Battelle licenses batteries for clean energy to WA company

HERALD NEWS SERVICESOctober 4, 2012 

Batteries for renewable energy storage that researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory helped develop will be commercialized in Western Washington.

UniEnergy Technologies, which has a 27,000-square-foot manufacturing and design facility in Mukilteo, has signed a license agreement with Battelle to further develop and commercialize the batteries. UniEnergy is a privately held clean energy company and Battelle operates PNNL for the Department of Energy in Richland.

The advanced batteries made with "redox flow" technology hold promise for storing large amounts of renewable energy and providing greater stability to the energy grid.

Developing a technology that can smoothly integrate energy from variable and intermittent sources -- such as wind and solar -- onto the electricity grid while maintaining grid stability has proved challenging.

Redox flow batteries were developed in the '70s but initially did not work well in a wide range of temperatures. They also had a relatively high cost and a limited ability to store energy.

However, researchers at PNNL have made significant progress in improving the technology's performance using money from DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

The rechargeable batteries store electrical energy in two tanks of electrolytes, which are then pumped through a reactor to produce energy.

The PNNL-developed vanadium electrolytes incorporate two new approaches to overcome the limitations of previous generations of redox flow batteries. They dramatically improve the operating range and the ability to store energy and lower the cost of the batteries, according to PNNL.

The technology can help the electric grid better use wind and solar power by balancing supply and demand and preventing disruptions.

"Redox flow batteries can also help utilities during times of peak demand on the grid, providing additional power when it is needed," said Imre Gyuk, DOE energy storage program manager.

Successful commercialization of such technology is vital for creating the grid of the future, he said.

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