Cambridge-based startup Malta raised $ 26 million to build a system for storing excess renewable energy in separate containers of molten salt and antifreeze-like liquid.
The development was supported by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, whose investors are Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg, and whose chairman is Bill Gates. The concept provides for the accumulation of energy received from solar panels, wind turbines or other sources in the form of heat with the possibility of its subsequent conversion into electricity on demand..
The surplus electricity flows into the heat pump, which heats a mixture of molten salt and antifreeze-like liquid that is stored in separate tanks to prevent it from being cooled. When there is a need for electricity, the system directs the mixture to a thermoelectric generator, which converts the heat back into electricity, which goes to the central network..
Although the idea was proposed last year, but only now did the developers manage to attract funding for its implementation. The concept outperforms pumped storage technology and an alternative to heat salt by concentrating sunlight from mirrors on a central tower, the researchers said..
The advantage of the Malta system is the low cost of the materials used, the possibility of placement in almost any conditions, as well as the ease of expansion. The estimated service life of the components is at least 20 years..
Schematic description of an energy storage system.
The developers say that due to the introduction of new restrictions on the use of fossil fuels and emissions, the need for such a system will only increase. The use of traditional batteries for such purposes is too expensive and requires a significant increase in their production..
Researchers at MIT proposed a similar but more surprising energy storage technology, but instead of salt, they decided to use molten silicon, which emits bright light, which is then converted into electricity using photovoltaic cells..
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: Malta, detscreen