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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


A lot of ifs, but someday it is possible that up to 75% of the energy utilized by end use consumers could well be electricity.  Air transport will always need a liquid fuel, although hydrogen has been suggested for the long term future.

The problem with wind and solar energies ultimately replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power is that the winds and our Sun come and go.  A cost competitive energy storage mechanism must be developed to enable widespread application of these intermittent renewable energy options.  Here is a graphic from Alt Energy Stocks (where you can get info to invest in this field):

Three years ago the Electric Power Research Institute released a report that summarized the state of of the energy storage market, and indicated that this field was in its infancy:
  • Pumping water up to a reservoir, or pumped-hydro, currently dominates at 99% of the storage market.  The problem is that most of the natural reservoirs are now already in use and the construction of storage for this application is prohibitive.
  • Compressed air is second with 440 MW.  Two and a half years ago I posted on Danielle Fong, a young Canadian entrepreneur who thought she had the cheapest grid-scale storage option with this technology, and helped create LightSail Energy.  Based in Berkeley, California, it has all the support stars in this universe with Vinod Khosla, Peter Theil and Bill Gates behind them. Nothing of import yet, but keep watching her (right).
  • Sodium-sulfur batteries have a grid installed capacity of 316 MW.  Lithium-ion is at 20 MW and has largely been written off as too expensive.
  • If storage prices settle in the $700-$750 /  kWh range, then a 14,000 MW market can be envisaged.  Under $500/kWh and the applications double.
  • However, here is where they're at:
    • compressed air:  $960-$1250/kw, or $60-$125/kWh...which tells me that this report is flawed, for if true, then storage is not now a problem--I SUSPECT THAT THEY GOT THE /kW and /kWh reversed.
    • batteries:  $2770-$6200/kWh
    • flywheels:  $8000/kWh
You think you pay a lot for electricity?  The USA is at around 12.5 cents/kWh, with Hawaii expecting to hit 40 cents/kWh soon.  The world?

And that was three years ago.

Here is how we use electricity in our homes:

Cold countries use the most electricity/capita:
From Wikipedia regarding electricity:
  • Fossil fuels provide the heat for 67% of electricity generated, 16% renewables (but 92% of this comes from hydroelectric facilities) and 13% nuclear.
  • By country (TWh/year):
    • #1  USA  4,369 
    • #2  China  3,457
    • #3  Japan  1,082 
    • #4  Russia  1,040
    • #5  India  830
    • #6  Canada  651
    • #7  Germany  637
    • #8  France  575
    • #9  Brazil  463
    • 10  South Korea  446
  • Relative greenhouse gas emittance (g CO2/kWe):
    • coal  1001
    • natural gas  469
    • geothermal  46
    • solar PV  45
    • biomass  18
    • nuclear  16
    • windpower  12
Let me close with what I think is the ultimate energy storage option:  UNDERWATER COMPRESSED AIR ENERGY STORAGE.  I've long written about the potential of grazing ocean plantships located (and steered) in gyres between the Hawaiian islands, where the wind regimes are at maxima, with a minimum of turbulence (terrestrial wind farms are buffeted by turbulent winds, which cause huge problems with gears and materials) and underwater bladder storage serving as the difference maker.  Read the entire article, but Underwater Compressed Air Energy Storage, a company responsible for this energy bag to the left above, reported:
  • 40% of the world population live within 150 kilometers of a coastline
  • At 400-700 meters, underwater pressure remains almost constant, and each cubic meter of air storage delivers about three times as much energy storage...whatever this means (my comment).
  • If you pump air into a land-based cavern, the pressure will drop with usage--not so for the ocean.
  • Initial applications will be site-specific 2-5 MW commercial opportunities.
  • When you retrieve the compressed air, there is a cooling effect that for mega applications can be linked with ocean thermal energy conversion systems (I made this up, but it makes some sense).
There's more, but you can click on THIS to read the whole article.

THE DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE CLOSED AT A RECORD HIGH TODAY, UP 25 TO 17,157.  This was a surprise because the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated that the near-zero interest rates will begin to rise in 2015.  However, this close showed a drop from a daily high of 17,221 because of uncertainty about the timing of this rate increase..

There is a tropical depression located east of the  Philippines, but which will turn north, become at least a Category 2 typhoon, and roll right over Okinawa then through Japan:

Tropical Storm Polo at 60 MPH will soon become a hurricane, but appears to be weaker than Hurricane  Odile, and will keep just west of Baha as currently projected:


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