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Bitzer “charged” with energy storage

UK: Bitzer open-drive ammonia screw compressors are being employed in a new energy storage technology being developed by UK company O-Hx.

The patented EnergiVault is designed to support decarbonisation of industrial processes, and commercial and residential buildings and has already attracted government funding in the form of a Business Accelerator grant to commercialise the technology.

Cooling energy generated by the Bitzer-powered refrigeration system is stored in a thermal battery containing a reservoir of phase-change material. The battery is ‘charged’ by the refrigeration system using off-peak electricity, and then drawn-down during high-tariff periods, significantly cutting end users’ power bills. 

Waste heat generated by the refrigeration system is captured by EnergiVault’s heat recovery system, and can be used for space heating or hot water for domestic use or industrial processes.

“Unlike lithium batteries, which can discharge only around 70% of their power, all the energy stored in an EnergiVault can be used without harming the device or its future storage capacity,” said EnergiVault inventor Bob Long.

EnergiVault’s refrigeration charging system is rated at 40-60kW. With a storage battery containing around 10 tonnes of PCM, a 1MW thermal store can be charged over 16 hours and discharged at a cooling rate of 1MW in an hour, or 500kW for two hours. EnergiVault can be used standalone or multiplexed to generate whatever power is required for an application.

One of the keys to the system is said to be the custom-designed algorithm that manages how the unit is charged, maintained and drawn-down to maximise energy savings. It ensures that the lowest-cost power source is used at all times, while maintaining maximum battery power back-up.

Through a combination of demand shifting, heat recovery, reduction in part-load chiller cycling, and overall efficiency optimisation, EnergiVault is claimed to reduce energy costs by up to 62%, depending on the application.

Bitzer UK MD Kevin Glass describes the EnergiVault as an “exciting development” that demonstrates the potential of refrigeration-based power storage systems as transformational solutions. 

“The push for net-zero carbon will require a complete rethinking of our energy infrastructure. With its thermodynamic and efficiency advantages, refrigeration offers the exciting prospect that our industry could be in the vanguard,” said Glass.

O-Hx Ltd was established in 2016 to develop and commercialise EnergiVault across the world. Partnering with environmental incubator 350 PPM, O-Hx is now launching a series of funding rounds to achieve substantial growth in the cooling energy storage hybrid sector.

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