why do we need energy storage solutions?
One of the overarching issues surrounding renewable energy storage is that the two main sources of sustainable energy generation, solar and wind, aren’t exactly the most consistent. Relying heavily on two factors that can’t be controlled - constant exposure to sunlight and a steady source of wind - makes for an unpredictable supply of electricity which, at any time, could struggle to supply a sudden peak in demand. Similarly, if energy demand dips, any energy being generated is, in effect, being wasted.
Therefore, a need arises to store this excess energy for future use to meet demand when it’s high and avoid wasting potentially valuable energy that is continually being generated when the demand is low.
Of course, there are several energy storage solutions already available within the renewable energy sector. While they might not be capable of counteracting all the various issues surrounding sustainable electricity generation, they do go some way to ensure several forms of renewable energy are maintained.
Potential Energy Storage and Chemical Energy Storage are two prime examples. Pumped water storage ensures water is transferred to a higher reservoir when energy demand is at its peak. Similarly, the use of rechargeable batteries - namely, lithium-ion batteries - provides just enough energy to power small-scale solar and wind installations, though is unable to supply sufficient power to entire plants just yet.
The game is on
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, ‘I could do that. I have an idea,’ then go for it! Entries are welcome, so long as pre-existing commercialised technologies are not put forward. Commercial solutions that are already in circulation can be advanced by companies and corporations, and the UK government is keen to inspire new and innovative ideas that could potentially change the outlook of the renewable energy sector and lead the way for the future of sustainable energy storage worldwide.