Storing solar power in salt

UOW’s Isem team is storing energy in salt for both industrial and consumer electricity use.

MALAYSIA is forging an international reputation as a major player in the renewable energy space.

It is the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) industry employer in Asean and has set an ambitious renewable energy generation target of 20% by 2025.

With approximately 3.2 million landed houses, 450,000 shoplots, 21,000 standalone factories and 1,000 shopping complexes, there is a substantial amount of rooftop area that can be used in Malaysia’s renewable energy revolution.

As Malaysia and the world transition to relying more heavily on renewable energy generation technologies for their electricity needs, a range of opportunities for battery-based energy storage is opening up.

The most obvious use of batteries is to provide back-up power during blackout. But helping consumers with rooftop solar panels capture and use their self-generated electricity — rather than sell it to the grid — is also becoming more economically viable in places where electricity costs are high.

Industrial users can also deploy batteries to help them deal with spikes in power demands.

While lithium-ion batteries are currently being deployed in a number of these applications and more — including handheld electronics and electric vehicles — there are opportunities for the development of novel energy storage materials and solutions.

A team from University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (Isem) is leading an international consortium of partners in an AUD10.5mil (RM33.1mil) Australian Renewable Energy Agency-funded project to develop sodium-ion batteries for use in renewable energy storage applications.

Sodium-ion batteries share a number of similarities with lithium-ion batteries, but with additional benefits that make them attractive for renewable energy storage applications.

Notably, the input materials for sodium-ion batteries are more abundant and typically cheaper than those for lithium-ion batteries.

Additionally, sodium-ion batteries do not use cobalt in their architecture, which is one of the key issues facing lithium-ion batteries today.

The team at Isem is working with the consortium to translate sodium-ion battery research successes into commercial demonstrations.

Sydney Water — one of Australia’s largest water utilities — is a key part of the consortium and will demonstrate the sodium-ion batteries in one of its 780 sewage pumping stations.

The Illawarra Flame House — which won the 2013 Solar Decathlon China competition and is now a “living laboratory” at UOW’s Innovation Campus — will also host a sodium-ion battery pack, showing how this technology can also be of benefit in residential energy resilience and self-consumption applications.

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