Heating project a hot prospect
INNOVATION PROFILE: Dublin Energy LabStorage heaters use excess wind energy and store it to be released as heat
A ground-breaking new project involving the Dublin Energy Lab at the Dublin Institute of Technology has the potential to deliver very significant savings to home heating costs along with considerable environmental benefits. However, it may come as a surprise to find that the project is based on the decidedly old technology of storage heating.
The project also involves Glen Dimplex, a range of installers, Eirgrid, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Electric Ireland and is supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. At its heart is a new generation of highly efficient storage heaters designed and developed by Glen Dimplex which are connected to the electricity grid operator and are able to take excess wind energy when it’s available and store it to be released later as heat.
This addresses two of the major energy issues facing society today – storing wind energy so that it is available when the wind isn’t blowing; and reducing end-use energy consumption, particularly in domestic dwellings.
These two imperatives are usually seen totally separately. However, the Quantum project inextricably links them and provides a holistic solution to both.
The Glen Dimplex developed Quantum system takes wind-generated electricity that would otherwise remain unharnessed or unused, and stores it as heat in the home but the heat is only released when the occupant requires it. To achieve this, information must be transferred between the grid operation of wind turbines and the storage devices in the home.
“Traditional storage heaters charge up with heat at the night rate and release it during the day but they are not terribly energy efficient, not easy to control or very comfortable for the home owner,” notes Dublin Energy Lab centre manager Dr Aidan Duffy. “One of the main drivers behind this project is that we are living in a world where we have to be more energy efficient and where we are moving from dispatchable fossil fuel electricity generation to intermittent renewable sources.”
This brings with it the issue of what to do with the excess energy generated when the wind is blowing. One solution came from the Spirit of Ireland group and proposes pumping water into valleys for later release through hydroelectric generating stations. The Quantum solution involves the storage of the excess energy as heat in homes around the country.
And anyone who has concerns due to previous experiences with old-fashioned storage heaters need not be worried. “The Quantum is a highly thermally efficient product,” Duffy explains. “It is very well insulated and has a very sophisticated control interface which allows for heat to be released whenever it is needed. It overcomes the comfort and energy efficiency issues of previous generations of storage heaters.”