By: Bob Marcotte, University of Rochester
In order to power entire communities with clean energy, such as solar and wind power, a reliable backup storage system is needed to provide energy when the sun isn’t shining and the wind doesn’t blow.
One possibility is to use any excess solar- and wind-based energy to charge solutions of chemicals that can subsequently be stored for use when sunshine and wind are scarce. At that time, the chemical solutions of opposite charge can be pumped across solid electrodes, thus creating an electron exchange that provides power to the electrical grid.
The key to this technology, called a redox flow battery, is finding chemicals that can not only “carry” sufficient charge, but also be stored without degrading for long periods, thereby maximizing power generation and minimizing the costs of replenishing the system.