X, the Alphabet subsidiary that focuses on the company's moonshot projects, has developed a new way to store huge amounts of electricity produced by renewable energy sources. The biggest concern currently affecting renewable energy is to how the electricity produced by solar farms and wind turbines gets stored. These sources of renewable energy generate the largest amount of electricity in the midday and night, both of which are periods of the day where electricity demands tend to be lower. While there are already attempts to solve the power storage issue like Tesla's massive lithium-ion battery facility in Australia, cheaper solutions are still required to totally remove the need for more predictable sources of energy like natural gas and coal power plants.
Here comes Malta, an energy storage technology developed by researchers from Alphabet's subsidiary, X. This technology employs four tanks, two of which are filled with salt while the other two are filled with either antifreeze or hydrocarbon liquid. These materials are chosen as they store heat quite well, potentially reducing the need for expensive insulation. The electricity produced by solar farms and wind turbines are then converted to hot and cold air. The air produced heats up the salt and cools down the antifreeze. Once the demand for electricity increases, hot and cold air from the tanks are released. The air causes the turbines to rotate, which then produces electricity that will be sent to the power grid. The group envisions that its technology may scale in size depending on the customer's need.
The next step for the researchers behind Malta is to develop a larger version of the technology that is reliable enough to supply energy to the power grid. The entire setup also needs to be cheap, in order to compete with fossil fuels and lithium-ion batteries. If it succeeds in this step, Alphabet has the choice to team up with current players in the energy sector, like General Electric or Siemens, or even compete with them. Doing so allows the company to grab a substantial share of a rapidly growing market, which is estimated to see $40 billion in investments in the next seven years.