Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Harvard Is One Step Closer to Developing Cheap, Long-Lasting Battery Storage

Popular
Harvard Is One Step Closer to Developing Cheap, Long-Lasting Battery Storage
Winds of change … a storage system for energy generated by renewables is closer to being realized. Photo credit: Sheila Sund / Flickr

By Kieran Cooke

It is the holy grail of the renewable energy sector—a cheap and efficient battery system that can store energy generated by renewables such as wind and solar.

These days there are few who doubt the potential of renewables, except those diehards on the extreme of the fossil fuel industry.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)—the main body monitoring developments in the global energy sector—renewables are surging ahead.

Investment in Renewables

In 2015, investments in oil and gas—fossil fuels that, along with coal, are the main drivers of global warming—declined by 25 percent, while energy produced from renewables rose by 30 percent.

Renewables are becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels in many sectors: According to the IEA, in the five years to the end of 2015 the price of solar energy dropped by 80 percent and wind power by a third.

Fast-developing countries—China and India, in particular—are investing millions of dollars in the renewable sector.

The big problem with renewables development has been storage. In order to operate a commercially viable power plant, a reliable flow of fuel is needed. In the case of oil, coal or gas this is relatively straightforward as supplies can quickly be replenished.

In the case of nuclear, as long as there is a readily available supply of uranium isotopes, power can continue to be generated.

Solar and wind power supply is far more varied—dependent on sunshine and wind speeds—and cannot be stored or used in the same way as so-called conventional fuels.

For years, scientists have struggled to develop storage systems capable of handling the peaks and troughs of renewable power so that an even supply can be guaranteed.

Researchers at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in the U.S. said in an article published in ACS Energy Letters that they have now developed a long-lasting flow battery capable of storing renewable power that­ could operate for up to 10 years, with minimum maintenance required.

A flow battery is a cross between a conventional battery and a fuel cell. Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks and are regarded as one of the primary ways of storing renewable energy. The bigger the tanks, the more energy can be stored.

But flow batteries are costly. Most use expensive polymers that can cope with the potent chemicals inside the battery.

Battery Capacity

The battery's components and materials, such as membranes and electrolytes, have to be frequently replaced in order to retain capacity.

The Harvard team modified molecules used in the electrolyte solutions to make them soluble in water and so vastly increase the battery's ability to retain power.

"Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement," said Roy Gordon, a professor of chemistry and materials science and a leading member of the research team.

"If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn't eat the concrete and, since the medium is non-corrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps," Gordon added.

Reducing the cost of the battery is vital. The U.S. Department of Energy said that in order to make stored energy from wind and solar competitive with fossil fuels, a battery needs to be able to store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt hour.

"If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you can change the world," said Michael Aziz, another lead researcher in the battery project and a professor of materials and energy technologies at Harvard.

"It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places—this research puts us one step closer to reaching that target," said Aziz.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

Presidential nominee Joe Biden has not taken a stance on gas exports, including liquefied natural gas. Ken Hodge / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Simon Montlake

For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.

All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Grayson Jaggers

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A graphic shows how Rhoel Dinglasan's smartphone-based saliva test works. University of Florida

As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.

Read More Show Less
A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less
A plastic bag caught in a tree in New Jersey's Palisades Park. James Leynse / Stone / Getty Images

New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch