Nova Scotia Journal

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Storing energy without batteries could be critical to NS transition away from fossil fuels

fossil fuels

Key Takeaways:

  • According to Wayne Groszko, storing energy as heat is a more cost-effective alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

Two water tanks are bristling with copper wires in the Nova Scotia Community College laboratory. They do not appear to be a piece of renewable energy technology. Nonetheless, they may play a role in reducing one of the province’s significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Nova Scotia, space heating accounts for up to 60% of total energy consumption, rising to 80% when hot water is included.

As the province looks to transition away from coal-fired power by 2030 and to net-zero emissions by 2050, researchers say storing heat, including some of the thermal energy storage options being investigated at NSCC, could help facilitate that transition.

“If you can find a way to store heat for when you need it later, and if that happens to be more affordable than installing a bunch of batteries to store electricity, which it often is,” said Wayne Groszko, applied energy research scientist at Nova Scotia Community College.

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“So we see thermal energy storage as part of a future in which all, or nearly all, of our electricity on the grid comes from renewable sources.”

Storing energy without batteries; Image from CBC News

Wind and solar are expected to provide an increasing proportion of energy around the world, including in Nova Scotia, in the future.

The variability of these technologies, according to Groszko, is a major challenge. “Essentially, that doesn’t always correspond with when you need that energy.

Given that much of the energy used in Nova Scotia is used to generate heat in the first place, storing that energy as heat is a cost-effective alternative. Groszko explained.

A hot water tank is one example of a technology that most people already have in their homes. Such a tank could be superheated to store that energy on a windy day. Then, when the wind dies down, the heaters in the tank can be turned off and the energy released as hot water or space heating.

Another option is to use phase-change materials, which store energy by transitioning from liquid to solid. According to a 2020 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the global market for thermal energy storage materials such as phase-change materials could triple by 2030.

“Over the last ten years, Nova Scotians have dramatically improved their energy efficiency, and I think there’s a certain amount of pride in that,” he said.

Source: CBC News

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