Researchers Develop Concept To Store Renewable Energy

November 19th, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a design concept on a system that can store renewable energy generated from the sun, wind and any other renewable sources. The system will also enable them to deliver the stored energy to the electric grid when needed. This new system will allow for the use of energy from the sun or wind around the clock by storing it.

The design concept will store the heat that is generated by the excess electricity coming from wind and solar power. The researchers say that it can store enough power to provide the needs of a small city. The excess energy is then converted into heat energy and stored in large tanks containing white-hot molten silicon. The light energy from the glowing hot will then be converted into electrical energy when needed.

According to the researchers, this method of storing excess energy will be more affordable than using lithium-ion batteries. It is estimated to even cost half as much as pumped hydroelectric storage system, which is considered to be the cheapest form of grid-scale energy storage at present.

According to Asegun Henry, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, “Even if we wanted to run the grid on renewables right now we couldn’t, because you’d need fossil-fueled turbines to make up for the fact that the renewable supply cannot be dispatched on demand. We’re developing a new technology that, if successful, would solve this most important and critical problem in energy and climate change, namely, the storage problem.”

The researchers outlined their concept for this new renewable energy storage system which they call Thermal Energy Grid Storage-Multi-Junction Photovoltaics or TEGS-MPV. Their proposition is to convert the excess electricity generated from a renewable source into thermal energy by means of joule heating, a process where an electric current passes through a heating element.  It is then stored into a hot tank of white hot silicone for later use.

When the energy is needed, the super heated silicon inside the storage tank is pumped into an array of tubes that emit light. Specialized solar cells then turn that light into electricity which can then be transferred to the grid for use. Based on this concept, people have started to call the newly developed system a “sun in a box”. The researchers estimate that a single storage system may be able to power 100,000 homes just be renewable energy.

Source: Tech Xplore