Our national electric grid has limited ability to store excess energy, so electricity must constantly be over-generated to assure reliable supply. Though wind and solar power are promising clean alternatives to fossil fuels, their natural unpredictability and intermittency make them incapable of delivering the power on-demand necessary to operate today’s grid. The U.S. needs technologies that can cost-effectively store renewable energy for future grid use at any location. Flexible, large-scale storage would create a stronger and more robust electric grid by enabling renewables to contribute to reliable power generation.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The University of Delaware (UD) is developing a low-cost flow battery that uses membrane technology to increase voltage and energy storage capacity. Flow batteries store chemical energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container, which allows for cost-effective scalability because adding storage capacity is as simple as expanding the tank, offering large-scale storage capacity for renewable energy sources. However, traditional flow batteries have limited cell voltages, which lead to low power and low energy density. UD is addressing this limitation by adding an additional exchange membrane within the electrolyte material of the battery, creating 3 separate compartments of electrolytes. Separating the electrolytes in this manner allows unprecedented freedom for the battery to exchange ions back and forth between the positive and negative end of the battery, which improves the voltage of the system.
If successful, UD’s double-membrane, triple electrolyte flow battery would offer 2-3 times the storage capacity of today’s state-of-the art flow batteries at 60-90% of the cost.
Flexible, large-scale energy storage would create a more efficient and reliable grid more resilient to potential disruptions.
Electricity generation accounts for over 40% of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Enabling large-scale contributions of wind and solar power for our electricity generation would result in a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions.
Increases in the availability of wind and solar power would reduce fossil fuel demand, resulting in reduced fuel prices and more stable electricity rates.