-At first we thought it was too good to be true. Now we have great confidence in him. If you can do that, it’s a whole new world. Maybe this is the future.
This is what Sverre Kirkevold, Head of Technology and Innovation at Obos Block Watne says. The country’s largest manufacturer of wooden houses will participate in testing the new technology on ten homes in the eastern region, according to the plan for 2026. Energy company Eviny, energy technology companies Volue and Sintef are also participating in the team.
The energy crisis in Europe has led to a massive growth in rooftop solar cells. In Norway, there are currently a few thousand, while the Germans have installed solar cells on three million rooftops. In the Netherlands, solar panels are the densest, and solar energy contributes 14 percent of electricity consumption.
It’s good for the climate, but bad for the power grid.
Solar panels provide a large production of electricity in the summer, but in the winter the opposite is true. When many people have solar cells on their roofs, the power grid becomes tight and electricity prices are often negative on sunny summer days. The more people invest in rooftop solar cells and want to sell electricity online, the longer it will take for the system to pay off. In the winter, they have to buy electricity at a high cost when they do not produce enough themselves.
This leads to major imbalances and huge investment needs in the energy network.
This is the final piece in the energy revolution. The challenge with renewable energy is that there is nowhere to use the excess flow. After spending an hour in the sun, the batteries in a typical home system are mostly full. We’ve found a solution for this, which allows you to save the surplus for the winter, when you really need the energy, says Bjørn Brandtzæg.
The idea for Photoncycle came when he received additional education in 2020 at the world’s leading technology university, MIT, in Boston after working in hydropower in Georgia for a number of years. He tested this logic on some professors at MIT, then allied himself with hydrogen experts at Scientif, with whom he went and applied for patents. Former Statkraft CEO Bård Mikkelsen is on the ownership side, and is Chairman of the Board of Directors.
He explains how an urban economist could come up with a pioneering energy invention:
Academia today is highly specialized. This means that many are unable to search for and see connections. What we have achieved here is not in itself a new achievement. Integration is what’s innovative, Brandtzig says.
He stands in the laboratory built at the research park in Oslo, which he calls one of the most advanced hydrogen laboratories in Norway.
Next to him stands the CTO of Photoncycle, the American David Gerez, nodding his head.
– What we have done is developed a catalyst that converts hydrogen and stores it in a solid. Unlike alternatives, it is nonflammable, does not require refrigeration, and does not contain any rare earths, says Gerez.
Self-sufficiency in electricity
It shows a cup that looks like white school chalk. In this substance, which now bears a secret name, the excess current can be stored for several months, and sent abroad and inland for many years.
The idea is that with solar cells on a regular home, you will be able to be self-sufficient in electricity all year round. By comparison, a typical plant today contributes just over a third of electricity consumption.
It should be possible to store 10,000 kilowatt-hours in the white material, which will be placed in a three-cubic-meter underground tank. This concept may be reminiscent of the fuel oil tanks that were previously buried in many parks and used for heating.
Using this technology, you can store electricity at a density 20 times higher than a lithium battery, and at 1% of the price per kilowatt-hour, says Brandtzig.
Development has happened very quickly.
-We digitally design and test it in the lab, a widely used technology development procedure in the USA. This allows us to speed up the process, and see what works and what doesn’t, much faster than with traditional methods, says Brandtzig.
-We have built a prototype and know that the system works. Gerez says the goal is to extract as much energy as possible.
To date, development has been supported by the Norwegian Innovation Foundation, as well as private funding. The company did not compete for support from the so-called green platform.
Next year, the complete copy will be ready for installation at Brandzig’s house in Oslo. After testing ten other Obos Block Watne homes in the Oslo area, Denmark became the biggest target.
There are still about 400,000 residential buildings heated by gas or oil. The authorities decided that it would end before 2030.
He will become a strong player
Photoncycle aims to produce 50,000 units a year, but has no plans to sell its systems.
– No, this should be as painless as you can get with renewable energy. “We will own the utilities, so there won’t be as much investment costs for the homeowners,” Brandtzig says.
He explains that the systems must be prefabricated and can be installed at home within three days. What the customer does is enters into a 15-year electricity contract with a guaranteed maximum price which must be cheaper than the market price. So it is the photocycle that will control the current.
– We aim to be able to provide electricity for less than ten euro cents per kilowatt hour. This is favorable in many countries in Europe today, but not in Norway at the moment, says Brandtzig.
With just ten customers, Photoncycle will be able to power devices together, selling energy when it’s expensive and storing it when it’s cheap. With 200 units, the energy can be traded against the Nordpool energy exchange, benefiting from volatility in the energy market, which is expected to increase.
With 100,000 customers, Photoncycle could become a major player in the Nordic region. This is ambition.
I will bet money
-What is the biggest uncertainty? We know it works in practice. The uncertainty lies in how efficient the process is at scale, and how much is lost in transferring to and from storage, Geerez says.
One of Norway’s leading experts in the field of hydrogen technology, Björn Hoback, conducted an independent evaluation of the Photoncycle project. He is the Head of Research in Hydrogen Technology in the Department of Energy Engineering at Keller University.
– In my opinion, the concept is realistic and promising, in an important market – long-term stationary storage. Many of the components are familiar, but it is a fairly complex system. Making everything work together takes skill, but they have it, so I have faith they will pull it off.
-Are you putting your money on this?
– Not all, but yes, I would have done it if it had been relevant.(conditions)Copyright Dagens Næringsliv AS and/or our suppliers. We would like you to share our cases using links that lead directly to our pages. No copying or other use of all or part of the Content may be permitted except with written permission or as permitted by law. For more terms see here.
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