Musk’s mini-nuclear and batteries can solve the energy crisis


Battery technology has followed an exponential downward trajectory almost identical to solar panels. The cost per kilowatt hour of lithium-ion has declined 89% since 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The cost of electric cars, for example, is approaching parity with gasoline-powered ones. As a home storage solution, they’re still prohibitively expensive – Tesla’s Powerwall starts at £ 8,700 – but prices will drop as well.

A better solution would be to improve the energy storage connected to the grid itself. Large lithium-ion battery installations have proven problematic in part because of the fire hazards associated with them, which in turn have generated local opposition. Safer forms of batteries, such as vanadium-flow or sodium-ion, offer possible solutions.

The storage of molten salt, which is championed by companies like Malta, a Google spinoff, presents another alternative. The company, which was backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, stores thermal energy at high temperatures before being converted back to electricity using a heat engine.

Similar technology could be used for a new generation of mini nuclear reactors such as those offered by Rolls-Royce.

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