Storage Platform for the Integration of Renewable Energy (SPIRE) by Prof. Neil J. Hewitt

Location and Date: 
Monday, January 4, 2016, 4:00 pm, LC 001


There is an emerging challenge that is an outcome of harmonised energy policies in Ireland, and potentially UK and the rest of Europe. The combination of the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAP’s) demanded by Europe, a Single Electricity Market in Ireland (SEM) and the development of a Target Market Model by the European Commission requiring greater alignment of electricity market processes between jurisdictions will in the future facilitate the trading of non-dispatchable wind energy which is the likely dominant large scale renewable energy source of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland in the foreseeable future.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in its energy policy to 2050 report details the necessary infrastructure requirements to facilitate not only wind energy trading from the western maritime Europe but solar energy from southern Europe and biomass energy from Eastern Europe. In scenarios that detail up to 95% carbon dioxide emission reductions by 2050, transmission infrastructure, system operation and electricity market integration enhancements are illustrated. In addition to the significant costs that counteract the benefits of increased fuel security, the major challenge is that of time. It is predicted that by 2050, there will be sufficient infrastructure to support the fully integrated European electricity markets that allows Ireland and the UK to participate fully in such markets.

However the combination of SEM, UK and Ireland NREAPs and the Northern Ireland Strategic Energy Framework recognises that UK/Ireland region is likely to be wind led with current wind capacity being 1000MW in Northern Ireland, 2000MW in Republic of Ireland and over 8000MW in Great Britain. With the UK predicting over 55000MW of offshore wind by 2040, coupled with limited interconnection (as predicted by the EWEA) and no advantages in market operation due to the EU Electricity Target Model approach, the 6000MW of wind energy proposed under the All-Island Grid Study will need to be stored and utilised on the island of Ireland.

A further challenge is that of wind curtailment. Wind penetration in Ireland currently is over 40% during holiday times and often exceeds 50%. Currently there is 2031.25MW of installed wind capacity which may increase to 6500MW by 2020 if the 40% target is to be met. Recent road maps for smart grid and wind for Ireland to 2050 illustrate that onshore wind installed capacity could increase to 15,000MW with 30,000MW of offshore wind. Already wind curtailment is an issue in the wind industry and presents major barriers and uncertainties for future wind project developments and for Ireland to realise the full benefits of wind energy and targets set out above. Thus greater interconnection, energy storage and demand side management must be incorporated in future energy systems to allow decarbonisation with wind in the first instance to have a chance of being a reality.

On the island of Ireland, there are approximately 2.7M housing units, the majority of which utilise fossil fuel boilers to provide space and hot water heating. OFGEMquote 16500 kWh of energy use in space heating and 3300 kWh of electricity annually as “average” UK household energy use. Given a typical heating season of 33 weeks in the UK and Ireland, this would equate to 8GW of available capacity if fossil fuel space heating was displaced by electric space heating and storage. However building suitability and electricity network constraints will limit the numbers of installations capable of performing a demand side management role. In the UK, it has been stated that 16% of demand is moveable, primarily through thermal storage and Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries. This relies upon the deployment of heat pumps and EVs in conjunction with smart meter system capability. If such a deployment was to go ahead, the UK scenario predicts 3% of electricity demand can be managed by heat pumps. In the island of Ireland, a similar heat pump demand would equate to a heat pump-led demand side management capacity of 1.1 TWh or approximately 6% of predicted 2020 wind penetration.

To assess the possibilities of for implementing large levels of energy storage on the island of Ireland, Ulster University initiated Project SPIRE ( – “Storage Platform for the Integration of Renewable Energy” to address variability management on an island electricity network.

SPIRE delivered assessments of three scales of energy storage – large utility scale compressed air energy storage, intermediate scale wind farm/autoproducer mixed mode storage (heat/cold & electricity) and domestic scale demand side management (heat pumps and thermal storage). The results from demonstrations and extrapolations where the fed into an all-Ireland electricity market model which when used under a series of scenarios, illustrated likely costs and benefits of differing types of energy storage on the Ireland market going forward.

This presentation will review the outputs of the £2.9M Project Spire completed in June 2015 and illustrate likely areas of cooperation between Ulster and Indian Institutes of Technology in the field of energy storage. Management of electricity networks with variable renewable energy sources providing electricity, heat, cold at the most opportune times is an area of interest to both countries.

About the speaker:

Neil J Hewitt is Professor of Energy and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies at Ulster University. He is also the Head of Research Graduate School. Professor Hewitt represents the UK in Commission B2 (Refrigerating Machinery) of the International Institute of Refrigeration and is one of the UK’s leading researchers and academics in energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies and their enabling mechanisms. He has achieved international recognition in the development of advanced heat pumps and has played a leading role at Ulster University in developing the research base in the subject area, as well as contributing significantly to a suite of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the discipline. Exceptionally well-published in leading scientific journals and conference papers, Professor Hewitt has demonstrated substantial research leadership over many years. He has attracted over 15Million Euro of peer reviewed research income from EU and national programmes. Some of his current projects include CESAR FP7-SME-2011 FP7 (absorption heat pumps and solar), EINSTEIN FP7-2011-NMP-ENV-ENERGY-ICT-EeB FP7 (vapour compression heat pumps and seasonal thermal energy storage), GRAGE H2020-MSCA-RISE-2014 H2020 (building energy systems for aging societies) and POREEN FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IRSES FP7 (low carbon buildings for China).