The world's first operational'sand battery' can store energy for months

The world's first operational'sand battery' can store energy for months ...

According to BBC reports, a Finnish group has established the world's first commercial-scale'sand battery' that could be used to store electricity generated from renewable sources for months at a time.

Researchers are looking for new methods to store energy over the long term due to the desire for renewable energy. Batteries made from lithium and other earth minerals can be used as energy farms, but the solution becomes unsustainable if the whole world switches to renewables.

Switzerland spent 14 years repurposing its natural reservoirs into massive water batteries. While this uses the centuries-old principle to tap into the potential energy of water stored at a higher level, the construction of such facilities can cost millions of dollars. The Finnish approach might be a much cheaper alternative.

What is the effect of the sand battery?

When excess electricity is directed towards the sand battery, like electricity stored in conventional energy storage systems, it is directed towards the sand battery. Instead of trying to transfer electrons from one electrode to the other or power pumps to a higher reservoir, a sand battery uses resistive heating to increase the temperature of the air, which is then transferred to the sand by a heat exchanger.

A tower of sand has a high potential to store energy, with the melting temperature of the sand reaching hundreds of degrees Celsius. More importantly, sand retains this energy for many months together, making it a viable long-term storage strategy.

The next question that must be answered is whether or not this technology is scalable, and through the formation of their company, Polar Night Energy, the researchers have attempted to answer that as well.

The first commercial solar battery

Polar Night Energy has developed the first commercial sand battery from a small power facility in West Finland. Filled inside a tall grey silo are about 100 tonnes of sand used in construction, a relatively inexpensive alternative to lithium, cobalt, and nickel used in other batteries.

The battery powers the district's central heating system. When energy prices rise, the hot air in the battery can be used to warm water and then pumped to workplaces and homes in the region.

The BBC stated in their report that converting heat back to electricity is not that energy efficient. Nevertheless, the battery would be extremely beneficial for many industries.

China is shifting away from coal-fired power plants to nuclear power plants in an effort to make its industrial heat requirements greener. A sand battery that might be economical and easy-to-use system could meet industrial needs.

These might be the initial steps, but the Finns are confident that the technique will be a significant success in the future.

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