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 present major challenges to delivery of the consistent power that is necessary to operate today's grid. The U.S. needs technologies that can 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:
Led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Donald Sadoway, the Electroville project team is creating a community-scale electricity storage device using new materials and a battery design inspired by the aluminum production process known as smelting. A conventional battery includes a liquid electrolyte and a solid separator between its 2 solid electrodes. MIT's battery contains liquid metal electrodes and a molten salt electrolyte. Because metals and salt don't mix, these 3 liquids of different densities naturally separate into layers, eliminating the need for a solid separator. This efficient design significantly reduces packaging materials, which reduces cost and allows more space for storing energy than conventional batteries offer. MIT's battery also uses cheap, earth-abundant, domestically available materials and is more scalable. By using all liquids, the design can also easily be resized according to the changing needs of local communities.
If successful, MIT's affordable, large-scale battery technology would enable the low-cost storage of vast amounts of electricity and facilitate the widespread use of wind and solar energy to power the grid.
Grid-scale batteries could reduce the need for fossil fuels and provide a buffer against supply disruptions.
Grid-scale storage could increase renewable energy production and, in turn, decrease harmful emissions.
Energy storage would help reduce fuel prices and stabilize electricity rates, and it would offer new tax revenues to communities in solar and wind development areas.