Saturday, August 05, 2017

Alphabet Turns to Molten Salt to Store Clean Energy

A concentrating solar power plant. (Credit: Greens MPs/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Using giant vats of molten salt and antifreeze under the codename “Malta,” Google's parent company Alphabet is joining Tesla and smaller companies that are developing ways to store wind and solar power affordably to expand renewables and combat climate change.

Alphabet’s X research lab is developing a cutting-edge molten salt technology that aims to store wind and solar power for longer periods of time and for less cost than the giant lithium-ion batteries Tesla and other companies are designing.

Electricity storage is considered critical to the expansion of renewables in the U.S. to help fight climate change and wean the U.S. away from electric power plants that use fossil fuel.

The amount of electricity wind turbines and solar panels produce depends on the weather, so the flow of power from them isn’t constant.  Some of it is wasted when people aren’t using much electricity.

Storage allows wind and solar power to be used when it’s needed most, not just when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.  That way, stored renewables can be used instead of special power plants that run on natural gas when people are using a lot of electricity.

A growing number of states, including New York and California, have climate goals that require some percentage of the state’s electricity to come from storage.  Today, electric companies that use power storage mostly rely on big batteries that weigh several tons each.

Tesla has been developing large-scale lithium-ion batteries for several years.  It’s batteries are being used by a number of electric companies in California, and they may also be combined with a proposed offshore wind farm announced this week in Massachusetts.

Read more at Alphabet Turns to Molten Salt to Store Clean Energy

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