Forget batteries, Canada plans to store energy in giant underwater balloons

Canada’s Hydrostor has developed a creative energy storage solution that is half the cost of the best battery technology and lasts twice as long. The clean energy startup is storing energy as compressed air and then housing the air underwater inside giant balloons. Though it sounds ridiculous, the idea is efficient at energy storage, and an environmentally friendly, zero-emissions solution.

Cleantech startup Hydrostor designed and is now partnering with Toronto Hydro to operate the world’s’ first underwater compressed air energy storage system in Toronto. Located 3 kilometers off the shore of Toronto Island, a series of underwater balloons containing compressed air are submerged under 55 meters of water and connected to Hydrostor’s power facility via a pipe. The facility currently is being used to store excess energy from Toronto’s existing power grid during non-peak times It also can be adapted to store energy from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power, providing the ability to store energy during peak energy generation times to compensate for the occasional downtimes.

Under development for five years, the Hydrostor solution takes existing technologies and repurposes them for its clean energy storage solution. To store electricity, the company converts excess electrical energy into compressed air, which is moved through a pipe to the company’s underwater storage facility. The air is then pumped into giant submerged balloons called accumulators that are made from the same material that’s used to raise sunken ships from a lake bed or an ocean floor.

The compressed air remains inside the underwater balloons until it is needed by Toronto during peak energy hours. To pump the stored power back into the grid, Hydrostor must first convert the compressed air back into electricity. The system takes advantage of the natural pressure of the lake water to push the air out of the balloons and send it back through the pipe to a turbine. The compressed air-powered turbine then is used to generate the extra energy required by the grid.

Compressed air has been considered a solution for energy storage in the past, but it has not been widely adopted because it needs a large area of open space for storage. By using a lake bed, Hydrostor has ample storage space and also can take advantage of the lake’s hydrostatic water pressure in the energy generation process. The company fired up its first pilot facility on November 18 and is capable of providing 660 kilowatts of power, which is enough power to meet the needs of roughly 33 homes. The technology is scalable and, unlike competing battery storage solutions, does not use any toxic substances. Hydrostor hopes to expand its operations globally and is already working with Aruba to build a system similar to the one operating in Toronto.

Emerging Tech

Hotter than the sun: Chinese fusion reactor claims breakthrough

China’s “artificial sun” has reached a temperature of 180 million ºF with a heating power of 10 megawatts -- six times hotter than the center of the sun. The achievement could mark progress towards fusion as a clean energy source.
Computing

The MacBook is smaller, the MacBook Air is faster, but which is better?

This year, Apple's MacBook Air got a powerful internal upgrade, but the redesign makes it slimmer and lighter. So should you get the MacBook Air over the MacBook? We'll compare both notebook's major features and help you decide.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Smart Home

Wynd’s new air-purifying bundle lets smart home owners breathe easier

Wynd is already well known in the tech industry for its popular Kickstarter-backed air purifier and now the company is launching two new products designed to improve air quality to inform smart home owners.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.