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Lightening the world – Development of thermo-mechanical energy storage strategies for future low-carbon power systems with high penetration of renewable energy generation

Project Description

This project is an exciting research opportunity for a motivated student to join the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage (BCES) at the School of Chemical Engineering of the University of Birmingham (UoB) and the Department of Electrical Engineering at University of Melbourne (UoM). Due to intermittent nature of renewable energy sources (RES), efficient and economically viable energy storage systems are urgently needed to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and ensure supply of energy. Still, competitive energy storage technology requires to address technological, system-level and economic challenges in a multidisciplinary framework.

This project will systematically investigated the opportunities for thermo-mechanical energy storage systems: Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES), Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) pumped heat energy storage (PHES) into future low carbon grids of the UK and Australia. LAES, CAES and PHES are the key storage technologies under development in the UK which store energy by using energy available at wrong time to compress air (CAES), liquefy air (LAES) or heat air (PHES) then collected in tanks. To release energy – at the time when it is most needed – air, either compressed, liquefied of heated is expanded in turbines to generate electricity. The project will unfold in three stages:

a. Technological development of LAES, CAES, PHES: configurations of LAES and CAES will be studied A detailed dynamic process simulation tool will be produced to design of each configuration, maximize the efficiency of LAES/CAES/PHES and evaluate the dynamic response (e.g. start-up time). Experiments with the LAES pilot plant at the University of Birmingham will allow to test the model under realistic operating conditions.
b. System level assessment: we will quantify the capabilities of LAES/CAES/PHES to provide multiple services to the UK and the Australian energy networks. A large-scale optimization tool will be developed on the basis of previous research carried out at the University of Melbourne.
c. UK and Australian future thermo-mechanical energy storage scenarios: We will systematically use the system-level model to assess the role, value and benefits of LAES, CAES and PHES into current and future (2030-2050) energy scenarios. We will focus on increasing reliability, reduction of energy generation costs and increasing share of RES. The results will have the potential to inform on technological, economic and environmental benefits of LAES/CAES/PHES in the UK and Australia.

This is an exciting cross-disciplinary project and the student will acquire unique skills. The candidate will receive extensive training on i) energy storage, thermodynamics and process modelling at Birmigham Centre for Energy Storage and ii) sustainable power systems, linear/nonlinear optimization, techno-economics at the University of Melbourne. The skills developed will provide the student a unique foundation for her/his future academic or industrial career.

We are looking for creative and motivated applicants with First or Upper Second degree (or equivalent) in mechanical engineering, energy engineering, electrical engineering or chemical engineering with good English communication skills. Background in engineering thermodynamics and numerical modelling of energy systems is required. Experience in one of more of the following will be an advantage: Energy storage, MATLAB/Simulink, linear/nonlinear optimization, power system operation and basics of energy systems economics. It is not expected that the candidates’ background will include all the skills necessary to conduct this research but they must show willingness to learn and work as part of a multidisciplinary team.

Funding Notes

A fully-funded studentship, which includes tax-free Doctoral Stipend of £14,553* per annum, is available for Home/EU and Overseas students on this Joint PhD programme between the University of Birmingham and the University of Melbourne for October 2018 start. For engineering students who are to be hosted by the University of Melbourne, the scholarship rate will be $AUD30,000 p.a. and will include provision for a return trip to Birmingham.

*subject to inflationary variation

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