Photoncycle targets low-cost vitality storage with a intelligent hydrogen answer

For years, the photo voltaic vitality sector has grappled with interseasonal vitality storage. The capability to harness the excess photo voltaic vitality of summer season months to be used in the course of the winter has remained an elusive purpose, with current options like batteries falling quick on account of prohibitive prices and restricted lifespans. Hydrogen, in the meantime, regardless of its clean-burning properties, has been sidelined on account of inefficiency and excessive prices.

Photoncycle — a startup rising from the depths of an accelerator in Oslo Science Park in Oslo, Norway — has been engaged on an answer. With a imaginative and prescient as brilliant because the summer season solar, the startup claims its stable hydrogen-based expertise can retailer vitality extra effectively in an ammonia synthesis reactor. The declare is that this tech does the storage extra cost-effectively than any battery or liquid hydrogen answer available on the market.


A schematic of how Photoncycle envisions its full system when put in at a home. Image Credits: Photoncycle

“Lithium-ion batteries use expensive metals. Our materials is tremendous low cost: To retailer 10,000 kilowatt-hours, it prices round $1,500, so it’s virtually nothing. In addition, our storage answer is 20 occasions the density of a lithium-ion battery, and also you don’t lose the present,” founder and CEO Bjørn Brandtzaeg explains in an interview with TechCrunch. “That means we now have a system the place you’ll be able to include vitality over time, enabling seasonal storage. It’s a very completely different factor than conventional batteries.” 

Photoncycle employs water and electrical energy to supply hydrogen. That in itself isn’t unusual should you’ve been following gas cell automobile expertise. However, the corporate’s strategy incorporates an progressive twist: a reversible high-temperature gas cell. This superior gas cell can produce hydrogen and generate electrical energy inside the identical unit. 

The core of Photoncycle’s innovation lies in its therapy of hydrogen. They course of the hydrogen after which make the most of its expertise to transform and retailer it in a stable type. The firm claims this storage technique is just not solely protected, owing to the non-flammable and non-explosive nature of the stable state, but in addition extremely environment friendly. It permits hydrogen storage at densities roughly 50% larger than liquid hydrogen, presenting a big development in hydrogen storage options. These improvements type the cornerstone of Photoncycle’s system, facilitating protected and dense hydrogen storage, which the corporate says is a big step ahead in vitality expertise.

Current clear vitality options equivalent to rooftop solar energy are restricted by inconsistent provide because of the unpredictable nature of climate circumstances. A sturdy, reusable vitality storage answer might bridge these timings, making certain a secure vitality provide when these renewable sources encounter unavoidable intermittent intervals. 

Great in principle, however not with out its personal challenges.

“The Netherlands is the nation in Europe with the best density of rooftop photo voltaic. We are seeing an enormous ramp now due to excessive vitality costs; everybody desires photo voltaic on the roof,” Brandtzaeg says. He provides, nevertheless, that this technique can backfire for owners: “In July final 12 months, within the Netherlands, in the course of the day, you needed to pay €500 a megawatt hour to export your electrical energy.”

Putting the vitality storage together with the home producing the facility successfully lets homes go off-grid. Photoncycle says it has examined and labored the principle parts of its answer — the following step is to combine it right into a system. If profitable, the corporate says it will probably significantly problem Powerwall, Tesla’s lithium-ion battery answer.

David Gerez, CTO at Photoncycle, and Ole Laugerud, who’s a Photoncycle chemist, in Photoncycle’s purpose-built lab, which has been operational for shut to 2 years. Image Credits: Photoncycle

“This is a comparatively advanced system — that’s why we now have so many PhDs in several disciplines engaged on this. The motive why Elon Musk mentioned that hydrogen is silly, is that while you convert electrical energy to hydrogen and again, you might be shedding fairly a little bit of vitality,” Brandtzaeg says. He believes his firm can flip this bug right into a characteristic. “In a residential setting the place 70% of vitality wants are heating, there is a chance to make use of that extra warmth to offer sizzling water. We will goal markets the place individuals are utilizing pure gasoline for heating in the mean time after which change the gasoline boiler in the home utilizing the prevailing water-based infrastructure.”

Brandtzaeg’s confidence concerning the idea’s operational framework is compelling. He gestured towards a small mock-up of their operations plant inside their labs, scaled all the way down to the scale of a automobile battery. Brandtzaeg believes this scaling must be problem-free, citing it as the first motive they felt assured shifting ahead with the undertaking. 

When it involves energy supply, it takes a short time for the hydrogen to generate electrical energy, so whereas it’s spooling up, the corporate depends on an middleman, extra standard, battery for load balancing. The agency definitely has buyers’ consideration: Photoncycle simply raised $5.3 million (€5 million) to construct its first few energy storage gadgets in Denmark, which Photoncycle has chosen as its check market. 

“We might have raised 10 occasions as a lot as we did, given the curiosity. But after this elevate, I’m nonetheless a majority proprietor,” Brandtzaeg says. “I needed to maintain management over the enterprise so long as potential and never elevate extra capital than we have to carry this service to market.” 

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