Much of the world’s energy needs are generated in real time. There is a demand that is covered by energy production. This is not a problem with nuclear power or fossil fuels: production can be scaled to any size within the maximum capacity, and unneeded energy can simply be lost. With wind or solar energy that looks a bit different. Solar panels or wind turbines can only produce energy when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Saving this energy, if supply exceeds demand and releases it, if production is insufficient to meet demand, will be one of the keys to a future in which we derive most of our energy from renewable sources. Researchers at MIT and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new kind of energy storage that can store energy on a large scale and ensure the energy supply of a small town.
Energy is stored at just under 2400 degrees
The newly developed energy storage system saves the excess energy as heat in tanks full of molten silicon. When energy is needed again, the light from the glowing metal is converted back to electricity with photovoltaic systems. According to the researchers, such a system is significantly more cost-efficient than lithium-ion batteries, which are currently considered as a possible, but rather expensive solution for energy storage. The system will also cost about half of hydroelectric storage, which is the cheapest storage solution yet.
“ Even if we wanted to run the grid on renewables right now We could not, Because You’d need fossil-fueled turbines to make up for the factthat the renewable supply can not be dispatched on demand. Asegun Henry from MIT sums up the system: “ We are developing a new technology that, if successful, would solve this problem „.
The technology uses two graphite tanks 10 meters in diameter, which are highly insulated and filled with liquid silicon. One of the tanks stores the silicon at a temperature of 1926 degrees Celsius. This „cold“ tank is connected to the „hot“ tank via a piping system with heating elements, in which the silicon has a temperature of 2370 degrees Celsius. The heating elements are supplied with superfluous energy from renewable sources, which is thus stored in the form of heat in the silicon.
100,000 homes can be provided
When energy is needed, the molten silicon is passed through a series of lines that emit light. This light in turn is converted from photovoltaic systems into electricity. The silicon cools in the lines and is returned to the „cold“ tank for reuse.
Shannon Yee at Georgia Tech. “ One of the affectionate names. It’s basically an extremely intense light source that’s all in a box that traps the heat, „Henry continues.
Initial tests revealed that one of these systems, combined with sufficient renewable energy sources, could power a small city of 100,000 homes without power outages because production would not meet demand.
So far, however, the system is still in its infancy, and there will be plenty of time left until it is ready for the „right“ use. But if it were possible to scale the system accordingly, this could be an important step in the energy transition.