Europe Invests in Thermal Energy Storage Innovation
by Robert Schreiber
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Feb 09, 2024
An ambitious international research endeavor, spearheaded by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), is set to revolutionize seasonal thermal energy storage technologies. Titled “INTERSTORES,” this project is at the forefront of designing and integrating novel storage systems into our energy infrastructure, marking a significant step forward in the energy transition movement.
Funded under the “Horizon Europe” program, the initiative boasts nearly eleven million euros in support, with MLU receiving approximately 1.5 million euros. This substantial investment underscores the project’s critical role in enhancing the performance and cost-efficiency of thermal energy storage systems, aiming to propel these technologies to market readiness.
Professor Peter Bayer, a geoscientist at MLU and the project lead, highlights the essential challenge renewable energy faces-storage. Particularly in temperate climates, energy, especially in the form of heat, is abundant in summer but scarce in winter. “That is why we need simple and cost-effective solutions so that, for example, the surplus energy from the summer can be used in the winter,” Bayer explains.
Initial systems utilizing water heated by solar energy or waste heat, stored in large underground tanks, demonstrate the concept’s viability. Despite the proven potential of these thermal storage solutions, their widespread implementation is hindered by high investment costs, economic risks, and a lack of practical planning tools. The INTERSTORES project aims to address these barriers through a collaborative effort involving partners from nine countries, each bringing expertise in business, engineering, geosciences, and environmental technology.
A key focus of the project is demonstrating how large storage systems can be constructed in an efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly manner. This effort includes the development of two distinct facilities: one leveraging existing basin infrastructure in Ingolstadt, Germany, and another involving the excavation of a massive cavern near Helsinki, Finland, capable of holding approximately one million cubic meters of water. These demonstration plants offer a unique opportunity to test the technology at full scale, aiming to bridge critical knowledge gaps and provide practical insights for future implementations.
“By including these two demonstration plants in the project, we have the unique opportunity to investigate the technology at full scale. We want to close critical knowledge gaps to create reliable, functionally robust systems and to obtain practical information for specific implementation projects in the future,” concludes Bayer. Through the INTERSTORES project, MLU and its partners are paving the way for a more sustainable and efficient energy future, showcasing the pivotal role of thermal energy storage in the global shift towards renewable resources.