Power system uses multiple intermittent renewable sources

Engineers in the UK and India are hoping to combine solar, biomass and hydrogen generating technology to power remote villages.

A team led by Heriot-Watt University has received £1.3m from the EPSRC to develop an integrated power system that uses multiple intermittent renewable sources to produce a continuous flow of energy.

The idea is to use solar power during the day and match it with biomass generation from local sources of organic material during the night. Any excess solar electricity can be stored by using it to produce hydrogen for emergency use.

‘One of the main problems in renewable energy is all sources are intermittent,’ project lead Dr Tapas Mallick of Heriot-Watt’s Scottish Institute for Solar Energy Research told The Engineer.

‘What we want to achieve is using two different renewable sources so that the power supply for a remote village will run 24/7.’

The Heriot-Watt team is developing novel solar concentrator technology that it hopes will have a relatively high efficiency of 30–35 per cent.

Partners at Leeds University are working on the biomass plant and researchers at Nottingham University are studying metal hydride-based solutions for hydrogen storage.

This technology will then need to be integrated into a 15–20kW system that the team hopes will be able to provide a small amount of electricity — enough to power two lightbulbs and a fan — for 80 households.

‘There are quite a lot of other elements — for example, theoretical modelling for each component, water management, thermal management and component-level research,’ said Mallick.

Much of this work will be carried out by the team’s partners at Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal, India.

The project will last three years, including six months testing the final system, and the UK funding will be matched by around 90 million rupees (£1.25m) from India.