Electrical energy generation by renewables relies on energy storage solutions. In this roundup, we take a look at promising new storage technologies.
Renewable energy production is on the rise. Wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and bioenergy are being utilized by countries all over the world. According to a 2019 report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), electrical energy generation by renewables has surpassed coal with 1,545 MW generated by wind, 1,473 MW generated by solar, and 29 MW being produced by hydropower.
Renewable energy sources examined.（Source: Pexels）
Unlike traditional power plants — natural gas, coal, nuclear — that tie directly into the grid and regulate power loads based on demand, renewables rely on energy storage solutions that are utilized when resources are unavailable, such as no wind or sunlight for example. In a 2018 fact sheet from the University of Michigan on Electrical Energy Storage (EES), global installed energy storage totaled 155.8 GW, and as the number of renewable energy projects continues to rise, so will the demand for storage. In this roundup, we’ll take a look at some of the promising new technologies that will help expand on energy storage solutions.
1. Skeleton Technologies’ SkelGrid Omni
Skeleton Technologies has designed a high-end energy storage solution that utilizes ultracapacitors over lead-based or lithium-ion batteries. The company’s SkelGrid Omni EES is a modular platform (similar to Tesla’s Powerwall) designed for microgrids and industrial applications, including acting as an efficient UPS backup, peak power reserve, voltage regulation, and more.
The platform relies on ultracapacitors designed with curved graphene, which inhibits “stacking” when in contact with an electrolyte and compressed into an electrode structure. Using graphene in this way allows for higher energy densities similar to nickel metal hydride batteries, only these ultracapacitors can charge and discharge rapidly.
Skeleton Technologies has a high-end energy storage solution, the SkelGrid Omni.（Source:Skeleton Technologies）
2. Bluesky Energy'S GREENROCK Saltwater Battery Technology
On the other end of the battery spectrum, Bluesky Energy has developed a saltwater modular energy storage system designed to bolster microgrids, homes, and businesses with the GREENROCK platform. While not superior to supercapacitors, the batteries are touted as a safe alternative for those that don’t need super-efficiency, but rather a stable, reliable platform with a green footprint. The GREENROCK batteries are built like a tank, and will not burn or explode when under load or while operating in temperatures that range from -5 C to 50 C. They are also scalable up to 1 Mwh and are a great alternative to lithium-ion systems.
Bluesky Energy has developed an environmentally friendly energy storage solution with its GREENROCK platform.（Source:Bluesky Energy）
3. Utah’s Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems recently announced a joint venture with Magnum Development and Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert to launch the world’s largest grid-scale energy storage project. The Advanced Clean Energy Storage project will feature a facility that combines compressed air storage in underground salt caverns with hydrogen storage, solid-oxide fuel cells, and reflow batteries. The new facility would install 1,000 MW of energy storage capacity for an undisclosed amount of time.
The initiative will utilize underground salt caverns in Utah for energy storage（Source:Wikipedia）
4: Stem Athena AI-Powered Energy Storage and Virtual Power Plants
Energy startup Stem has developed an AI-driven energy storage platform capable of providing power quality and backup power services for uninterruptable power supplies (UPS), and solar/energy storage platforms. Athena uses machine learning and big data analytics, which power companies can use to adapt to energy fluctuations in energy usage quickly. The company also provides energy storage and demand-charge management tools, as well as the ability to utilize virtual power plants for energy storage simulations and projections that help maximize power plants and storage services.
AI-powered energy storage allows facilities to automate energy cost savings（Source: Stem）
5. Malta’s Electro-Thermal Energy Storage System
Energy startup Malta is developing a grid-scale energy storage platform for renewables that uses a heat pump to convert electrical energy into thermal and stores that energy in large tanks of molten salt, or cooled and stored in containers of chilled antifreeze. The system can then convert the stored energy using a heat engine back into electricity to feed into the grid on-demand when it’s needed. Malta is a spin-off company from Google and has been developing its energy storage platform for over a year, which is still undergoing evaluation before a test plant can be deployed for operation.
Malta has a cost-effective and reliable way to meet power demands.（Source: Malta）
6. Moixa’s GridShare and Smart Battery Platform
UK-based Moixa Technology has designed another intelligent power storage platform for renewable energy. The company’s Smart Battery system is similar to Tesla’s Powerwall, that uses highly-efficient lithium-ion batteries to store energy taken from solar panels. The power can be saved for use during peak hours or traded through revenue streams on the company’s GridShare cloud-based network. GridShare is a SaaS platform that aggregates energy from groups of energy storage systems and uses machine learning for power optimization, storage asset management, and real-time reporting and analytics.
Moxia is pioneering smart energy-management software to help renewable energy work intelligently.（Source: Moixa）
7. 1414 Degrees GAS-TESS Technology
Australia-based energy startup 1414 Degrees is developing an energy storage solution that uses biogas, and molten silicon that outputs heat and electrical power as well. The company’s GAS-TESS technology works by using wastewater treatment plants to generate biogas, which is then converted to energy in a Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS) where it’s stored in molten silicon, which can then be returned to the grid. Heat is a byproduct of the system, but it’s utilized to feed the biogas plants, where the process starts over again.
1414 Degrees has developed a highly efficient and sustainable TESS.（Source: 1414 Degrees）
8. Hydrostor Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage
Canada-based Hydrostor is developing Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facilities at several locations around the globe for emission-free, long-term storage using old mine sites. Each plant is outfitted with industrial compressors, turbine generators, and heat exchangers, which uses off-peak electrical energy to compress air down into the mine. During the process, heat is generated, which is stored or piped back into the system for more efficiency. That compressed air is stored underground in purpose-built accumulators, where it is hydrostatically compensated. Water is pushed up through a decline where it’s stored in a reservoir, where it sits until the compressed air is converted back into electricity and piped to the grid.
Hydrostor has developed advanced compressed air energy storage.（Source: Hydrostor）
9. Teraloop’s Kinetic Energy Storage System
Finland-based Teraloop is developing a kinetic energy storage system for grid-scale energy storage that utilizes MAGLEV technology (which is derived from magnetic levitation), brushless motors, and flywheels in a vacuum environment. When surplus energy is provided, the platform engages a magnetically levitated thin-ringed hubless rotor, which is charged and accelerated, and discharged back into the grid when needed. The system can be scaled and stored underground, giving a reduced visual impact on the environment.
Teraloop is a grid-scale energy storage system that is working on a future alternative to batteries.（Source: Teraloop）
10. Gaia Membranes’ Amphoteric Ion Exchange Membranes
Swiss startup Gaia Membranes has designed an innovative membrane technology that maximizes the efficiency of other energy storage platforms. Specifically, the company’s Amphoteric Ion Exchange Membranes overcome the constraints encountered by cation (positively charged ions) and anion (negatively charged ions) exchangers. The Amphoteric membranes, on the other hand, offer a balance between the two exchange groups, providing both high proton activity, and a barrier that prevents Vanadium crossover from alloys, catalysts, and anodes in high-energy density lithium-ion batteries.
Gaia Membranes is focused on an innovative membrane technology designed to maximize the efficiency of energy storage and conversion systems.（Source: Gaia Membranes）
These are just a handful of newer energy storage technologies and platforms being developed or utilized today. New energy storage technologies are slow to emerge; they need to be researched and tested before becoming commercially available. It’s also expensive, and most governments are just beginning to develop policies around existing storage hardware. While those are lofty barriers to overcome, the drive to find new solutions are steadily being developed, and once plans are in place, utilities will take advantage of them.