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Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE STATE OF ENERGY STORAGE

Today, I will review the current state of energy storage.  Tomorrow, or soon thereafter, I'll focus on the role of Elon Musk and Tesla, his battery car company, plus potential competitors.

First, then, why store energy?  Our sun only shines a few hours per day.  Winds come and go.  Utility grid stability can be threatened by too many intermittent power sources.  More and more, as locales increase solar photovoltaic installations and wind power, natural gas is being utilized to smooth out the power curve.  But natural gas is mostly methane, which not only is just another fossil fuel, but is 25 to 72 times worse, molecule per molecule, than carbon dioxide in causing global warming.

What about, then, using biomass?  From my 28 December 2012 posting:

Starting with some positives:

  -  there are nearly one million pounds of biomass growing for each human being

  -  25,000 EJ = energy stored in terrestrial biomass (plus there is aquatic biomass)

  -  3,000 EJ/year = rate of additional energy storage/year by land biomass

  -  400 EJ/year = TOTAL consumption of ALL forms of energy

Of course, worldwide, biomass is already being used to generate electricity, and, in fact, maybe 100 times more than solar and wind combined.  The following spaghetti graph is intimidating (and if you can't read it, click on it), but it shows how minuscule solar/wind is today, and the fact that a lot more energy goes to NON-electrical production needs.  


Thus, in this discussion, keep in mind that biomass can play a role, but, someday, conversion into liquid fuel could well become a higher priority than energy storage.

So what are some other energy storage options?
I hesitate showing this (you can click on any of them to learn details), but to totally summarize, from Wikipedia:


Three years ago I reported on Danielle Fong, then at the age 23, who still leads a compressed air company.  Her company remains in development, headquartered in Berkeley.  Hmm...I should have visited her when I went to Chez Panisse last week.  

Anyway, energy storage remains formative, but needs to grow, and quickly, for, as tiny as solar and wind sources are today, utilities are already balking about expanding renewable energy into their grid.  

From Elon Musk himself:

Existing batteries “suck,” Musk said Thursday at the rollout of his equipment for homes, businesses and utilities. “They’re expensive, they’re unreliable.”

With that rather depressing statement, let me nevertheless spend a whole posting on how important batteries can be towards catalyzing the expansion of renewable energy...tomorrow, or soon, for I'm still on Kenji's Golf Safari and return to Honolulu tomorrow, where 15 Craigside will have a dinner outing to Sarento's.

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Noul has now quickly become a Category 2 Typhoon at 105 MPH, with gusts to 125 MPH, and will further strengthen.  



The projected track of Noul's eye makes landfall in Northern Philippines well north of Manila, kind of makes a U-turn, then moves towards the East side of Taiwan:



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