The price of solar and wind power generation has plummeted considerably in recent decades. This is one of the reasons why the US Department of Energy expects renewable energy to be the fastest-growing energy source in the US by 2050. Energy storage, on the other hand, is still quite expensive. And, because renewable energy generation is intermittent – it occurs when wind blows, or even when sun shines – storage is critical.
An individual who works with the private sector and federal government to develop renewable power storage technologies as a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. According to NREL researchers, there is the potential to enhance renewable power storage capacity in the United States by as high as 3,000 percent by the year 2050. Here are three new technologies that may be able to assist in this endeavour.
Charges that last longer
Most people already utilize batteries in many facets of their everyday life, from alkaline batteries for the small electronics to the lithium-ion batteries for laptops and cars. However, there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement.
High-capacity batteries with lengthy discharge times – up to ten hours – could be useful for storing solar energy at night or extending the range of electric cars, for instance. Currently, just a few of these batteries are in use. However, new forecasts suggest that by 2050, more than 100 gigawatts of such batteries will be built. That’s 50 times the producing capacity of Hoover Dam, for example. This could have a significant impact on renewable energy’s viability.
One of the most significant roadblocks is the scarcity of cobalt and lithium, which are currently required to produce lightweight, powerful batteries. As per some estimates, by 2050, roughly 10% of the world’s lithium deposits and almost all of the world’s cobalt reserves would be gone.
Another objective is to improve the safety of batteries. Electrolytes – the medium, frequently liquid that permits an electric charge to travel from the battery’s anode, the negative terminal, cathode, or the positive terminal – are areas where there is room for development.
Whenever a battery is being used, charged particles found in the electrolyte move about to balance the charge of electricity coming out. Electrolytes frequently contain combustible substances. The battery could overheat and burst into flames or melt if they leak.
Solid electrolytes are being developed by scientists to make batteries more durable. Although particles have a considerably more challenging time moving about in solids than in liquids, promising lab-scale results imply that these batteries might be ready for usage in electric cars in the years ahead, with commercialization dates as early as 2026. Furthermore, approximately 70% of the world’s cobalt is extracted in the Congo under long-documented brutal working conditions.
Using sunlight to store heat
In some circumstances, other renewable power storage methods are less expensive than batteries. Concentrated solar power plants, for example, employ mirrors to focus sunlight, heating hundreds of tons of salt till it melts. This molten salt is then utilized to power an electric generator, similar to how coal or nuclear power heat steam and power a generator in typical plants. When the weather is cloudy or at night, such heated materials can be stored and used to generate electricity. This method enables concentrated solar electricity to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.