Batteries can unlock renewable energy

  A leading chemistry professor has told ELN that energy storage is the key to harnessing renewable power. Tom Zawodzinski, the Governor’s Chair in Electrical Energy Storage at the University of […]

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By Jonny Bairstow
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A leading chemistry professor has told ELN that energy storage is the key to harnessing renewable power.

Tom Zawodzinski, the Governor’s Chair in Electrical Energy Storage at the University of Tennessee, spoke yesterday on his research into developing advanced energy storage technologies.

His talk focused on flow batteries, an emerging energy storage technology in which two chemical components dissolved in liquids exchange through a membrane, providing a flow of electric current.

The technology will enable intermittent power sources such as wind and solar to store excess energy for use later. Demand usually peaks in the evening, after renewable generation has started to fall, so efficient storage is essential if wind and solar are to become primary sources of power.

By the late 2020s, wind and solar capacity generation is forecast to reach 50 GW. With this level of generation and large flow batteries, there will be long periods in the summer when no base-load is needed at all.

Professor Zawodinsky told ELN that one source of financial backing could come from the finance sector: “The classic that everybody thinks about are banks, storing information. They have many layers of backup power in case anything goes wrong and they’ll pay a lot of course, to maintain their data. When we see markets like that taking up different technologies, that provides some proof of the concepts.”

Management Consultants Mckinsey estimate that the energy storage market will grow a hundredfold to $90 billion (£69.3bn) a year by 2025.