Research

Low-cost energy storage and energy sink technologies

Low-cost energy storage and energy sink technologies could improve the profitability of both nuclear power plants and those using renewable energy. The intermittency of wind and solar generation creates daily and seasonal periods of low, sometimes even negative, electricity prices that erase the revenues of baseload generators, such as nuclear plants. With the development of low-cost energy storage schemes, energy from nuclear power plants could be stored at times of high renewable capacity and low electricity prices, then recovered to generate electricity at times of low renewable capacity and high electricity prices. This would enable nuclear plants to continue to operate at maximum capacity and remain profitable. The crucial requirement here is a low-cost storage medium, meaning solutions are needed that favor heat storage and high-energy density fuel production vs. electrical energy storage in batteries. Examples of ongoing projects at MIT include heat storage in large stacks of firebricks and underground permeable rock, as well as synthetic fuels and hydrogen production with solid oxide cells.

Low-cost seasonal heat storage (left) is accomplished by using nuclear heat in underground rock; from which is then extracted and used to produce electricity. Hydrogen (right) is made using high-temperature electrolysis (heat + electricity), stored underground like natural gas, and then used in chemicals and fuels production.

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Research Team