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Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the store-it-up dept.

Power 245

ashshy writes Unlike the obvious battery needs for smartphones or electric cars, many consumers are unaware of the exploding need for enormous battery banks as modern power grids are bringing a whole new set of requirements. From the article: "'Our electricity grid was built a certain way, and that way is to have on-demand production,' Argonne National Laboratory battery researcher Jeff Chamberlain explained. 'So as I flip my light switch on at home, there's some little knob somewhere that turns the power up. There is no buffer. It's a very interesting production cycle compared to other consumer goods. It was built a certain way, and the grid is currently changing in two different ways. One is, first our demand is increasing. But another is, around the world human beings are trying to get off fossil fuels and that means using solar and wind. Well, we cannot turn up the sun or wind, or turn down the sun or wind according to our energy needs. So the more those technologies penetrate the grid, the more you need energy storage. You need a buffer. And that is a very difficult challenge that's similar to transportation because it's cost-driven,' Chamberlain said. 'But it's also different from transportation because we're not limited by volume or mass like we are in vehicles. We're working on energy storage systems that are stationary.'"

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Finally! (4, Insightful)

war4peace (1628283) | about 3 months ago | (#47802025)

Some good use for Graphene! ...in theory.

You could just use Salt... (3, Interesting)

xQx (5744) | about 3 months ago | (#47803135)

https://www.ted.com/talks/dona... [ted.com]

Basically the same technology used in aluminum smelter, with liquid salt for the battery...

Does anyone know if this ever got off the ground?

Re:You could just use Salt... (2)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 3 months ago | (#47803553)

Does anyone know if this ever got off the ground?

To quote the wikipedia page on molten salt batteries [wikipedia.org]

Magnesium–antimony cells

In 2009, Donald Sadoway and his team proposed a very low cost molten salt battery originally[20] based on magnesium and antimony separated by a salt[21] that could be potentially used in Grid energy storage systems.[22] Research on this concept is being funded by ARPA-E,[23] Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and Total S.A.[24] Experimental data showed 69% storage efficiency, it had good storage capacity (over 1000mAh/cm2) and relatively low leakage (

Pumped storage and transport (3, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 3 months ago | (#47803603)

I like pumped storage:

o Lovely water recreation areas - swimmable, boatable, fishable
o So while it costs land, it returns most of that land for public use
o Fish and other aquacritter habitat
o excellent control of recovery rate
o doesn't significantly wear out (and if you were to make it underground, won't even evaporate... expensive, but...)
o easy maintenance
o highly scenic
o No red-hot nothing, no batteries, works fine unless it freezes (so in higher latitudes... not good.) ...there's lots of pumped storage already [wikipedia.org] (~104 GW). More. More! MOAR!

I *also* like this idea for pumped transport:

Imagine a C shape that is almost closed -- just a few feet short of meeting at the ends. It's an almost circular canal. From one end of the C, you pump water into the other end of the C (and add any replacement volume required by evaporation.) This creates a current that operates the entire length of the C. Now, put two of these next to each other. Pump the second one in the opposite direction. Put cranes (or locks) at the ends, so that transport platforms can be moved from one direction to the other. Cost? Initially, Pumps, cranes, canal, transport platforms. In operation: pump energy (solar, please) and evaporation refill. Unless you roof it. :) Length? very, very amazingly long, and if roofed, even longer.

Air pressure. Gravity. Water. Make it work for us. :)

Nickel-Iron Battery -- could we make it better? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 3 months ago | (#47803521)

Re:Nickel-Iron Battery -- could we make it better? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 3 months ago | (#47803537)

See also: https://ironedison.com/ [ironedison.com]

Re:Nickel-Iron Battery -- could we make it better? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 3 months ago | (#47803579)

And: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/... [cleantechnica.com]
"Nickel-Iron (Ni-Fe) batteries -- developed over a century ago by Thomas Edison -- are gradually replacing lead-acid batteries at a number of applications, especially for solar PV and renewable energy power systems. Unlike lead-acid batteries, they are highly reliable, featuring a longer service life and pollution-free operation.
    "The Nickel-Iron technology is great, because it's like rediscovering this great invention," adds Williams. "The fact that Thomas Edison developed this technology makes the history even more exciting."
    Modern Ni-Fe batteries are primarily used for stationary applications and usually last longer than their lead-acid counterparts. Williams says he expects at least 20+ years from his batteries, adding that some batteries over 50 years of age are still working well. He cites a "perfectly reversible polish / tarnish reaction" as a principle reason for top performance. As for pricing and performance comparisons, the Ni-Fe battery is more expensive than a lead-acid battery, yet it delivers three times more discharge, in addition to lasting far longer, says Williams."

I wonder what the problem is with making these batteries a lot cheaper?

Compressed air storage (like in salt mines) is also an interesting idea:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

Build more nukes! (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 months ago | (#47802031)

Build more nukes!

Re:Build more nukes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802399)

Nukes have ramp times on order of 2-3 days. We're talking about systems that can respond in 30 seconds.

Re:Build more nukes! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802475)

"Nukes have ramp times on order of 2-3 days...."

Nonsense! You couldn't run nuclear ships if that were true! You can design nuclear reactors to have any ramp time you like.

Current Grid-connected nuclear power stations are designed to provide base load, where ramp time is irrelevant. Bu they don't have to be...

Re:Build more nukes! (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 months ago | (#47802581)

Nuclear ships have a very simple way around this: They run at full power most of the time, and dump the excess energy when not needed to run the engines. It's horribly inefficient, but even used with such inefficiency nuclear reactors still pack an energy density that puts any diesel engine to shame.

Remember what happened after the Fukushima reactor's unplanned shutdown: Emergency pumps had to be rushed in to keep cooling water running through the core. It's called decay heat: Even if you shove all the control rods in full, it still takes a long time to stop emiting heat. Ramping up is easier, but still not thirty seconds.

Re:Build more nukes! (5, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#47802749)

Nuclear ships have a very simple way around this: They run at full power most of the time, and dump the excess energy when not needed to run the engines.

Umm, no.

Former Naval Nuke guy here...we didn't run the plant at full power most of the time. We seldom ran it at half power.

Yeah, the nuke plant on a sub or surface ship is engineered differently than a power reactor ashore. Among other things, the fraction of the maximum output dedicated to making electricity is generally quite small, since we need steam more than we need electricity.

Even so, we didn't operate near max electrical output all that often either, much less maximum steam output.

Load following Nuclear Plants (3, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47803255)

Because I try not to respond to ACs, I'll stick it in here.

As you pointed out, Nuclear ships DO NOT run their plants at 'full power all the time'.

But even HUGE nuclear plants can be built to be capable of 'load following', [wikipedia.org] going from 100% down to 50% and below [oecd-nea.org] on a consistent basis. France [world-nuclear.org] has a number of them.

Part of the problem with using reactors for load-following is that all the reactors in the USA are very old Gen-II designs, you need to be at least 'newer' Gen-II to do a lot of load following, and we don't have enough nuclear for them to NEED to load-follow, leaving them as the cheapest margin for on-demand power.

If we went from our current mix of about 20% nuclear, 40% coal, to a carbon-neutral mix of 40% nuclear, 20% solar, 20% wind, and 20% 'other, including hydro', you'd have most of your peaking power in 'other', but nuclear power would still have to adjust for peaking.

Re:Load following Nuclear Plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803719)

There's another reason.. A tremendous portion of the nuclear cost for power is capital costs. If you don't run at a very high duty cycle, those capital costs are spread over fewer kilowatt-hours sold.

That and the huge time constants makes load following difficult, like you mentioned.

Re:Build more nukes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803117)

A small reactor on a ship can be ramped quite quickly, but a large multi gigawatt land based reactor takes a lot of time in orde to minimize thermal stresses.

Re:Build more nukes! (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 3 months ago | (#47803693)

A small reactor on a ship can be ramped quite quickly, but a large multi gigawatt land based reactor takes a lot of time in orde to minimize thermal stresses.

Who says we have to build huge?

Re:Build more nukes! (1)

davydagger (2566757) | about 3 months ago | (#47803731)

which is why the program to turn seawater into fuel, while ineffecient on land, is going to be awesome on nuclear powered boats.

The energy would have been lost anyway. Now you reduce the supply line.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/13/newser-navy-seawater-fuel/7668665/

all that unused energy.

plain old telephone used battery backup (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802033)

By golly, shit-for-brains hipster scum don't remember what a telephone is, do you?

Re:plain old telephone used battery backup (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47803027)

It looked like this [yimg.com] , right?

flywheel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802037)

something about the size of china.

Re:flywheel (4, Informative)

beelsebob (529313) | about 3 months ago | (#47802213)

There's a much easier solution, already in operation - pumped hydro power plants. They're hydro electric power stations, but when there's a surplus of supply, they pump water up into their reservoir. When peaks of power production are needed, they generate. They can be turned on at a moments notice (all it takes is opening a sluice, and dropping the water), and can store vast amounts of energy.

Re:flywheel (1)

Rob Bos (3399) | about 3 months ago | (#47802349)

It's a partial solution. Hydro power is only really available in certain areas, and transmission losses kill some of the gains. BC makes a good amount of money this way. North America's hydro capacity is probably as large as it will ever be, because it's extremely destructive of wildlife habitat and of arable land.

Re:flywheel (1)

Noryungi (70322) | about 3 months ago | (#47802385)

Research the S.T.E.P. options. Hydro power storage can be scaled, too. Other possbilities are molten salt and compressed air storage for instance.

Yes, there are losses to all these systems, but the ability to store 50% to 90% of electricity produced through renewables makes them well worth considering.

Re:flywheel (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47802765)

It's a partial solution. Hydro power is only really available in certain areas, and transmission losses kill some of the gains. BC makes a good amount of money this way. North America's hydro capacity is probably as large as it will ever be, because it's extremely destructive of wildlife habitat and of arable land.

There is a variation on this which has huge potential and can be done on a large scale. It requires large construction efforts, but what hydro-power options don't?

Construct a huge vertical cylinder in the ocean. During periods of surplus, pump water OUT of the cylinder. During peak periods, let water back in (and of course turn turbines with it).

I read about this not long ago, and I think (I am not certain) someone is building one right now, or has applied to build one.

and transmission losses kill some of the gains

This is true of any storage solution. It is hardly unique to pumped storage.

Re:flywheel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802369)

Hydro is great...unless you live somewhere flat or dry. In those areas, we need other options.

Re:flywheel (4, Interesting)

nojayuk (567177) | about 3 months ago | (#47802373)

Pumped storage costs about $200 million per GWh of electricity stored to build. It needs specific geography, high and low reservoirs close to each other to reduce losses pumping water uphill over long distances. It also needs a guaranteed supply of water, lots of it and the sunny parts of the US where large amounts of solar power are being generated are distinctly lacking in water to the point of being either deserts or often in drought conditions during the summer. Pumped storage is also lossy, typically about 65% efficient round-trip.

Mass battery technology costs about ten times as much as pumped storage ($2 million per MWh for sodium/sulfur batteries from NGK), flywheels are a bit less but still a lot more than pumped storage. Cheaper methods of energy storage like compressed air tend to be very lossy.

Grid gas, coal and nuclear generators don't need storage as they either run flat out to meet the instantaneous demand and they can throttle back in quieter times. At the moment intermittent wind and solar generators use the grid as free storage but the more intermittent power that is added to the generating mix the more that storage will be needed to deal with peak inputs and debits. Getting wind and solar farm operators to pay for this extra storage probably isn't going to happen, sadly.

Storage isn't valuable right now (5, Informative)

stomv (80392) | about 3 months ago | (#47802925)

Pumped storage ... needs specific geography, high and low reservoirs close to each other to reduce losses pumping water uphill over long distances. It also needs a guaranteed supply of water, lots of it and the sunny parts of the US where large amounts of solar power are being generated are distinctly lacking in water

One only needs a low reservoir (see the Taum Sauk). Furthermore, while pumped storage certainly isn't a good idea in the Southwest, it is ideal in the Great Lakes area, where there's tons of wind resources (see: Iowa, Minnesota, etc.). And, as it turns out, there is a (functionally) infinite supply of water in Lake Michigan and a functionally infinite amount of land with delta h on the West Coast of Michigan, which has hills immediately adjacent to the Lake due to thousands of years of wind blowing from Wisconsin to Michigan. A storage plant like this already exists, just south of Ludington MI. We could easily build 100 GW worth of pumped storage there, equal to the capacity of all nuclear power in the US.

Pumped storage is also lossy, typically about 65% efficient round-trip.

My experience is that the average is closer to 75%, and it can be as high as 90% with modern, well maintained pumped storage. Pumped storage also has extremely fast ramping capabilities, making it very useful for the minute-by-minute operation of the grid. Of course pumped storage, like all major power plants, requires transmission investment to be fully useful.

Grid gas, coal and nuclear generators don't need storage as they either run flat out to meet the instantaneous demand and they can throttle back in quieter times.

Nuclear, coal, and gas steam plants have very real operational limitations. Nuclear is almost never ramped back to follow load; it's cheaper in the long run to pay negative locational marginal prices (LMPs) if need be. Coal and gas steam can only ramp a few MW per minute, and have minimum outputs whereby they can't maintain power any lower -- and that's often at about 50% of capacity. At that point, any lower output requires a shut down, and then a 12-30 hour cool down whereby the unit can't be restarted. Nuclear, coal, and gas steam are extremely inflexible generators relative to hydro, gas/oil CT, and even gas CC.

At the moment intermittent wind and solar generators use the grid as free storage but the more intermittent power that is added to the generating mix the more that storage will be needed to deal with peak inputs and debits.

Free storage? Wind and solar fueled generators, like all generators, sell the energy instantaneously. Your metaphor makes no sense. All operating power plants sell in real-time. Same price for the same power. Eventually, substantially more storage will have economic value, but on the mainland US grid, not for a long time. California is poised to have 33% renewables by 2020, and they don't need additional storage. (There's an order for ~1.5 GW of storage to be procured, but it's not needed -- it's CA's way of pushing progress forward, seeing that eventually storage will be a less expensive resource (LCOE) than CTs.) Most other parts of the mainland won't have exceeded 10% non-dispatchable renewables by then.

Getting wind and solar farm operators to pay for this extra storage probably isn't going to happen, sadly.

Why should they? In most of tUSA, there's a day ahead and a real time market. Power has a price (LMP). Generators can sell into that market or not. When supply exceeds demand, the LMP goes negative, and all generators who are operating are equally responsible for the problem; all generators who are operating at those times pay the same financial penalty. That includes operating wind and solar and the nuclear and gas and coal that can't turn down.

In the mean time, the number of MWh that are curtailed is a tiny, tiny fraction of the total MWh consumed in America. Storage simply isn't very valuable on the American grid right now because we don't have very much in the way of inflexible generation -- about 20% of the GWh of nuclear, and under 10% of inflexible renewables. It will be many years (more than a decade) before the percent of electricity we have to "throw away" due to inflexibility exceeds 2%, and to the extent that coal plants continue to retire and load continues to grow, that year will be pushed farther and farther into the future.

Storage is interesting tech, but it's simply not necessary for the American grid to operate reliably or economically anytime soon.

Re:Storage isn't valuable right now (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47803465)

First, it'd be nice if you included a link to the Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Power Station [wikipedia.org] , rather than just reference it. Heck, with a dam breakage in 2005 that took it out of operation until 2010, it seems that catastrophic failure is still a possible problem. The 2005 failure luckily didn't kill anybody, but it did sweep one home aside and injure 5.

Hopefully modern engineering combined with using 'rollar compacted concrete', which is a modern version of 'Roman Concrete' for those of you out there that like that, sharing many of the traditional benefits of lower erosion.

Second, Reading about it, while it's not actually located on the Taum Sauk mountain, it is built on top of a mountain, thus 'specific geography' is still required, even if like most things we can do without if we're willing to spend the money an resources on major earth moving projects.

Third, a citation on 90% would be appreciated, what I found with the Taum Sauk is that it was upgraded to 71% in 2005 [rollanet.org] , which would put as an 'under performing' station even in 2005. Wiki [wikipedia.org] lists 70-80%, with the highest reported being 87%. Which makes sense, breaking 90% efficiency in either pumping or generation is difficult. 2 90% efficient steps(pump up and generate down) and a little bit of water loss from the reservoir adds up to 80% efficient.

Free storage: What he was more talking about is that at lower levels it's hard to distinguish demand reduced by said renewables and regular power demand swings, IE well within the peaking capabilities of regular power. Due to most home use renewables being on a 'net metering' plan, the end result is that they sell power during the day when electricity is expensive and buy some power at night when it's cheap, so people tend to refer to it as banking/storing it.

California is poised to have 33% renewables by 2020, and they don't need additional storage. (There's an order for ~1.5 GW of storage to be procured, but it's not needed -- it's CA's way of pushing progress forward, seeing that eventually storage will be a less expensive resource (LCOE) than CTs.)

Citation on this?

As for 'why' they should pay for the storage, it's because they're seen as introducing the problem. Nuclear and coal at least operate all the time, and nobody is building another baseload plant that would exceed the demand limit. Other power generating sources are at least on demand and/or peak-following. It's wind and to a lesser extent solar(which at least produces power during the day when demand is much higher) that isn't nice enough to be 'on demand' yet expensive enough that they really need to sell every joule they produce in order to break even.

Personally, I think that used EV batteries might be a valuable source of grid storage - roughly 90% efficiency, and should be cheap to obtain.

Re:flywheel (0, Flamebait)

Tim485 (3708711) | about 3 months ago | (#47802387)

If 10% of this effort were directed towards THIS project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] we would already have mass-produced renewable energy within 1 year for major cities. The ONLY reason we need a revamped power grid is that certain influential interests want the necessity of a sprawling power grid. We have had the refined technology available for decades that would eliminate the need to use the power grid for power consumption, and relegate it to perhaps, large industry/manufacturing, or even just leave it up for communication (yes, that does sound silly.) This technology is sufficient even for mobile transport (buses, cars, etc.) and does not require recharging, and only has about the same maintenance requirement of large motors today.

Re:flywheel (2)

Mr.CRC (2330444) | about 3 months ago | (#47802689)

It's the fact that about half or more of the population is so scientifically illiterate that they actually believe stuff like this, that is leading me, at my age, to begin to just not care anymore. I'm just going to goof off for the few years I might have left on this world.

Look, if these f*cking self-powered generators are real, and are so f*cking simple to build that some guy can build one in his garage (which must be true, since there are literally 1000s of these videos out there) then why the f*ck aren't they making them and selling them? Or even disconnecting their own houses from the grid--without some hidden generator/fuel source going on behind the fraudulent scenes)?

WHAT is stopping these things from being sold at every hardware store and all over Amazon, with 5 star reviews saying "It powers my whole home, I cancelled my utility connection, and when there was a minor break down, the manufacturer sent the repair guy a few hours after I called and had me back up in no time! Love it! Would buy again."

Lemme guess, some "conspiracy" by "big oil" or some other claptrap, right?

The answer of course is that these self-powered generators are bullshit, and the people who believe they work idiots, and the people who believe they made one that works scarier still, with most of them knowing full well that it is bullshit, but they are just sociopathic criminals who hope to defraud others, knowing that most people are stupid enough to believe in these generators, along with other fairy tails, so perhaps there should even be a special exemption in the law that prevents charging them for defrauding people who seriously just plain deserve it.

Re:flywheel (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47802681)

Yeah, but everyone on /. from the US claims that all options for those plants (real estate) are used up ;)

Re:flywheel (1)

fgouget (925644) | about 3 months ago | (#47802819)

There's a much easier solution, already in operation - pumped hydro power plants.

Pumped hydro works but just cannot be scaled to provide sufficient storage [ucsd.edu] . Hence other solutions are needed. Actually it's likely nothing short of a combination of many approaches will be enough.

Re:flywheel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803113)

There's also heat storage - converting excess power into heat, in liquid sodium for example, which is used to generate power when demand increases again.

Re:flywheel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802817)

Batteries not inclu--- err needed (3, Interesting)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47802053)

Storage could be nice and also substitute for transmission but it may not be as large a market as they anticipate: http://www.engineering.com/Ele... [engineering.com]

Re:Batteries not inclu--- err needed (4, Informative)

haruchai (17472) | about 3 months ago | (#47802157)

Huge amounts of grid storage are probably not required in the short term but having some cheap storage to handle short-term fluctuations will make the grid operators jobs easier and will keep down the peak costs.

Now if something like Isentropic's Pumped Heat Energy Storage pans out and is cheaper than batteries, that would be a radical shift in the electricity market.
Where could you not find a place to build 2 large-ish tanks filled with gravel & argon?
Every large wind farm, power plant or community could build its own local energy storage and there's not a huge upkeep on a system based on pebbles & inert gas.

http://www.isentropic.co.uk/ [isentropic.co.uk]

Re:Batteries not inclu--- err needed (3, Informative)

haruchai (17472) | about 3 months ago | (#47802211)

Here's a high-level explanation of how the PHES system works - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Batteries not inclu--- err needed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802161)

Evolution is not a theory,it's a scientific FACT,you fool.

Re:Batteries not inclu--- err needed (2)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 3 months ago | (#47802311)

Evolution is not a theory,it's a scientific FACT,you fool.

All scientific facts are, in fact, theories. Scientific facts have been over turned time and time again, and this will continue to happen because that's how science works...
And in the end we may actually find absolute truth to be a non-binary thing.
Then again that may just be a wild assed theory...

Re:Batteries not inclu--- err needed (3, Informative)

Mr.CRC (2330444) | about 3 months ago | (#47803083)

A common misconception: "Scientific facts have been over turned time and time again."

No scientific facts have ever been overturned, because there are no scientific facts. You are only partially correct about theories.

There are scientific laws, theories, and hypotheses. Scientific laws, which were once theories, have been supported by so many years of consistent observational data that the confidence bounds on their correctness are so tight that it is essentially impossible that they will ever be falsified.

As such, NO scientific laws have ever been overturned. Rather, for ex. Newton's laws of motion, were REFINED by quantum mechanics and relativity so that the laws continue to work correctly at extremes of observability that weren't available to Newton. But over the domain in which Newton's laws were formulated, they are still valid to within any desired tolerance. So they are just as correct today as when Newton expressed them, and they have been that way since the beginning of time and will remain so until the universe is over. The same is true of Maxwell's equations, the gas laws, the laws of thermodynamics, and every other law that I can't recall.

Evolution is a theory, which means that it doesn't have the confidence levels of a law, but is supported by a huge wealth of consistent observations and basically no falsifying ones. That means that even if inconsistencies are observed, they will be subtle and change only our understanding of the mechanisms of evolution, but not the overall basic thesis. It is remotely possible that some evidence will be found that will completely overturn evolution, but it is so remote that you are more likely to die by getting struck by lightning twice on the day a cure for cancer is announced, and after you just won the lottery.

Also importantly, there are basically no competing theories to evolution that are supported by even a shred of *reproducible,* non-circularly speculative, evidence. No, the writings in some book are not evidence, because there is no basis to establish that your favorite novel which states "the contents of this novel are the truth" is any more truthful than any other supposedly self-proving novel written by anybody at all.

Global warming, or whatever it's called these days, and many of the pronouncements of the medical science establishment, such as that you should eat lots of carbs and low fat in order to reduce the likelyhood of getting heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, are hypotheses that are to be seriously questioned. In the latter case, it's looking like the evidence is already becoming clear that it is just plain wrong, and killing people to boot. But because of entrenched interests, there will be resistance to admitting fault and correcting the errors for as long as possible.

These should serve as stern warnings to those who proclaim that the "science is established" for their favorite, political and social identity-reinforcing scientifico-ideologies, that while the *scientific method* is indeed infallible, and is no doubt (along with mathematics) one of the crown jewels of human intellectual accomplishment, the implementation of that method by humans is in no way perfect. Even peer-reviewed research is highly fallible.

Even in the case where the science may indeed be right, such as with global warming which I think is most likely being accelerated by humans and which will probably have undesirable consequences (of highly uncertain magnitude) unless we do something different, it is important not to confuse the scientific realities with the practical realities.

Just because you may be technically correct, it is still possible that there is no way to fix it because of factors which are not amenable to technological control and optimization. For ex., anyone with a brain can predict that the most likely outcome of any of the existing proposed political solutions to global warming are likely to both not solve the problem, and make matters generally worse for the human condition due to furthering the evolution of the global technocratic totalitarian governance model. If the only way to get your way is a large scale war and the use of force at every level of society, is that really a better world to live in than one in which we just keep burning the carbon until the coastal cities are innundated? I'm personally more terrified of political disasters than slow motion natural ones, even if initiated by man.

Likewise with nuclear fission power, the problems are not technical. It is perfectly possible within the capabilities of the engineering disciplines to implement nuclear fission power with closed/breeding fuel cycles so as to power our civilization relatively safely for the next few eons.

But it isn't practically possible to solve the human problems that will make such an engineering goal impossible to realize. When you factor this into the analysis (along with a brief view at any chart showing the capital costs of solar PV vs. coal power generation vs. time), you will reach the conclusion that the costs of "simple" technology (which nuclear fission with a closed fuel cycle is about as far away from as you can get, even farther perhaps than D-T fusion) are preferrable because their practicality is so much greater.

There is a far better chance of being able to succeed, as a society, at sustainably powering ourselves for ex. by covering most of our rooftops and 2000-3000 square kilometers of south western USA with solar PV, distributing the power with HVDC, and storing 1/3 of it overnight in distributed batteries, flywheels, waterbeds, and other thingamabobs, than through a similarly large in scale, but incredibly more complex (due to the safety and security issues involved) implementation of full-scale closed-cycle nuclear fission to completely replace our fossil energy sources.

Re:Batteries not inclu--- err needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802907)

I think it was in Alaska where they already have huge rows of lead acid batteries on standby for another blackout at the local level.

Batteries - Not just for generation imbalance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803371)

Everything that needs to be known about the concept of electrical storage has been known for a LONG time. The Hawkens Electrical Guide published in 1914 has a good easy to understand explanation of how to float a battery on a DC power distribution system.
CHAPTER XLV STORAGE BATTERY SYSTEMS [hawkinsonline.org] .
The reason the battery system described in Hawkins is not used for utility power except in rare cases is economics.

The Golden Valley Electric Association would not have considered such a large backup battery unless it was the economic solution for a power supply problem. As stated in the link at temperatures of -50F there are unique considerations needed to stabilize the grid.
Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) - Golden Valley Electric Association Fairbanks Alaska 40 MW for 7 minutes [abb.com] . This system is a combination of a static var Static VAR compensator, that can perform as a 4 quadrant inverter. This arrangement is effective for solving many power system stability problems, not just a generation imbalance.
Technical Description from Wind Power [windpowerengineering.com]

As battery technology improves there will be economic solutions for far less extreme situations.

We have day and night rates (2)

RichMan (8097) | about 3 months ago | (#47802057)

Aside from the big supply end solutions there are also demand end solution opportunitues.
Because we have day and night consumer rates there is a market oppotunity for an appropriatly priced home storage unit able to shift night power to day power.

Re:We have day and night rates (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47802567)

Its all about lifetime cost, and there really isn't a battery technology with an acceptable lifetime cost yet, nor any time soon. If low cost, high energy density, and long lasting ever is achieved, we'll see quite a huge market for it.

Never knew existed? (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#47802059)

I've been hearing about batteries being needed for sun and wind is as long as I've been hearing about sun and wind...

Re:Never knew existed? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 months ago | (#47803303)

I've been hearing about batteries being needed for sun and wind is as long as I've been hearing about sun and wind...

Exactly. It's more like "yet another market that needs a cheap solution"

Yes, we know that. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#47802079)

Battery storage for bulk power has been talked up for years. Mostly by the wind industry. With solar power, you get peak power and peak air conditioning load around the same time. Wind varies about 4:1 over 24 hours, even when averaged across big areas (California or the eastern seaboard). So the wind guys desperately need to store power generated at 4AM, when it's nearly worthless, so they can resell at 2PM. When the wind farm companies start installing batteries at their own expense, this will be a real technology.

With the US glut of natural gas, this isn't needed right now. Natural gas peaking plants aren't all that expensive to build, and make money even if they only run for maybe 6 hours a day. That covers most peak needs.

There are other ways to store energy. Some of the dams of the California Water Project have reversible turbines, which can run either as pumps or generators. They pump water uphill at night, when power is cheap, and let it down during the afternoon to generate power. Since the dams and pumps are needed for water handling anyway, this adds little cost.

Re:Yes, we know that. (3)

Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) | about 3 months ago | (#47802233)

Battery storage for bulk power has been talked up for years. Mostly by the wind industry. With solar power, you get peak power and peak air conditioning load around the same time.

I agree that has been historically true, but that's changing fast. Once Solar PV penetration gets to the point where about 5% of all the electricity is coming from solar PV, it starts to get really expensive to handle the load swings. To be clear, I mean 5% of total electrical demand for the year. That means the instantaneous peaks will be in the ballpark of 50% of grid energy coming from solar.

  Most countries are very far from this point, but Germany and Italy are there today. Both countries have dramatically slowed their adoption of solar PV, mostly because of grid integration issues. All of those issues would be solved with cheap storage.

Re:Yes, we know that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802661)

bull crap.
assume: if u use 20kWh over 24 hours and you then connect a 3 kWh solar power plant to the grid (and you get about 4 even hours of max power (for easy calculation) over a 12 hour day-time period) then the regular powerplant will only SEE YOU USING not the normal 20 kWh as before but only 8 kWh over 24 hours.
you are suggesting that if you would use 12 kWh less over a day that this would "burden" the grid?
that's utter bull crap!
also a normal working intelligent feed-in inverter will not keep pushing out electricity unlimited. they will have a maximum setting.
this means that if the grid voltage in a certain location rises above this set "safe" value then the generator will start limiting its feed-in or turn off.
the problem is NEVER too much solar-power! EVER!

the only real problem is see is that because solar power is unlimited that EFFICIENCY will take a back-seat (in the future).
expensive/limited electricity is the only driving force to improve EFFICIENCY.
obviously the stinky huge american V-8 "aircraft carriers" on wheels only worked in a world with cheap oil.
now everything is moving to 1.5 l baby-cars and hybrids .. because oil is expensive

Re: Yes, we know that. (1)

bugnuts (94678) | about 3 months ago | (#47802989)

If you and all your neighbors were producing a surplus, the substations would need to be backfeedable. Most aren't, and would either need to be upgraded, or local storage would be needed.

Inverters force energy into the grid by raising voltage. In the situation where everyone is producing and nobody consuming, the lines will become overvoltaged and the solar collectors would be shut down by the inverters. Near 0% efficiency in the primary solar hours isn't a good thing.

That's the degenerate case. It won't happen because we're smart enough to see the issues. This is exactly why we need storage and backfeedable substations. We could have 100% wind and solar adoption without issue if the storage and distribution issues are solved.

Re:Yes, we know that. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47802941)

Once Solar PV penetration gets to the point where about 5% of all electricity is coming from solar PV..

Uhm. You realize you're talking almost a (not even taking into account rising consumption) 20-fold increase right?

Currently Solar (all kinds), accounts for 0.34% of all energy consumed in the US. And that's AFTER a record-setting 41% increase in new installation.

Even if solar stays at this sort of growth rate, you're still talking nearly 10 years before it hits the levels you're talking about (again, NOT taking into account increases in consumption).

And, honestly, people have been trying to eak out more capacity, longevity and efficiency out of batteries for the last half century or more.

Sure, there are some very promising technologies that are showing big gains in these three areas IN THE LAB. But getting that to a dependable, stable production level is the kind of thing that can consume dozens or hundreds of (parallel) lifetimes of work.

I'm not saying "don't try".

I'm simply of the opinion that there are other areas where money spent NOW will pay off far more and far more rapidly.

Don't batteries just compete against gas turbines? (1)

grimJester (890090) | about 3 months ago | (#47802251)

Can't the wind farms just use gas turbines instead of batteries as long as those are cheaper? I'd assume batteries will be used if/when they become the cheapest way to handle the balancing.

Some day soon, in some areas, there will be enough solar to handle most power needs at peak insolation. When that happens, we'll have significantly cheaper grid power in the day than during the night. Then we'll see how much of the balancing water can do and if batteries can outcompete gas for the rest.

Re:Don't batteries just compete against gas turbin (1)

wxjones (721556) | about 3 months ago | (#47803267)

Why not use excess wind power to produce synthetic fuel (essentially gasoline or diesel) from natural gas?

Re:Don't batteries just compete against gas turbin (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47803565)

Can't the wind farms just use gas turbines instead of batteries as long as those are cheaper? I'd assume batteries will be used if/when they become the cheapest way to handle the balancing.

1. Gas turbine designs for wind power exist, but are currently not 'mainstream', ergo more expensive and less efficient per watt produced. You're looking at a 10-15% drop in joules produced per year* for a given turbine size.

2. In order for them to have an effective amount of 'battery' you need some sort of air storage facility. There are underground formations that are ideal for this, but those are often used to store other things and thus, selection is limited. Just building a giant pressure vessel is possible, but currently too expensive.

As for your vision of the future, I can see it happening in Hawaii 'fairly quickly'. Many of their substations have already passed 'Minimum daily load' for solar capacity, which is the point at which you have to start accounting for power actually flowing FROM substations(IE neighborhoods) to the rest of the grid.

As a note, I really like the idea of electric cars. When I did the math using all averages, I figured out that the average family would use about 50% more electricity if they switched completely from fossil fueled vehicles to electric ones. Everybody's actual result would vary, of course. Unless you happen to own 2.2 cars in your house of 2 adults with 2.5 children and drive precisely 15k miles per car every year. ;)

But anyways, in a 'Solar wins bigtime!' scenario I'd actually see daytime power being cheaper than nighttime, and if you have a parallel of EVs win as well, that means that charging during the day at work would be the 'in' thing. At which point, if you start replacing EV batteries that reach 70% of original capacity in order to maintain range & efficiency, you have a bunch of 70% batteries available for relatively cheap. Delay recycling them for about a decade, put them to use providing grid storage. Given that 1 Model S battery at 50%** provides the average family with about 1 days storage, it should be plenty given that the average family has 2.2 cars.

*I use this metric because you're really looking at average power produced, which will vary widely at any given period of time.
**To account for even more aging!

More complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802327)

The problem is more complex. The huge, immediate problem is phase regulation, not selling power at night. Right now, when a cloud rolls across a PV field, the output drops very fast. The real use of the storage is to provide stability on the order of half a second to 10 seconds, which the peaker plants can't do.

Re:Yes, we know that. (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 3 months ago | (#47802503)

Gas peakers use jet engines for quick starts, the electricity generated cost $0.19 per kWh, quite expensive.

With all of the new electric cars hitting the market lithium-ion batteries have finally dropped in cost Tesla + Panasonic are currently building a mega-factory to build cheap Li-ion batteries, cost is expected to drop below $100 per kwh of storage capacity.

I don't see why compressed air storage couldn't be cheap with sufficient investment. Geothermal can also be used for peak demand, it's another hugely under-used and under-invested in resource.

Electrical energy storage and its place in a low carbon future. [youtube.com]

How Tesla's battery 'Gigafactory' could change everything ... [venturebeat.com]

Re:Yes, we know that. (2)

calidoscope (312571) | about 3 months ago | (#47802875)

With solar power, you get peak power and peak air conditioning load around the same time.

Not quite. Peak demand in California is between 6 to 7PM, peak solar production is approximately 12 noon. Peak load does not drop signficantly until well after sunset.

Re:Yes, we know that. (1)

Mr_Wisenheimer (3534031) | about 3 months ago | (#47803459)

According to PG&E, that is not accurate.

Peak demand on the PG&E grid in the Summer is 1200-1800 PDT, the time when a westerly-facing solar array would be generating maximum electricity.

Lowest demand is between 2130 and 0830, when there would be little or no solar generation.

If you give bonus incentives to line up solar arrays on the Western roof or at a slightly westerly angle, peak demand in the Summer in California would line up almost perfectly with peak generation.

During the winter, the demand shifts towards peaking in the evening (due to the increased need for lighting I would imagine) but it is so much lower than summer demand that it is not even an issue.

Tesla batteries (2)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#47802127)

I believe that Tesla has this as a target market. A recent article about a Tesla factory tour mentioned that they were in the process of assembling a 4000 kwh battery pack to be used for fixed place energy storage (the cars are 60 or 85 kwh). Tesla will have an amazing capacity to produce batteries once they build their "gigafactory" (supposedly greater capacity that all of the existing Li battery factories) and it seems that they are looking to have a business selling battery packs.

Re:Tesla batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802189)

Yep. Apparently the car stuff was just a flashy marketing front for the real objective: becoming a main supplier of electrical infrastructure. Far more potential for profit (government & utility contracts) and far less competition than in the auto market (at least for now).

Not that the cars aren't good, of course.

Re:Tesla batteries (1, Funny)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#47802467)

The car is simply a vehicle to sell batteries ;).
Actually, the car is just a big battery and a motor plus lots of software to run it all.

Re:Tesla batteries (1)

radtea (464814) | about 3 months ago | (#47803215)

Actually, the car is just a big battery and a motor plus lots of software to run it all.

I'm actually a bit surprised that no one ever talks about using grid-connected electric cars as distributed storage. It would cut everyone's range down by a bit, but as more and more pluggable electrics and hybrids are manufactured, the ability to set the last 10 or 20% charge as on-demand storage seems like it might be viable.

It would require some pretty smart grid tech, but we are working on that anyway.

The problem with load balancing is real, though. In Alberta, they have already capped the fraction of supply from wind because basically all the wind in the province is in one fairly small area, and if it supplies more than about 3% of the total they have a lot of issues when the wind drops.

Re:Tesla batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803313)

I'm actually a bit surprised that no one ever talks about using grid-connected electric cars as distributed storage.

People in the electricity industry do talk about this. All the time. The rest of the folks don't get to hear about it until it's a reality though (circa 10-15 years in Australia).

Re:Tesla batteries (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47803585)

I'm actually a bit surprised that no one ever talks about using grid-connected electric cars as distributed storage.

Well, I talk about using their old batteries as grid storage, does that count? I've looked at using the batteries while they're still in the car, but right now I figure that they're better off using EV charging to help match demand with production, but not actually 'run things in reverse' outside of using the car as a big UPS in specific scenarios, where they're using it in an outright outage, not merely to help level the load.

My reasoning is that people are generally going to be more range conscious, they want that 10-20% to be able to drive further/elsewhere. If they really don't need that 10%, the car company is better off putting in a smaller battery and charging a touch less.

A more efficient grid would do wonders... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802141)

Use liquid nitrogen-cooled superconducting lines to move the power where it's needed. Being able to transfer electricity from one side of the US to the other with little power loss would remove most of the problem as demand shifts from East to West. Combine that with water cracking tanks to generate lots of hydrogen when the sun shines and you should be good to go.

Re:A more efficient grid would do wonders... (1)

Mr.CRC (2330444) | about 3 months ago | (#47803149)

No, HVDC is good enough. You don't need 99% efficiency at 10x the cost of 90% efficiency. It's just not worth it. Besides, I doubt the efficiency of superconductors with their associated refrigeration would be competitive with HVDC anyway, or why else is it that HVDC is the market leader for long haul transmission right now?

Simpler tech. wins. HVDC is simple, in the sense that the failure modes are rather localized and not terribly difficult to repair and/or design in some redundancy to mitigate so as to achieve very high reliability. All you need is some spare power electronic converter channels at both ends, and if you loose one you can switch to another in a few seconds, while the remaining channels handle the short term surge load.

Blow one seal on a superconducting line, and the whole thing is down for a long time before it's fixed and cooled back down, assuming that the loss of cooling didn't result in vaporizing a part of the line that you now have to go searching for and dig up.

Create fuels with electricity? (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 3 months ago | (#47802167)

If only there were an efficient way to store energy from the sun or wind and turn it into grid-power later that wasn't called a "battery." Perhaps some futuristic supercapacitor-based system or fuel-cell-with-re-formed-fuel system will meet this need. Or perhaps something we haven't even envisioned yet outside of the realm of science fiction will be the answer.

Energy storage systems that are stationary..... (1)

Proudrooster (580120) | about 3 months ago | (#47802169)

What if you were working on batteries the size of a tractor trailer that had the energy density to power large cities for a week or two. Then you wouldn't need the grid. You could just drive the battery to where it could be charged, near the wind or sun, then when it was full, move it to the place where it was needed.

I appreciate the real time complexity of the power grid, but it is time to rethink distribution. It would be cool if every house in the USA could get off the grid through local energy storage.

The sun and wind are essentially free endless energy, the challenge is buffering, but I challenge you to think outside the grid. The solution is a new battery or fuel cell.

Re:Energy storage systems that are stationary..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802477)

What if you were working on batteries the size of a tractor trailer that had the energy density to power large cities for a week or two.

NYC uses about 1 quad (quadrillion BTU) per year, or about 0.02 per week. That's 20,000 tanker trucks of gasoline.

In other words, your battery would need to be about 20,000 times more energy dense than gasoline. That's not physically possible with chemical reactions.

I smell someone needing a subsidy (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#47802171)

With pretty good reliability, any "report" like that is followed by someone direly needing taxpayer funding to provide ... whatever, ignoring that profit originally was supposed to be reinvested instead of dumped on some idiots that are already overpaid.

Vanadium Redox Battery (2)

blue_teeth (83171) | about 3 months ago | (#47802187)

The Japanese seem to be building a 60 mega watt hour battery based on this technology.

The largest battery in the world (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 3 months ago | (#47802197)

The largest battery in the world already exists in Virginia.

Bath County Pumped Storage Station [wikipedia.org]

Which can deliver 3 GIGAWATT for a metric shitload of time

Re:The largest battery in the world (1)

Mr.CRC (2330444) | about 3 months ago | (#47803175)

If my arithmetic is right, this thing can run for 14 hrs? Ie, about 52GWh of stored energy. This is awesome! We'd need about 150 of these to solve the "storage problem" wholesale for the entire US.

Flywheel spin and political spin (1, Interesting)

bugnuts (94678) | about 3 months ago | (#47802225)

I've been posting about this, and the spin some politicians are pushing is reprehensible. Recently, Arizona allowed fees [businessweek.com] to charge rooftop-based solar energy producers for the privilege of selling or donating electrons to others for use. A few incredible or insane politicians are trying to spin it as if solar adopters are leeches despite the fact that they already pay for interconnect fees and all the excess energy they use.

The alternative, of course, is to go completely off the grid using your own batteries, which will end up costing the power companies (and the politicians in their pockets) even more.

But it's not all without a shred of truth. There are definitely some costs associated with high adoption rates of solar, and the breakdown is pretty easy to explain:

  • Substations convert and distribute 220 to your neighborhood, from high tension wires from the power plants.
  • Substations convert one direction only -- from the high-voltage to the line voltage.
  • High usage is generally in the warm daytime, through early evening.
  • Solar covers most of the high usage times. Some companies charge more for energy use during these times.

This works great for the power companies when a few people on one substation have some solar power generators, because they feed it back into the grid for use by those without solar. As a result, the power company can charge the full amount for the electrons used (often at higher prices), but they don't have to transfer it long distances which inevitably carries loss due to capacitance and resistance. And they get all of this without investing in the cost of increased production at the power plants.

This also works great for the solar generators, because they reduce their use during the most expensive times, and usually push themselves into a lower usage tier due to overall reduced usage. A household that uses 500kWh might only draw 100kWh net from the grid over a month, and the first 100 are usually very cheap. Some places pay for excess electrons put onto the grid, others do not.

But here's the limitation: if all your neighbors have solar, it will exceed consumption during times of bright sunlight. In other words, the substation will send out no energy (nobody needs it), and in fact cannot backfeed it to other substations. This can cause a real issue when there's a surplus. Line voltage may even go up from 110 to around 130. This is when they need energy storage. Batteries are one method, but flywheels can work well, too. They could spin up a flywheel to consume the excess energy, then release it later as-needed (e.g. a dark cloud). In fact, they can spin up a flywheel at nighttime, too, when they have excess production, to smooth out daytime use. It's not just for independent generating stations, but this infrastructure will smooth out their plants for normal use, too.

Some unscrupulous legislators are trying to saddle solar generators with the cost of those who choose not to use solar. They claim exactly the opposite, that the solar producers are driving up costs. Really, they're making a needed upgrade more obvious and in any case, there is literally no way they are "driving up costs" by reducing their own usage. That fails the basic 5th grader test.

Localizing the storage is far more efficient than sending it hundreds of miles, plus it future proofs the obvious issues of people inevitably moving away from coal and natural gas generators. These local storage solutions or backfeeding substations should be pushed by all, even those without solar generation.

Re:Flywheel spin and political spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802439)

You're so wrong, you couldn't even write for Fox News.

Re: Flywheel spin and political spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802881)

Cowards are so cute.

Re:Flywheel spin and political spin (1)

clovis (4684) | about 3 months ago | (#47803791)

bugnuts said:

Some unscrupulous legislators are trying to saddle solar generators with the cost of those who choose not to use solar.

and then AC said:

You're so wrong, you couldn't even write for Fox News.

So, AC, are you saying that you think there are no unscrupulous legislators? Or are you saying that there are no legislators involved in saddling solar generators with other costs? Or is it that you have no understandin of what you're responding to so you just throw up a cute phrase?

Re:Flywheel spin and political spin (1)

jandjmh (66714) | about 3 months ago | (#47803589)

Substations are completely bi-directional. They are simply big 50 or 60 Hz transformers, and there is no reason they can't flow power in either directions. Only exception that comes to mind is a DC to AC conversion station (some long distance transmission is very high voltage DC.)
But those are a tiny subset.

Battery Substitute (0)

Tim485 (3708711) | about 3 months ago | (#47802253)

I bet one of these would cost less than one battery backup station, with the added BONUS it wouldn't use any fuel either. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802375)

they should move the grid to the cloud. Problem solved.

It's called "hydro power plant" and it is already (1)

Kartu (1490911) | about 3 months ago | (#47802435)

It's called "hydro power plant" and it is already used as "battery" e.g. in UK.
(they literally pump water up, in non peak hours)

Er, this is an article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802519)

... which simply explains why 'renewable power' is COMPLETELY useless.

It can't be generated when it's needed, and it can't be stored because we haven't got the technology. Don't think we haven't been trying for quite a long time to create such technology - because we have. And, so far, we've failed.

You can't run a modern civilisation on promises of a breakthrough 'in a few years'.

And if we ever DO manage to store large amounts of energy for grid use, has anyone stopped to think just how dangerous that storage facility would be?

Re:Er, this is an article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803405)

fuckwit

Gas - problem solved (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 3 months ago | (#47802521)

Here in the UK, we have a gas grid as well as an electric grid. If it was not for the commitment to the Victorian solution of massive centralisation, and vested interests, we would convert the energy to gas, send it over the grid, and generate electricity at the point of need. We have "gasometers" (gas holders) everywhere and have had since before electricity - when gas was used for lighting. Sure it would be 10-15% less efficient, but the electricity grid loses 30% of the power anyway! (and the waste heat could be used to heat water and homes - its not very hot here).

For American readers: gas means a gaseous hydrocarbon, and not a liquid one.

Re:Gas - problem solved (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47802663)

The electric grid loses about 5% - 7% of its power due to transportation.
Actually some wind plants in Germany do that. Feeding H2 created by electrolysis into the gas grid and using a gas turbine connected to the gas grid during high demand. (Well, you combine a wind farm/park with one gas turbine obviously)

Re:Gas - problem solved (1)

brambus (3457531) | about 3 months ago | (#47802949)

Feeding H2 created by electrolysis into the gas grid and using a gas turbine connected to the gas grid during high demand.

Can you quote some references for this? Because I'm kinda skeptical they're "feeding H2 ... into the gas grid". They might feed methane after combining the H2 with a source of carbon to create CH4, losing at least 50% of the input energy in the process (and another 25% after combustion in a CCGT, or more in an OCGT), plus needing a carbon sources (typically biomass, but can be CCS). But as for molecular H2 in a natural gas pipe ... no chance.

Re:Gas - problem solved (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#47802795)

For American readers: gas means a gaseous hydrocarbon, and not a liquid one.

You mean something like the "gas" we get from the gas company to power our water heaters (and frequently provide heating in the winter - it makes less than good sense to burn gas to make electricity, then use the electricity to make heat, when you could just burn the gas to make heat directly), I take it?

Yes, we use "gas" too, and not just the kind you call "petrol"....

color-blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802523)

[color-blindness]
rsly ... this is sad.
the paradigm shift is realizing that oil, coal, gas and even nu-clear ARE the battery.
they are (so far) not being recharged. with coal, gas and oil the planet will eventually recharge
them all by itself ... if nuc-lear hasnÃ(TM)t killed all bio-rechargers by then.
the funnay think is that poples look funnay at you if you suggest to "make oil" to store the excess unlimited
solar energy/electricity?

One word. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47802573)

Efficiency

Another huge battery market, Robots (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47802717)

I build robots and they all suck, they suck because they don't have enough power. I could potentially load them up with $1,000 worth of Lithium based batteries or two tons worth of lead acid batteries but for a robot that I want to follow my cat I am not sure that it is worth it. If I want to build a real robot that will go out in to the real world and do real things then I need batteries. It is one thing to have smooth rolling robots running over a smooth surface and not using much power. But to have an agricultural robot weeding its way through a clumpy muddy farm right after a heavy rain, I need some serious power.

So batteries force robot designers to make many compromises: They can compromise sales by making the robot too expensive, they can compromise how much work it can do by a small battery, they can compromise the computing power to save power, they can compromise functionally to save power.

Of all the problems the one that bothers me the most is compromising computing power; it is very nice to have two or more HD cameras feeding their data to one or more GPUs that crunch what the robot is seeing in real time and plan the optimal solution also in real time. Also other sensors such as radar or laser scanners can be energy gobblers.

For instance I would be curious to find how much Asimo's battery cost, and how long it lasts.

So it is battery technology that is the last piece of the puzzle to adding independent robots to our lives in a substantial way.

Re:Another huge battery market, Robots (2)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 3 months ago | (#47803157)

I build robots and they all suck

Fembots?

Re:Another huge battery market, Robots (1)

vivian (156520) | about 3 months ago | (#47803217)

Wy not just have a simple "remote control" type bot and offload al the computing power via wifi? Systems like ROS easily support having your expensive processing nodes running remotely, and you can even run ROS on a very low powered raspberry PI for on-bot computing for your drive controllers.

Running GPUs is certainly going to eat your power fast, so all image processing, planing, task scheduling and control should be offloaded to a mains powered computer or an off-bot stationary computer powered by solar panels for something like an agri-bot.

Re:Another huge battery market, Robots (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47803323)

You would still need the power to transmit a live feed from multiple cameras and sensors. That will still take a battery with some grunt.

I am a firm believer that the end design for most robots will be a combination like you suggest. That the robots will be fairly stupid and controlled by a central powerful computer. But if the robot is moving with any haste then it will need instant feedback loops running between its sensors and motors.

But even in this scenario on a farm the central computer will ideally be battery powered even if it isn't mobile. In this case I could see it also being solar powered. Just sitting way out in the field directing and fuelling a bunch of its little mobile friends.

Also there will be other uses for robots where transmitting to a central powerful computer isn't really an option. Robots that are sent way out into the field. Say water quality sampling along a river or flying huge distances doing air quality surveys.

So autonomous robots will really come into their own when they have the portable power to actually do stuff without breaking the bank.

Obvious but. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803173)

Wind and Solar are active during daylight, the same time people's air conditioning is on, or are in the office with the lights and A/C on.

When people are home, if they had solar panels, they should have charged up local storage banks, and rely less on the grid. Assuming everyone goes to work in the morning and comes back in the evening.

Some of us are the reverse, we do everything productive in the evening because that's when it's most cost effective (on electricity, transportation) and then sleep through most of the day because our bodies don't care as much about the temperature when we sleep.

Storage introduces losses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803285)

I am not saying that it is not needed, just that the true costs and efficiencies for renewable energy must include the factors introduced by the widespread use of grid storage.

One added benefit of storage is the a power grid can protect itself by becoming an array of disconnected cells to prevent a problem from propagating throughout the entire grid.

A long list of possibilities (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 3 months ago | (#47803469)

I've been interested in this for some time. Here are some solutions I've come across:
Something like a standard battery
Flow batteries, where you store liquid electrolytes in tanks, and energy capacity is proportional to the capacity of the tanks
Salt/Liquid metal batteries. Take the process for smelting aluminium, and make it reversible. (The metal used need not be aluminium.) There is a good TED talk on this.
Fixed volume compressed gas storage: pump gas into a pressure vessel or abandoned mine
Fixed pressure compressed gas storage: pump gas into a bladder deep under water. This works well for off shore wind farms, as they have the deep water right there. Otherwise you need a convenient lake or flooded mine.
Elevated water reservoir. Needs the right topography and hydrography, so doesn't work everywhere.
Variable output hydro power: similar to the above, but instead of pumping water uphill you just increase/decrease the downhill flow that already exists, to match you output to the production shortfall of the time variable generators. If you already have hydro power, this is very cheap, possibly free. At worst you need to increase peak capacity by adding turbines.
Heat storage: store energy as heat in a large thermal mass, extract it with some form of heat engine.

Complementary to this, we can also try to time-shift demand:
Off-peak water heating. This has been around for many decades.
Off-peak heating/cooling using thermal storage (e.g. an insulated water tank under your house from which your radiators are fed.)
Off-peak charging of plug-in electric cars. (We can even use peak-hour extraction of power from the electric cars.) This is cheap in that those batteries are already there for other purposes. It does cost if they batteries have a limited number of recharge cycles (which currently they do.)

Storage is only one way to solve the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803479)

Controlled load is a much better option in my opinion for the majority part of solving this problem. Rather than trying to store bulk power at relatively low efficiencies, and relatively high costs, have controlled loads offered power at a discount to consume any excesses, and just scale the power produced to pretty much guarantee oversupply such that when load-shedding runs out of room the peaker plants run for a minimum of time. There are many excellent uses, for example, refining aluminium. Needs massive quantities of electricity, and there's practically no consequences for "turning it down" (the cheaper electricity would directly offset the economic losses from not running full production). Much better systemic efficiency this way. Minimise the conversions, and find maximally useful things to do with the resources available. That said, dual-use of electric car batteries (and engines?) as a ready-made distributed 'peaking' plant is wonderful from a reuse and capital cost perspective. The trick will be managing the pricing so the market aggressively optimises for systemic efficiency measured by 'natural resources' not dollars.

..in a certain way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47803615)

>> 'So as I flip my light switch on at home, there's some little knob somewhere that turns the power up. There is no buffer. It's a very interesting production cycle compared to other consumer goods. It was built a certain way"

Yes, it was built in the most PROFITABLE way - just-in-time delivery, just like every other consumable resource that has no accountability for the public good and no real penalty for failure. ie: oil refineries.

The terrible, poorly-redundant, and easily damaged power grid was designed and implemented based on one simple assumption - that there will always be a limitless supply of energy to convert to electricity on-demand. Whether that is oil, gas, hydropower, geothermal, etc.. it all assumes whenever we need more NOW, we can always press a button and create more NOW. So there's never in a hundred years been any impetus to create reservoirs of stored energy (except in the literal sense with water- and as we see, many of those are being depleted by climate change too!) because those resources are available on-demand, 24/7. But now we need to invest in more than geological means of storing energy.

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