This technology uses molten salt for electrochemical energy storage, rather than thermal. These batteries will thus be able to store energy coming from PV panels rather than large solar thermal plants.
Solar power towers will shortly be obsolete, thanks to batteries.
Flow batteries have been fielded in the U.S., Japan and Australia. A number of systems – up to 25 MW – are in the process of being demonstrated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) administered by DOE's Energy Storage Systems Research program. Zinc bromine and vanadium redox systems are among the top contenders. But the materials involved are moderately toxic, and vanadium is subject to major price fluctuations. In addition, the aqueous solution limits the amount of material that can be dissolved and how much energy can be stored, and outside temperature can hurt performance.
Sandia is pioneering research on flow batteries that avoid these problems by not using water. Anderson assembled a multidisciplinary team of experts from the Labs, including electrochemist David Ingersoll, organic chemist Chad Staiger and chemical technologists Harry Pratt and Jonathan Leonard. What they've designed is a new family of electrochemically reversible, metal-based ionic liquids, or MetILs, which are based on inexpensive, non-toxic materials that are readily available within the U.S., such as iron, copper and manganese.
Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute http://www.solargardens.org
CEO, Solar Panel Hosting LLC http://www.solarpanelhosting.com