SEEC

The world’s need for energy to heat buildings in winter and cool them in summer appears insatiable. Buildings already account for 40% of global energy consumption, and a growing population enjoying a higher standard of living translates to an increased demand for energy. Yet what if, like saving pennies for a rainy day, we could store summer’s energy and warmth and redistribute it  to heat buildings during the cold winter? And conversely, store the chill of winter to cool buildings in the heat of summer?

SEEC’s Energy Store does just that, and can be described as a series of boreholes placed in a concentric formation, managed by an advanced control-system. By controlling the way energy is stored and retrieved, SEEC greatly reduces the amount of energy lost in these storage systems, while increasing the efficiency of the overall system significantly.

Energy storage can be found in industry, where waste energy is used to heat housing complexes, or sports facilities. For example, during the winter months the waste heat generated in making ice for an indoor hockey rink can be used to heat the turf on an adjacent soccer field. The Energy Store works in conjunction with heat pumps to generate savings both in financial and environmental terms.

Energy stores (or energy reservoirs) have developed alongside the popularity of heat pumps. The first BTES (Borehole thermal energy storage) system in Sweden was installed in the northern city of Luleå in 1983. Interest from authorities and property owners has fluctuated with changes in energy prices, which means most energy stores now in use were built for research and development.

However, demand for CO2 reduction technologies and worry about energy prices has revived the concept of the energy reservoir. SEEC Energy Store has the further advantages of facilitating other environmentally-friendly energy technologies, such as solar. By storing the energy generated from solar panels when the sun shines at its strongest, and using it when it is most needed - in the colder, darker winter season – solar panels become a fuller alternative to conventional energy sources, even in northern nations with large temperature variations.

The SEEC Energy Store is an environmentally-friendly building technology. If the electricity used by the system’s pumps and peripherals is produced without CO2 emissions, for example with solar cells, wind power, or hydro power, the environmental impact of the system is minimal, aiding buildings to truly become ‘net zero’ energy users.

SEEC currently operates in the Nordic market and aims to export the system world-wide.

The built environment often requires both heating and cooling. Unfortunately, in tempered parts of the world natural cooling isn’t necessarily available when it’s most needed – and vice versa. Solutions for storing and managing heating and cooling resources have great potential for reducing the energy consumption of buildings.

Borehole Thermal Energy Storage (BTES) has the potential to reduce demand for primary energy substantially. Energy Storage Systems in combination with an intelligent management system, such as the one developed by SEEC, can improve performance by another 20%. If used by a fifth of its target market this would reduce CO2 emissions by 27 million tonnes in ten years compared to traditional BTES – or more, depending on the energy mix currently used in each market.

 

SEEC Energy Storage Systems have been installed and running in Sweden since 2008. SEEC’s first international installation will be completed in Norway by the end of 2011. Over the next five years, SEEC will further refine its technology to continue to expand its presence world-wide. In Europe, the USA, and Japan the company focus more specifically on the conversion market, where a building or groups of structures will be fitted with new heat pump systems and are primed to add an Energy Store for financial and environmental rewards. Meanwhile, China will continue to be a big market for new construction, with many areas of the country favourable for seasonal storage with their warm summers and cold winters.

SEEC will optimize its control system to adapt to all facets of new markets, including climate, bedrock conditions, and culture.
 

Challenges and Barriers

One of the main challenges for further development of the energy store market is low energy prices. Since the mid-1990s, investments in heat pumps have accelerated, and today there are more than 1,000,000
installations worldwide, with one-fourth of these to be found in Sweden. The energy reservoir concept is not well-known in construction and building circles, however, and price remains a great obstacle. Large companies in the energy sector present another barrier. These companies often have fixed structures in which they continue to invest in order to protect their current market positions. A challenge for SEEC’s expansion lies in the organization of the facility market. Although SEEC drastically reduces running costs, and payback times often are short, a relatively substantial initial investment is necessary nevertheless. Difficulty lies in the fact that the initial investment must be made by the facility owner, while it is usually another party that benefits from the reduced energy bill.

Two other large challenges facing SEEC in the next few years are finding the right technical competence, as well as the right partners to facilitate expansion in both Sweden and internationally.

SEEC was founded in 2006, after Jan Thorburn and Jean Nicou discovered a more efficient way to store and retrieve energy from borehole thermal energy storage systems. Thorburn and Nicou have had long careers in the construction and energy sectors, and the two boast vast entrepreneurial experience. The management team consists of Andreas Andersson, CEO, Jan Thorburn, vice President and CTO, and Tommy Pelsenius, CFO.