One of the biggest challenges facing the ongoing development of renewable energy is how to store and transfer power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Recent innovations in battery technology may help.
For example, New York City may soon allow rooftop installation of batteries for renewable energy storage.
To meet New York State’s aggressive climate goals, installing batteries on top of New Yorkers’ homes, offices and apartment building may be necessary. Progress is already being made.
In 2020, the installation of 2.5 megawatts of energy storage started on one seven-story Williamsburg apartment. Other batteries are installed on the Barclays Center, JFK Airport’s TWA Hotel, and a shopping mall and housing project in East New York.
Such battery banks can provide energy to the grid during heat waves and other peak use. When batteries are designed on a larger scale, it’s easier to store and balance energy demands as the grid becomes greener. Right now, most batteries are made with lithium and are expensive with a large, physical footprint, and can only cope with a limited amount of excess power.
Other non-lithium battery innovations may also help promote the growth of renewable energy. Some energy engineers in Finland may have solved the problem of year-round renewable energy supply with what’s called a sand battery.
Recently, a team of young Finnish engineers completed the first commercial installation of a battery made from sand that they believe can solve the storage problem in a low-cost, low impact way. These batteries use the heat-storing ability of sand.
This sand battery is made with an insulated steel silo with sand and heat transfer pipes. Other parts of the sand battery include a heat exchanger and steam generator.