Make Carnot Batteries with Molten Salt Thermal Energy Storage in ex-Coal Plants

Carnot batteries in disused coal plants

Converting disused coal plants into Carnot batteries IMAGE@DLR

Retiring coal power plants could see a new life serving the green economy by storing renewable energy as thermal batteries, delivering the stored energy back to the grid using the former coal plant’s existing power blocks and grid connections.

Leveraging the low cost of the molten salt thermal energy storage used in CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) plants, such a retrofit from coal power plant to thermal battery would ease the way by offering a financial incentive for coal power plants to retire gracefully.

Researchers at Germany’s National Centre for Aerospace, Energy and Transportation research, DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) have been investigating the idea of retrofitting coal power stations as batteries. Here, DLR Senior Advisor for Technology and Development of Solar Power and Storage, Michael Geyer brings his previous experience leading thermal storage at Abengoa to explain how these “Carnot” batteries would work in this ATA Insights webinar.

The presentation slides are available here. (The full presentation also includes the 4-tank heat pump being built at pilot scale by the Google-X funded Malta team to increase the efficiency of Carnot batteries.)

The proximity to coal plants of solar and wind projects in the US is shown below. Their cost relative to coal is shown in red or blue.

GW of at-risk coal plants locations

Locations of GW of at-risk coal plants relative to solar and wind projects IMAGE@EnergyInnovation

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