SPONGE, ENERGY UPSIDE-DOWN
The amount of solar energy hitting the earth exceeds our consumption by a factor of over 20,000 times. Capturing this energy is now economical, but few experts believe it will become the the primary energy source on the electric grid.
Utilities try to make solar fit their existing markets and infrastructure, still dominated by fossil fuels. They balance the grid by ramping up and down the least efficient generators. The more variable sources (like wind and solar) come online, the more they need ramping generators or expensive batteries.
Today, the electric grid is balanced by following demand with generation. Since grid operators don’t control the output of the sun, truly harnessing it requires following generation with demand. Luckily, this doesn’t mean we need to change our lifestyle or invest in too many expensive batteries.
Sponge Energy converts thermal loads like HVAC, and Water Heating into flexible loads by using thermal energy storage. Thermal loads account for over half of the energy used in most households.
Even as battery technology improves, storing thermal energy can be over 10x more cost-effective. New developments in Phase Change Materials (PCM) and insulation make it possible to store more energy in a smaller footprint. It’s now easy to ride through several days of cloudy weather using solar energy.
Best of all, if the electric grid goes down your solar panels will continue storing and delivering thermal energy.