Photoncycle targets low-cost vitality storage with a intelligent hydrogen resolution

For years, the photo voltaic vitality sector has grappled with interseasonal vitality storage. The flexibility to harness the excess photo voltaic vitality of summer season months to be used throughout the winter has remained an elusive objective, with current options like batteries falling quick on account of prohibitive prices and restricted lifespans. Hydrogen, in the meantime, regardless of its clean-burning properties, has been sidelined on account of inefficiency and excessive prices.

Photoncycle — a startup rising from the depths of an accelerator in Oslo Science Park in Oslo, Norway — has been engaged on an answer. With a imaginative and prescient as brilliant because the summer season solar, the startup claims its stable hydrogen-based expertise can retailer vitality extra effectively in an ammonia synthesis reactor. The declare is that this tech does the storage extra cost-effectively than any battery or liquid hydrogen resolution in the marketplace.


A schematic of how Photoncycle envisions its full system when put in at a home. Picture Credit: Photoncycle

“Lithium-ion batteries use costly metals. Our material is super cheap: To store 10,000 kilowatt-hours, it costs around $1,500, so it’s almost nothing. In addition, our storage solution is 20 times the density of a lithium-ion battery, and you don’t lose the current,” founder and CEO Bjørn Brandtzaeg explains in an interview with TechCrunch. “That means we have a system where you can contain energy over time, enabling seasonal storage. It’s a completely different thing than traditional batteries.” 

Photoncycle employs water and electrical energy to supply hydrogen. That in itself isn’t unusual if you happen to’ve been following gasoline cell car expertise. Nonetheless, the corporate’s strategy incorporates an modern twist: a reversible high-temperature gasoline cell. This superior gasoline cell can produce hydrogen and generate electrical energy throughout the identical unit. 

The core of Photoncycle’s innovation lies in its therapy of hydrogen. They course of the hydrogen after which make the most of its expertise to transform and retailer it in a stable type. The corporate claims this storage technique is just not solely protected, owing to the non-flammable and non-explosive nature of the stable state, but additionally extremely environment friendly. It allows hydrogen storage at densities roughly 50% better than liquid hydrogen, presenting a big development in hydrogen storage options. These improvements type the cornerstone of Photoncycle’s system, facilitating protected and dense hydrogen storage, which the corporate says is a big step ahead in vitality expertise.

Present clear vitality options corresponding to rooftop solar energy are restricted by inconsistent provide as a result of unpredictable nature of climate situations. A sturdy, reusable vitality storage resolution may bridge these timings, making certain a secure vitality provide when these renewable sources encounter unavoidable intermittent durations. 

Nice in concept, however not with out its personal challenges.

“The Netherlands is the country in Europe with the highest density of rooftop solar. We are seeing a massive ramp now because of high energy prices; everyone wants solar on the roof,” Brandtzaeg says. He provides, nevertheless, that this technique can backfire for householders: “In July last year, in the Netherlands, in the middle of the day, you had to pay €500 a megawatt hour to export your electricity.”

Placing the vitality storage together with the home producing the facility successfully lets homes go off-grid. Photoncycle says it has examined and labored the principle elements of its resolution — the subsequent step is to combine it right into a system. If profitable, the corporate says it may possibly severely problem Powerwall, Tesla’s lithium-ion battery resolution.

David Gerez, CTO at Photoncycle, and Ole Laugerud, who’s a Photoncycle chemist, in Photoncycle’s purpose-built lab, which has been operational for shut to 2 years. Picture Credit: Photoncycle

“This is a relatively complex system — that’s why we have so many PhDs in different disciplines working on this. The reason why Elon Musk said that hydrogen is stupid, is that when you convert electricity to hydrogen and back, you are losing quite a bit of energy,” Brandtzaeg says. He believes his firm can flip this bug right into a characteristic. “In a residential setting where 70% of energy needs are heating, there is an opportunity to use that excess heat to provide hot water. We will target markets where people are using natural gas for heating at the moment and then replace the gas boiler in the house using the existing water-based infrastructure.”

Brandtzaeg’s confidence relating to the idea’s operational framework is compelling. He gestured towards a small mock-up of their operations plant inside their labs, scaled all the way down to the scale of a automotive battery. Brandtzaeg believes this scaling must be problem-free, citing it as the first purpose they felt assured transferring ahead with the undertaking. 

In the case of energy supply, it takes a short time for the hydrogen to generate electrical energy, so whereas it’s spooling up, the corporate depends on an middleman, extra typical, battery for load balancing. The agency definitely has buyers’ consideration: Photoncycle simply raised $5.3 million (€5 million) to construct its first few energy storage gadgets in Denmark, which Photoncycle has chosen as its take a look at market. 

“We could have raised 10 times as much as we did, given the interest. But after this raise, I’m still a majority owner,” Brandtzaeg says. “I wanted to keep control over the business as long as possible and not raise more capital than we need to bring this service to market.”