The New Method
The new method from the University of Arkansas researchers is a structured thermocline system in which there are parallel plates of concrete with steel pipes running through them. The steel pipes transfer heat absorbed by solar panels into the concrete, which stores it until it is needed to boil water and produce steam (which is usually the case), or supply heat to other heat-powered generators such as Stirling engines or thermoelectric modules.
This thermocline concept survived temperatures up to 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit) and absorbed heat at an efficiency of 93.9%.
It has an impressively low cost of $0.78 per kWh, far less than the U.S Department of Energy’s goal of $15 per kWh.
To give you a better idea of how this compares to batteries: Lead-acid batteries cost upwards of $25 per kWh, lithium-ion batteries cost $50 to $100 per kWh. Lithium-ion batteries can last 4 times longer than lead-acid batteries depending on the type and usage.
So, this should lead to further growth of the solar industry, which thoroughly benefits from reduced energy storage costs. Solar market penetration can be very high when using energy storage.
Source: Science Daily