Smart Grid Technology The energy storage breakthrough we’ve been waiting for?

energy storage, energy storage breakthrough, electrolyzer for energy storage, University of Calgary breakthrough

Quick Take: Look at most technologies and you see occasional step functions, where a breakthrough improves things by an order of magnitude. Look at energy storage and you see only a series of slow increment improvements.

Now two scientists from the University of Calgary are claiming they may have found that elusive breakthrough in the form of an electrolyzer that could be both more effective and less expensive than current methods. They believe in it enough that they’ve formed a spin-off company to bring it to market.

They’re promising a commercial prototype by 2014 and a residential version by 2015… but I think they are far too optimistic. Even if the technology is everything promised, it will take many years to commercialize it and bring costs down. – Jesse Berst

The discovery by Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel, who are both in the chemistry department at University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science, is a way to make catalysts for converting electricity into chemical energy. According to a story in e! Science News, the technology opens the door for both homeowners and energy companies to more affordably and efficiently store and reuse energy from renewables.

As e! Science News explains it: “Electrolyzer devices use catalysts to drive a chemical reaction that converts electricity into chemical energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen fuels. These fuels can then be stored and re-converted to electricity for use whenever wanted.”

But apparently the key to what Berlinguette and Trudel did was to deviate from conventional thinking about catalysts and use a simpler and far less expensive approach.

From our reports store: “Smart Grid Business 2012 to 2017,” published by Memoori, analyzes the smart grid market’s size, technologies, finance and needed investments, demand forecasts and more.

“This breakthrough offers a relatively cheaper method of storing and reusing electricity produced by wind turbines and solar panels,” says Berlinguette who, with Trudel, has launched FireWater Fuel Corp. to commercialize their technology.

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What do you think? Does this sound promising? Use the Talk Back comment form below to post your thoughts.

You might also be interested in…

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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry’s oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

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