Fixing the renewable energy storage problem


Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | March 13th, 2019

Electricity may seem like an intangible force, but, like other resources, it is stored when not in use.

There are currently many different methods of storing unused energy, but renewable sources of energy are more difficult to store than their fossil fuel conterparts. There are ways to store energy generated from the sun, for example, but the thermal method is still a costly one.

Many solar plants use large on-site batteries to store excess energy, but the energy from these batteries generally only provide a few extra hours of electricity for the plant’s respective grid.

Two different research teams–one lead by Sossina Haile at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and one by Ryan O’Hayre in Colorodo School of Mines–have developed lab versions of a more effective fuel cell that could store significantly more energy.

So much renewable energy is going to waste when it’s not stored to its full capacity. That’s why the development of a smaller, more cost-efficient fuel cell is exciting.

The teams warn that their improved fuel cells have only been tested on a small scale in labs, and that more work needs to be done before they can be used. If developed on a larger scale, the cell could make renewable energy cheaper overall.



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