One of the major obstacles to the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies is the ability to supply energy when needed because the generation of renewable energy is often variable and unable to match changes in demands of the grid.  With the Renewable Energy Directive requiring that the EU achieve a 20% renewables target by 2020 new technologies are needed to store energy to help balance the grid.  The innovative CryoHub project is investigating the role that liquid air could play as an energy storage medium - storing excess energy until it is needed.

 

Mapping of cold store capacity with energy use  

Studies carried out by the CryoHub consortium in 2016 identified the locations of large scale refrigerated warehouses and food factories throughout Europe. It also estimated power usage and this was then mapped. Finally, this data overlaid with information about the availability of nearby renewable energy sources. In this way it has been able to pick out the most favourable locations where renewable technologies might be applied. This information will be a valuable starting point for the next stage of the research which will involve an analysis of the potential for the wider adoption of the CryoHub concept. 

Over 1049 refrigerated food warehouses were identified in this way, some 503 of them with an estimated average power consumption exceeding 500 kW. These highly energy intensive warehouses are widely distributed across Europe, but the highest concentration of such facilities are in Benelux, Southern England, Northern France and Northern Germany. This coincides, logically, with the areas of highest population density.  Although EU Members States in Central and Eastern Europe and Baltics still possess less large warehouses than Western Europe, their food cold chain sector is experiencing rapid growth and the market is very dynamic. Energy intensive warehouses (ie those using over 500 kW of electrical power on average) are primarily part of the logistics and distribution centre networks of multinational retailers and hypermarket operators.

CryoHub is the first international survey of refrigerated food warehouses which maps capacity, geographical and energy information with a focus on Europe.

 

Where is renewable energy readily available?

The results of the mapping so far have identified a concentration of renewable energy (PV and wind) sites in Germany, Benelux, Ireland and UK, as well as in the Mediterranean areas, in particular, Spain. Solar PV installations tend to be more concentrated in Spain, Germany, South of France, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, and the UK. Simultaneously, wind installations are more geographically concentrated in Germany, Benelux, Spain, Portugal, UK, Ireland, France, and Sweden.

The total power output of renewables’ installations considered by CryoHub, amounts to 154,758 GW, representing about 70% of the solar and wind energy installed capacity in EU28. This is a good estimation of the existing installed capacity for wind and solar in these countries, given that only installations with a power output over 1 MW were included. A number of wind and solar PV installations identified were located close to refrigerated warehouses, thereby indicating a possible opportunity for renewable integration and CryoHub application.

How could renewable technologies be used?

The key findings from the reports are:

  • A lack of substantial variance in energy use across seasonal differences - even though energy use is generally higher in the summer and lower in the winter, there are significant peaks between November and January, possibly due to additional demand of Christmas and New Year shopping;
  • A clear geographic correlation between warehouse capacity, renewable energy availability and population.   The location of large refrigerated warehouses (consuming on average over 500 kW of power) are thought to be closely related to the need to process and preserve perishable foodstuffs.
  • Climate is a key influencing factor with a demonstrably higher need for refrigeration capacities in the warmer regions.

 

The potential for the use of CryoHub at refrigerated food facilities depends on the overall technology level and economic development in a country or region, rather than just on the demand for food storage. Factors, such as population growth, migration and urbanisation processes, dietary habits (e.g. increase use of ready-to-eat and chilled foods), also have a major influence. This could have wider impacts on economies and sustainability.

 

Conclusions so far

 

Mapping of energy use by refrigerated warehouse sites and comparing this to renewable energy availability has allowed the project to identify the EU regions which provide the most potential for renewable energy projects in industrial food refrigeration. However, in some countries the smaller size of food storage installations might limit the suitability of such applications. The results of this work provide an on-going tool for determining the potential of CryoHub as an emerging sustainability-enhancing technology in both energy and food preservation sectors. 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No 691761.

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