ARPA-E Future Growing Solar And Wind Power Grids
Author: Source: Datetime: 2017-01-04 17:03:53
But the U.S. Department of energy's technology incubator ARPA-E is still very concerned about the familiar electrochemical cells as the future backbone of the growing solar and wind power grids.
Earlier this year, ARPA-E released a report outlining the $85 million investment in research and development of battery based portable solar power generator grid storage since 2009. The report details the agency's grid scale battery program, including projected system costs, at least an order of magnitude compared with 2010. ARPA-E researchers believe that this will enable them to become viable business enterprises in the next few years.
ARPA-E, deputy director of technology Eric Rohlfing said that some of their investment technology is moving in this direction. But he points out that the agency supports the project portfolio and is not picking up individual winners in any category. "One of the things we like to do on ARPA-E is that we provide technical options," Rohlfing said. "As much as we like these items, for me to look at a crystal ball," said this particular chemical reaction, this particular flow battery will be the answer, "I think it is too early.
Nevertheless, Rohlfing said the report was a sample of 73 ARPA-E supported grid storage projects that will be available in the coming months and years. (IEEE Spectrum discussed some of the projects in the last story.)
One of these, the scale of power grid company based on the solar power batteries energy storage system in Portland, Austria (ESS), now has the battery installed in the army and engineers deployed in California's Napa winery. Its technology is a new approach to the idea of a promising grid storage: liquid flow battery.
A flow cell is similar to a fuel cell and a conventional battery. Liquid electrolytes flow on the cathode and anode side of the cell; they are separated by the membrane. By increasing the electrolyte reservoir more, can be easily extended battery capacity. If the chemistry and engineering are correct, the battery should have enough capacity to handle the power demand of the grid scale, and at the same time, it is neither expensive nor poisonous nor volatile.
"We see a lot of potential in these systems," Rohlfing said. "You have two large tanks, you can store a lot of energy. You can easily increase energy scaling. The active medium is a small part of the reactive part. When we first started, the most advanced technology was based on all vanadium redox flow batteries due to vanadium, they are still very expensive. All of our projects have studied ways to reduce costs. The storage system initially in vanadium began, and turned to the ferric chloride method. And the iron is dirty or rust, cheap cheap...
ESS business development and sales vice president Bill Sproull said that the company's price of iron based electrolyte is cheaper than his study of vanadium based electrolytes an order of magnitude. "Our electrolyte costs today are about $15 per kilowatt hour. My understanding of the cost of vanadium electrolyte is $150 per kilowatt hour, "he said. "In view of this, you have to build the rest of the battery with a low cost material, and you won't turn it around.
The company's co-founder and chief technology officer Julia Song said that at least one company and two universities are also developing their own iron based liquid flow battery chemistry. There is no doubt that all the competitors are facing one of the major challenges of iron based electrolytes, she said. That is to say, the positive and negative electrolyte of the battery change at different pH to get the best performance. Therefore, some smart chemical and chemical engineering efforts are needed in order to maintain the electrophoretic pH separation and stabilization during operation.
Both Sproull and Song say this is a tricky, but not impossible, optimization problem. It only needs to be solved at once. That's why they say ARPA-E's support has been so important to companies and technology.
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