Jean-Patrice Delia Highlights Recent Advances in Energy Storage Technology
Despite the advances in solar and wind power systems, their storage technologies have been lagging. The energy created by the wind or sunlight takes longer to reach the power grid which impacts the quality and cost of such energy. But that’s all about to change with the new advances in energy storage technology.
Jean-Patrice Delia is the Director of Operations for Thermogen Power Services located in Montreal, Quebec. His work focuses on optimizing power plants that deal with fossil fuels, solar, and wind power. “The new advances in liquid batteries,” he says, “as well as thermal and mechanical energy storage hold a great promise for the adoption of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.”
The concept of using liquid batteries to store intermittent and renewable energy is not new. However, in practice, the proposed battery faced challenges on many fronts. From high costs to bulky sizes, and low efficiency.
Scientists at Stanford University and the University of Glasgow were able to use nano-molecular technology to develop a flow battery system. “What’s exciting about this battery,” explains Jean-Patrice Delia, “is that it can be used to store either electricity or hydrogen. So, you would get electrical power or fuel in the form of hydrogen gas.” The liquid battery stores up to 10 times the amount of electricity that normal batteries can contain. An electric car will take minutes rather than long hours to get fully charged.
Thermal Energy Storage
Thermal energy storage facilities are used to store excess energy produced from solar panels during peak hours (when the sun is shining). The stored energy can be in the form of heat or cold. At night (off-peak hours) that energy stored as molten salt is released to produce steam which in turn would power turbines to produce electricity.
Energy can also be used to make ice. This will be fed into cooling systems to reduce the demand for energy to cool buildings during the day. In either way, the stored energy needs to be kept in an efficient container such as a thermos or a cooler. These containers are considered temporary storage systems since the energy stored during the day will be used at night or vice versa.
Hydrogen Energy Storage
According to Jean-Patrice Delia, hydrogen energy storage has a lower efficiency than thermal energy storage systems. That’s due to the two-step process of turning electricity into hydrogen using electrolysis then electrifying the hydrogen again. “Despite this low efficiency, this storage system has its advantages,” he says. “One of these advantages is the high storage capacity of this system.” The current technology uses either alkaline electrolysis for large-scale systems or Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) for smaller ones. However, an emerging technology that uses high temperature electrolyzers would soon replace those two technologies. Compared to a conversion efficiency between 65 and 70 percent of the current systems, high temperature electrolyzers have 90 percent conversion efficiency. This will make integrated hydrogen power suppliers a more suitable solution for remote or isolated areas that are not connected to the grid.