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One of Germany’s largest utilities wants to build what it says could be the biggest 'battery' in the world to date – using underground caverns filled with saltwater as a giant redox flow energy storage system.
EWE GASSPEICHER, a subsidiary of utility EWE based in Oldenburg, northern Germany, said a few days ago that it wants to construct redox flow batteries inside underground salt caverns currently used for storing natural gas.
The university team then hit upon the idea of using the underground salt caverns as containers for the electrolyte. The underground caverns are often vast, offering potential for storing large amounts of energy. Initially, the project’s battery will be constructed and contained in plastic containers at another site before being transferred into the caverns.
For some alternative energy enthusiasts, Musk's deal wasn't good enough. Instead of buying Tesla's Powerwall, they build their own DIY versions using recycled batteries for a fraction of the cost. Then, naturally, they share their creations and swap knowledge with other hobbyists across the internet. DIY powerwall enthusiasts congregate on a dedicated forum, in Facebook groups, and on YouTube.
Chattanooga's municipal power utility [EPB] on Friday energized a 100 kilowatt vanadium redox flow battery that researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed and which Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers will study.
"Because Chattanooga's power distribution infrastructure combines a communitywide fiber optics network with more than 1,200 automated power management devices to form one of the most advanced smart grids in the country, we are well-positioned to serve as a living laboratory for testing new technologies and developing best practices that will help other utilities modernize their infrastructure," EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said.
The battery system for the EPB project is provided by UniEnergy Technologies, a Seattle-based manufacturer that already has installed five other designs of the new battery type at other sites around the globe. The new flow batteries have an efficiency of more than 70 percent, meaning there is less than a 30 percent loss of the power put into the battery compared with the amount that comes out and is delivered when it is needed.
The UK's largest flow battery system has been connected up to the power grid.
The vanadium redox flow technology will initially be used to store excess power from solar generation at the Olde House farm and holiday retreat in Cornwall until it is needed on site.
The containerised system has a storage capacity of 1MWh, a maximum output of 90kW and a lifespan of at least 25 years.
The supplier, RedT, says it will enable the site owner to cut imports from the power grid by up to 50 per cent during peak hours. It will also participate in the capacity market and be used to provide frequency response, short term operating reserve and demand turn-up services.
The factory sprawls over an area larger than 20 soccer fields [!!!]. Inside, it’s brightly lit and filled with humming machinery, a mammoth futuristic manufactory. Robot arms grab components from bins and place each part with precision, while conveyor belts move the assembled pieces smoothly down production lines. Finished products enter testing stations for quality checks before being packed for shipping.
It has been called a gigafactory, and it does indeed produce vast quantities of advanced batteries. But this gigafactory is in China, not Nevada. It doesn’t make batteries for cars, and it’s not part of the Elon Musk empire.
Opened in early 2017, in the northern Chinese port city of Dalian, this plant is owned by Rongke Power and is turning out battery systems for some of the world’s largest energy storage installations. It’s on target to produce 300 megawatts’ worth of batteries by the end of this year, eventually ramping up to 3 gigawatts per year.
The scale of this “other” gigafactory may be impressive, but the core technology it makes is even more compelling. The Dalian factory produces vanadium redox-flow batteries, a specialized type whose time has finally come. The VRFB was invented decades ago but has emerged only recently as one of the leading contenders for large-scale energy storage.
We’ve [UET] also brought down the batteries’ cost: A few years ago, the cost of a 4-hour VRFB system was about $800 per kilowatt-hour. These days, it’s about half that, comparable to the cost of a stationary lithium-ion system. But that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. As mentioned earlier, like that of other solid-state batteries, lithium ion’s capacity degrades over time, and its life span is shorter. We’ve tested individual VRFBs through more than 14,000 cycles, fully charging and discharging each cycle, and they still perform at 100 percent capacity. This should translate into a life span of 20 years or more. To date, our company has installed several megawatt-scale systems around the world, with an additional 200 MWh either awarded or in contract.
Projects are beginning to roll into the pipeline in Massachusetts, but there are concerns. “The policies are not developed to the extent they need to be in order for storage to take off,” Zachary Gerson, an attorney with Foley Hoag, told Utility Dive.
One of the outstanding questions is the eligibility of energy storage systems to net meter under Massachusetts rules. That issue was raised last year in a filing with the Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities.
The issue has been simmering since at least 2015 and is still not resolved. Late last year, the DPU created a separate docket to handle the matter. In short, developers are seeking clarity on whether or not a storage system paired with a solar power installation is eligible for net metering. Some parties, such as utilities, are concerned that net metering of storage could lead to double dipping of benefits. The DPU issued a narrow ruling on a case involving Tesla, but left the wider issue to be hammered out in the new docket.
The cluster was first developed in the lab of German chemist Johann Spandl, and studied for its magnetic properties. Tests conducted by VanGelder showed that the compound could store charge in a redox flow battery, “but was not as stable as we had hoped.”
However, by making what Matson describes as “a simple molecular modification”— replacing the compound’s methanol-derived methoxide groups with ethanol-based ethoxide ligands—the team was able to expand the potential window during which the cluster was stable, doubling the amount of electrical energy that could be stored in the battery.
Says Matson: “What’s really cool about this work is the way we can generate the ethoxide and methoxide clusters by using methanol and ethanol. Both of these reagents are inexpensive, readily available and safe to use. The metal and oxygen atoms that compose the remainder of the cluster are earth-abundant elements. The straightforward, efficient synthesis of this system is a totally new direction in charge-carrier development that, we believe, will set a new standard in the field.”