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World’s biggest grid-scale battery will be in German salt mine

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Cleantechnica

Flow batteries offer significant advantages over lithium-ion batteries.

They have a much longer lifespan, can be fully discharged and recharged many thousand of times without damage, and have no danger of explosion or fire due to overheating.

They also tend to be heavy and bulky, which makes them unsuitable for use in automotive applications.

Known to the scientific community as redox (reduction oxidation) batteries, they involve two tanks of liquid — one positively charged and one negatively charged — separated by a membrane which allows electrons to pass between the two tanks but not molecules.

 redflow bettery - Cleantechnica

In the right setting, they can store prodigious amounts of electricity safely and inexpensively.

German utility company EWE says it is planning to build the world’s largest battery based on flow technology in a pair of salt caves currently used to store natural gas.

Taken together, the caves have a volume of 3.5 million cubic feet — enough to store up to 700 megawatt-hours of electricity with an output capacity of 12o megawatts, according to Digital Trends.

To put that into perspective, a battery with that much capacity could meet the electrical energy needs of the city of Berlin for an hour or 75,000 homes for a day.

“We need to carry out some more tests and clarify several issues before we can use the storage principle indicated by the University of Jena in underground caverns.

However, I expect that we will have an operating cavern battery by about the end of 2023,” says Ralf Riekenberg, head of the project, which has been named brine4power.

Grid-scale battery storage is less about operating homes or cities for hours or days and more about balancing out the flow of renewable energy during the course of a typical day.

Sometimes the sun shines; sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes the wind blows; sometimes it doesn’t. Grid storage makes it possible for utilities to better plan for the needs of their customers at all times.

Traditionally, there is baseload power — often from coal or nuclear facilities.

Baseload power doesn’t vary much during a typical day.

But there are times when more power is needed. That’s when so-called peaker plants — typically powered by natural gas — get switched on.

Firing up a peaker plant costs money and they do not come online instantaneously. A battery, on the other hand, can react in seconds and costs nothing to activate.

Once built, it also has no ongoing fuel costs. That makes battery storage attractive to utilities that are focused on maximizing net revenues.

Grid storage also protects against blackouts when some of those “baseload” power plants mentioned above unexpectedly goes down.

When the new brine4power venture is completed in 2023, it is not guaranteed to be a commercial success, of course.

Earlier this year, Aquion Power, which specialized in flow battery technology and was supported financially by Bill Gates, filed for bankruptcy.

NanoFlowcell is an electric car car startup that touts flow battery technology but it has yet to begin selling cars, despite some very appealing concept designs.

Energy storage is a hot topic around the world. Elon Musk has just inked a deal to install the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in South Australia.

Pumped hydro storage is still a popular choice in areas where the terrain makes it feasible.

There is even a plan to build a train that carries freight cars filled with concrete blocks up a mountain in Nevada during the day and generates electricity as it slides back down the mountain at night.

Will the EWE plan be commercially viable? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

Source: Cleantechnica. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Jo

    good article, but a few scientific mistakes.
    The membrane does not allow electrons to get through but just some specific ions like H+ . The tanks are not negatively and positively charged but contain components (ions or molecules) at different oxidation levels. Yes, this is complicated, but we should not simplify it that much that it is wrong.

    • MaxG

      Agree… also do not like the blank statement of lithium-ion and fire; happy if they’d say most lithium-ion batteries… but then who cares about details :))

    • Mal Goon Chew

      Also Aquion Energy did not specialise in flow battery technology. Their technology was using salt water electrolyte in traditionally operating battery ie. anode, cathode with electrolyte.

  • Joe

    Jena, Germany is a hotbed of technology and scientific research into all things RE. No surprise that this latest idea is getting legs.

  • Elon Musk has just inked a deal to install the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in South Australia.

    Did I mention that’s too small?

    The recent hype over South Australia’s Tesla (100MW / 100 MWh) battery is misleading some to think that that “biggest ever” battery is “big enough”. Well no, actually, it is not, not even for the 315 MW Neoen wind farm it is paired with,
    http://scottish.scienceontheweb.net/Wind%20power%20storage%20back-up%20calculator.htm?wind=315 (about 1575MWh energy storage needed for a 315 MW wind capacity)
    never mind South Australia’s 1,600 MW total wind capacity.
    http://scottish.scienceontheweb.net/Wind%20power%20storage%20back-up%20calculator.htm?wind=1600 (about 8000MWh energy storage needed for a 1600 wind capacity)

    Oh I did mention that already.

    Pumped hydro storage is still a popular choice in areas where the terrain makes it feasible.

    Hooray! Feasible, as per here, for example.
    South Australian Pumped Hydro Energy Storage atlas http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/research/re/site/sa.php
    Resources links including Atlas, Spreadsheet file for reservoir data and Google Earth .kmz file
    Image I captured from G.E. shows reservoir sites near Mount Remarkable.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/01571b2e382c0b10d3109f940bcd63944e98f11435d0080422280473940bec2a.jpg

    There is even a plan to build a train that carries freight cars filled with concrete blocks up a mountain in Nevada during the day and generates electricity as it slides back down the mountain at night.

    Although Nevada is a bit short of water for pumped-storage hydro, there’s a decent supply of sea-water available not 200 miles away in the Pacific Ocean, if California would oblige.

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland
    https://scottishscientist.wordpress.com/

    * Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    * Double Tidal Lagoon Baseload Scheme
    * Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power
    * World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?
    * Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power
    * Scotland Electricity Generation – my plan for 2020
    * South America – GREAT for Renewable Energy

    • Pumped storage hydro … Nevada

      Lake Tahoe, Nevada – for pumped storage hydro https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Tahoe
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/39dd01aff26492bbdad6cbd7cacc208a30f6c66043d3d726d2fa393c5f2015b4.jpg
      Location – The Sierra Nevada of the U.S, along the state border of California and Nevada

      • To calculate the hydro-electric gravitational potential energy of the water in Lake Tahoe, which could serve as the upper reservoir for pumped-storage hydro schemes.
        water volume 150 km3 = 150 x 10^9 m3 = 150 x 10^12 litres
        water mass = 150 x 10^12 Kg
        surface elevation 1897 m
        average depth 300 m
        depth of centre of mass 150 m
        average elevation of water = 1897 – 150 = 1747 metres
        potential energy of water in Lake Titicaca, P.E. = m x g x h
        = 150 x 10^12 Kg x 9.81 m/s^2 x 1747 metres
        = 2.571 x 10^18 Kg m^2/s^2 (Joules) (Watt-seconds)
        divide by 3600 to convert to Watt-hours, divide by 1,000,000 to convert to MW-h = 714,800,000 MWh
        divide by 1000 to convert to GW-h, 714,800 GWh
        divide by 1000 to convert to TW-h, 714 TWh
        = 18.2% of what electricity the US consumes (3,913 TWh) per year
        = 66.6 days of energy storage

        All that is needed is a few days energy storage.

        • Catprog

          Where is your lower storage?

          • Well consider something like Folsom Lake.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folsom_Lake
            It’s a small lake in California about 60 miles west-south-west of Lake Tahoe at an elevation of 466 feet, 142 metres (reducing the height differential to about 1600 metres), volume 1.2 km3 or 0.8% of Lake Tahoe, representing an energy storage potential of about 1600/1747 x 0.8% or about 0.7% x 714 TWh = 5.23 TWh, which is only half a days of the US’s energy consumption but California’s and Nevada’s annual electricity consumption is about 300 TWh, so 5.23 TWh represents 6.36 days of energy consumption for both states, which is plenty.

            So a lake about the size of Lake Folsom, in about the same location at about the same elevation would offer a good solution for California’s and Nevada’s energy storage needs for transition to 100% renewable energy.

            Assuming I got my sums right of course.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/896ce4bf54cf9bd367a039ec1dbcac2ee4d7a14b8fecd60130696329ff74b227.jpg

          • Catprog

            =
            From the article:
            Folsom lake and the surrounding Folsom Lake State Recreation Area is one of the most visited parks in the California Park system.

            For eight months of the year, October 1 through May 31, the dam and
            lake is utilized to prevent flooding on the lower end of the American
            River. The Sacramento basin is notorious for flooding and the dam helps
            relieve winter storm runoff and snow melt from the Sierra.

            It is a major component of the American River Watershed. During the
            summer months, water is released to prevent Salt Water Intrusion in the
            San Joaquin Delta. These water releases maintain water quality and keep
            ideal water temperatures for anadromous fish species such as
            Chinook-Salmon, Steelhead and American Shad. Several of these species
            are of primary concern due to their decline in numbers and spawning
            habitat destruction.

            Water in Lake Folsom is also utilized for drinking water and power
            generation throughout the year. As a reservoir, the water levels in the
            lake fluctuate between 440 feet in the early summer and 405 feet in the
            early winter. In drought years, the water levels can be drawn below 400
            feet in elevation. Some of the factors that affect these levels include,
            precipitation, downstream flows and fishery needs.

            Seems like the lake is already in use.

            ECONOMIC:

            To get the water into the watershed the 12km tunnel alone will cost 800 million.

            I think either yours or my sums are off.

            If you dam the valley at 1600m that leads to Folsom lake.

            2km*2km / 2 * 200m = Rough calculation of volume.

            2km*2km / 2 * 200m / 1m^3 * 3 * .272kwh = amount of storage (1m^3 of water at 100m = .272kwh)

            2km*2km / 2 * 200m / 1m^3 * 3 * .272kwh / 5.23 TWh * 365 = 22 days.

          • Water in Lake Folsom is also utilized for … power generation throughout the year. …. Seems like the lake is already in use.

            So more of the same use – power generation.

            To get the water into the watershed the 12km tunnel alone will cost 800 million.

            There is an alternative to building such a tunnel to Lake Tahoe – building new / enlarged upper reservoirs within the watershed for Folsom Lake, not using Lake Tahoe as the upper reservoir.
            One of those 2 alternatives would be the lower cost solution. I’m not for wasting money if there is a cheaper way.

            If you dam the valley at 1600m that leads to Folsom lake.

            There are numerous valleys in the watershed for Folsom Lake and numerous locations and heights where new / bigger dams could be built to create numerous upper and intermediate height reservoirs.

            When I quoted “1600m” I wasn’t referring to an elevation for a dam but to a head, a difference in elevations.
            When I wrote “142 metres (reducing the height differential to about 1600 metres)” and “1600/1747” I was referring to the “1747m” as an elevation and if the lower reservoir is at an elevation of 142m, the water head for pumped-storage purposes is a calculated as difference between two elevations so you have to subtract one elevation from the other to calculate the head – 1747 – 142 = 1605m.

            So “1600” metres was my estimate for the head and the fraction 1600/1747 was the factor to multiply my first estimate of the energy storage potential of Lake Tahoe assuming the sea as the lower reservoir.

            2km*2km / 2 * 200m = Rough calculation of volume.

            The volume for Folsom Lake is given in the Wikipedia article

            Water volume
            976,000 acre feet
            (1.204×10^9 m3)

            10^9 cubic metres is a cubic kilometre so that’s why I quoted the volume of Folsom Lake as “volume 1.2 km3”
            What volume are you calculating and why?

            5.23 TWh is the energy storage of the scheme, 300 TWh is the energy usage in one year – 365 days – of California and Nevada combined.

            5.23/300 – 1.74% – is the fraction of the year of California and Nevada’s energy consumption which is stored in the scheme. 1.74% of 365 days is “6.36 days of energy consumption for both states, which is plenty”.

            I think either yours or my sums are off.

            Yours.

          • Catprog

            My proposal was too use Tahoe at the upper reservoir and build a lower reservoir (top height 1600m) at 39.080961° -120.352831° (which is what my calculations were calculating)

          • My proposal was too use Tahoe at the upper reservoir and build a lower reservoir (top height 1600m) at 39.080961° -120.352831°

            Whilst that location – Upper Hell Hole could feature as one of many upper reservoirs for a Folsom Lake scheme or as a penultimate-upper reservoir for a Folsom Lake Lake Tahoe pumped-storage hydro scheme, using Hell Hole reservoir as a lowest reservoir for Lake Tahoe upper would not be worth the “12km” tunnel or equivalent mountain pipe overpass for a mere 300 metre head, which could be obtained without the intervening mountain obstacle in many other places.

            (which is what my calculations were calculating)

            Well if

            E = 2km*2km / 2 * 200m / 1m^3 * 3 * .272kwh
            is your energy stored (but with E converted to TWh)

            Then because 5.23 TWh is 6.36 days of energy consumption for both states, then
            E/5.23 * 6.36
            is your number of days of energy consumption for both states.