By Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU

Ulster University is working on a €6.7m research project on how to store more heat and electricity in homes to help increase the amount of renewable energy.

The project SPIRE 2 is a Eu-funded cross border research project and follows the UK Government’s announcement of a complete transformation of how energy will be generated, stored and used in the future. The project is  is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The Ulster University is collaborating with three research institutes and 14 businesses via a cross-border Virtual Research Graduate School.

It is expected that the research will identify ways of reducing costs, new technology developments and new concepts that will make this region a leader in this sort of technology. For example, could battery banks be made more readily available and if so can they be integrated into the current market?

UK Regulator OFGEM estimated last month that new rules to change how electricity is made, used and stored could save consumers between £17bn and £40bn by 2050.

Project leader Professor Neil Hewitt, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies at Ulster University, said: “The announcement by the Business Secretary Greg Clarke outlined how the UK Government intends to stimulate a drastic modernisation of energy markets.

“The SPIRE 2 project will help to deliver this by looking at how energy storage resources owned by homeowners and businesses can resolve the problem of the variability of output from renewable energy. If consumers can store energy effectively, that will allow very high levels of renewables to be integrated into power grids globally, at the same time as putting consumers at the heart of the energy system.

“Collaboration between research institutes and businesses is key to the success of this project and we are excited to be working with so many partner organisations. Working together, we can intensify technological innovation in the region and create pathways to commercialise advanced energy storage solutions. We want this region to be internationally recognised as an energy storage innovator as this will attract global industry interest and investment.

“The project will create 17 PhD studentships and will further develop six post-doctoral researchers. By creating this supply of highly-educated developers, able to transform research ideas into commercial reality, SPIRE 2 will also contribute to local economic growth. These positions are now open to applicants and offer an opportunity to be involved in strategically significant global energy research.”

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