NREL Scientist Use Silica Sand to Store Renewable Power

Sep 8, 2021 06:03 PM ET
  • NREL choices a modular, economical, build-anywhere particle thermal energy storage technology
  • Energy storage space in sand offers affordable path for trusted electrical power and warm supply in renewable energy era
NREL Scientist Use Silica Sand to Store Renewable Power

Renewable energy sources like solar as well as wind are changing exactly how we power our structures, industries, as well as grid; nonetheless, they are recurring, generating the demand for energy storage space to guarantee constant power. Lithium-ion batteries are great for short-duration energy storage, yet our buildings, organizations, markets, and also grid require even more storage space, at reduced cost, for longer durations, as well as at larger capacities than batteries can give to displace fossil fuels for a lasting future.

To meet this energy storage obstacle, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are in the late stages of prototype testing a new thermal energy storage space innovation that utilizes affordable silica sand as a storage medium. Economic Long-Duration Electrical Energy Storage Space by utilizing Low-Cost Thermal Energy Storage Space and also High-Efficiency Power Cycle (ENDURING) is a dependable, economical, as well as scalable option that can be sited anywhere.

The ENDURING Mechanism: Storable, Electrically Warmed Sand Delivers On-Demand Electrical Power

ENDURING uses electricity from excess solar or wind to heat a thermal storage space product-- silica sand. Particles are fed through a variety of electrical resisting burner to warm them to 1,200 ° C( imagine putting sand via a large toaster oven). The heated particles are after that gravity-fed into shielded concrete silos for thermal energy storage. The baseline system is created for economical storage space of approximately an astonishing 26,000 MWh of thermal energy. With modular layout, storage capacity can be scaled up or down with relative ease.

When energy is required, the hot particles are gravity-fed via a warm exchanger, home heating and pressurizing a working gas inside to drive the turbomachinery and rotate generators that produce electricity for the grid. The system discharges throughout durations of high electricity need as well as when minimal solar photovoltaic or wind power are available, such as very early in the early morning as well as night, during dinner prep work, and when TVs are on. As soon as released, the spent, cold particles are once more fed into insulated silos for storage space until conditions (and business economics) are appropriate once more for charging.

Just How Hot Sand in a Silo Is Revolutionizing Energy Decarbonization

ENDURING deals a number of benefits about various other power storage innovations.

As a storage tool, bountiful silica sand is steady and also affordable at $30$ 50/ton, as well as has a minimal eco-friendly effect both in removal and also end of life. For contrast, lithium-ion batteries have an outstanding energy storage density-- crucial for sure fields such as transportation, where weight issues-- however it comes at a high price. Particle thermal energy storage is a much less energy dense type of storage, yet is extremely affordable ($ 2$ 4 per kWh of thermal energy at a 900 ° C charge-to-discharge temperature distinction). The energy storage system is safe because inert silica sand is made use of as storage space media, making it an optimal prospect for substantial, long-duration energy storage space.

ENDURING systems have no particular siting restrictions as well as can be located anywhere in the country. These systems might additionally be created using existing infrastructure from retired coal- and gas-fired power plants.

Numerous Potential Economical Use Situations Support Decarbonization by 2050

The Biden Administration looks for to attain a carbon-free power field by 2035 and a web absolutely no emissions economic situation by 2050. Zhiwen Ma, principal investigator of the ENDURING project, sees an important role for particle thermal energy storage in achieving these objectives. "While decarbonization of electrical power has a clear path, decarbonization of the whole economic climate-- which includes points like constructing warmth as well as industrial processes-- is extra challenging since gas is extremely affordable, making it difficult to displace," he claimed. "Decarbonizing commercial procedures and constructing heat is extremely tough."

Early Achievements and also ENDURING Pledge

The ENDURING project is seeing promising development and also very early interest. The group recently won the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Advanced Energy Systems Division as well as Solar Energy Division 2021 First-Place Best Paper Award as well as several U.S. Department of Energy innovation funding awards. Patents on focusing solar power assimilation have been awarded, as well as several even more are being submitted.

The ENDURING model heating systems and warmth exchangers are presently undertaking screening in high-temperature problems. If the prototype tasks succeed this autumn, Ma is positive that ENDURING modern technology will certainly use terrific potential to sustain eco-friendly combination for future carbon-free energy supply.