European Marine Energy Centre heralds a triple first project – flow battery, tidal power and hydrogen!

Just how many innovations can you pack into a project? Well not many more than the tidal power-flow battery hydrogen project that is set to be deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney! But perhaps newest of all, it is an important step forward towards developing techniques, in this case flow batteries, to store renewable energy in the long term.

Flow batteries represent an important step forward for energy storage in that they offer the prospect for much cheaper long term storage of renewable energy. Flow batteries are much better at long term storage compared to the now ubiquitous lithium ion battery. That’s because, as an article in Science Magazine put it: ‘They store electrical charge in tanks of liquid electrolyte that is pumped through electrodes to extract the electrons; the spent electrolyte returns to the tank. When a solar panel or turbine provides electrons, the pumps push spent electrolyte back through the electrodes, where the electrolyte is recharged and returned to the holding tank. Scaling up the batteries to store more power simply requires bigger tanks of electrolytes.’

Lithium ion batteries, as effective as they are in storing smaller amounts of energy mainly for short term purposes, would be very expensive to replicate enough storage for long term purposes. Storing liquid electrolyte is much cheaper than buying whole new solid state batteries!

The flow batteries being tested are vanadium flow batteries developed  by Invinity. A good thing about the project is that it can lead to industrial applications in the medium term as well as developing a technology to boost long term storage of renewable energy.

The project has been funded on a relative shoe-string compared to the multi-millions and billions that are being poured down the drain into dead-end technologies like nuclear power and so-called ‘blue hydrogen’. There simply are not enough projects like this – and the reason is simple – because big oil and gas and big nuclear have the benefit of sheer industrial power.


by David Toke

But we can fight back against this and demand focus on renewable energy development. We will be discussing these issues at our webinar on December 3rd in support of our petition for Scotland to set  a target to derive all its energy from renewables. More details here 

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