Promising steps toward grid-scale renewables storage (really)


By: SGN Staff

Until now, DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) says, redox flow battery technology was considered one storage option for smoothly integrating energy onto the grid from intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar - but had its problems. The batteries only worked in a limited range of temperatures, cost a lot and their energy storage capabilities were limited.


In an era of high public demand and government targets for renewables implementation, energy storage is seen by many as a real solution to the problem of maintaining grid stability and reliability while at the same time bringing more and more intermittent sources of energy online. It's just been hard to come up with the right technology.


But researchers at PNNL have come up with new approaches that provide a lot more operating range, higher energy density and lower cost for redox flow technology. Without getting too technical, the researchers achieved those significant performance enhancements with vanadium electrolytes they developed for the battery's storage tanks.


As a result, Washington-based UniEnergy Technologies LLC has signed a licensing agreement with Battelle (which manages PNNL for DOE) to continue work on development and commercialization of this new generation flow battery. The licensing agreement is expected to bring about enhanced commercial products for utilities, power generators and related industry that will allow for more efficient and consistent grid operation and for improved integration of those intermittent renewable energy sources.


"The redox flow battery is well-suited for storing intermittent, renewable energy on the electricity grid. The technology can help balance supply and demand, prevent disruptions and meet the grid's varying load  requirements," according to Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager for DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability. The office funded the PNNL research project.


Gyuk added "Redox flow batteries can also help utilities during times of peak demand on the grid, providing additional power when it is needed."