Stanford University: Solving the “Storage Problem” for Renewable Energies: A New Cost Effective Re-Chargeable Aluminum Battery


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One of the biggest missing links in renewable energy is affordable and high performance energy storage, but a new type of battery developed at Stanford University could be the solution.

Solar energy generation works great when the sun is shining [duh…like taking a Space Mission to the Sun .. but only at night! :-)] and wind energy is awesome when it’s windy (double duh…), but neither is very helpful for the grid after dark and when the air is still. That’s long been one of the arguments against renewable energy, even if there are plenty of arguments for developing additional solar and wind energy installations without large-scale energy storage solutions in place. However, if low-cost and high performance batteries were readily available, it could go a long way toward a more sustainable and cleaner grid, and a pair of Stanford engineers have developed what could be a viable option for grid-scale energy storage.

With three relatively abundant and low-cost materials, namely aluminum, graphite, and urea, Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell have created a rechargeable battery that is nonflammable, very efficient, and has a long lifecycle.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance. Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” – Dai

A previous version of this rechargeable aluminum battery was found to be efficient and to have a long life, but it also employed an expensive electrolyte, whereas the latest iteration of the aluminum battery uses urea as the base for the electrolyte, which is already produced in large quantities for fertilizer and other uses (it’s also a component of urine, but while a pee-based home battery might seem like just the ticket, it’s probably not going to happen any time soon).

According to Stanford, the new development marks the first time urea has been used in a battery, and because urea isn’t flammable (as lithium-ion batteries are), this makes it a great choice for home energy storage, where safety is of utmost importance. And the fact that the new battery is also efficient and affordable makes it a serious contender when it comes to large-scale energy storage applications as well.

“I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire.” – Dai

According to Angell, using the new battery as grid storage “is the main goal,” thanks to the high efficiency and long life cycle, coupled with the low cost of its components. By one metric of efficiency, called Coulombic efficiency, which measures the relationship between the unit of charge put into the battery and the output charge, the new battery is rated at 99.7%, which is high.WEF solarpowersavemoney-628x330

In order to meet the needs of a grid-scale energy storage system, a battery would need to last at least a decade, and while the current urea-based aluminum ion batteries have been able to last through about 1500 charge cycles, the team is still looking into improving its lifetime in its goal of developing a commercial version.

The team has published some of its results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, under the title “High Coulombic efficiency aluminum-ion battery using an AlCl3-urea ionic liquid analog electrolyte.”

 

PNL Battery Storage Systems 042016 rd1604_batteriesGrid-scale energy storage to manage our electricity supply would benefit from batteries that can withstand repeated cycling of discharging and charging. Current lithium-ion batteries have lifetimes of only 1,000-3,000 cycles. Now a team of researchers from Stanford University, Taiwan, and China have made a research prototype of an inexpensive, safe aluminum-ion battery that can withstand 7,500 cycles. In the aluminum-ion battery, one electrode is made from affordable aluminum, and the other is composed of carbon in the form of graphite.

Read: A step towards new, faster-charging, and safer batteries

 

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Ontario government scraps plan for $3.8 billion in renewable energy projects – Is this a harbinger of things to come?


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The move will keep $2.45 from going on the average homeowner’s monthly hydro bill.

Ontario is blowing off plans for more wind and solar power as it feels the heat over high electricity bills less than two years before a provincial election.

In its latest effort to curb prices, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is axing plans to sign another $3.8 billion in renewable energy contracts, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said Tuesday.

The move — which the Progressive Conservatives have demanded for years — will prevent $2.45 from being added to the average homeowner’s monthly hydro bill in the coming years.

Thibeault called it a “common sense” decision after the province’s electricity planning agency recently advised there is no “urgent need” for additional supply given Ontario’s surplus of generating capacity.

“I’ve been tasked to find ways to bring bills down,” said Thibeault, who was appointed minister last June. “When our experts said we didn’t need it, that’s when I acted.”

There may be more measures to come, Thibeault hinted in a speech prepared for the Ontario Energy Association on Tuesday night.

He pledged to “take a prudent look at every policy decision that has been made and determine if there is work we can do to reduce costs to Ontarians.”

The projects scrapped Tuesday would have created up to 1,000 megawatts of power, just under one-third of the 3,500 megawatts the four-unit Darlington nuclear power station produces near Oshawa.

 

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called the suspension “too little, too late” while former Liberal energy minister George Smitherman and environmentalists suggested the government should have taken aim at costly nuclear refurbishments.

“Ontario had a choice to look forward but it chose to look backwards,” Smitherman said in a statement.

“The cancellation of the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP II) program makes it a scapegoat for pricing when the real culprit for oversupply is the aging Pickering nuclear plant.”

Ontario is planning to keep Pickering open until 2024 to provide electricity while it spends $12.8 billion refurbishing Darlington.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said “the Liberals have chosen the wrong target,” echoing comments from the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence that the renewable cancellation is “short-sighted.”

“If you’re concerned about cost, you do more renewables and less nuclear,” said Gideon Forman from the foundation, noting the suspension will cost jobs in the green energy sector.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association warned cancelling the renewables will make it harder for Ontario to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets in the battle against climate change.

Thibeault insisted the government is not “backtracking” on green energy because previously signed renewable contracts will go ahead in the province, eventually providing 18,000 megawatts of green energy. He said 90 per cent of generation, including nuclear, is emissions-free.Renewable Energy Pix

Sixteen projects — five wind, seven solar and four hydroelectric — approved last winter are proceeding and expected to create 455 megawatts of generating capacity.

That means ratepayers will still be on the hook for “energy we don’t need,” said Brown.

“They’ve made a huge mistake on the energy file . . . bills are still going to go up.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath blamed increasing privatization of the electricity system for steadily rising prices in the last decade, leaving Ontarians “paying the freight.”

The Liberal government, lagging in the polls, announced in its throne speech two weeks ago that the 8 per cent provincial tax on electricity will come off bills starting in January.

Many rural homeowners who face high delivery charges for hydro will also see 20 per cent savings, and 1,000 more companies will be able to take advantage of a program that allows them to shift hydro use away from periods of peak demand in return for lower prices.

That’s in addition to a hydro subsidy plan for low-income residents called the Ontario Electricity Support Program already in place.

Wynne and her MPPs were shadowed by wind farm protesters last week at the International Plowing Match and booed over hydro prices by some in attendance.

Thibeault downplayed the hostile reception.

“I was booed as a politician before. It’s something that comes with the job, right? My previous experience as a hockey referee helped me with the boos,” Thibeault told reporters Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the provincial Financial Accountability Office released a report that found households in Toronto and Niagara typically spend the least on home energy costs and confirmed that northern Ontario residents spend the most, with low-income families facing the highest burden.

We want to know what YOU think. Is a “practical” decision like this, based on “which way the political wind is blowing” (pardon the pun) make sense in the short term? Long term? Leave us your Comments. We always like hearing from you! – Team GNT