The switch from the current fossil fuel based society to a society that starts using renewable energy sources requires a massive development of the energy storage systems.
Solar panels are not producing solar energy during the night, and wind turbines are not producing energy when the wind doesn’t blow, so in addition to store the energy produced in the sunny days and in the days with good wind, for later use in the days when these renewable energy sources are not producing energy, we need a cheaper energy storage system that is able to store the clean energy for longer periods of time.
The technology used by the lithium ion-batteries is old and expensive, so the development of new energy storage systems (new battery technology) was more than necessary.
The electrical grid is fed today by an increasing amount of renewable energy sources, and this requires the presence of energy storage systems that can store the excess energy for later use when the renewable energy sources are not producing energy.
Renewable energy storage systems include today batteries and thermal storage systems, which can be used to power small household units and up to the level of power plants.
Such systems enable the clean electricity to enter into the grid when is required.
Thermal storage systems can store electricity or renewable energy that is purchased from the grid at off-peak rates and used to heat a material (an abundant and cheap element) to a high temperature, and this stored heat can be later used to generate electricity.
The energy storage systems produced by 1414 Degrees have a 20-year service life, and the molten silicon can be recycled at the end of the service life.
The abundant and cheap element used by such thermal storage systems today can be the molten silicon, which is heated up to its melting point (1,414 degrees Celsius).
A company called 1414 Degrees (based in Adelaide, South Australia) produces these thermal storage systems that are using molten silicon.
Their systems of 10 MW to 200 MW are capable of storing heat (energy) for up to two weeks.
Their systems are able to constantly charge and discharge according to the demand, and unlike the lithium-ion batteries that have a limited number of charge/discharge cycles, they can use the molten silicon for an unlimited number of cycles.
The energy storage systems produced by 1414 Degrees have a 20-year service life, and the silicon can be recycled when the storage system ends its service life.
Another type of thermal storage system takes the heat directly from the sun to heat the storage material.
Such systems are called concentrating solar collectors and they usually heat a liquid that is used to heat a storage medium.
The storage material used by these systems can be molten salt or graphite.
The advantage that comes with these systems is represented by the fact that the system is working at high temperatures, unlike lithium-ion batteries whose components start to suffer once temperatures go beyond 50 degrees Celsius.
Another advantage is represented by the price (storing energy in the form of thermal energy systems is cheaper than storing the same energy using battery systems).
Lithium-ion battery producers are working today to solve some of the key limitations specific to these batteries.
Another type of battery used today to store energy is the battery that uses zinc and bromide (these elements are considered more stable and more abundant than lithium and cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries).
Such batteries are using a gel instead of a liquid to store the energy, and they work almost like a lithium-ion battery, but with greater heat tolerance.
The price of these batteries is decreasing once the production increases.
There is no technology today to replace lithium-ion batteries, but because in the future the renewable energy sources will have a more significant share in the energy mix of all countries, we are expecting to see a wide development of these energy storage systems worldwide.
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