‘Ocean battery’ targets renewable energy dilemma

LAS VEGAS – A wind turbine unused on a calm day or spinning quickly when demand for electricity is already met poses a problem for renewables, and researchers believe it can be fought under the sea.

In one vision, offshore wind farms could use seawater to essentially store energy until it’s needed, helping humanity wean off fossil fuels.

“We have found a solution that we call the ocean battery,” Frits Bliek, CEO of Dutch startup Ocean Grazer, told AFP during the system’s presentation at CES in Las Vegas.

Amid the growing remoteness of greenhouse energy sources like coal, storing green energy is essential, experts say.

This is because nature does not always provide the wind – or the sun – when electricity is most needed.

Bliek’s “ocean battery” rests on huge flexible bladders on the seabed, which are filled with seawater by the wind farm.

When energy is needed, ocean pressure squeezes water through the system on the seabed which includes turbines – and the result is electricity.

A key consideration with energy is cost, and storage systems involving some type of battery are not only very expensive but also at risk of leakage or contamination in an ocean environment.

Systems that rely on pressure are already in use in hydroelectric dams that pump water into the reservoir behind the dam when demand for electricity decreases, efficiently storing it to return through the facility’s turbines.

The US Department of Energy traced the concept, called “pumped hydroelectricity” to Italy and Switzerland in the 1890s, although facilities can now be found all over the world.

As for the underwater version of this type of storage, Ocean Grazer isn’t the only one trying to get it to work.


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