Researchers from MIT are working on a project that could introduce a low-tech, low-cost way to store excess renewable energy. Nowadays, the excess electricity produced from renewables is either lost or stored using popular methods like batteries or pumped hydro systems. These methods can be expensive, thus the scientists are looking into “the ancient technology of firebricks” as a possible inexpensive solution to the energy storage challenge.
Their concept is published in The Electricity Journal and the system is called “Firebrick Resistance-heated Energy Storage, or FIRES”. The excess electricity will be used to heat firebricks which then will be covered with an insulated casing so that they can provide energy later when it is needed.
Firebricks are not only less expensive than batteries and pumped hydro, but they can be made from various materials with varying degree of thermal conductivity.
According to MIT “The technology itself is old, but its potential usefulness is a new phenomenon, brought about by the rapid rise of intermittent renewable energy sources, and the peculiarities of the way electricity prices are set…” To see whether their system could work on a large-scale basis, researchers intent to build a real-world prototype. If successful, this could contribute to the widespread adoption of renewables.
Image Credit: Ted Hood / Public Domain