Widespread use of renewable energy is crucial to the carbon-free future we must achieve to curb climate change. Over the last four decades, it has become much cheaper but there are still small issues stopping it from becoming the exclusive source of power in our lives. A thorny one is its reliability. The tech is amazing but it depends on the Sun and the wind, so researchers are focusing on ways to store the energy produced and deliver it to consumers on demand. A team of engineers from MIT have come up with a new conceptual design to do just that. As reported in Energy and Environmental Science , they plan to use the excess electricity generated to heat up white-hot molten silicon. Then when necessary the light emitted by the molten metal can be converted back into electricity. This “Sun in a box” approach is expected to be cheaper than current solutions. The team estimates that it will cost about half as much as hydroelectric storage, currently the cheapest form of grid-scale energy storage. And it will be vastly cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. "Even if we wanted to run the grid on renewables right now we couldn’t, because […]


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