Power Storage Solutions When will the new storage battery be here?

Editor: Anke Geipel-Kern

The market for power storage solutions is the ideal playground for ambitious plant manufacturers.The one that is successful here acquires the licence for printing money. Thyssen Krupp Industrial Solutions intends to introduce a large-scale technologically feasible redox-flow battery in the market in 2016 and the hydrogen electrolysis shall be ready for the market in 2017.

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The power generation from renewable energies is booming – now only the storage battery is needed.
The power generation from renewable energies is booming – now only the storage battery is needed.
(Bild: Tim Riediger / nordpool)

There are wind farms in the North Sea and roofs paved with solar panels worldwide. This is that wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays do not produce power continuously: The energy that they generate is heavily weather dependent. For this reason, energy suppliers and net work operators will in the future need storage devices that can keep the network balanced.

The International Energy Agency will triple the power generation from regenerative energies in the next thirty years and thereby increase the requirement of power storage solutions worldwide. Market researchers forecast that the requirement of energy storage systems is going to explode. Navigant Research speaks of a 21.8 gigawatt of new storage capacity by 2023; Boston Consulting assumes that 330 gigawatt of new power will be created by 2030. Thus it is an enormous market that has just one hitch.

The existing solutions either use a lot of space or have a miserable efficiency. Hence an intelligent energy storage system is frantically being researched because if there are no solutions as quickly as possible, then the energy transition is in danger of failing.

Even Thyssen Krupp Industrial Solutions recognised that a goldmine could open up here. The engineers of the plant manufacturer are working meticulously just now on two designs, which complement each other technically and can resolve a lot of problems: the large-scale technological application of redox-flow battery and an electrolysis process for hydrogen production—each one a small pebble in the storage battery mosaic.

Hydrogen and Redox-Flow

While the redox-flow battery can pick up the current spike of a few hours, the electrolysis can be used as a basis of all currently discussed power-to-gas concepts in such a way as to store regenerative power in greater quantities and for a longer time in the form of chemical energy—as hydrogen or synthetic natural gas that is stored in salt domes or added to conventional natural gas in pipes. Redox-flow batteries based on vanadium present three advantages as compared to conventional battery technologies. I

n split seconds they can switch from being in a stored form to being discharged and thereby react in a few seconds to the particular supply situation. The efficiency is 80 percent and the amount of electricity to be stored is only limited by the load capacity of the storage tank.

But the large-scale technical deployment has failed so far due to the lacking performance of the commercially available batteries that is currently 20 watt – completely insufficient for a large-scale technical deployment. One must however think in a completely different direction for a large-scale technical deployment.

The target of Thyssen Krupp Industrial Solutions is 20 megawatt power. For this, the previously existing cell area of 0.1 square meters must be expanded to more than 30 times. This sounds easier than it is. If particularly only the active cell area is increased and the pressure of the electrolyte solutions is dropped, the electrical flow will not pass through the cell completely and thus will not generate additional power.

The process engineers from Essen are tackling this problem now with a new cell design that currently passes the endurance test of continuous load at the new test station in Ennigerloh. The technology should be in the market in 2016.

Ready for Market in 2017

The goals for the second storage technology are also ambitious: water electrolysis in which water is separated into hydrogen and oxygen with the help of electricity.

Hydrogen can store as an energy source, convert into electricity when needed, for fuel cell drive systems or can be used to produce chemicals such as methane, methanol or ammonia. The hydrogen is stored in underground salt caverns: at a pressure of 200 bars, for example, the energy density is 200 kilowatthours per cubic meter.

The company wants to use its experience with more than 100,000 units chlorine-alkaline electrolysis and thus lower the investment costs, which should be lower than competing solutions by a factor of 3.5 to 5.The process technicians are simultaneously striving for an efficiency of up to 80 per cent. The system shall be ready for the market in 2017. AGK