Taking a fresh approach to the study of a well-known problem in order to find solutions suitable for future use is one of the tasks of Google, or rather, its research laboratory, which is called “X”. One such problem is the poorly scalable production of energy from renewable sources, such as solar, wind or water.
In particular, if the sun shines for several weeks in a row, more energy can be generated than can be used at the moment. This entails a situation where, without special buffers, the energy will simply “burn out”. And vice versa, you will have to use other sources of energy if it rains all day long.
Although, of course, it is possible to use batteries that allow you to store the over-produced energy and then put it into action, at present such mechanisms are not viable on a large scale.
However, the potential is great: according to Bloomberg, California (USA) alone could not use more than 300,000 MWh in the first half of this year. In Europe, the situation looks no better. In Germany – Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein – approximately 320,000 MWh “burn out” per year. At the same time, green energy is playing an increasingly important role.
Now unveiled by Google, the Malta project is supposed to be the long-sought solution—and the concept sounds too simple to be true: you just take energy and channel it into liquid refrigerant and molten hot salt.
Such repositories (see diagram) must have a very high energy density, which can be stored for quite a long time. The concept offers several advantages at once: such a well-thought-out “battery” will be freely scalable, should serve without loss of performance for more than 40 years and will be cheap to manufacture.
However, only a prototype has been built so far and the company is now looking for a business partner who would like to test the concept on a large scale.
Is the Malta project the solution?
Numerous research labs around the world are working to create low cost, scalable, and environmentally friendly storage facilities. For example, one French company recently introduced its newly developed Redox-Flow batteries, with a plastic “base” and high energy density.
In addition, lithium-ion batteries are getting cheaper and cheaper, so, among other things, the storage of energy at home in the next few years could be very attractive – at least it could benefit autarchic solar panels.
Which of the concepts will prevail is not yet clear. Ultimately, we should not forget that the cost of generating and storing green energy is still in direct competition with the classical methods of energy production and transmission. As a result, the latter turns out to be noticeably cheaper, and therefore is a more attractive solution for many enterprises and states. Thus, there will be no easy way for “green” energy, despite an interesting innovation from “X”.