By Jonny Wakefield
July 9, 2015
Sony and Hydro- Québec are the latest companies to set out on the quest for clean energy’s Holy Grail.
Last month, the Japanese electronics giant and the Crown corporation announced a partnership to develop a large-scale energy storage system aimed at better integrating renewables into power grids. Dubbed Esstalion Technologies, the partnership will design an energy storage system capable of holding 1.2 megawattts—enough power for around 23 homes.
Esstalion is the latest entrant in the race to effectively store and transmit renewable energy through existing power grids. The stakes are huge. Power sources like wind and solar only produce energy when the wind blows or the sun shines. During times of peak demand, utility companies still rely on burning fuel to keep up. A large-scale system to store and release renewable energy on demand would reduce dependence on coal and natural gas and fundamentally change how power grids function.
“We will aim to expand our business using the technology produced through our joint development and contribute to the spread of sustainable electricity infrastructure,” Sony’s senior general manager of energy said in a release.
In the release, Sony officials said Hydro- Québec scientists have “deep knowledge” of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, while Sony has done extensive research on battery modules. A Hydro-Québec official told Greentech Media that the Crown corporation has licensed its battery chemistry to Sony since 2003.
The prototype will be developed at a Hydro-Québec research station in Varennes. It will include around 500 rechargeable batteries with life spans of up to ten years. The plan is to eventually develop a “grid-scale” version of the prototype of up to 40 megawatts.
Esstalion will be the latest in a crowded field of companies working to unlock the secret to renewable energy “on demand.”
In addition to batteries, flywheels and underwater balloons are among the solutions under consideration for storing and regulating clean energy on commercial electricity grids.
As for batteries, the cost of storing a kilowatt of energy is expected to decline rapidly in coming years.