Novel high-temperature storage integrates regional wind and solar energy peaks into heating and electricity grids

The world’s first commercial steel-based storage system was presented today in Berlin’s Reinickendorf district. The new type of high-temperature storage system enables a safe and grid-friendly electricity and heat supply from regional wind and solar energy. Storage start-up Lumenion built the steel core within one year. The 2.4 megawatt-hour (MWh) storage system is now being integrated into the district electricity and local heating supply of a residential estate owned bthe state-owned housing association Gewobag and operated by Vattenfall Energy Solutions. 

“This is an important milestone for our technology, but also for the rapid and cost-effective decarbonisation of our energy system as a whole” says Lumenion founder and managing director Alexander Voigt. Our steel storage technology makes clean energy usable with a time delay – both as heat and as electricity. We are now planning further systems with 40 and even with 500 MWh.” 

Lumenion technology stores peaks from regionally generated wind and solar energy space-efficiently by heating a steel core to up to 650° Celsius. Steel is particularly well suited for high-temperature storage because its thermal conductivity makes it easy and inexpensive to heat. At the same time it can store very large amounts of energy in a small space. 

Thanks to the high storage temperatures, the stored energy can be converted back into electricity using a turbine unit – or used entirely for process steam or for heating and domestic hot water provision. Around half of the energy used in Germany is used as heat for domestic hot water, for space heating and for industrial processing. In the future, generation peaks from wind and solar power plants are to be converted into heat as part of sector coupling. With the Lumenion technology, this sector can thus also be decarbonised step by step. 

In the Tegel pilot project, the steel storage facility will be tested in commercial use and put into regular operation. For this purpose, the storage facility will be integrated with an existing gas-powered combined heat and power unit (CHP) from Vattenfall Energy Solutions GmbH into the district electricity and local heating supply of the Gewobag estate. The storage will temporarily absorb current peaks that are not required and later feed them into the heat supply as required. The system can also be fitted with a power generator at a later date. Due to the current regulatory framework, however, it is currently not economically viable to convert the stored energy back into electricity. 

Lumenion has already successfully tested the controls and operation of the innovative steel storage system with a 450 kWh prototype on the campus of Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences. 

As it scales the technology into the gigawatt-hour range, Lumenion is now planning storage systems with 40 MWh and 600 MWh. This will help to efficiently integrate existing and newly added wind and solar electricity generation into existing grids. 

The storage facility is part of “WindNODE – Showcasing smart energy systems from north-eastern Germany“, a programme in which solutions for the intelligent energy supply with increasing proportions of renewable energies are being developed.

Berlin, December 10, 2019

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