Could solar energy be cheaper than fossil fuels? A new battery that stores heat from the sun could make the technology 95% cheaper

Could solar energy be cheaper than fossil fuels? A new battery that stores heat from the sun could make the technology 95% cheaper

A major breakthrough in solar technology could produce energy that is cheaper than fossil fuels for the first time.

One company has licensed a new system that it claims will create solar power that is 95 per cent cheaper than existing systems – with a single battery able to power 11 homes.

A UK-Swedish company known as United Sun Systems has designed the new battery that converts heat from the sun into electricity, which unlike light from the sun, can be stored. 

Developers say the solar-powered battery can store thermal energy for 100 years without any waste.

The technology is based on a concentrated solar thermal power dish that has a battery at the back made of a patented metal alloy and hydrogen.

There are two ways to harvest solar energy – one uses the light from the sun, while the other uses heat from the sun.

Scientists are using hydride materials, which are compounds of hydrogen bonded with metal, to store this heat.

'Prior to the discovery of this class of hydride materials, storing heat at this temperature was only possible using expensive and highly corrosive materials,' said Dr. Ragaiy Zidan, a scientist at Savannah River National Laboratory and inventor of the technology.

'This is a game changing technology for the concentrated solar power sector that will drastically reduce its cost and improve its performance,' he added.

The dish has a diameter of 46 feet (14 metres) and is covered with glass mirrors, which focuses the sun's rays onto the dish to create temperatures of 750°C.

This energy is then stored in the thermal battery which powers a Stirling engine that drives pistons to produce useful power.

The Stirling engine was developed by clergyman and scientist Reverend Robert Stirling in Edinburgh in 1816 as an alternative to the steam engine.

The dish collects around 150kW per hour which can be stored and distributed as needed.  

'The heat is transferred from this focal point via a heat pipe into a large thermal battery that is located behind the dish where the heat is stored in a new heat battery technology based on “Metal Hydrides”,' Lars Jacobsson, Chief Executive Officer, United Sun Systems told MailOnline.

'The battery is connected to a Stirling Engine that is converting the heat into kinetic energy, and connected to a generator it produces electricity.'

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