The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Harvard Is One Step Closer to Developing Cheap, Long-Lasting Battery Storage
By Kieran Cooke
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.
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.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The annual Arctic thaw has kicked off with record-setting ice melt and sea ice loss that is several weeks ahead of schedule, scientists said, as the New York Times reported.
'This Should Scare the Hell Out of You': Photo of Greenland Sled Dog Teams Walking on Melted Water Goes Viral
By Jon Queally
In yet the latest shocking image depicting just how fast the world's natural systems are changing due to the global climate emergency, a photograph showing a vast expanse of melted Arctic ice in Greenland — one in which a pair of sled dog teams appear to be walking on water — has gone viral.
By Tia Schwab
It has been almost a year since Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolinas, dumping a record 30 inches of rainfall in some parts of the states. At least 52 people died, and property and economic losses reached $24 billion, with nearly $17 billion in North Carolina alone. Flood waters also killed an estimated 3.5 million chickens and 5,500 hogs.
'Huge Victory' for Grassroots Climate Campaigners as NY Lawmakers Reach Deal on Sweeping Climate Legislation
By Julia Conley
Grassroots climate campaigners in New York applauded on Monday after state lawmakers reached a deal on sweeping climate legislation, paving the way for the passage of what could be some of the country's most ambitious environmental reforms.
Tens of Thousands Flee Extreme Heatwave in India as Temperatures Topping 120°F Kill Dozens Across Country
By Julia Conley
Nearly 50 people died on Saturday in one Indian state as record-breaking heatwaves across the country have caused an increasingly desperate situation.
By Will J. Grant
In an ideal world, people would look at issues with a clear focus only on the facts. But in the real world, we know that doesn't happen often.
People often look at issues through the prism of their own particular political identity — and have probably always done so.