Economical Water-Based Batteries to Store Solar and Wind Energy – Are They the Answer to Our Renewable Energy Future?


Introduction

In this age endless scientific advancements and technological developments, the two rapidly growing forms of energy generation in the world are wind and solar, and both have the same fundamental constraint.

These forms of energy generation are subject to weather conditions, and there are times when they don’t generate any electricity at all. Energy companies who are dependent these generation methods require some type of backup while their solar farms and wind turbines are logged off.

Since there are not many options for these energy companies, most of them turn to fossil fuels like coal or natural gas which notably undermines the advantages of green energy to a great extent.

Nonetheless, an alternate solution which is being trialled in some parts of the world is battery storage so that surplus power produced from renewable energy can be saved for the future. But batteries have their own set of intricacies and problems. Majority of the utility-scale battery systems are costly to build, and they can only last for a specified period of time.

Commonly, the lifespan of rechargeable batteries is around a decade before they can no longer hold a charge and need replacement.

Nevertheless, a group of researchers at Stanford University have come up with a new type of water-based battery. Composed of water and salt, they hope that the battery could be utilised to store energy produced from wind and solar farms, boosting the effectiveness of renewable energy sources.

To put it simply, the battery could diminish the need to burn carbon-emitting fossil fuels and provide a cost-effective measure to store wind or solar energy. Last but not least, this new type of battery developed by researchers at Stanford has the potential to solve global problems with an inexpensive, durable battery perfect for utility-scale energy storage.

All You Need To Know About The Research Project 

Yi Cui, the senior author of the research project, and a professor of materials science at the Stanford elaborated upon their project. He explained that they had dissolved a special salt in the water, and put an electrode.

Dr. Yi Cui

They developed a changeable chemical reaction that could store electrons in the form of hydrogen gas. Cui also stated that they-they had recognised catalysts that could bring them below the $100 per kilowatt-hour, which was the target of the Department of Energy (DOE).

In the meantime, Steven Chu, erstwhile DOE secretary and Nobel laureate and a professor at Stanford who was not a part of the research team recapitulated that the prototype demonstrated that science and engineering could attain newer ways of inexpensive, highly durable, and utility-scale batteries.

The prototype of the device developed connected a power source to the battery to mimic power that could be fed by energies, namely solar or wind.

The electricity was pumped through the solution, and it triggered a chemical reaction resulting in the formation of manganese dioxide and pure hydrogen gas. In simple words, the Electrons and the manganese sulphate dissolved underwent reaction and the particles of manganese dioxide that were left clinging to the electrodes.

The overabundant electrons commenced bubbling. The hydrogen gas could then be stored and later burned as fuel whenever there was a requirement for excess electricity. Therefore, the battery is highly efficient and durable. Once it is drained, it can be easily recharged with more electricity and the process continues. 

At present, the prototype is around three inches tall, and it has the potential to generate 20 milliwatt-hours of electricity. Moreover, it is reported that this could be scaled to an industrial-grade system that had the capacity to charge and recharge up to 10,000 times and develop a grid-scale battery which had a remarkable lifespan.

In addition to that, the device is also being viewed as a form of backup to deal with demand escalations.Despite all these endeavours, there is still a long way to go before the availability, and global utilisation of this type of battery becomes widespread.

The researchers have only examined a small prototype in the lab, and there is no assurance that the design will perform excellently in the field. But if the battery is as inexpensive and long-lasting as it seems to be, this type of storage will become prevalent in all parts of the world within a very short span of time. 

Final Words 

The demand for economical water-based batteries to store solar and wind energy is quickly increasing. It is so because energy generation has become necessary and it is the need of the hour.

Furthermore, inexpensive and durable batteries could increase the number of utilities building solar and wind plants. Besides that, a cost-effective battery would get rid of the biggest downside of renewable energy. On this account, water-based batteries will be nothing less than a miraculous boon to the entire world.