At CIC energiGUNE, we have been working for several years to contribute to improving the energy efficiency of industrial processes. We would like to make this work visible, and perhaps the most effective way is to highlight two of the demonstrators that represent our research.

We are talking about demonstrators based on innovative research in thermal storage systems based on thermocline technology and entirely developed by CIC energiGUNE.

The Systems Engineering and Technology Transfer research group in the thermal storage area has carried out the research of materials and their compatibility with heat transfer fluids, the design of the system and its modeling. It has also carried out pre-industrial scale testing in our prototyping and thermal testing laboratory, verifying the data before putting it into operation at the Ben Guerir solar concentration plant in Morocco and at ArcelorMittal in Sestao (Bizkaia).  We are talking about 20MWh and 1 MWh thermal storage systems that demonstrate that it is possible to contribute through disruptive research to the energy transition.

And as a picture is worth a thousand words, we have prepared a video highlighting the achievements.

But let´s start from the beginning.

When in 2015 we tackled the previous strategic analysis, we could already sense that betting on thermal storage as a way to improve energy efficiency would be fruitful in the medium term.

At that time, CIC energiGUNE had a promising thermal storage area, and a team of researchers committed to this paradigm shift. The ORC-plus and RESLAG projects were starting up. In the team, we were vibrating between excitement, responsibility and the opportunity to prove our worth in this field of research.  RESLAG was also the first European project led by CIC energiGUNE in its history. A project that also involved Basque companies such as ArcelorMittal and Novargi (whose role was eventually taken on by another Basque company, EIA 21) and BRTA centers such as Azterlan.

As we have already mentioned, these projects use an innovative thermocline system developed by our researchers, making it possible to store large amounts of heat, giving a second life to materials such as rocks or steel slag. These systems show that not only thermal oil but also air can be an excellent heat transfer fluid, although it still entails important challenges, which we, at CIC energiGUNE, are helping to overcome.

From the start of these projects in 2016 until their conclusion in 2020, many things have happened: Siemens announced in 2019 its commitment to a similar solution. The European Union approved at the end of 2019 the Green Deal, which targets an energy efficiency improvement of 32.5%. Spain approves the PNIEC, setting even more ambitious targets in terms of energy efficiency with 39.5%. Likewise, the Basque Government itself is working on integrated energy and climate policies in the recently launched Department of Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment.

In the same period, many things also happened at CIC energiGUNE. In 2017 our scientific manager Elena Palomo, Ikerbasque Research Professor and considered by the Stanford Elsevier 2020 ranking as one of the most influential researchers in the world, joined the team. In cooperation with the rest of the researchers in the thermal storage area, she has been advancing in scientific recognition at international level.

Under the leadership of Professor Palomo and the co-leadership of Daniel Bielsa, our thermal storage transfer coordinator, the team has proven its capabilities in materials research, modeling and thermal energy storage systems, providing disruptive thermal storage solutions that are also useful to the industry. From here, I would like to thank the entire team of the thermal storage area to whom I wish new successes in the future.

In CIC energiGUNE, we are optimistic, and we think that this type of thermal storage solutions will be a boost to advance in the energy efficiency objectives set by the European Union, Spain and the Basque Country. This is key for us and future generations. We are committed to generating new opportunities for our companies in the field of energy efficiency.

Because doing disruptive and valuable research for our industry is possible. At CIC energiGUNE, we prove it every day, making sustainability real.

Author: Nuria Gisbert, General Manager of CIC energiGUNE;  Member of the group of experts of the parliament of the Basque Energy Pact and member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Basque Council of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Basque Country.