Alphabet sees power in molten salt, a new moonshot

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is pitching an idea to store power from renewable energy in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid, an example of the tech giant trying to marry its far-reaching ambitions with business demand.

Alphabet’s research lab, dubbed X, said Monday that it has developed plans to store electricity generated from solar panels or wind turbines as thermal energy in hot salt and cold liquids, such as antifreeze. The lab is seeking partners in the energy industry, including power-plant developers and utilities, to build a prototype to plug into the electrical grid.

Whether the project, called Malta, ever comes to market depends as much on a sound business model as it does on science. Academics said the technology is likely years away from market, if it ever makes it. An X spokeswoman said it could reach the market “in the foreseeable future.”

Malta is the latest example of Alphabet seeking to use new technologies to enter new industries, sometimes in surprising ways. X first developed self-driving cars almost a decade ago, and is also building delivery drones and high-altitude balloons that beam internet connections to the ground below. X encourages its engineers to try audacious projects and, as a result, far more fail than succeed.

This story originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.