Sandia National Labs engineers hope rocks will revolutionize sustainable energy
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The future of sustainable renewable energy rocks – at least that is what engineers at Sandia National Labs believe.
Engineers are using rocks to try and make renewable energy more sustainable and affordable in New Mexico.
“What we’re doing here is storing thermal energy in a bed of rocks. It’s fairly simple. You just heat up the air, you flow it through a big bed of rocks. It’s contained in this stock tank behind me,” engineer Nathan Schroeder said. “We’re actually planning on charging this system with solar panels.”
The panels generate heat and the power needed to blow that heat onto the rocks. Then, the rocks store that excess energy until you want to use it, such as to heat or cool your home.
“What we’re trying to do with this project is provide a really low-cost energy storage solution that is a lot different that maybe some of the other alternatives that are out there, like lithium batteries for example,” engineer Luke McLaughlin said.
Sandia National Labs partnered with local company CSOL Power. Now that they have successfully built and demonstrated their concept, they’re reaching out to local businesses to apply it.
Businesses like greenhouses that grow food.
“Many of them have to shut down over the winter because they get too cold and we think we could save them a lot of money. It could help New Mexico by lowering the cost of food,” said Walter Gerstle, the Chief Technical Officer at CSOL Power.
Gerstle and the engineers say these beds could power New Mexico businesses in the next two to five years. In five to ten years, you could use it in your home.
“The U.S. and New Mexico have some pretty ambitious decarbonization goals for 2030 and 2050. If we’re to meet those decarbonization goals, energy storage technology is going to be a large part of the mix,” McLaughlin said.