ENERGY TIMES: What will these new liquid metal batteries help accomplish?
SADOWAY:They will kick open the doors for massive deployment of renewables. If you have storage then you can avoid the construction of new generation facilities. More storage would not only led to a decentralized grid. It would actually enhance the security of today’s grid.
ENERGY TIMES: How widely would these batteries be deployed?
SADOWAY:They could be in neighborhoods, they could be at substations, they could be behind the meter. It could be a device that would be suitable for a single family home which would need about 10 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy per day. It would be the size of a large refrigerator and could be in the basement.
ENERGY TIMES:So you’ll be going small and large industrial scale energy storage.
ENERGY TIMES:How might that work in the home?
SADOWAY:Who’s to say I couldn’t buy more electricity than I need and then sell in the middle of the day to my neighbors? I turn my basement into a profit center. That’s going to require regulatory changes. Right now, if you have solar on your roof it has to go out to the grid. You’re forbidden to take it off your roof into your house because the grid operator has to know about it. But that’s all antiquated law. The electrical engineering exists to be able to monitor whether someone is dumping electricity or not. You could have check valves so that before a homeowner can decide to sell to the grid he’s got to get a signal back from the Independent System Operator. When Super Storm Sandy hit the Jersey shore, there were homes that had solar panels on the roof. Two days after the storm they could have been up and running, but they were all wired to send the electricity to the grid and the grid was down. How crazy can that be? We’ve got to change this.
ENERGY TIMES: Are you still doing research on any other different storage technologies?
SADOWAY: I thought that I invented a battery, but in fact I invented a battery field and we continue to do research into next generation chemistries involving liquid metal.
ENERGY TIMES: What about electric vehicles?
SADOWAY:These batteries won’t go into cars because they’re all liquid. If you accelerate or slam on the brakes you’ll mix the layers - it’s no good. But I have some ideas on moving beyond lithium.
ENERGY TIMES:Are you talking to the Tesla team?
SADOWAY:I have not talked to them. They’re betting on lithium ion and I just don’t see it giving them the long term edge that they need. They’re talking about 20 percent to 30 percent decrease in cost. The lithium ion battery is too costly not by a factor of 2 or 3. That says jump off that chemistry. You’ve got to go someplace else, and I know where to go.
ENERGY TIMES: Are you’re working on it?
SADOWAY: I’d love to work on it but I can’t get funded.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Energy Times recently caught up with MIT Professor Don Sadoway and discussed his work on a liquid metal battery.
This is the second of a two-part series.