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Earlier storage mechanisms in PVs resulted in generation of energies at costs higher in comparison to natural gas. Many new ideas have been developed in the last few years, where technologists were trying to lower the cost of production and storage. The technology of using molten salt with stored solar power has been around for some time where salt was heated at 566 degree Celsius – it provided a cost competitive energy storage option. These were highly affordable systems and could provide viable electricity at half the cost of hydroelectric storages.
New research in these areas includes the development of low –cost basic electronic components in PVs where the plastic substrates are replaced by low-cost environmental-friendly biocompatible sustainable material. Molten silicon-based blocks can be used instead of the regular batteries to store solar energy. A group of engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a system based on silicon to store energy produced through solar, hydro and geothermal energy. The excess power generated can be trapped into grid storage PV boxes, which contains boxes with graphite lining holding white hot molten silicon.
Recently, Perovskites cells which are made up of lead were developed for storage through Nano engineering methods to reduce costs without losing performance. These are lightweight flexible plastic cells having the ability to compete with silicon based stores.
Research led to the prototyping of paper batteries, nanopaper transistors, biosensors, and the studies were made related to the use of paper / cellulose like paper for photovoltaic devices, capacitors and batteries, where users will be able to buy printed sheets of solar cells, that could trap energy by the use of pioneering coating methods.
Silicon Based Energy Stores
The technology requires large 10m wide graphite tanks that are insulated and filled with molten silicon. One of the tanks stores silicon at 1926 degree Celsius (the cold tank) that is linked to the hot boxes, where the element is stored at temperature 2370 degree Celsius. This technology can provide easy storage of energy in solid state blocks that can fulfil demand for a small city of 100,000 homes. Further, the cost of storage can be one of the lowest in comparison to solar and wind PVs. The life of the system can be up to 80 years, and the delivery of electricity can be made anywhere, irrespective of the geographical location.
In the new system, silicon is used as an alternative to salt, that is an abundant element found in the earth crust, which constitutes 25.7 per cent of the earth crust by weight and can withstand temperature over 4K degree Fahrenheit. Researchers found if liquid silicon was stored at 3,600 degree Fahrenheit for one hour, a coat of silicon carbide was formed in the box that prevented corrosion of the tanks. This is also called the sun in a box technology, where congealed energy can be stored and used whenever needed.
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