How do we store excess energy?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The challenge for green energy: how to store excess electricityFor years, the stumbling block for renewable energy has been how to store electricity for days when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. But new technologies suggest this goal may be within reach, writes Jon R Luoma from Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network

From Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Wednesday 15 July 2009 15.41 BST Article history"Why are we ignoring things we know? We know that the sun doesn't always shine and that the wind doesn't always blow." So wrote former U.S. Energy Secretary James Schlesinger and Robert L. Hirsch last spring in the Washington Post, suggesting that because these key renewables produce power only intermittently, "solar and wind will probably only provide a modest percentage of future U.S. power."

Never mind that Schlesinger failed to disclose that he sits on the board of directors of Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal company — a business with much to lose if a solar- and wind-powered future arrives. But at least he and his co-author got it partly right. The benefits from wind and solar are mostly intermittent — so far. But the pair somehow missed the fact that a furious search for practical, affordable electricity storage to beat that intermittence problem is well underway.

For decades, "grid parity" has been the Holy Grail for alternative energy. The rap from critics was that technologies like wind and solar could not compete, dollar-for-dollar, with conventional electricity sources, such as coal and nuclear, without large government tax breaks or direct subsidies. But suddenly, with rapid technological advances and growing economies of manufacturing scale, wind power is now nearly at grid parity — meaning it costs roughly the same to generate electricity from wind as it does from coal. And the days when solar power attains grid parity may be only a half-decade away.

So with grid parity now looming, finding ways to store millions of watts of excess electricity for times when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine is the new Holy Grail. And there are signs that this goal — the day when large-scale energy storage becomes practical and cost-effective — might be within reach, as well. Some technologies that can store sizeable amounts of intermittent power are already deployed. Others, including at least a few with great promise, lie somewhere over the technological horizon.

New storage approaches include improvements to existing lithium ionbatteries and schemes to store energy as huge volumes of compressed air in vast geologic vaults. Another idea is to create a network of small, energy-dense batteries in tens of millions of homes. Under such a "distributed storage" scheme, utility computers could coordinate electricity flows over a "smart grid" that continually communicates with — and adjusts the flow of power to and from — local batteries. This would even include batteries in future plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicles.

And one 2008 breakthrough could even fulfill chemists' long-held dreams of producing a squeaky-clean and storable fuel by using excess electricity generated from renewable sources to cheaply produce hydrogen, which could then be used in fuel cells to power homes and cars.

In a world run mainly on fossil fuels, finding ways to store electricity was not a pressing concern: Power plants across a regional electrical grid could simply burn more fuel when demand was high. But large-scale electricity storage promises be an energy game-changer, unshackling alternative energy from the constraints of intermittence. It would mean that if a wind or solar farm were the cheapest and cleanest way to generate power, it wouldn't matter when the sun shone or the wind blew.

One storage approach seems obvious: to improve battery technologies. Picture efficient, enormous batteries that can store tens of millions of watt-hours of juice. Today, the vast majority of new rooftop solar photovoltaic panels are connected to the grid, using it as a giant battery, pushing excess power onto the grid when solar panels provide excess power. The building then draws power from the grid when the sun doesn't shine, with its meter spinning backward and forward with the ebb and flow of power. With relatively few solar roofs yet in play, utilities manage any ebb and flow by drawing down and ramping up generation at conventional power plants designed to balance fluctuating supply and demand.

A more robust world of solar and wind power might be better served by some sort of giant battery — or, more likely, many of them, widely distributed. The basic concept has been proven. Since 2003, the world's largest battery backup has been storing energy for an entire city: Fairbanks, Alaska. Isolated as it is, and not part of any regional electricity grid, the metropolitan area of about 100,000 residents needs an electricity backstop more than most: In its sub-zero winters, pipes can freeze solid in as little as two hours. Six years ago, the city installed a huge nickel-cadmium battery, the same technology used for years in laptop computers and other portable devices.

Housed in a giant warehouse, the 1,300-metric ton battery is larger than a football field, and can crank out 40 million watts of power. Still, the Fairbanks battery provides only enough electricity for about 12,000 residents for seven minutes. That was enough to prevent 81 blackouts in the city in the battery's first two years of operation.

Yet effective storage of electricity from solar or wind arrays that generate power equivalent to one large coal plant implies batteries on a breathtaking scale — hundreds of units the size of the Fairbanks array.
One possible answer? In Japan, so-called "flow" batteries have been used for years to store backup power at industrial plants. Conventional batteries store energy in chemical form.With flow batteries, charged chemicals are pumped into storage tanks, allowing still more chemical to be charged and pumped away, then pumped back into the active portion of the battery and drawn down as needed. One big advantage: Battery "size" can be expanded by simply adding more chemicals and more storage tanks. In 2003, the local utility on small King Island, off the coast of Australia, installed a large flow battery to sop up and later release excess power from a wind farm.

As with the alternative generation technologies, cost will be key for determining which battery or other storage technologies might prevail. Aside from such typical economic concerns as raw material and maintenance costs and durability, storage technologies all face some losses in "round-trip efficiency." Inevitably, some energy is lost as it goes into storage, and more is lost as it comes out.

Right now, hopes are riding high on lithium ion batteries, because they have impressive round-trip efficiencies, can pack in high densities of energy, and can charge and discharge thousands of times before becoming degraded. Because of those attributes, lithium-ion battery technology has become increasingly dominant in laptop computers and cell phones. On a far larger scale, a powerful lithium ion battery pack powers the pricey all-electric Tesla Roadster, and is slated to power the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt next year.

On the grid, lithium ion experiments are already underway. One company, General Electric-backed A123 Systems, announced late in 2008 that it had been contracted to install a two-megawatt lithium ion storage unit at a California power plant owned by global utility giant AES.

Still, lithium ion remains a relatively expensive technology — 10 times more expensive than lead acid batteries with equivalent capacity. Technological improvements and manufacturing scale should bring lithium costs down over time, but by the time that happens, the world could be beating a path to the door of someone who's found a way to build an even better battery.

Early this year, IBM revealed that it was launching a major research program into what looks like an even more promising technology — the lithium metal-air battery. Last month, a company called PolyPlus announced that it had already succeeded in developing one. The PolyPlus battery and the IBM technology deliver an astonishing 10 times more energy density than even today's best lithium ion technology. That means that, pound for pound, they offer about the energy density of gasoline. The key reason they can store so much energy is that they use oxygen, drawn from the air, in place of some of the chemical reactants used along with lithium in their lithium ion cousins.

There's one big rub: Air isn't just oxygen. Notably, it also contains humidity, and the lithium has a bad habit of acting like ignited gasoline when exposed to moisture, creating a real risk of fire and explosion. Chandrasekhar Narayan, manager of science and technology at IBM's Almaden Research Center near San Jose, Calif., has suggested that it will take five to 10 years to develop an effective membrane that will let oxygen into the battery while keeping moisture out.

Still in pie-in-sky mode, there's "vehicle to grid" storage, or "carbitrage." This enticing notion relies on idled storage in the batteries of the millions of plug-in hybrid or all-electric automobiles that will be in use in the future. There's reason to believe this scheme could work. More than 90 percent of the time cars sit idled, and aside from days they're used for long trips, most of their full energy storage capacity goes unused.
A single idle, electric-powered car could generate as much as 10 kilowatts of power, enough to meet the average demand of 10 houses, according to Willett Kempton, director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration at the University of Delaware. With vehicle-to-grid technology, controlled by an array of smart meters, car owners plugged in at home or work could allow the grid to draw off unused chunks of power at times when short-term demand is high. Conversely, cars could be recharged when demand is low.

The stored power in those electric cars, or anywhere on the grid, might not come from batteries after all. In March, Texas-based EEStor announced that it had received third-party verification of its "ultracapacitor" technology. The company claims the lightweight device, which was awarded a U.S. patent last December, can bottle up huge amounts of electricity far more quickly than any battery and can do so at lower cost.

Like batteries, capacitors store and mete out electricity. Small conventional capacitors have been ubiquitous in electronic devices as far back as the early days of radio. But capacitors, so far, haven't been able to store electricity for long enough to come close to competing with batteries. They have found use as devices that level out fluctuations in voltage or that briefly store power for near-instant release.

EEStor claims that its device, which is one-quarter the weight of a similar lithium ion battery, can hold a large charge for days. Its patent describes a 281-pound device that would hold almost the same charge as a half-ton lithium ion battery pack installed on the Tesla Roadster. The company's ultracapacitors have yet to prove themselves in commercial products. But industrial giant Lockheed Martin has already signed up with EEStor to use future ultra capacitors in defense applications, and Toronto-based Zenn Motors, which has also taken an ownership stake in EEStor, says it will have electric cars on the road using the technology in 2010.

If advanced batteries or ultracapacitors aren't the ultimate answer, maybe using excess electricity to make hydrogen that can be stored will do the trick. Hydrogen can be produced through simple electrolysis, but technical and cost hurdles have made electrolysis impractical. Today, industrial-scale hydrogen is produced using natural gas as a not-so-clean feedstock.

But that may have begun to change last summer when MIT announced that a team lead by chemist Daniel Nocera had made a "major discovery" that employs a new kind of catalyst using cobalt and phosphate — abundant and non-toxic materials — to kick-start electrolysis.

Outside observers say the process could be revolutionary: opening up the possibility that electricity made at any time by the sun or wind could be stored by simply splitting (and later recombining) abundant water molecules, perhaps even undrinkable sea water. The breakthrough has been hailed by scientist British scientist James Barber of Imperial College London as having "enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind." The website Xconomy reported in April that Nocera had quietly formed a startup company called Sun Catalytics. Efforts to reach Nocera for comment were unsuccessful.

And there is progress being made on an entirely different front — using excess electricity to pump compressed air into caverns, salt domes, and old natural gas wells, and then releasing the air to help state-of-the-art natural gas power plants spin turbines, lowering the amount of fuel consumed by as much as 70 percent. A consortium of utilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas is already working with the U.S.'s Sandia National Laboratories to develop a giant, 268-megawatt compressed air system. Called the Iowa Stored Energy Park, it would store excess energy from the region's burgeoning wind industry.

This article was shared posted by Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network


20 ideas to save the world...maybe, maybe not!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some interesting ideas, although some are completely impractical. I don't ever see large vessels sailing our oceans spewing water vapor into the air to make clouds "whiter" to reflect more sunlight. Or teaching cows to act like wildebeests..come on.

The Infrastructurist

From the UK: 20 Bold Schemes That Could Save The World

The Infrastructurist - New York,NY,USA
And they didn't include Tom Friedman's pet silver bullet, the magic energy-making laser. Any big ideas that truly got overlooked though? ...

See all stories on this topic

blog it



Monday, July 13, 2009

Hey everyone,
I just came across this site and I like it a lot. I've seen some interesting blogs and if you want a "no gimmick" kind of way to get visitors to your own blog, then this site could be for you!

Happy blogging!!


Geo-thermal Energy

Geo-Thermal Energy

While there is a great deal of energy coming from outside of the earth, such as solar energy, there is still a great deal of energy beneath us, buried deep in the Earth's crust. There are several ways to harness these underground heat sources, let's explore them.

Tapping Into the Crust: Geothermal Heat Pumps

The upper 10 feet of the Earth's surface does not change temperature very often. The average temperature hovers around 50°F-60°F. By inserting heat-transfer elements into
the ground, and using a pump to bring that heat energy up, homes in the winter time can be heated. During the summer, the system goes in reverse, transferring the hot air in the house, into the cool ground. Many users of these systems say they are quiet, and provide satisfaction rates of over 90%. While these system do require electricity themselves to run the pumps, this pales in comparison to the electricity used in conventional heaters.
Electricity Strait from the spring: Geothermal Power Plants

One of the oldest forms of electricity generation, ground steam used to turn turbines
(hydrothermal energy) has been used as far back as 1904 in Italy. Naturally occurring steam from springs is tapped and driven through a turbine. This turbine creates the electricity used for homes. This is called Dry Steam Power.

Another form of hydrothermal energy is called Flash Steam. Geysers that contain fluids above 360°F can be tapped just like Dry Steam Power Plants, but the high-pressure vapors are injected into a "flash tank" which is kept at a much lower pressure. The unequal pressures cause the heated fluid to "flash" which will turn a turbine. These "Flash Steam Power Turbines" are more efficient than Dry Steam Power Turbines because any unused fluid can be held in another tank and flashed again.

A third form of geo-thermal energy is called Binary-Cycle. This system employs two closed-circuit systems. The first pumps the hydrothermal fluids up from the ground and into a heat exchanger. The second system pumps another fluid around a closed loop. This fluid in the second system has a much lower boiling point than the geothermal fluid. When the second fluid gets to the heat exchanger, it flashes into vapor and is used to turn a turbine. This system is highly efficient because there are no lost liquids because they are closed circuits. This will eventually be the standard geothermal power plant.

Energy In The 21st Century


Top 5 STRANGE Alternative Energy Sources

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top 5 STRANGE Alternative Energy Sources

Posted by Tyler Knott Gregson in Alternative Energy, Green Living.

In the business of trying to save the planet, nothing is out of bounds, and this is EXACTLY how it should be. What many should/would/could consider weird in any other industry is completely ok, completely normal, and completely in line with doing all we can to better this planet we’re living on. After all, it is the only one we’ve got, right?

That said, while even the weirdest ideas are still saintly, in my humble opinion at least, every now and then you stumble across some very strange methods people have come up with to save the Earth. I just found a pretty awesome article that highlighted the Top 5 Weird Alternative Energy Sources.

I will paraphrase for you and just show you the top 5, but please feel free to head over to the full article and read more about each:

1. Bugs that excrete oil - Yes, they excrete oil after eating agriculture waste. Wow.
2. The Texan rubbish man - He has a machine that converts waste into a crazy bio-fuel he calls Vetroleum that can later be turned into gasoline.
3. Confiscated Booze - How about using the 200,000 gallons of illegal alcohol smuggled into certain countries is being converted to power vehicles.
4. Human Waste - All I can say is, gross, but awesome. Human sewer sludger running diesel engines. Nice.
5. Dirty Diaper Fuel - Yeah, diapers, from landfills. Believe it.

Head over, read up on the 5 weird energy sources, then head back to Northern Tool for a few that while not quite so weird, are amazingly efficient.


Eco Factory - $3 Billion Stimulus to Green Energy, But Is is Enough?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eco Factory - $3 Billion Stimulus to Green Energy, But Is is Enough?: "$3 Billion Stimulus to Green Energy, But Is is Enough?
Hundreds and Fifties - Lots of them

The US Treasury issued more stimulus money as it joined the Department of Energy on Thursday to announce $3 billion would go to renewable energy projects. According to the DOE on their website this 'innovative partnership [is] aimed at increasing economic development in urban and rural areas while setting our nation on the path to energy independence.' At the same time, the rest of the industrialized world is arguing over emissions controls in Italy and the US economy continues to show signs of weakening.

Back to the point of the new stimulus money, Tim Geithner, the US treasury secretary claims “The renewable energy program provides another important avenue for the Recovery Act to contribute to economic development in communities around the country.” Geithner went on to say this new stimulus money will help foster the development of new cleaner energies to help shed a US dependence on foreign oil.

Under the current Recovery Act, the US Treasury has the oversight to offer money to companies build functioning renewable energy plants. Under the old plan, these companies would have to wait for eventual tax credits. The new system serves progressive energy companies capital well in advance"

Change the World


PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: There's Strength in Numbers . FREA has been visiting elected officials to brainstorm about passing legislation to establish a Clean Energy Trust (i.e., a

Nebraska Renewable Energy Association
Nebraska is a state rich with natural resources, sun, wind, and timber. Our agricultural industries produce plant and animal matter. These resources are considered renewable

Renewable Energy Law Blog
News and commentary on the renewable energy from the law firm of Shems Dunkiel Kassel and Saunders PLLC.

Renewable energy: Solar, wind, wave, tidal and hydro power
22 Jun 2009: Gas and electricity bills have more than doubled since 2005, says uSwitch

Home | NJ OCE Web Site
Program Updates. 2009 Renewable Energy Incentive Program Applications and updated forms June 19, 2009; New rule on 2-year SREC life is in effect for energy generated on or after

Renewable Energy Stocks- Insight Into Global Green Investing Trends
Renewable Energy Stocks- Insight Into Global Green Investing Trends and Opportunities Renewable Energy: Godfrey Boyle: Books
Review `Review from previous edition It is high time that good textbooks on the subject become available on the market. Renewable Energy: Power for a Sustainable Future, is thus a

Renewable Energy Works for America
Renewable Energy Works is focused on providing green jobs for our economy, clean air for our environment, jobs an income for rural America, and stable prices for consumers.


hybrid cars,solar energy,environment,local recycling,green technology,modern energy,renewable energy,alternate energy,recycling,energy-saving,energy-saving cars,global warming

Green Energy, Renewable Energy, Green Power Energy
Energy is the ability to do work and to make things happen. It is life’s driving force because it allows us to accomplish our everyday tasks.

Best Green Energy Savings
Do you love bottled water? If so then you’re just like most other Americans since we consume over 25 BILION LITERS per year! While sales of bottled water have exploded in recent


Change is coming

Change is coming. The development of alternative and renewable sources of energy will increase dramatically in the coming years, driven by government regulation and the marketplace

Alternative Energy
Alternative, renewable energy options are of increasing interest in the world today. is here to provide the latest news, facts, and advice related to green

An Introduction to Alternative and Renewable Energy | Alternative
Basic overview of alternative energy, including solar energy, wind power and water turbines. Benefits, limitations and special considerations for extreme climates.

Alternative Energy, Alternative Fuels; Natural Gas, LPG, NGV
Hybrid car is a means of transportation using two power sources; it uses a rechargeable energy storage system found on board and a fueled power source as the vehicle’s driving

Alternative Energy Associates
Alternative Energy Associates designs and installs renewable energy systems for residential and commercial applications across the tri-state area (New Jersey, New York, and

BP Alternative Energy
BP Alternative Energy is an energy company investing in the energy mix of the future through a portfolio of successful cleantech and renewable energy businesses.

Alternative Energy -- Seeking Alpha
Free Conference Call Transcripts on Seeking Alpha; LDK Solar Co. Ltd. Q1 2009 Earnings Call Latest Energy Transcripts. Capstone Turbine Corporation F4Q09 (Qtr End 4/30/09

Lansing Community College's Alternative Energy Initiative - New Energy
Lansing Community College exists so that all people have educational and enrichment opportunities to improve their quality of life and standard of living. Where Success Begins!

Alternative Energy Information, Alternative Energy Facts, Alternative
Learn more about alternative energy sources including fuel cells, biofuels, and wind power at National Geographic


Building green home kits and sustainable design plans for energy efficient homes, prefabricated, environmentally and eco-friendly. Green building quality prefab home designs and

Green Energy Products, LLC
Welcome to Green Energy Products, LLC . With rising energy costs and revealing studies on pollution, it’s no wonder consumers are looking for a better, cleaner way to live and

Green Energy Group - Introduction
We offer a full range of PR and marketing services, informed by our knowledge of sustainable and renewable energy issues, designed to enhance your reputation and reach your target

USGBC: U.S. Green Building Council
USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Welcome to Green Energy Technologies. Wind Energy for Your World.
Green Energy Technologies WindCube turbine is a revolutionary approach to generate energy. The WindCube's design creates a 'wind tunnel' effect, increasing the velocity to produce

Jackson County Green Energy Park – North Carolina – Dillsboro, NC
Jackson County Green Energy Park, Dillsboro, NC captures landfill methane gas to use as fuel for artisan studios, biodiesel refinery, greenhouses and other ventures. Tours


Synthetic Tree Captures Carbon 1,000 Faster Than Real Trees

Technology / Engineering

( -- Scientists have designed a synthetic tree that traps carbon dioxide from the air in an attempt to combat growing emissions. The device looks less like a tree and more like a small building, ...

Electric Raptor

Raptor: An Electric Car Nearly Anyone Would Want to Drive

Technology / Energy

I love my Prius, it's true. But sometimes, I look at the Dodge Charger (I'm watching Burn Notice this summer) and think, "What a cool car." And when we think of cool cars, it's hard to keep the image of a ...

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality: Science Fiction or Reality? (w/ Video)

Technology / Hi Tech

( -- Computer graphics have come a long way since the birth of Atari Games over 30 years ago. Today, computer graphics seem very real and some day researchers will pull graphics out of your television ...

Creating Denser Magnetic Memory

Physics / General Physics

( -- One of the issues afflicting magnetic memory is the fact that it is difficult to store information for as long as 10 years. In order to overcome this problem, scientists and engineers have been looking for ...

Science journals

How to Spot an Influential Paper Based on its Citations

Physics / General Physics

( -- At first it may seem that the number of citations received by a published scientific paper is directly related to that paper's quality of content. The higher the quality, the more people read ...


Jinni: Semantic Search for Movies

Technology / Internet

( -- One of the most interesting things I have come across over the Internet is the movie search engine Jinni. Can't think of anything to watch tonight? Type in a phrase, and dozens of moves app ...


Dell Planning Pocket Web Gadget

Electronics / Consumer & Gadgets

( -- Dell engineers are in the process of developing a pocket handheld device for browsing the internet. Dell plans on using the Google Inc.'s Android software and may also use chips based on designed ...

HCl dissociation

Scientists Create Smallest Ever Droplet of Acid, Solve Ozone Puzzle

Chemistry / Analytical Chemistry

( -- In its atomic form, chlorine can destroy vast quantities of ozone. But exactly how chlorine is created in the ultracold conditions of the stratosphere has puzzled scientists. Now, a team of ...

ice water

Scientists Observe Liquid Water Below Freezing

Chemistry / Materials Science

( -- Below 0 °C, water turns to ice. But beyond that, or below about -75 °C, the ice may turn back into liquid water. While scientists have previously predicted this phase transition with computer ...

Toshiba's TG01

First Smartphone with 1GHZ Processor (w/ Video)

Electronics / Consumer & Gadgets

( -- Looks like the Apple iPhone 3G S may soon have some serious competition with the soon to be announced, Toshiba TG01 smartphone. The TG01 is expected to be officially announced at the Mobile ...

Space Colony

Galactic Colonization Limited By The Inability To Expand Exponentially

Space & Earth / Astronomy

( -- For more than 50 years, many have taken the so-called Fermi Paradox to indicate that the existence of intelligent alien civilizations is an impossibility. However, a recent re-examination ...

Khatib MEMS

A Glimpse of the Future MEMS-based Storage: Totally Green & Thumbnail Size

Technology / Engineering

The University of Twente--Enschede, The Netherlands published newly conferred PhD Mohammed Ghiath Khatib's thesis, "MEMS-based Storage Devices: Integration in Energy-Constrained Mobile System". The new MEMS, ...


Jatropha Helps Air New Zealand Cut Its CO2 Emissions by More Than 60%

Space & Earth / Environment

Recently, Air New Zealand ran a test flight of a jet plane fueled with a biofuel blend made with jatropha. The results showed a fuel savings of 1.2%, amounting to more than a ton of fuel over the course of ...

Passing cars

Passing cars to generate energy for new UK supermarket

Technology / Energy

A new grocery store in the UK opening today will generate energy every time a customer drives into the parking lot. Sainsbury's, located in Gloucester, is the first European store to feature "Kinetic Road ...

Multi-core ARM Chip Architecture

Multi-core ARM Chips Slated For Smartphones Next Year

Electronics / Hardware

ARM is the chip design company that makes processors for smartphones like the Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3G. By next year we can expect to see dual-core processors in smartphones, with quad-core to follow sometime ...



Our Blogger Templates - Your Free Traffic Exchange - 1:1 Exchange Ratio, 5-Tier Referral Program. FREE Advertising!

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by 2008

Back to TOP