As the UK grapples with rocketing energy prices, energy storage solutions promise a better future. Already, the imperative to move toward renewable energy is more powerful than ever, but most forms of clean energy cannot generate on demand. Power needs to be available around the clock, even when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.
Figures produced by Drax mean that UK grid energy storage will need to grow to 30GW from 3GW today. However, this is an existing problem, as the technologies and materials aren't yet able to be cost-effective.
One of the main forms is currently pumped hydro, which involves transporting water between reservoirs at different levels and gathering kinetic energy from spun turbines. When the power moves into the storage mode, the same turbines pump water to the upper reservoir until it is needed again. However, although pumped hydro is a long-standing technology, it is limited. Only some sites can use it, and these are often far away from energy demand sites.
Again this may also be about to change. Start-ups are building subsea pumped hydro systems that pump seawater between vast ocean-floor bladders. This means that storage technologies could potentially be sited next to wind farms. Other solutions involve exploring thermal storage, which works like domestic hot water tanks to store hot water energy until it is needed. The biggest development of this kind is being built in Fland. The water will be heated to 140 degrees and stored in a cavern that can hold a million cubic metres of hot water until it is needed. This storage capacity will be enough to meet the annual heating needs of a mid-sized town and allow waste heat from geothermal and solar to be stored until winter.