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Energy storage test bed is officially switched-on

A unique energy storage test bed at Newcastle University is now online - storing energy from the local grid and testing innovative new technologies such as super-capacitors and long life, high performance batteries. 

Funded through a combined £2 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Newcastle University and industrial partners Northern Powergrid and Siemens, the facility will be based at Science Central - Newcastle’s £200 million flagship project bringing together academia, the public sector, communities, business and industry to create a global centre for urban innovation.

“The energy storage test bed will help make the UK a leader in the adoption, deployment and integration of energy storage technology and establish best practice for energy distributors and industry, which is a huge part of the energy storage challenge”, explains Professor Phil Taylor, Professor of Electrical Power Systems and Director of the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University, who is overseeing the Science Central development.

“This exciting new research facility allows us to learn about energy storage generally, quantify its value more effectively and improve it by working with equipment manufacturers and other solution providers.”

Currently based in the University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the test bed will eventually be housed on Science Central where it will link to the site’s microgrid to allow researchers to develop software solutions for smart grids and energy storage.

A key feature of the energy storage test bed is that it can test combinations of energy storage technologies that will respond rapidly to fluctuating demand for power across the grid.

The facility is open to UK industry and academia for use in investigating and testing emerging storage tools, techniques and materials. It allows research to be carried out to better understand the challenges and benefits associated with grid-connected energy storage systems, from storage technologies through to power electronic converter designs and control techniques, and finally into the distribution network. 

Working alongside leading researchers from Newcastle University, Professor Taylor said the test bed will allow companies developing energy storage systems to benchmark and optimise their technologies and see how they perform against grid disturbances at a domestic or commercial scale.

Power distributors will be able to compare different energy storage options in real time to match up energy storage technologies with the best applications. 

“One of the main advantages of this facility is its high degree of flexibility allowing fast and easy integration of a multitude of existing electrical energy storage systems, their combinations and even the emulation of novel and emerging technologies. It is built around a high-performance, fully reprogrammable platform allowing us to study in detail a wide range of phenomena associated with the operation and control of grid-connected energy storage and develop relevant solutions”, says Dr Haris Patsios from the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, who has worked in setting up the facility and is currently working with industry using this on various projects. 

“It enables the world’s leading innovators in energy storage technology to evaluate their own technologies and be able to see in real time not only how their technology is working, but what impact it is having on a distribution network”, adds Taylor.

Originally the Elswick Colliery, then later the production centre for Newcastle Brown Ale, Science Central is a 24-acre site that has been Newcastle’s industrial heart for 200 years.

Now the site is being transformed into an exemplar of urban sustainability, a ‘living laboratory’ where innovative urban technologies will be trialled.

Led by Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council through the Science City partnership, the development will include the University’s £58m Urban Sciences Building which will house the School of Computing Science, as well as an urban observatory and decision theatre, allowing real time data from the city to be analysed and explored so we can improve our understanding of the interaction between our city’s energy, water, transport, waste and digital control systems.

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published on: 7 May 2015