One of the biggest challenges for renewable energy is storage: Without storage, solar power can’t be accessed at night, and wind power can’t be accessed when it’s not windy. A new water-based sodium ion battery offers an innovative solution to improving the reliability of renewables.

The salt battery was developed by scientists at Austalia’s Murdoch University, and is much less expensive than comparable storage technologies. The researchers decided to use sodium to make the batteries because of sodium’s similarity to lithium, the element that powers batteries in most portable electronics. The battery is also made from affordable iron and manganese, making the batteries a good solution for low-cost storage in the developing world.

Unlike other devices, the salt batteries work well at low temperatures, making them practical for use in varying weather conditions. While they’re too big to use with portable renewable energy sources, the batteries are well-suited for large-scale generation like solar farms.

Now that the technology has been proven in the lab, the researchers plan to move to large-scale commercialization.

Main image credit: USDA