Memorandum from the Science and Technology
Facilities Council to the Science and Technology Select Committee
INQUIRY: RENEWABLE ENERGY GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES
The current state of UK research and development
in, and the deployment of, renewable energy-generation technologies
including: offshore wind; photovoltaics; hydrogen and fuel cell
technologies; wave; tidal; bioenergy; ground source heat pumps:
and intelligent grid management and energy storage
1. The successful development of renewable
energy technologies requires fundamental materials and process
development, engineering integration of devices, and then deployment,
testing and demonstration of prototype devices. STFC makes significant
contributions to the first two steps in this process.
2. Many key renewable energy technologiesphotovoltaics,
hydrogen, fuel cells, bio-energy, and energy storagestill
require significant progress in underlying device and material
performance to improve their reliability and cost effectiveness.
Such progress depends upon understanding the properties of chemicals
and materials at the molecular level. STFC's portfolio of facilities
provides a unique set of tools for the characterisation, optimisation
and design of new chemicals and materials at the molecular level
that will play a key role in fundamental developments, design,
characterisation of device performance and monitoring / characterisation
of devices in use. A significant number of HEI researchers already
make use of the STFC facilities to underpin basic and applied
research in this area and in partnership with the EPSRC, STFC
has provided strategic mode access to the facilities for successful
proposals in a recent "Materials for Energy" call.
3. Even when technologies are successful
commercially, their continuing development benefits from ongoing
research work (eg condition monitoring for offshore wind energy,
innovative generator designs etc). STFC's Energy Research Unit
(ERU) has carried out renewable energy collaborative research
with HEI's and industry for many years, and is currently a partner
in both the Supergen wind consortium and the EU-funded Upwind
project, both of which are seeking to develop advanced wind turbine
designs. The ERU also runs a renewable energy test site as a facility
for academic use in applied renewable energy research projects.
The feasibility, costs, timescales and progress
in commercialising renewable technologies as well as their reliability
and associated carbon footprints
4. The STFC facilities are used in materials
characterisation at all stages in the product pipeline from basic
R&D through to product application and performance.
The UK Government's role in funding research and
development for renewable energy-generation technologies and providing
incentives for technology transfer and industrial research and
5. The STFC is committed to enabling research
and development and technology transfer in the Renewable Energy
Generation area. A number of specific initiatives worthy of note:
The STFC aims to develop and enhance
its facilities to enable in-situ rapid throughput studies
of relevance to whole device modelling and applied research for
energy and materials related studies. We are developing the concept
of a Materials Innovation and Imaging Institute that would tie
together access to multiple facilities with detector development,
simulation, data processing and analysis to provide a solution
based approach to materials problems.
We are exploring an extension of
the successful STFC technology partnership scheme to energy applications,
with the aim of transferring core underpinning capabilities in
instrumentation, engineering, sensor technology and microsystems
prototyping to HEIs and other partner organisations including
Industrial usage of the STFC facilities
is a key component of STFC's Knowledge Exchange Delivery Plan
and to facilitate this and raise awareness within the industrial
community, a wider access Sales Team has been recruited to broker
interaction with commercial partners and customers.
The STFC operates a Proof of Concept
fund that is available for STFC researchers and their HEI collaborators
wishing to take forward ideas to develop new and innovative products
and devices. This scheme is available for all areas of STFC's
research and development portfolioindeed funding has recently
been awarded to develop an online wind energy forecasting tool
created by the STFC's ERU.
The STFC is now exploring opportunities
for partnering with the Technology Strategy Board in this area.
The STFC is committed to developing
new training activities aimed at increasing the quality and breadth
of access to facilities.