Can a team of world-beating researchers from an Australian university smash the cost of storing energy down to 10 per cent of what it currently is?
The judges at the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes certainly thought so, as they awarded the University of South Australia team the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology this week.
The Eureka Prizes are the closest thing the Australian science community has to the Oscars. The research team of Associate Professor Frank Bruno, Dr Martin Belusko and Dr Steven Tay developed a system where inexpensive liquid salt is melted and solidified to store and release energy.
They saw it as a way to store solar energy produced during the day for the early evening period where most people come home from work or study, turn on their laptops or computers and cook dinner. Check out a short 30-second clip about their technology on YouTube.
While renewable energy can produce large amounts of useable electricity which can be easily integrated into our electricity system, wind and solar power are variable sources of power. Cheap energy storage would help to smooth out the supply of renewable energy, reducing the need for expensive specialist power plants that only operate when lots of Australians want to use energy at once – such as heatwaves during the holiday season when hundreds of thousands of people turn on their air-conditioners at the same time.
Household battery systems are widely expected to be an energy game-changer in a few years when the cost of the technology falls to a point where the technology becomes affordable enough for average families to install along with a solar power system.
The Clean Energy Council has developed the Australian Energy Storage Roadmap and is working with our members to prepare for the exciting opportunities these technologies will provide.