Really disruptive technologies tend to be fairly rare in the renewable energy market. However, the heat batteries developed by Sunamp, which specialises in this area, look to be capable of being more disruptive than most of the innovations one sees in this space. Andrew Bissell, the CEO of Sunamp, claims that his products are highly likely to make conventional hot water cylinders obsolete in a relatively short space of time. The technology is now in its third iteration and is barely a third of the size of a typical hot water cylinder, such as households use for hot water. However, the company is currently prototyping much larger versions capable of scaling up to provide the heating needs of commercial companies from palette-sized to container-scale. These would be ideal as a supplemental driver for large scale district heating networks. “We started developing this technology around 2006, in terms of defining the concept. In 2009, with help from the University of Edinburgh, with whom we continue to have a very fruitful partnership, we started the practical development,” Bissell explains. It has taken half a decade to refine the technology to the point where it has successfully gone through proof of concept trials in domestic housing. As Bissell explains, the basic technology is analogous to the little hand warmers that golfers and others will know well. In these devices a liquid turns to a solid and heat is released in the process. Sunamp’s heat batteries use a proprietary solid/liquid material devised by Sunamp in partnership with Edinburgh University’s School of Chemistry. The system can capture heat in a variety of ways. In domestic heating contexts it can be run off photo voltaic solar panels on the house roof, off-peak or renewable grid electricity, heat pumps, biomass or conventional boilers. The commercial scale or district heating models can be configured to capture waste heat directly. “In 2013, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, as it then was, gave us a contract to put our thermal storage system, alongside off-peak electricity and air-source heat pumps, into seven homes as a proof of concept trial. That was very successful – we were able to heat the homes at half the cost of natural gas. We had some retail sales on the back of that and in 2017 we won a fiercely contested competitive contract from Local Energy Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, to put our heat batteries into 650 homes. These were in two housing associations, East Lothian Housing and Castle Rock Edinvar, which is part of the much larger Places for People Group,” he notes.
Herald 30th April 2018 read more »