A Battery to Prop Up Renewable Power Hits the Market

A new kind of battery that stores energy from solar and wind power cheaply and cleanly has hit the market. It is by far the cheapest of a new generation of large, long-lived batteries that could make it possible to rely heavily on intermittent, renewable energy sources.

A battery module built at Aquion’s plant in Pennsylvania.

A battery module built at Aquion’s plant in Pennsylvania.

Aquion Energy, a company spun out of Carnegie Mellon University, recently delivered the first of its batteries to operators of small power grids, or “microgrids,” that can operate independently of the centralized grid.

Microgrids, which typically use local energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower, could help hundreds of millions of people who live beyond conventional grids get reliable electricity. Batteries can store power from solar panels or wind turbines to provide round-the-clock power. Alternatively, diesel generators can be used.

Aquion’s batteries use sodium ions from saltwater as their electrolyte. Electrical current moves through this brackish liquid from positive electrodes based on manganese oxide to negative ones based on carbon. The batteries are large and operate slowly, but they are also manufactured cheaply, using repurposed manufacturing equipment. Last week Aquion announced $34.6 million in funding to help it scale up production.

The batteries cost about as much as lead-acid ones, which are sometimes used now, but they last twice as long, effectively cutting the long-term costs in half. Other long-lived batteries exist, but they cost far more than lead-acid batteries.

The new energy storage technology could be crucial to making renewable energy more viable, especially in remote locations. By making solar power cheaper than diesel fuel in many places, it could help bring clean power to some of the more than one billion people in the world without reliable electricity.

As costs come down further, the batteries could find new applications beyond microgrids, including stabilizing conventional power grids as they come to rely more heavily on renewable energy.

The company isn’t disclosing where its batteries are being used—except to say the projects are international.

Bullis, K. (2014, November 14). A Battery to Prop Up Renewable Power Hits the Market. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.technologyreview.com/news/532311/a-battery-to-prop-up-renewable-power-hits-the-market/

Global Energy Demand To Soar By 2040, Putting ‘Stress’ On World Supplies: IEA Report

A technician repairs power supply lines at a power plant in the western Indian state of Gujarat. In its annual World Energy Outlook report, the International Energy Agency on Wednesday said India would become the world's "leading engine of energy demand" by 2040.

A technician repairs power supply lines at a power plant in the western Indian state of Gujarat. In its annual World Energy Outlook report, the International Energy Agency on Wednesday said India would become the world’s “leading engine of energy demand” by 2040.

Global energy demand is set to soar over the next two decades, threatening to “stress” the world’s energy systems as countries struggle to maintain supply, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday. The agency advised that significant investments and policy changes are needed to ensure that enough oil and natural gas are drilled and renewable energy projects are developed to match the pace of global consumption.

In its annual World Energy Outlook, the Paris-based agency projected that global demand will rise by 37 percent by 2040. “As our global energy system grows and transforms, signs of stress continue to emerge,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement.

That growth, however, actually signals a slowdown in demand compared with previous decades. Aggressive policies and new technologies to boost energy efficiency in buildings, factories and cars have helped to curb some of the world’s appetite for energy. The pressure on energy systems “would be even greater if not for efficiency measures that play a vital role in holding back global demand growth,” according to an agency press release.

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According to the IEA report, the use of coal and oil will steadily plateau, while natural gas use and consumption of low-carbon fuels like nuclear power and wind and solar will grow the strongest. Renewables could account for nearly half of the world’s increase in power generation over the next three decades, and overtake coal as the leading source of electricity, the agency said.

“Renewables are expected to go from strength to strength, and it is incredible that we can now see a point where they become the world’s number one source of electricity generation,” Van der Hoeven said.

Much of the growth in global energy demand will come from India, which would overtake China as the leading engine of energy consumption by the mid-2020s as China’s population levels off and its economic growth slows, the IEA said in its report.

Citation:

Gallucci, M. (2014, November 12). Global Energy Demand To Soar By 2040, Putting ‘Stress’ On World Supplies: IEA Report. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.ibtimes.com/global-energy-demand-soar-2040-putting-stress-world-supplies-iea-report-1722440

Watch the Proliferation of Solar Energy Output Grow Across the Top 30 US Markets, 2010 to 2014

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By the end of 2009, the United States had installed 1,164 cumulative megawatts of solar PV. In less than five years’ time, that total had skyrocketed to nearly 15,000 megawatts, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

The short animation below shows the adoption of solar PV across the nation’s top 30 solar states. In the first quarter of 2011, California crossed the 1,000 cumulative megawatt mark, and in Q4 2013, the state installed 1,200 megawatts of PV in just three months.

Other states to keep your eye on in the animation are Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts and North Carolina.