How phase-change materials are saving lives

The Dulas solar-powered direct-drive vaccine fridge uses phase-change materials to store vaccines more effectively, helping save human lives.

The Dulas solar-powered direct-drive vaccine fridge uses phase-change materials to store vaccines more effectively, helping save human lives.

By Jason Deign

Phase-change materials (PCMs) are boldly going into an energy storage realm where even the most modern battery technologies have failed to deliver: saving lives.

Dulas, a Welsh renewable energy technology company, is using PCMs in place of batteries as an essential component of solar-powered direct-drive refrigerators for off-grid vaccine storage in developing countries.

On Monday the company announced a contract to supply 345 of its VC200 fridges to health and aid agencies working in Yemen, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The company said the deal represented “a significant expansion” of its partnerships with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Institute of Human Virology in Nigeria.

Dulas will be sending 60 fridges to the Institute of Human Virology, 143 to the WHO in Yemen and 142 to UNICEF in Sierra Leone. “There is the potential for further orders in the near future,” said the company. 
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Could the grid stymie India’s storage plans?

Pumped hydro might not be the best option for long-term storage in India (pic: animam.photography).

Pumped hydro might not be the best option for long-term storage in India (pic: animam.photography).

 

By Jason Deign

Doubts over the strength of the grid have called into question a USD$17.2bn plan to build 10GW of pumped hydro storage in India.

Central Electricity Authority chairman SD Dubey unveiled the five-to-six-year pumped hydro programme last month.

The administration would be adopting pumped hydro to store excess power from India’s growing renewable energy sector because the storage medium is cheaper than batteries, he said.

But being able to store energy in pumped hydro reserves depends upon getting it to the dams in the first place.

And observers have questioned whether India’s grid is up to the task, particularly since it is already groaning under the impact of solar energy. 
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Aquion targets 50% cost reduction in 10 years

Aquion Energy batteries are being used to store solar energy for nighttime illumination on Thailand’s Sky Lane, a 23.5km bicycle track at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport.

Aquion Energy batteries are being used to store solar energy for nighttime illumination along Thailand’s Sky Lane, a 23.5km bicycle track at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport. Photo: Aquion.

By Jason Deign

Saltwater battery manufacturer Aquion Energy is aiming to cut the price of its batteries by up to 50% within a decade, a company executive confirmed.

Newly named chief commercial officer Tim Poor said it was “very reasonable” to expect a 25% to 50% cut in costs once current manufacturing facilities reached full scale, which would happen within “single-digit years.”

Aquion currently has manufacturing capacity for 200MWh of batteries a year, based on a single production line. But the company’s factory has space for four more lines, allowing for up to 1GWh of capacity to be produced a year.

Poor said the company was planning to double production in the fourth quarter of this year. Aquion has so far shipped 20MWh of storage to about 200 customers, with 50% of products going for export, he said.

Historically, though, Aquion has tended to attract attention for its fundraising escapades rather than its business growth.
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Encell’s hardy battery targets emerging markets

By Jason Deign

Encell graphic: cycle life is determined by oxide solubility.

Encell claims to have a battery chemistry that can beat lithium-ion and lead-acid. Image: Encell.

Battery start-up Encell Technology is taking aim on emerging markets with a residential-scale product that bucks the current trend for sleek, eye-catching design.

The company’s Fused Iron batteries are visually unimpressive but able to perform better and withstand a much wider range of operating conditions than lithium-ion (Li-ion) rivals, said Encell chairman and founder Robert Guyton.

“There are fundamental trade-offs in lithium-ion when it comes to cost, cycle life and safety,” he said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”

Evaluating the trade-offs led Encell to select a nickel-iron battery chemistry instead.

Nickel-iron batteries have low specific energy and poor charge retention but are popular in mining because of their long operating life, of up to 20 years with regular cycling, and their ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

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BYD’s AD Huang on energy storage

Excerpts from an interview with AD Huang, general manager of BYD and speaker in the Renewable Integration & Storage track in the upcoming European Utility Week.

How do you see energy storage developing in the next coming years, globally and in Europe? Why should utilities invest in energy storage?
As more and more renewable sources are installed in the world, especially in the European Union, energy storage can help to increase grid stability. In addition, the use of energy storage as reserve capacity will enable utilities to better respond to the end users’ request.

Technology developers are all striving to develop and commercialise various forms of energy storage. How successful are these efforts according to you?
Since lithium-ion batteries are not only used in energy storage but also for electric vehicle applications, the battery costs will go down quickly. BYD has already done a lot of projects worldwide and we believe the energy storage will play an important role in the future.

What are the industry’s biggest challenges related to renewable energy storage?
Policy, cost and lifetime of energy storage are amongst the biggest challenges to the industry.

For more on this and other views on energy storage, see European Utility Week’s expert interviews. And don’t forget that with Energy Storage Report you can get free exhibition passes and discounted conference passes for the three-day conference programme.

Japan adds backing to energy storage

NGK is known for the development of sodium-sulphur (NaS) batteries, Sumitomo are currently working on vanadium redox flow batteries.

NGK is known for its sodium-sulphur (NaS) batteries. Sumitomo is working on vanadium redox flow batteries. Photo credit: NGK Insulators

In a week where continued fears over radiation leakage call the future of the country’s nuclear fleet into question, there is at least one piece of good energy news coming out of Japan. NGK Insulators and Sumitomo Electric Industries have both been chosen by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to find ways of driving down the costs of energy storage.
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India gets hydrogen fuel cell bus

The Tata Motors Starbus Fuel Cell bus features hydrogen fuel cell technology

The Tata Motors Starbus Fuel Cell bus features hydrogen fuel cell technology. Photo credit: Tata Motors

The aptly-named Starbus went through its paces at the Liquid Propulsion System Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore earlier this week, reports The Times Of India.
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