World’s first thermal battery plant to be unveiled in Andhra Pradesh

The world’s first-ever thermal battery plant owned by Bharat Energy Storage Technology Private Limited (BEST) was inaugurated in Amravati, Andhra Pradesh. This plant aims to create new energy storage form that is expected to have commercial applications, while also maintain low carbon footprint and less dependent on external factors like weather.

Key Facts

The plant will begin its commercial operations from May 2019. BEST is planning to create a battery capacity of 1000MW. This is expected to be upgraded to a 10GW capacity by 2025. The thermal battery is based on alternative sources of energy production, and its presence is expected to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. It provide energy solutions for electrical grids, transport and telecom services. Before we look at its applications, here is a lowdown on the science behind thermal battery technology. This plant is based on technology patented in India by Dr Patrick Glynn in 2016.

Working of thermal battery technology

Thermal battery use thermal energy to operate i.e. energy created by temperature differences. The energy transfer in in this battery helps to store heat when heat travels from one part of battery setup to other. For this transmission, thermal battery consists of two parts viz. cool zone (sink) and hot source (source.)

Both these sides consist of compounds known as phase-changing materials (PCMs), which can change their state of matter on basis of physical and chemical reaction. When sink of thermal battery receives heat, it transforms physically or chemically, thereby storing energy, while source cools down.

During operation, sink is cooled down, so it releases stored energy, while source heats up. Depending on nature of battery, system can derive heat from any source, which makes thermal battery very versatile. For power transmission, thermal batteries can function as long as there is heat source.

How it is different from Conventional battery technology?

Conventional battery technology work on basis of electrical energy and is based on system of charging and discharging cycles that are driven by electricity. For example Lithium-ion (Lion) battery, staple of many electronic devices, consists of electric charges being transferred from electrodes. Energy is derived from this battery, when lithium atoms turn into lithium ions (Li+), and get stored when this reaction reverses.

Benefits

Thermal battery is hailed as perfect alternative to non-renewable energy sources. It is considered to be even better than solar energy. It will be energy source for power telecommunications services, electrical grids, electric vehicles (electric buses, on a single charge expected to run for upto 800kms). It has lesser heat sensitivity, and low carbon footprint these are better than Li-ion batteries and outperform solar panels, which have expensive maintanence, and high weather-dependent operation. Solar batteries cannot be charged or utilised to their optimum potential after sunset or even when the skies are densely clouded. Though thermal batteries are priced at par with widely used Lithium-ion batteries, but they have low carbon footprint and also last longer.

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Categories: Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2018

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