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The Benefits Of Thermal Storage

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  • 22-09-2021
The Benefits Of Thermal Storage

What are the benefits of thermal storage? Find out more about what is thermal energy storage, the benefits of thermal storage and why we need it. 

Why Do We Need Thermal Energy Storage

Increased electrification and renewable energy is becoming increasingly more relevant in the UK as we make efforts to prepare our future. We must significantly reduce emissions to keep our earth sustainable, and one major way we can do that is through the use of electrification and higher energy efficiency. Additionally, renewable energy resources are becoming more affordable year after year, so countries are more open to utilising them due to the reduced emissions and costs. 

Unfortunately, renewable energy sources such as solar heating can fluctuate based on factors like poor weather, so more storage is necessary to ensure power is always available to users. 

Modern district energy systems offer a solution to many of today's energy issues. They have a highly flexible storage and delivery infrastructure that allows energy sources to "plug in" at ease. The energy can come as either chilled or hot water, and it can be transported to buildings in need of power through a pipe network.

There are multiple storage types available for when power isn't being used. Heat storage tanks can hold thermal energy for a few days, and large storage facilities are capable of holding the energy for months, depending on the energy demand. District energy systems essentially offer two main features.

Firstly, they can store vast amounts of energy, and secondly, they provide a network between energy sources and storage. They handle the heat pumps, solar thermal storage, geothermal produce, and waste heat. As the system is so efficient, it can significantly reduce peak demand costs of energy.

How Does Thermal Store Central Heating Work?

What Is Thermal Energy Storage?

Thermal energy systems involve heating and cooling a storage medium so that the energy can be used later. For example, water tanks can be used for heat storage. The water in the tanks can be heated when there is a high amount of energy, and energy can be stored in the water when the available energy is lower. Thermal energy storage is often used to segment the consumption of energy over the hours of the day and night. 

It is common to use storage or water tanks of earth, bedrock, or ice slush as a storage solution for thermal energy. The storage tanks can be accessed by boreholes and large water bodies below ground.

Different technologies and systems can be utilised to store energy for different purposes. Some energy storage systems are capable of holding energy for months, whereas some are designed to hold heat for just a few days.

The 3 Common Types Of Thermal Energy Systems

1. Sensible heat

2. Thermochemical heat

3. Latent heat.


Sensible thermal storage is an effective storage option that reduces carbon emissions and energy consumption. Rock and water are used for both the storage and release of heat energy. Sensible thermal energy storage is commonly used in residential buildings.

Thermochemical heat systems are relatively complex and rely on chemical reactions to reach high energy storage capacities.

Latent heat systems can store heat without the temperature changing. Instead, it uses a unique system in which the state of the medium changes. Phase change materials are being researched and developed recently that are capable of storing heat as latent heat in their mass, all at a low cost. The materials are useful for building materials and solar energy applications as they can absorb and store excess heat.

Benefits Of Thermal Storage

Benefits Of Thermal Storage

Save Money

Large grid powering operational costs can be saved by using energy storage. Also, electricity consumers can save money by installing energy storage at their businesses and in their homes. Spinning reserve services and frequency regulation costs can be significantly reduced by using energy storage. By storing energy for future use, the cost of electricity rates can be offset during peak power demand periods, as consumers won't need to purchase at that time due to their existing reserves.

Energy storage is extremely useful for brief outages, as businesses can use the stored energy to avoid interrupting operations, instead of shutting down and losing money whilst they wait for the power to return. With more businesses open during an outage, residents will have access to more infrastructure, which could potentially save them money if they were in an emergency.

Food and medication that requires refrigeration can continue to be cooled by using energy storage backups in the event of such an outage, saving both time and money.

Improve Reliability & Resilience

During disruptions, energy storage is useful as it provides a backup power solution. It uses the same principle as any device that uses individual backup power, such as a smoke alarm that has a battery storage backup. One of the main features of energy storage is that it can be scaled up to any size provided the infrastructure is available for it, meaning it can be used for large commercial buildings or even power grids.

The power grid application is particularly useful as a large number of buildings rely on it, so potentially thousands of people will be affected if they do not have access to electricity. Through the reliability of energy storage, businesses can rest assured that key infrastructure will stay available in the event of an outage and work will not be interrupted.

Integrate Diverse Resources

Renewable energy sources can be inconsistent, and availability can differ across the country. Energy storage can provide power to locations that are experiencing an energy drought due to aspects such as poor weather or lack of fuel. 

The flexibility that energy storage offers is beneficial for businesses that require a sudden influx of power for supply and demand purposes as well as large projects.

Power can easily be distributed, diverted and sold according to needs, and there is less wasted heat. As an enabling storage technology, energy storage can serve as a backup when the sun isn't out for your solar panels, or as a quick boost in power for when you need to immediately expand infrastructure.

Reduce Environmental Impacts

Energy storage, in basic terms, enables unused electricity to be kept for a later date or stored for transportation. It enables electric grids to diversify their power, reduce carbon emissions, and run more efficiently. 

Energy storage is flexible. It allows energy grids to introduce more wind, concentrating solar power (CSP), thermal and other renewable power generation as an investment.

The more sustainable power sources that are installed, the lower the need for power plants that use fossil fuels, which are incredibly harmful to the environment. Additionally, it allows grids to increase the capacity of existing infrastructure, as they can easily store whatever energy they don't end up using or transporting. 

Applications Of Thermal Storage

Applications Of Thermal Storage

Day-to-Day Storage

Dwellings can benefit substantially from the use of thermal mass. Heat can be stored throughout the day and then be released at night to provide space heating. It could also be used to cool down the dwelling interior at night to reduce the high temperatures during the day.

The technology is particularly useful in climates where there is a significant temperature disparity between day and night. Thermal mass is typically more useful in dry climates as opposed to humid climates that don't face such cold nights. Unused electricity can be used to form ice which is useful in air conditioning for cooling throughout the day. This practice is particularly popular in Japan.

Seasonal Storage

If thermals will be stored for a considerably long time (at least a year), it is known as seasonal storage. The main reason a business would utilise seasonal heat storage is to store large amounts of excess heat that can't afford to be lost or gain a significant amount of heat access that would otherwise be unavailable (or both).

For example, solar panels generate a considerable amount of heat during summer, and not all of it is used during those months. Storing just some of this energy is beneficial as not only is it "free", but the alternative is to generate more heat, which releases more greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), harming the environment. Seasonable heat storage is only a smart option if the renewable source generates enough excess heat to reasonably provide for the heating demands of the winter months that come after.

Phase-changing materials are an emerging technology being researched for their use cases in seasonal heat storage, although they are not without their downsides. The materials required can be incredibly costly, and the stability of the material itself isn't guaranteed.

Due to its high heat capacity, water is a suitable medium for heat storage. Concrete can also be used, although a large amount is needed for it to be effective. For efficiency, a well-insulated, underground tank should be used, although not many businesses will be able to afford its steep price.

Natural rock formations can be taken advantage of as insulation for large scale energy storage. Whilst complicated and expensive, it is certainly possible and has been used by businesses in Sweden over the years.

Are you considering air source heat pump installation in Essex, Suffolk and the surrounding areas? We have years of experience in providing tailored energy-efficient and affordable home heating solutions. So if you need any further assistance  with air source heat pumps, follow the link below.