Texas may be rich in fossil fuels like oil and gas, but it’s also awash in clean, renewable energy.
Well, at least it could be. With the most renewable energy potential in the United States, Texas is a formidable candidate to up their renewable energy usage. Wind power now supplies 8 percent of energy to the grid in Texas and it’s cheaper than ever. However, storage still proves to be a problem for the state.
Right now turbine energy created from early afternoon winds has to be used immediately, in the early afternoon. But the demand for energy peaks later in the afternoon during the hot Texas summers, when the winds have died down. Solar could fill that gap, but efforts to incentivize it’s construction haven’t gone anywhere yet in Texas, and there’s always the question of what happens when a bunch of clouds pass over.
So creating something that can store and save renewable energy like wind and solar for later would change the game entirely.
Thus, the Energy Institute has focused on battery technology, similar to how you rely on a rechargeable battery to keep your smartphone running. Orbach says the Institute is performing research with cost-efficient lithium ion technology using flow batteries with liquid cathodes. He thinks his team is fairly close to finding this key material, though he admits you never know with research.
One of the main puzzles Goodenough is trying to solve is finding a material that can be used as a solid electrolyte in the battery and pass lithium ions, but not water or electrons.
Researchers believe that the batteries could be used to store not just wind energy, but solar and nuclear energy too. He is hopeful for a win-wind situation: a Texas discovery that will play a major role in meeting global energy demand while also creating industry opportunities in the state.
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