A Battery to Power Big Cities

02/27/2015 |

Design is low-cost and green while providing more energy storage

Renewable energy battery

PHOTO CREDIT: PNNL

As the strain on the power grid grows, especially in large cities, a new battery has been developed that could help store more renewable energy. The zinc-polyiodide design of the new battery uses an electrolyte that has more than two times the energy density of the next-best flow battery that is currently used to support the power grid.

The research from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, published in Nature Communications, notes that flow batteries are much less likely to overheat and catch fire than the lithium ion batteries that are currently used by utilities to store renewable energy. Additional benefits of the new technology include improved safety and lower cost due to the non-acidic nature of the electrolyte and a wider range of operation temperatures, with the battery working in conditions as cold as -4 degrees F. and as hot as 122 degrees. The next stage in the development process is to build a larger, 100-watt-hour model of the battery to perform additional tests.

“With improved energy density and inherent fire safety, flow batteries could provide long-duration energy storage for the tight confines of urban settings, where space is at a premium. This would enhance the resiliency and flexibility of the local electrical grid,” says Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager at the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

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