Malta takes on floating storage for offshore renewables

Researchers at the University of Malta working on the FLASC prototype (Photo: University of Malta)

Researchers at the University of Malta are making progress on the development of a floating platform for renewable energy storage, with the first small-scale prototype planned for deployment later this year.

Offshore renewable energy technologies are expected to become key component of a future energy economy.

However, large-scale integration of electrical energy from renewables into the grid is challenging because of the intermittent nature of the resources.

At times, there will be more renewable electricity than required, and in these cases the electrical energy will go to waste. At other times, there will not be enough to meet demand, and conventional power plants must compensate.

To address this mismatch, the University of Malta has started working on an energy storage project dubbed FLASC: Floating Liquid-piston Accumulator using Seawater under Compression.

FLASC prototype (Photo: University of Malta)

FLASC is a novel concept for compressed air energy storage which uses a dual chamber approach to eliminate wide pressure and temperature fluctuations – key challenges to using compressed air for storage, according to the University of Malta.

The technology is integrated into a floating platform that can support a number of offshore systems including wind turbines, floating PV, wave and tidal systems as well as oil and gas processes.

To charge the system, air is pumped into a closed chamber when a surplus of renewable energy exists.

The compressed air is released from the system and passed through a turbine to recover the energy at times of high demand.

The team at the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is currently working on the construction of a small-scale prototype, planned for deployment later this year in the Grand Harbour.

The aim is to verify the concept in the field and to gain practical insights into the performance of the system in order to validate existing computational models.

Development of the prototype is being carried out in partnership with Medserv, with support from the Institute for Sustainable Energy of the University of Malta.

Project FLASC is financed by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) through the FUSION Technology Development Program.