Photoncycle, a startup from Norway, is solving the problem of inter-seasonal storage of solar energy, which can save large amounts of solar energy generated during the sunny months for use in winter heating and power generation. The company says solid hydrogen is key to bringing this solution to market in just a few years.
Patented solution for solid hydrogen.
Photoncycle has developed a breakthrough solar energy storage technology. The device is a copper cylinder wrapped in thick foam. The cylinder contains a patented solid-state hydrogen solution that reportedly has more efficient storage capabilities than batteries or liquid hydrogen.
Currently, the copper cylindrical energy storage device is about the size of a chair and has been built in the basement of the Oslo Science Park accelerator. The company's plan is to install a larger cylindrical model, about three cubic meters in size, on the ground a few yards from the home.
Solar panels on the roofs of nearby buildings will provide the system with energy stored in the equipment. Any excess energy will be sold to the grid.
Photoncycle founder Bjørn Brandtzaeg said only about 50% of solar energy is used due to a lack of storage for the solar energy generated in the summer.
"The other 50% is increasingly worthless because once it's produced, it's basically dumped or reduced. If you can store the excess energy and then release it in the winter or when you do have energy needs, then you have A real opportunity to make a difference,” Brandzag said.
The company latched onto H2 molecules to create solid hydrogen.
Brandtzaeg collaborated with academics to create a non-flammable solution that prevents excessive energy loss during conversion.
"We lock hydrogen molecules into solids and essentially repair them," Brandzag explains. "We're using a reversible high-temperature fuel cell, so we're helping to develop a fuel cell that can produce hydrogen and electricity in the same cell."
This solid hydrogen means there is no need to cool the hydrogen gas, which makes it non-flammable and has a higher density than lithium-ion batteries.
The heat is captured to heat the home.
One of the current challenges with Photoncycle's solar storage systems is the loss of heat as hydrogen moves in and out of the fuel cell. The company aims to capture this heat and use it to heat homes. Brandtzaeg believes that excess heat can effectively power homes, since 70% of a home's energy needs are related to heating.
According to Photoncycle’s founders, the system includes solar panels, takes about a day to install, connects directly to existing infrastructure, and can replace natural gas with renewable energy in a combined heat and power system.
The company plans to use Denmark, which has the highest energy prices in Europe, as a test market for its solid hydrogen solar storage system.