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Pass the Salt –Renewable Energy’s Storage Problems Might Be Over

Alphabet's secret lab might have created the ultimate energy storage solution...

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted July 31, 2017

Clean energy additions beat fossil fuels by a significant amount last year.

And for the first time ever, wind and solar power made up 10% of all U.S. electricity generation.

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But did you know that we throw out huge amounts of renewable energy each year? It’s not because we don’t want to use it. It’s because we can’t store it well.

One of the downsides of renewable energy is their sources: we can’t make a cloudy day sunny, and neither can we make the wind run through wind turbines. We also can’t save the extra energy that is made on particularly sunny or windy days, because we don’t have efficient renewable energy storage yet.

Bill Gates wrote about the dilemma in 2016, saying that while you could store enough renewable energy to power your house for a week, it would triple your energy bill.

Bloomberg writes, “California tossed out more than 300,000 megawatts produced by solar panels and wind farms… About 4 percent of all wind energy from Germany was jettisoned in 2015… China throws out more than 17 percent.”

I don’t know about you, but I know I can’t have my energy bill triple… And while costs are coming down for renewables, they are still more expensive than energy coming from fossil fuels. I certainly can’t afford to use already-more-costly renewable energy and have my bill triple.

The good news is, expensive storage might not be an issue for much longer...

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ GS: GOOG) the parent company of Google, has a research lab, simply called X, that thinks that they’ve found a solution to renewable energy’s storage problem.

Essentially, researchers have already proved that a system that uses tanks of salt and antifreeze to take in and store energy worked, but the method was too expensive to be used as efficient storage.

X’s breakthrough was finding a way to create a lower temperature system that doesn’t need the same special steel and ceramics, which means that it could end up being a lot cheaper than lithium-ion batteries (currently one of the best ways to store renewable energy, but expensive to replace).

Renewable energy is a field that’s growing by leaps and bounds, and there’s no doubt that a lower-cost storage solution like this could usher it in even faster.

To read about X’s research in more detail, click here.

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