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Rawlplug’s innovations. Ice battery already in operation in Wrocław

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It accumulates energy when this pays off, while giving it back when needed. After two years of work and a series of tests, Rawlplug has implemented a patented invention, which has no equal in the world, at its Wrocław plant.

What exactly is an ice battery?

  • The Ice Battery System is the outcome of close cooperation between Rawlplug and another Polish company, Wentima. The work on this innovative solution used to be kept in secrecy until recently, mainly due to the protection of patents considered invaluable at an international scale.
  • The Ice Battery System is an innovative solution enabling cooling energy accumulation using phase transition and waste heat.
  • An ice battery works in a daylong charging and discharging cycle, collecting electricity at night, when this can be done at the lowest rates, and delivering the energy back in daytime, thus enabling the peak of energy consumption to be moved on a day/night and/or peak/off-peak basis (given the highest and lowest energy demand).
  • The modular system makes it possible to implement and extend the ice battery in both new and existing installations.
  • The ice battery system enables more efficient – and consequently also more environmentally friendly – energy management: not only does it handle peak and off-peak times very efficiently, but it also consumes surpluses from PV systems and makes the most of waste heat.
Ice battery already in operation in Wrocław
Ice battery already in operation in Wrocław

Why do we need an ice battery?

The spiking electricity prices which we have observed for a long time now translate directly into higher product prices. This is a considerable problem, especially in respect of plastic products. In order to keep growing, plants such as Rawlplug Wrocław need to increase production, which naturally entails consuming more and more energy, at least in theory.

The alternative which we have consistently applied at Rawlplug is optimisation. Instead of increasing energy consumption, we focus on making it more 'flat'.

Mateusz Lisiecki

Manager at Rawlplug’s Plastics Division

The company’s energy self-sufficiency is ultimately to be ensured by a number of complementary projects: the ones already completed at the Wrocław-based facility, as well as those in progress and planned for the nearest future. Their common denominator is the capacity to generate and store energy suitable for later use in production processes.

It is for this reason that we have been systematically investing in distributed energy storage facilities – not only in Wrocław, but also in Łańcut and at our new logistics hub in Kożuchów – as well as in various innovative solutions, precisely such as the Ice Battery System.

Mateusz Lisiecki

Manager at Rawlplug’s Plastics Division

How does the ice battery work?

  • The ice battery features cores containing an aqueous solution and radicals that accelerate crystallisation.
  • While cooling energy is being stored, for instance at night, i.e. when energy demand is lower, the refrigerant inside the cores immersed in cold glycol freezes.
  • Accumulated in this manner, refrigeration energy can then be utilised during the day, thus trimming the afternoon energy demand peaks without having to activate refrigerating units.
However, the ice battery is not only and merely a refrigeration energy storage unit. It is a complete system capable of storing heat as well, and on top of that, it can optimise energy intake and consumption cost-effectively, based on the lowest electricity rates available.

Michał Wojsa

Wentima

Thanks to its modular design, the Ice Battery System does not require any modifications to the infrastructure.
Thanks to its modular design, the Ice Battery System does not require any modifications to the infrastructure.

How does the ice battery consume surplus energy?

Using one unit of electricity, the ice battery can produce and store three units of cooling energy and more than three units of heat, the latter being somewhat discarded by the refrigerating unit during freezing. 

Poland’s geographical location in a specific climate zone is what makes us demand heat practically throughout three seasons of the year: spring, autumn, and winter. Even in summer, temperature can drop below 15 degrees Celsius, which may become problematic, for example, at the Mixing and Filling Department, where we have to maintain it at 20–24 degrees. It is precisely the kind of situation in which we can make use of the ice battery, instead of consuming resources such as gas.

Michał Wojsa

Wentima

Notably, the ice battery already allows Rawlplug to utilise the energy surpluses from the PV systems. They are stored on days of reduced energy demand, for example on Sundays, and redeemed on Mondays in the form of the cold needed in production processes. This enables the Wrocław-based facility to run on free energy for as many as 56 days a year, conservatively assuming that only the Sunday surpluses are taken into account. 

The Ice Battery System fits perfectly into Rawlplug’s sustainability policy, aimed at reaching the net zero target by 2030.
The Ice Battery System fits perfectly into Rawlplug’s sustainability policy, aimed at reaching the net zero target by 2030.

How does the ice battery affect production performance?

Thanks to its modular design, the Ice Battery System did not require any modifications to the infrastructure in Wrocław. To achieve the expected effects, it sufficed to plug it into the existing installation. During last year’s tests, the IBS proved its worth across various applications, including at the Mixing and Filling Department, providing additional energy for injection moulding, necessary to cool down hot moulded pieces (their temperature reaching 200–300 degrees Celsius, depending on the material used). 

For cooling purposes, we use what is referred to as ice water. The lower its temperature, the shorter the cycle, which translates into the number of finished products per hour. With the Ice Battery System, we have significantly increased our productivity. The gains in cycle times are up to 20 per cent

Mateusz Lisiecki

Manager at Rawlplug’s Plastics Division

What about the ice battery’s environmental impact?

Savings and boosted productivity are the main, yet not the only, advantages of the Ice Battery System, which also matters greatly in terms of environmental protection.

Our ice battery is composed of water, plastic, and steel. This means that there is absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to its disposal, as it is completely acid-free. This system simply does not wear out. Its performance does not dwindle over time, and the only thing to watch out for in operation is the water solution level.

Michał Wojsa

Wentima

Considering all the above characteristics, the Ice Battery System fits perfectly into Rawlplug’s sustainability policy, aimed at reaching the net zero target by 2030.

In order to accomplish this plan, we need to act now. Hence the PV systems and further energy storage facilities installed on our sites in Wrocław and Łańcut as well as at our logistics centre in Kożuchów, which will most likely become completely self-sufficient in terms of energy as early as in 2024. In the age of energy transition, we are invariably oriented towards innovative solutions, and the Ice Battery System is simply another excellent example of this attitude.

Mateusz Lisiecki

Manager at Rawlplug’s Plastics Division

You can find out more about the Ice Battery System and Rawlplug’s pursuit of the net zero target in the Rawlercoaster podcast featuring Michał Wojsa and Mateusz Lisiecki.

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