Alphabet looks to solve renewable energy’s storage problem
Salt is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Alphabet, the parent company of search engine superstar Google. However, if you thought about its ‘mad scientist’ wing, X (which has previously given us self-driving cars and robots), and I told you that its plans for salt were to solve renewable energy’s storage problem, things make a little more sense: researchers at the Silicon Valley heavyweight’s most experimental arm have been brainstorming yet another way to save the world.
Alphabet’s share price has risen by 20% year to date
SOURCE: Yahoo Finance
X’s recently announced project, codenamed Malta, involves using vats of salt and antifreeze to store renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted. Executives and researchers at the company claim that the new solution can be used almost anywhere, could last longer than lithium-ion batteries, and “compete on price with new hydroelectric plants and other existing clean energy storage methods”.
A representation of Malta’s grid-scale energy storage technology
Obi Felten, one of X’s directors, put Malta in perspective: “if the moonshot factory gives up on a big, important problem like climate change, then maybe it will never get solved. If we do start solving it, there are trillions and trillions of dollars in market opportunity.”
Felten could be right about the financial incentives behind Malta. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), this market could see as much as $40 billion invested by 2024. Clean energy storage is huge: this year alone, roughly 790 megawatts of energy will be stored, and overall capacity should hit 45 gigawatts in seven years, according to BNEF. Current widespread storage solutions, like electrical grids, simply aren’t up to the task of holding this energy, and utilities are discarding it.
According to Julian Green, Malta’s project manager, the new solution relies on simple physics, and is already proven to work. He says: “the thermodynamic physics are well-known to anyone who studied it enough in college. The trick is doing it at the right temperatures, with cheap materials. That is super compelling.”
Dominion holds Alphabet in its Global Trends Managed Fund.
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