PhD: Is building-integrated energy storage a good idea?


Dr Steve Allen

Fossil-fuelled energy use represents around 80% of global greenhouse (GHG) emissions, a huge proportion of which is used to heat and power our buildings. There is an urgent need to reduce GHG emissions while providing energy security and improving access to energy around the world.

Energy storage will have a crucial role to play in this. Storage can better integrate our electricity and heat systems, and aid decarbonisation, by:

  • Helping to integrate higher levels of both renewable energy supplies (e.g. wind and solar power) and the electrification of energy demands (e.g. electric cars and heat pumps)
  • Supporting greater production of energy where it is consumed
  • Improving energy system resource efficiency
  • Improving electricity grid stability, flexibility, reliability and resilience.

At the building scale, technology options include both electrical storage (e.g. Tesla’s Powerwall) and novel thermal storage (e.g. phase change materials).

However, while some energy storage technologies are technologically mature, most are still in the early stages of development. Many questions therefore remain over how best to adopt more energy storage. For example, for storage at a building level, what physical size would novel storage technologies need to be to enable energy demand to be shifted by a few hours to minimise peaks?  What sort of carbon saving would that achieve?  What would be the environmental impacts of each technology?

This PhD will use a combination of dynamic energy modelling and life cycle assessment to assess a range of novel energy storage options for buildings. There will be an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the world under the IEA Annex 32 on Energy Conservation on Energy Storage, and to feed in to the new £36 million Active Buildings Centre, which involves the University of Bath and a range of other leading academic and industrial organisations around the UK. The outputs of the work will be relevant to energy-systems design and energy policy around the world.

Given the multi-disciplinary nature of the project, the ideal PhD candidate will have a strong engineering/mathematical background and will be familiar with one or more of the following topics: dynamic energy modelling, building physics, thermodynamics, life cycle assessment, computer programming.

Further details and how to apply here.