One of many greatest difficulties with wind or photo voltaic vitality is discovering a great way to retailer it. Lithium-ion batteries are too costly and want frequent changing. Molten salt is a extra environment friendly answer — but it surely tends to be higher for storing warmth somewhat than energy. If you would like each warmth and energy — for a low value — there have been few good choices. Till now.
Seaborg, a small next-generation nuclear startup primarily based in Copenhagen, has found a greater molten salt storage answer utilizing sodium hydroxide. Hydroxides can include extra warmth per salt unit, making it extra environment friendly and lowering the quantity of salt wanted. It s additionally about 90% cheaper than the price of the salts at present used.
“We will greater than half the price of thermal vitality storage in a single go. And that permits us to come back to a stage the place we expect [our business] might be aggressive with none subsidies,” says Ask Emil Løvschall-Jensen, cofounder of Seaborg.
“If we stuffed up a constructing the scale of the Colosseum in Rome with the salt and heated it to 700 levels, we’d really be capable of provide all of Italy’s whole inhabitants with warmth and energy for ten hours,” says Løvschall-Jensen.
The invention got here as an surprising byproduct of the work Seaborg was doing on creating small modular nuclear reactors. The startup was arrange in 2014 to create compact nuclear reactors on barges, utilizing salt because the element to make them safer than conventional nuclear energy crops but additionally to retailer the vitality.
“If we stuffed up the Colosseum in Rome with the salt and heated it to 700 levels, we’d be capable of provide Italy’s whole inhabitants with warmth and energy for ten hours”
The issue with salt is that it’s corrosive and wears away the metal pipes and tanks used to carry it. Heated to super-high temperatures, the corrosion reactions are sped up even additional. Sodium hydroxide isn’t usually used for molten salt nuclear reactors as a result of it’s so corrosive, however Seaborg developed a way of controlling its corrosive properties.
The important thing expertise enabler right here is the chemistry management that limits the corrosion of structural supplies involved with the molten salt. The chemistry management is developed by Seaborg and is the core IP of the corporate.
However then they realised that it could possibly be used for vitality storage, particularly for fluctuating wind and photo voltaic.
The invention put them in a dilemma — which undertaking to deal with?
“Considerably counterintuitively, a breakthrough like this places us in a pickle. On one hand, we can’t let it defocus Seaborg’s present mission to energy areas with poor or no entry to renewable vitality sources via our compact molten salt reactor. However we additionally can’t merely shelve a chance to help international locations with entry to renewables in accelerating this deployment,” Seaborg’s cofounder and chief govt Troels Schönfeldt says.
The founders of Seaborg determined to spin off the vitality storage answer to a sister firm, Hyme, with Løvschall-Jensen because the chief govt. Seaborg’s present buyers helped elevate round €10m to take the findings to the demonstration part, due in 18 months.
“I’ve three youngsters and I wish to go residence to them and say that we are literally doing one thing [to save the planet]”
The excellent news is, it would assist Seaborg begin to see revenues sooner than a nuclear startup would usually anticipate. The primary commercially constructed facility is anticipated to be prepared for operational use inside three years. For a deeptech startup within the nuclear area, that’s a brief timeframe.
“That is going to be a chance to really speed up using a few of the expertise we’ve developed in different areas. And I like that we will get it out. That thrills me,” Løvschall-Jensen says
He provides jokingly: “ I’ve three youngsters and I wish to go residence to them and say that we are literally doing one thing [to save the planet]”
Løvschall-Jensen says storage options like these will assist in the transition to sustainable vitality, particularly for trade and manufacturing, that are closely reliant on vitality 24/7 and use fuel or fossil sources to cowl their wants.
“To make that transition, we want thermal vitality storage options since you can’t depend on intermittent sources of electrical energy instantly. These costs could be too excessive. So as a substitute, you really want one thing that may retailer it. And that’s the reason salt is a gamechanger,” Løvschall-Jensen says.
Mimi Billing is Sifted’s Nordic correspondent. She additionally covers healthtech, and tweets from @MimiBilling