FLEXIS (Flexible Integrated Energy Systems) is a £24 million research operation designed to develop an energy systems research capability in Wales which will build on the world class capability that already exists in Welsh Universities. GTRC FLEXIS activities are covered by Work Packages 2, 3 and 4
Work Package 2 - Flexible Power Plant
The aim of this work package is to support the development for integration of future conventional power plant with renewable power generation. This will be increasingly more necessary as the proportion of renewable power generation increases because conventional power will be needed to react in times of under-supply. Such changes can occur with little warning, such as a drop in sun or wind conditions coinciding with a peak in domestic demand; this has been identified as one of the most significant challenges facing the energy sector in the coming decades. Modern power stations are designed to run under steady conditions, thus significant development is needed to allow them to rapidly ‘load match’ when intermittency arises. Another likely outcome from this scenario is that power stations will need to spend extended periods in ‘standby mode’ (akin to leaving an engine idling) hence there is a need to develop combustion systems that can operate stably and efficiently at low power conditions, with minimal emissions. This research will place Wales in a strong position as a hub for development of technology essential in the support of renewable energy and hence contribute to ensuring security of supply i.e. load matching, as well as enabling reduction in CO2 due to increased renewable utilisation.
Work package 3 - Energy Storage to Power
Energy storage is a major challenge in moving towards a low-carbon economy. Storage is an essential element of future energy systems to enable increased efficiency from renewable generation as well as improving security of supply mitigating renewable intermittency. In this WP, various forms of conversion from excess electrical power into chemical stored energy are considered. Risk and hazard analysis of alternative fuels is another important element of future energy systems and included within this work package. This WP has strong industrial support due to a genuine interest in the development of distributed energy storage products. During the transitional period to a low carbon economy, the use of the national gas grid or local gas storage is considered an attractive way of storing excess energy i.e. storing energy when there is excess renewable power available but not the demand.
Work Package 4 – Integrated Power and Alternative Fuels
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is considered a necessary technology to meet 2050 climate change targets. This is due to the continued requirement for baseload power, in addition to complementing intermittent renewable power generation. Hence, the residual conventional power generators need to be decarbonised and CCS technologies need to be advanced. There is some misalignment between the need for CCS integration and a push for high efficiency gas turbines with realistic capital cost and footprint. Subsequent development needs will include raising the CO2 concentration in the exhaust and the elimination of by-products that could poison the capture media. Moreover, there is now the potential of new fuels entering the market, which need to be de-risked for heat and power generation applications. One of the main challenges in this industry will be the appreciable differences in chemical properties between these fuels.