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Researchers get A$1m to develop solar power system that works at night

Reference photo by Josef H, Pexels.

Researchers at Curtin University are working on a thermal battery that is part of the Concentrated Solar Power system being developed by United Sun Systems, which requires a battery to store and release energy to enable non-stop solar power generation.

According to Craig Buckley, a professor from the School of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences who is working on the project, the battery uses a high-temperature metal hydride or metal carbonate as the heat storage medium and a low-temperature gas storage vessel for storing the hydrogen or carbon dioxide.

The Australian federal government awarded A$1 million to the project

“At night, and in times of cloud cover, hydrogen or carbon dioxide is released from the gas storage vessel and absorbed by the higher temperature metal to form a metal hydride/metal carbonate, which produces heat used to generate electricity,” Buckley said. 

This means that the prototype is able to store and, as required, release solar energy without reliance on sunlight at all times. This solves the storage issue that hinders most renewable energy projects.

The overall idea is to integrate thermochemical energy storage via a thermal battery into a dish-Stirling system. Such a system can provide up to 46 kW of power and is ideal for powering remote energy-intensive industries such as mine sites due to it providing power on demand and as required. Several dishes can be deployed depending on the power requirements of the site.

“As with the lithium battery systems that Curtin is also developing, the deployment of a cost-effective energy storage system using thermal batteries will revolutionise the landscape of renewable energy production worldwide by allowing renewables to truly compete with fossil fuels,” Chris Moran, Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, said in a media statement.

“While a lithium battery stores electrical energy that can be used to provide electricity when the sun is not shining, this thermal battery stores heat from concentrated solar thermal, which can be used when the sun is not shining to run a turbine to produce electricity.”


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