To decarbonize our lifestyles more quickly, the development of renewable energies is essential. But they are only part of the solution. Indeed, energy suppliers must produce electricity by following the real consumption curve as closely as possible. In France, as in some countries that can, excess electricity can be partly stored by pumping water from hydroelectric reservoirs in the mountains.
Enough to restore this energy later. But the capacities are limited, and for the rest, the nuclear fleet, which can produce a lot of electricity on demand, makes it possible in theory never to suffer from cuts in the event of consumption peaks. However, the rapid development of renewable electricity production via solar or wind turbines introduces more intermittency or irregularities in the electricity production curve.
This heat pump is perhaps the missing link to push the development of solar and wind power
A real problem that limits the efficient development of these energies in the energy mix. For years, we have known that solving the challenge of storing this electricity is an essential condition for moving towards a greener energy mix. Of course we first think of battery storage, but this is currently too expensive and unsuitable for mass development due, among other things, to the raw materials required.
As a result, other directions are explored. A while ago we talked to you about inertial storage. The idea is that when there is a surplus of production, the electricity generated is used to accelerate a wheel suspended in a vacuum chamber. If necessary, the kinetic energy of the wheel can be transformed back into electricity on demand. But the idea of the leaders of the young French shoot Airthium is different.
The latter have indeed designed a system that stores energy in two ways: heat and chemical. Their machine, which they themselves describe as a kind of “thermos”, can store the electricity produced in the short term in the form of heat. This can be useful, for example, to use the solar energy produced between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the evening. However, where their invention pushes innovation further is on the chemical part.
Airthium claims that it is possible to use its heat pump to produce liquid ammonia with excess energy – and thus store energy in a very stable way, over several months. This ammonia can then be burned to generate heat again, and thus restore the electricity as close as possible to needs. ” Compared to hydrocarbon-type fuel, the advantage is that when you burn, you produce no CO2, no greenhouse gases. », explains an Airthium engineer quoted by Journal du Geek.
However, those responsible for the project admit that for the moment this combustion produces fine particles. A problem they believe will be overcome with a new flameless burner in the near future.