Salt has been used for thousands of years to preserve and store things, but only in the last decade have we seen its potential to transform the way we store energy as well.
For the past several years, the Malta Project, a new approach to grid-scale energy storage that relies on molten salts , has been incubating . After researching and prototyping the technology, and helping find partners with the expertise to bring the system to life, Project Malta is now an independent company called Malta Inc.
The idea: salt-based electrothermal energy storage.
Did you know that it is now much cheaper to build new sources of renewable energy generation than to continue using fossil fuels? Unfortunately, however, there is no cheap and reliable way to store all the renewable energy that is currently being generated, which is creating a major obstacle to the deployment of renewables.
The key idea behind Malta is that electricity can be stored as heat in molten salts at a high temperature and cold in a liquid at a low temperature for days, or even weeks, until it is needed. Malta uses cheap and common materials – such as salt, steel, antifreeze and air – and a new engineering approach to ‘timing’ energy from when it is produced (ie when the sun is shining or the wind blows) to when more is needed.
If wind and solar farms produce more energy than the electricity grid needs, the energy is wasted. In California, up to 30% of solar energy cannot be used when it is produced. Worse, if demand for electricity increases during periods when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, utilities often turn on “peak plants” to quickly bring more power online. These typically run on fossil fuels and emit large amounts of CO2 compared to ordinary power plants. Hence the importance of having constant and reliable storage systems for the development and implementation of renewable energies.
The next chapter of Malta.
After creating detailed engineering designs (and lots of prototypes!) And working with experts in the utility, grid and power industries, the team is ready to design and build its first megawatt-scale pilot plant.
Behind this project is Alphabet Inc (Google), through X Company, a subsidiary dedicated to the research and development of great technological advances.
Today they develop new ways of using technology to help reduce carbon emissions, such as Foghorn, Dandelion and Makani. Even transporting goods more environmentally with Wing or Waymo could make a difference. Thinking back to this critical problem can come from anywhere, even the salt!
More information: x.company