A Solar Power System That Works at Night? It’s in the Works.

In Mine & Quarry by Jim Silva

A new thermal battery that can generate energy at night might offer remote mining sites the electricity they need.

Solar power is more popular than ever. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry has grown at an average annual rate of 50% over the last decade. For households, businesses, and other organizations, this rapid growth has provided unprecedented access to affordable, environmentally friendly renewable energy.

However, solar power has presented some challenges for those looking to harness its potential. For starters, while solar technology offers a way to convert readily available energy into usable electricity, it can be difficult to store that energy if it’s not immediately needed. Additionally, as its name suggests, solar technology has generally not been capable of generating energy unless the sun is shining, which can be a problem at night and during overcast weather.

While these issues have dogged engineers, a new thermal battery might be the answer. Thanks to researchers at Curtin University in Australia, this technology offers a way for excess solar energy to be stored during the day and released at night, essentially allowing for around-the-clock energy. Their thermal battery could even support mining companies looking to invest in energy sources for remote operations — an investment that should be a game-changer for industry stakeholders committed to environmentally responsible worksites. 

Behind The New Thermal Battery

The new thermal battery relies on a high-temperature metal hydride or metal carbonate as a medium to store heat, and uses a low-temperature gas storage vessel for hydrogen and carbon dioxide. At night or when the weather is overcast, the gas storage vessel releases hydrogen or carbon dioxide. That gas is then absorbed by the metal, producing a metal hydride or metal carbonate that produces heat that is converted into electricity.

When it’s completed at scale, the thermal battery will be used in the Concentrated Solar Power system from United Sun Systems. This system will be capable of generating up to 46 kW of power and can be relied on even when the sun isn’t shining or at night, essentially solving a dilemma that has held back the wider adoption of solar energy for industrial use cases.

How It Can Benefit Mining Sites

This new solar power system, which recently received A$1 million in project funding from the Australian federal government, will be a strategic value-add for the mining industry. Because worksites often need to be established separately from existing energy grids, mining companies face the challenge of generating the power their teams need in remote locations.

With solar technology that can generate electricity whether or not there’s sunlight, these teams can rely on a dependable energy source even when they’re off the grid. Plus, they’ll be doing it in a way that’s environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Investing in Your Worksites

For mining companies concerned about delivering power to remote worksites, technology like the Concentrated Solar Power system offers an ecologically responsible way to do it without having to worry about the availability of sunlight. However, key decision-makers should also be considering what additional moves they can make to invest in their worksites and support their teams.

With cutting-edge dust control solutions from Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc., mining companies can do just that. Midwest’s suite of patented products is backed by more than 40 years of experience in industrial dust control. Whether you’re looking to crush fugitive dust on your haul roads or access  roads or in your material handling operations, our team can help you stamp out emissions, meet all applicable regulations, and build a safe environment for your crew and nearby communities. 

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.