Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “storage”

Cesar Heat Battery Taking Shape

Cees van Nimwegen (left) and his son Joris, posing for their heat battery project in the Boekel eco-village.

Cees van Nimwegen once worked for retired Philips and had a company of his own. No longer he works on CDs and DVDs, those Philips inventions that took the world by storm (and are already on the way out, due to streaming and clouds), but since 2002 got interested in renewable energy and now devotes his time to developing a heat battery. The central idea is to store renewable electricity in basalt at high temperatures, achieving an effective heat capacity four times that of water, that merely can be heated until 100 C. It is essential that relative large storage volumes are used, to minimize the enclosing surface to volume ratio and as such minimize heat losses. Typical storage capacity: 3000 kWh per 10 m3 module, modules that can and should be stacked. The storage should be used to shave off renewable electricity supply peaks. This kind of storage could compete with enlarging grid capacity, which is more expensive, according to van Nimwegen.

[] – Bestse accu voor het opslaan van zonne-energie werkt
[] – Ecodorp Boekel official site
[Google Maps] – Ecodorp Boekel

The heat battery explained

[source] Ecodorp Boekel

International Attention for Ecovat

It’s wonderful, all these new developments with photo-voltaic solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen storage, but space heating is still the largest chunk of a national energy budget, at least in Europe. The biggest decarbonization gains can be, and will have to be made, here.

Hence, it is to be greeted that an Austrian periodical pays attention to a promising Dutch startup Ecovat, that offers a solution for seasonal storage of heat in the soil.

[] – Attention for Ecovat in Austrian magazine
[] – AEE – Institut für Nachhaltige Technologien (1988)
[deepresource] – District Heating with Seasonal Storage in Vojens Denmark
[deepresource] – Our Ecovat posts

Ecovat Haalbaarheidsstudie Thermische Opslag Panningen

Het initiatief

In Panningen werkt Ecovat sinds 2018 samen met Peel Energie aan de ontwikkeling van een Warmte | Koude-net. In 2021 hebben de gemeente Peel en Maas en de woningcorporatie Wonen Limburg zich aangesloten bij het initiatief. Het Warmte | Koude-net Panningen biedt een duurzame en betaalbare oplossing voor de lange termijn om huishoudens van het aardgas af te koppelen. Door gebruik te maken van duurzame energiebronnen zoals lokale restwarmte, wind en zon, is er maar weinig tot geen CO2 uitstoot.

Rendabel van het aardgas af

In 2020 is er een haalbaarheidsstudie uitgevoerd door Ecovat. In deze haalbaarheidsstudie zijn de technische en financiële haalbaarheid van een Warmte | Koude-net met een Ecovat seizoensbuffer onderzocht. Uit de studie volgt dat de gebouwde omgeving van Panningen bestaat uit 4.779 woningequivalenten (WEQ) waarvan 3.261 woningen en 1.518 WEQ utiliteit. Voor een groot deel hiervan is het technische en financieel haalbaar om met een projectrendement van 4,6% aan te sluiten op het Warmte | Koude-net, namelijk 3.576 WEQ (2.500 woningen en 1.076 WEQ utiliteit).

[] – Ecovat warmte- en koudesysteem voor Panningen (pdf, 51p)
[] – Nederland bij uitstek geschikt voor energieopslag en omzetten energie

The Future of Energy Storage – Prof Yet-Ming Chiang, MIT

Professor Chiang is involved in the Form Energy iron-air battery project.

Storing Renewable Energy in Iron Powder

Producing 15 million bottles of beer by burning iron powder in a combustion chamber.

The previous post about iron-air batteries, triggered the impulse to get an update on Team Solid, a student club of the Technical University Eindhoven, that dedicates itself to investigate the possibility of having the iron-air chemical reaction taking place at high temperatures, as if it were a fuel.

The project started perhaps 6 years ago and meanwhile two recent videos could be found. Team Solid managed to get the Bavaria Breweries in Lieshout interested in their project and were invited to upscale their laboratory installation.

[] – Project site
[] – Timeline Team Solid
[deepresource] – Metalot Campus
[deepresource] – TU-Eindhoven Gets Grant to Further Develop Metal Fuels
[deepresource] – Metal Fuel Gets a Subsidy Boost
[deepresource] – Dutch Brewery Fueled by Iron Powder
[deepresource] – Iron Powder as a Fuel

Burning iron powder to rust works, see brewery video above. But next you need to reduce the iron rust back to iron again. Here is where green hydrogen comes in.

Metalot Campus in Budel, Netherlands, dedicated to metal fuels, located next to a large zinc factory, which is not a coincidence.

One of the oldest Team Solid videos.

Using the Stirling Engine for Energy Storage

Presented here is transforming renewable electricity into heat or cold, preferably including a phase change of the storage material, using a Stirling engine.

[] – Company site
[] – Thermal Energy Storage
[] – Stirling engine

A very simple, low-temperature Stirling engine. I have 2 identical ones of those, one for 30 euro from Amazon, the other one from Banggood for 10 euro. The latter actually works, the quality greatly varies. Great tool to impress your colleagues with a cup of hot coffee as heat source, which makes it run for more than 30 minutes.

Read more…

Breaktrough Liquid Metal Battery

Battery Price & Market Development

One is reminded of similar developments in the solar panel market, leading to increasing adoption by the public. Expect batteries with a capacity of a few kWh to penetrate private households soon as well, providing 24h autonomous electricity supply coverage, reducing grid load by spreading in/out-flow over 24h, rather than during peak hours.

[] – The price of batteries has declined by 97% in the last three decades

Biodegradable Paper Batteries

The number of data-transmitting microdevices, for instance in packaging and transport logistics, will increase sharply in the coming years. All these devices need energy, but the amount of batteries would have a major impact on the environment. Empa researchers have developed a biodegradable mini-capacitor that can solve the problem. It consists of carbon, cellulose, glycerin and table salt. And it works reliably…

What emerges is an ecological miracle. The mini-capacitor from the lab can store electricity for hours and can already power a small digital clock. It can withstand thousands of charge and discharge cycles and years of storage, even in freezing temperatures, and is resistant to pressure and shock…

Best of all, though, when you no longer need it, you could toss it in the compost or simply leave it in nature. After two months, the capacitor will have disintegrated, leaving only a few visible carbon particles.

[] – The biodegradable battery
[] – Neuartige kompostierbare Papier-Batterie aus dem 3D-Drucker
[] – Research article
[] – The biodegradable battery that’s 3D printed, disposable and made of paper

Lithium Seawater Mining Breakthrough


The size of lithium reserves in the world’s oceans are estimated to be 230 billion tons, that is ca. 5000 times as big as land-based resources. Concentration: 0.17 mg/liter or 0.2 ppm. Chinese scientists, employed by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi-Arabia, have proposed a method for extracting lithium from seawater, a process they claim is economically viable.

To address this issue, the team led by Zhiping Lai tried a method that had never been used before to extract lithium ions. They employed an electrochemical cell containing a ceramic membrane made from lithium lanthanum titanium oxide (LLTO).

Lithium has atom number 3, so is very small. The membrane’s holes are so small that they only let lithium-ions through, propelled by electricity. The lithium-enriched water is further processed in four more steps, to end up with a lithium concentration of 9,000 ppm. Eventually, lithium phosphate is the useful end product. As a bonus, the process delivers hydrogen, chlorine and desalinated water. Electricity cost: $5 per kilo of lithium. The very sunny Red Sea area would be ideal for lithium plants, driven by solar electricity, and is probably the reason why the King Abdullah University funded the research.

[] – ‘Cheap and easy’ method to extract lithium from seawater
[] – Continuous electrical pumping membrane process for seawater lithium mining (Original publication)
[] – Sea4value project site
[] – Brine mining

Green Hydrogen Systems Electrolyser Tour

Ørsted Now in Solar and Storage Too

Permian Energy Center in Andrews County, Texas.

The company’s first utility-scale solar plus battery storage project of 460MWAC reaches commercial operation, making Ørsted the first developer to operate the full spectrum of new renewable technologies at utility scale in the US.

420 MW PV and 40 MW battery storage. 1.3 million solar panels, sufficient to provide 80,000 households with electricity. Installed next to oil fields (to intimidate?). Legacy project from US developer Lincoln Clean Energy, which Ørsted bought in 2018.

[] – Ørsted completes Permian Energy Center
[] – Another giant makes its home in Texas
[Google Maps] – Andrews County, Texas

How the site looked like in 2019.

2 x 500MW/5GWh CAES Projects in California

[source] Hydrostor has developed this 2 MW/10 MWh demo project in 2019 in Goderich, Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian company Hydrostor has announced it will build two 500 MW/5GWh CAES projects in California. Two other companies involved are Pattern Energy (US) and Meridiam (France). Commission date 2024-2026. This will be the world’s largest non-hydro storage project to date.

[] – Hydrostor bags funds to support 500-MW energy storage project in Canada
[] – Goderich Energy Storage Facility

Haldor Topsoe Claims 90%+ Electrolysis Efficiency

The world of science and technology is struggling to determine which electrolysis method is the best to enable the emerging hydrogen economy. Candidates are PEM, alkaline, HTE, SOEC (Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cell) and others.

The Danish company Haldor Topsoe has announced it will set up a SOEC electrolyzer production line of 500 MW/year, operational by 2023 and which should culminate in 5 GW/year eventually. Haldor Topsoe claims an electrolysis efficiency of higher than 90%.

SOEC electrolyzers typically operate at 500-850 °C, in order to enable these high efficiencies. But obtaining water at these temperatures costs energy in itself. One promising solution could be the application of concentrated solar power (CSP), where huge PV-solar arrays in the desert and an accompanying CSP-plant, feed electrolyzers with both electricity and hot pressurized water.

[] – Solid oxide electrolyzer cell
[] – Solid oxide electrolysis cell technology
[] – Recent advances in solid oxide cell technology for electrolysis
[deepresource] – Taking an Electrolyzer Apart
[] – Haldor Topsoe to build large-scale SOEC electrolyzer manufacturing facility

Taking an Electrolyzer Apart

Youtube text, questions answered:

01:11​ How does an electrolyser work? (tabletop electrolysis demonstration)
01:49​ What are the components in an electrolyser?
02:30​ What consumables does the process use?
03:17​ How can we make electrolysis more efficient?
04:25​ What are the advantages of alkaline water electrolysis compared to PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) or SOEC (solid oxide electrolyser cell)?
05:09​ How much does an electrolyser cost? (levelized cost of hydrogen, capex, efficiency)
06:07​ What do you do with the oxygen after you split water?
06:39​ Electrolyser tour: an up-close look at a real electrolyser
08:06​ Do you have to use pure water for electrolysis, or can polluted or salt water be used?
08:46​ How much hydrogen can a shipping container sized electrolyser produce?
09:02​ Applications for hydrogen: will we use hydrogen to store and generate electricity?
09:46​ What about the low efficiency of using electricity to make hydrogen instead of just using electricity directly?
11:01​ How do you calculate the efficiency of an electrolyser? (electrolysis thermoneutral voltage)
12:06​ How much more efficient can electrolysis get?
12:26​ What kinds of improvements are needed to improve efficiency?
12:59​ How long will it take to develop a more efficient electrolyser?
13:16​ Is it realistic that the price of hydrogen can come down as quickly as it is predicted to?

[] – Company site
[] – GHS to Deliver Electrolysers for H2RES Project
[] – Green hydrogen marvel bound for blockbuster IPO

NordLink Operational

Germany has a 2nd subsea power cable to Norway, called NordLink, connecting a large Norwegian hydro-buffer with German renewable energy sources to even-out intermittent power supply.

Construction start date: 2016
Trajectory: Wilster-Tonstadt
Subsea length: 516 km
Cost: 2 billion euro
Power: 1.4 GW
Operator: TenneT


[] – Deutschland nutzt Norwegen jetzt als Batterie
[] – NordLink
[deepresource] – Norway Wants to Become Europe’s Battery Pack (2012)

Toyota Plans Revolutionary Solid State Battery

A solid-state battery is a battery technology that uses solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte, instead of the liquid or polymer gel electrolytes found in lithium-ion or lithium polymer batteries. Materials proposed for use as solid electrolytes in solid-state batteries include ceramics (e.g., oxides, sulfides, phosphates), and solid polymers. Solid-state batteries have found use in pacemakers, RFID and wearable devices. They are potentially safer, with higher energy densities, but at a much higher cost.

Challenges to widespread adoption include energy and power density, durability, material costs, sensitivity and stability.

A trip of 500 km on one charge. A recharge from zero to full in 10 minutes. All with minimal safety concerns. The solid-state battery being introduced by Toyota promises to be a game changer not just for electric vehicles but for an entire industry.

The technology is a potential cure-all for the drawbacks facing electric vehicles that run on conventional lithium-ion batteries, including the relatively short distance traveled on a single charge as well as charging times. Toyota plans to be the first company to sell an electric vehicle equipped with a solid-state battery in the early 2020s. The world’s largest automaker will unveil a prototype next year.

[] – Toyota’s game-changing solid-state battery en route for 2021 debut
[] – Solid-state battery

Germany Could Be Sitting on Large Lithium Reserves

German language video

A 90 kWh car battery contains about 13 kg lithium. German and French e-car manufacturers have to acquire this essential alkali metal from abroad, like South-America and Australia. In 2019, the global lithium reserve numbers were:

Country Share (%)
Chile 55.5
Australia 18.1
Argentina 11.0
China 6.5
US 4.1

According to the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), lithium could very well be economically won from the Oberrheingraben, in Germany itself.

As an additional advantage over short supply lines, the lithium could be won environmentally responsible, by extracting it from the brine of geothermal power stations. Australian specialists from the Vulcan corporation have established that the brine contains up to 200 mg per liter, which is exceptional. With 80 liter/s, that amounts to 16 gram/s or more than 4 car batteries per hour or ca. 40,000 per year, per borehole.

[] – Vulcan confirmed as largest JORC compliant Lithium resource in Europe

The company reported a total Inferred Mineral Resource of 13.2 Mt of contained Lithium Carbonate Equivalent, at a lithium brine grade of 181 mg/l Li.

This makes Vulcan the largest JORC-compliant Lithium Resource in Europe by a considerable margin, and a globally significant lithium brine resource.

The company noted that the Maiden Mineral Resource Estimate was calculated on just one of the five licence areas within the Vulcan Project, where majority of exploration licence areas remain as future upside.

Total estimated reserves: 13.2 Mt Lithium-carbonate or Li2CO3. With a molecular weight of 73,891 g/mol for Li2CO3 on 6.941 g/mol for lithium, this would amount to 1.39 million ton lithium, in theory sufficient for 1.3 billion cars. The price on world markets for Li2CO3 is currently ca $10/kg, so the entire reserve could be worth 120 billion euro. The very pleasant side effect is that building geothermal power stations in the Oberrheingraben has became a lot cheaper, because of the lithium side effect.

Unsurprisingly, on the French side of the Rhine, similar lithium finds have been made.

The first German lithium production is targeted for 2023.

Is everything rosy? Not really. Germans in large majority support the renewable energy transition, except if it has an impact on their private lives. The balance between public and private interests is very much tilted towards the private side, perhaps a little too much.

[] – Buergerinitiave gegen Tiefengeothermie
[] – Kampf um Lithium

The consequence is that the transition in Germany is currently stagnating, not because of lack of funds or overall public support, but because small local groups agitate against wind turbine noise, “horizon pollution” from turbines or high voltage power lines, feared cracks in their houses or polluted groundwater because of geothermal activities.

[] – Lithium aus Deutschland – Der verborgene Schatz im Oberrheingraben
[] – Der Oberrheingraben
[] – Kampf um Lithium
[] – Lithium und Kobalt in Elektroauto-Akkus
[] – The World’s Top Lithium Producers

LAVO – Residential Hydrogen Storage

LAVO Marketing video

The Australian start-up LAVO has introduced an energy storage device, based on hydrogen, that is produced locally in an electrolyzer and stored in metal, like water in a sponge. The energy is retrieved as electricity via a fuel cell. Storage capacity 40 kWh, which is 3 times a Tesla Power Wall, but with the same size and price, perhaps, is $34k. Vague about round-trip efficiency, perhaps lower than 50%, where a battery has 75-90%.

Website comment: it seems to make little sense to replace a battery with a small electrolyzer/fuell cell. Hydrogen brings added value only if it can provide seasonal storage, in the range of several months, not days; we have cheaper, more efficient batteries or pumped hydro for that. Nevertheless, bringing hydrogen storage to private homes is impressive, and we can only wish them success.

[] – LAVO company site
[] – Home hydrogen battery stores 3x the energy of a Powerwall 2
[] – Waterstofopslag voor woningen en bedrijven komt op de markt

Review from hell:

[] – LAVO’s Australian Made Hydrogen Battery: Incredible Engineering. Tough Sell.

Battery prices in Europe, ca. $500,-/kWh

[] – Batterijen

Read more…

Sand Batteries

In the desert there is no water for pumped storage. There is however lots of sand, as well as heat. Could be used for heat storage, heat that can be transformed into electricity.

[] – Sand Batteries For Solar Energy Storage
[] – Heat Storing Sand Battery
[] – Thermal battery
[deepresource] – SandTES – Storing Heat in Sand

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