Sodium-β Batteries Could Transform Wind And Solar Into Baseload Generators

Sodium- Batteries Could Transform Wind And Solar Into Baseload Generators

The cost of generating wind and solar power has been sinking like a stone, but the cost of storing all that energy for a rainy day has remained stubbornly high. With that in mind lets take a look at a new advanced energy storage development announced by our friends over at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

PNNL has been working on bringing down the cost of sodium- batteries (thats for beta). Sodium- batteries are widely perceived to be the key to advanced energy storage for utility scale wind and solar energy power, but their relatively high cost has been an obstacle to widespread adoption.

Sodium- Batteries For Advanced Energy Storage

Sodium- refers to a class of rechargeable metallic batteries, in which the two electrodes are separated by a ceramic membrane made of beta alumina. Initially used to construct industrial furnaces, by the 1960s beta alumina was rediscovered as a conductive material with applications for advanced energy storage.

According to the Energy Department, there are two promising materials for the positive electrodes, sodium-sulfur or sodium-nickel-chloride (the later is the ZEBRA battery, for those of you familiar with the topic).

In terms of performance potential, sodium- batteries could far outstrip lithium-ion batteries, the current gold standard. In addition to advanced energy storage for utility operations, sodium- batteries could also play a role in mobile energy storage for electric vehicles.

The main problem is that under current technology, the molten state of the sodium- electrode materials is maintained by a high operating temperature, up in the 350 C range. The high temperature is the main driver of expense for the batteries. It contributes to a relatively short lifespan, and it also requires the use of more expensive materials.


SMART GRID Bulletin March 2017

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