The world's first sand battery

Renewable energy -
When it comes to renewable energy, we have made significant progress over the last two decades.

Statistics -
There are many countries that have renewable energy contributing to more than 20% of their total energy supply.

Key challenges -  One of the biggest challenges is how we can provide a year-round, steady supply of energy from renewable sources.

Hope for the future -
There are four young engineers in Finland, however, who believe they may have found the solution. Enter the world’s first commercial-scale sand battery.

Introducing the sand battery -
Within the Vatajankoski power plant (about a three-hours' drive northwest of Helsinki) stands a 23 ft (7 m) steel container.

How it works -
The sand becomes a battery when it is heated to 600°C, using electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels in Finland.

How it works -
The battery stores around 8 MWh of thermal energy when it's full, and it is surrounded by thick insulation, which keeps the sand hot even when it is freezing outside.

Discharging heat -
When the demand for heat rises, the battery discharges around 200 kW of power through its heat exchange pipes.

Scale -
That is enough to heat and provide hot water for around 100 homes and a public swimming pool, supplementing power from the grid.

Charging the battery -
The battery is then charged overnight when the cost of electricity is lower.

Sustainable sand -
This means that it does not contribute to the global shortage of high-quality river sand, which is used in very large quantities for construction.

Long-term solution -
Sand is very effective at retaining heat over a long period of time, and it can store power for months on end.

Lithium-ion comparison -
In terms of comparison with lithium-ion batteries (as the most commonly used alternative), the sand battery has a number of advantages.

CO2 emissions -
Then there’s the environmental impact to consider: lithium is much worse than sand in terms of CO2 emissions.

Electricity generation -
They also need to consider how they will use the battery to generate significant amounts of electricity in addition to heat.

Getting close -
According to engineer and team member Tommi Eronen, they will have a working system to do that in the next two years.

Global plans -
Currently the sand battery is a uniquely Nordic solution to renewable energy storage. In theory, however, it could have applications all over the world.

The mission -
According to Eronen, the aim is to become "a truly global company, constructing sand batteries all over the world" by 2023.

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