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Beyond Batteries: The Evolution of Energy Storage

Batteries are kind of a big deal. Look around... from talking teddy bears and electric toothbrushes to smartphones and electric cars, the importance of batteries in the modern age is obvious. But their pivotal role in powering our everyday lives looks set to grow even bigger…

In 2017, Tesla won a $90,000,000 contract to construct a power reserve at the Hornsdale Wind Farm in Australia. The result was a large plot of land, covered with fridge-sized containers, filled with battery cells. These cells store energy when surplus amounts are generated by the wind farm, and then release it to the power grid when supply is low. What’s more, Tesla are looking to replicate the idea on a household level with their Powerwall offering.

As countries race to meet their commitments to clean energy, such systems represent a big step towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. But there are downsides. Not only will the global demand for batteries – expected to triple between 2020 and 2025 – be hard to meet, the cost of batteries does not scale well.

That’s why thinking beyond batteries can unlock new, exciting possibilities: pumped hydro-inspired systems, storing heat energy in carbon blocks, compressed air storage, cryogenic energy storage… all ongoing projects pursuing alternative solutions to the same problem.

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