One of the largest obstacles to the viability of renewable energy, like wind energy and solar power, is the process of storing and transporting the power once the energy’s been converted to electricity. That obstacle has shrunk in recent years, as technology has improved.
Now, a bigger, cleaner and more powerful battery is hitting the market. But scientists say it’s important quality is its price. The battery — which uses the sodium ions of saltwater as its electricity-carrying electrolyte — is cheap, really cheap.
The new generation of battery is roughly the same price as the cheapest lead-acid batteries, but last twice as long. The size and affordability will allow renewable energy to be utilized in areas where only small power grids, or “microgrids,” are an option — remote regions where a link with a centralized grid isn’t a possibility.
“By making solar power cheaper than diesel fuel in many places, it could help bring clean power to some of the more than one billion people in the world without reliable electricity,” Kevin Bullis, energy reporter for MIT Technology Review, recently concluded.
The battery was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Their lab work became a company, Aquion Energy, and now the developers are raising capital in order to continue scaling up their battery production efforts. Last week, the company announced $34.6 million in funding.
“We have been hard at work making the world’s best long duration battery even better,” Scott A. Pearson, CEO of Aquion Energy, recently said. “The improved chemistry of the second generation Aqueous Hybrid Ion battery yields more energy, and will deliver more value for our customers.”