One of the arguments against solar and wind is that the renewable energy sources are intermittent and thus unreliable — the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Storage is the key to unlocking the full potential of renewables to power modern, industrial societies on the scale of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Now, Google’s parent Alphabet is joining the race to develop clean energy storage. The Malta project, from Alphabet’s secretive research lab X, uses cold antifreeze and hot salt to store power.
The storage system reportedly has some key advantages, including the ability to be located almost anywhere and the potential to last longer than lithium-ion batteries. The system also could be as cost-effective as new hydroelectric plants and other existing clean energy storage methods.
Related: Siemens and AES start new energy storage company to rival Tesla
Tesla is also developing utility-scale renewable energy storage solutions with its Powerpack. Other companies are working on energy storage as well. Renewable energy storage players such as Tesla and Google could increasingly be in demand as states like California attempt to integrate more solar and wind into the electricity grid. During the first half of this year, California wasted more than 300,000 megawatts generated by solar panels and wind farms.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-ion battery prices are dropping fast and low oil and natural gas prices could pose a challenge to the Malta project. “It could potentially compete with lithium-ion,” said Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Yayoi Sekine. “But there are a lot of challenges that an emerging technology has to face.”
Images via X Research Lab
Although I certainly like the idea of corporations like Google trying to figure out energy storage, I can't help but wonder if the focus of projects like this is not so much a focus on the best way to store energy per se, but the best way to maintain the current energy model of sending a perpetual check every month to a central energy giant. IOW, research like this is not done for technologies sake, but to preserve cash streams for the super rich. Just a thought.