Israeli company uses air and water to store solar energy overnight, Energy News, ET EnergyWorld


KIBBUTZ YAHEL, Israel: The southern tip of Israel is a rocky desert where solar panels are plentiful and the sun, when shining, is the source of almost all electricity. Once it’s tuned, however, the grid reverts to fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Renewable energy from solar and wind systems cannot be stored without additional cost – a major obstacle in the world’s efforts to pull away from polluting fuels and avert climate catastrophe.

But in Kibbutz Yahel, a small community not far from the Red Sea where a sweet variety of dates called Medjool is grown, locals have started using new technology that can store solar energy inexpensively and generate electricity. until late at night.

During the day, excess energy from solar panels drives a system where water is used to condense air in underground tanks. After sunset, this air is released to power a turbine and generate electricity. And the cycle repeats in the morning.

“Other kibbutzim are waiting and seeing if it works, and it could definitely become the green energy storage solution for the region,” said Yossi Amiel, Yahel’s commercial director.

The system was developed by Augwind Energy, a Tel Aviv-listed company with a market capitalization of NIS 1.2 billion ($ 386 million).

Unlike above-ground platforms which run on condensed air and require significant space, the company says its product, a relatively thin steel tank with a special polymer coating, can be placed directly at the power source. and at a lower cost.

A range of techniques are being explored for storing energy, such as pumped hydro systems that use gravity to generate electricity after hours, lithium-ion batteries like those in electric cars, and gas storage. energy in chemical form, such as hydrogen.

An ideal solution has been elusive, said Gideon Friedman, acting chief scientist at Israel’s Energy Ministry. Batteries can be toxic and their cycles are limited, he said, while the hydrogen is still at an early stage and too expensive.

Augwind’s “AirBattery” is about 80% efficient at storing energy, slightly less than batteries, but unlike batteries, it does not degrade over time.

“It’s really a question of cost versus the competition from the batteries, whether this system can compete in terms of cost. If they can, we’ll see, I expect, quite a few. certainly has a few projects already planned, ”Friedman said. .

Augwind CEO Or Yogev said the price was on par with lithium-ion batteries, around $ 250 per kilowatt hour, and would drop next year to less than $ 200 as it grows. their deployment to a greater number of customers.

The company has so far raised $ 60 million from institutional investors, he said.

“Over the next few years, we will be installing thousands of megawatt hours using ‘AirBattery’ technology. That’s our prediction,” Yogev said. “Even that, when you compare it to the size of the market, it’s still pretty small.”

($ 1 = NIS 3.1057)


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