MiniStor: The €8.6m Irish project to heat homes efficiently with salt and wax

12 Dec 2019

From left: Dr Yongli Yuan and Dr Carlos Ochoa will lead the MiniStor project. Image: Clare Keogh

Researchers at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork are developing a more environmentally friendly heating system using salt and wax.

A new heating project led by the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) at Cork’s Tyndall National Institute has received €8.6m in funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. The IERC will develop the technology with 17 other groups across Europe including research facilities, businesses, non-profits and local authorities.

The project, named MiniStor, began development earlier this month with the aim of creating more environmentally friendly home heating, saving homeowners thousands of euros a year in the process. It will be led by the IERC’s Dr Carlos Ochoa and Dr Yongli Yuan.

Director of the IERC, Prof Tony Day, explained how it works: “It is based on special salts and waxes. The heat will be sourced from the sun, collected using a hybrid photovoltaic thermal panel (PVT) and stored in the new salt heating system.

“The stored heat energy can be released for use when required. Furthermore, excess electricity from the sun can be stored in a battery and sold to the grid or used later.”

MiniStor is expected to have a capacity 10.6 times higher than more conventional water-based systems and, if implemented widely, could help reduce close to 3,400 tonnes of CO2-equivalent each year.

Day estimated that the starting cost of the MiniStor system for a home would be just under €10,000, but said that it will pay for itself within seven years with low maintenance.

“This is fast compared to other high-end solutions using renewable energy, that need subsidies to make them competitive,” he said.

The project is expected to take up to four and a half years to come to fruition, with plans to trial it in four homes in Ireland, France, Greece and Hungary, in both public and private housing. The system operation side will be managed by a ‘home energy management system’ designed by MiniStor.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic