Climate Change

Energy storage developments

According to the latest research by Bloomberg NEF, the world’s energy storage installations in 2030 are projected to be 15 times the level of storage capacity at the end of 2021. These will facilitate a shift to renewable energy sources. Solar and wind power is variable but can be matched with systems of Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES). Hydroelectric reservoirs operate as energy storage systems but other LDES methods are being developed.


Malta, a company based in Massachusetts, converts electricity to heat in molten salt and as cold in a chilled liquid. In these forms, this energy can be efficiently stored for long durations. When adding electricity to the grid, the system operates as a heat engine, combining the stored heat and cold together to generate electricity.

SaltX Technology of Sweden uses excess renewable electricity and thermochemical storage as a large-scale electric battery. The technology is based on the Carnot Battery principle with one hot and one cold storage – connected to a heat pump and a heat engine.

Rondo Energy’s system heats thousands of tons of brick by thermal radiation when electricity is in surplus, stores that energy for hours or days, and recovers energy when it is needed.

The Narayan Group of USC scientists are developing a battery that could solve the storage problem that limits the widespread use of renewable energy. According to Dr. Sri Narayan, USC professor of chemistry:

We have demonstrated an inexpensive, long-life, safe and eco-friendly flow battery attractive for storing the energy from solar and wind energy systems at a mass scale.

Researchers at Sweden’s Linköping University say they have solved faults of flow batteries by using a water-based electrolyte and electrodes of organic material in a system that increases energy density considerably.

A Massachusetts company involving prominent scientists and high-worth investors is developing a cost-effective, multi-day energy storage system to enable a fully renewable electric grid year-round. Form Energy says the active components of its iron-air battery system are some of the safest, cheapest, and most abundant materials on the planet. According to PV Magazine:

The iron-air battery is composed of cells filled with thousands of iron pellets that are exposed to air and create rust. The oxygen is then removed, reverting the rust to iron. Controlling this process allows the battery to be charged and discharged.

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a new kind of battery, made entirely from abundant and inexpensive materials. According to MIT professor emeritus of materials chemistry Donald Sadoway, the materials in the liquid metal battery are “ethically sourced, cheap, effective, and can’t catch fire.

Primary constituents of the battery are abundant materials: aluminum (left), sulfur (center), and rock salt crystals (right). 

U.K.-based Highview Power stores renewable energy in liquid air that is compressed and chilled. The system charges by using excess electricity to power compression and liquefaction of the air, which is then stored as a liquid. To discharge, the liquid air warms and becomes a pressurized gas that operates a turbine to generate electricity.

According to the Yale School of Environment, California is currently the global leader in the effort to balance the intermittency of renewable energy in electric grids with high-capacity batteries. The rest of the world is rapidly following suit.

But in Canada, Long Duration Energy Storage has found little interest among governments, industry, and wealthy investors. Canadian politicians and bureaucrats are captives of fossil fuel interests so tens of billion of public dollars support that industry, while trifling sums flow to renewable energy and energy storage research in Canada.

Work that might sustain humanity is left to other people in other places.

In comments, e.a.f. mentioned “a solar community got through the Florida hurricane without power loss.” That is a story worth repeating.

From NPR:

Babcock Ranch — an innovative community north of Fort Myers where homes are built to withstand the worst that Mother Nature can throw at them without being flooded out or losing electricity, water or the internet…

The solar array powers the whole community — and then some. It can supply 30,000 homes. Babcock Ranch has only about 5,000 residents, though. The excess goes back into the grid and is used to power surrounding communities...

Hurricane Ian was a big test for this community, where houses start at around $250,000. Languell says the storm provided “proof of concept” for the community’s design. The developers of Babcock Ranch welcome imitators, she adds. Communities elsewhere in the U.S. might benefit from what has been learned here.

Categories: Climate Change, Energy

8 replies »

  1. In Canada the economy, government, individuals all benefit from the current status of energy. They aren’t going to give that up without a fight.

    The news media has been reporting the cost of heating via gas and electricity may spike as much as 100% to 300% this winter. If that happens consumers may leave governments in the dust, as they find less expensive methods of heating. Many will not be able to afford these bills. The cost of food is rising faster than incomes. Add in 100% increases in gas and electricity, we can look forward to many becoming homeless. Many seniors just couldn’t afford hikes like that because their pensions are too low.

    This province will also have a problem regarding costs because of the IPPs el gordo signed on to or rather had B.C. Hydro sign on to.

    The batteries you describe could be the ticket out of using B.C. Hydro and Fortis. The battery system would be very nice to have come the next big storm. The news reported on
    a solar community got through the Florida hurrican without power loss. That alone would save corporations a lot of money.


  2. It has always been a head scratcher for me why our civilization continues to chase complex forms of energy generation ( eg. nuclear, fusion, wind & solar backed up by elaborate storage systems, hydro etc.). Geothermal energy generation is right under our feet and is always on 365/24/7. Amazing advances have been made over the last decade and it is quickly becoming cost competitive. Geothermal can now be deployed anywhere in the world – you don’t need to locate over areas where the crust is thin anymore. The drilling skills developed by the oil & gas industry have transferred over to the geothermal industry remarkably well. This is a transition industry Canada should be jumping all over. If we were scale geothermal, as it should be, we could employ a lot of displaced oil & gas workers. Check out the companies below.


  3. Brainy problem-solvers give me hope that we can counter the ill-effects of what mankind has done to worsen the world since the industrial era began.

    Affordable and scalable energy storage is the required answer for intermittent power supplies (which could include hydro power, if we keep getting long periods of drought.)


    • When I see how many systems of energy storage are in the pipeline, I too gain hope that humans can find solutions. But those hopes are always tempered by understanding the political power of groups that do not want change from the processes that threaten future generations.


  4. There are a variety of storage systems that work. The economics of each should be part of a comprehensive energy options hearing before the BC Utilities Commission, after the BC Utilities Commission is returned to a status that allows it to do the job.

    In response to the idea that promoters wouldn’t be joining forces with developers if the tech wan’t viable, I heard the same kind of argument in favour of BC Hydro and Site C.


  5. George Carlin once likened Americans to dinosaurs dragging their bulk through malls looking for the two most important things in their lives, greasy junk food and cheap plastic garbage. Sadly, that is also true of many Canadians. Our politicians reflect this demand for instant gratification.

    Think long term about energy security? Plan our communities to be resilient in the face of global warming? No way! We’ll just keep partying until a crisis hits. Then we’ll run around like headless chickens.

    That story about Babcock Ranch should be required reading for every politician across North America, and beyond.

    The options facing us all are clear. Look ahead and plan for the global warming future or go for a big swim and lose everything.


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