$2M DOE grant supports building thermal battery

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The addition of renewable energy into the electrical grid is forcing conventional power plants to adapt to new power generation realities. 

“Fossil power plants used to generate power at maximum capacity all day long,” says Carlos Romero, director of Lehigh University’s Energy Research Center (ERC). “They were what we call base-loaded, and that’s the best operating point for the plant in terms of thermal efficiency. But now, with renewables like solar and wind on the grid, these conventional plants are required to operate on load-following mode and at extremely minimum loads. Because of the deviation of actual efficiency from the design value, fuel consumption increases, and there is a corresponding monetary loss during the operation of the power plant.”

An interdisciplinary team, promoted by Lehigh’s Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy (I-CPIE), is starting a project on thermal energy storage (TES) for applications in fossil-fired power plants. 

The team matches the ERC’s expertise in power generation and energy with appropriate expertise in civil engineering within Lehigh’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Engineering Research Center. Both the ERC and ATLSS are affiliated with I-CPIE, which focuses on interdisciplinary team science around the demands and impacts of society’s reliance upon energy, communications, structural, and transportation systems. I-CPIE is one of three Interdisciplinary Research Institutes launched by the university in 2018.

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