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Renewable Energy's Achilles' Heel Is Storage

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Re: Flow Batteries
rdelaplaza   9/7/2011 3:13:47 PM
You forgot to tell that the weight/enegy density ratio, (that's how many Kw per weight unit ) of those batteries is WAY BETTER than Lead/Acid batterires.

ALSO forgot to mention that this batteries can be discharged to 100 % of their capacity with absolutely NO PROBLEMS. compared to Lead Acid which can only be discharget to an aproximately 80% of their capacity, before they start to degenerate badly.

Partial recharges wil have NO problems, so if you only have time to recharge, lets say 35% of the capacity, then disconnect and GO, ... any time, many times; NO problem.

The technology is developed and there are several manufacturers refining the product NOW, like the company RedFlow in Australia http://www.redflow.com/

There are several chemistries in the Flow batteries technology, a Japanese wind-project developer Japan Wind Development Co. In May, the company started a 51-megawatt wind farm and linked it to a 34-megawatt battery system developed by NGK Insulators Ltd. of Nagoya, Japan. The energy-storage system will have enough capacity to power approximately 26,000 homes, by storing the energy generated by the wind farm and then redistributing that power during the day.

Utilities like American Electric Power Co. of Columbus, Ohio, are also working with NGK, although on a much smaller scale. According to Ali Nourai, AEP's executive in charge of distributed power generation and energy storage, the company has installed five NGK batteries with 7 megawatts of capacity in total, enough to power approximately 5,400 homes. AEP's batteries are already up and running in Ohio, and others in Indiana and West Virginia will be operational by the end of the year. The utility also has a 4-megawatt battery set to be installed in Texas.

As Robotech said, this is a technology that was developed and working in 1980. Gulf & Western's Energy Development Associates division had developed large-scale zinc chloride flow battery systems for utility load leveling applications. They worked, and worked VERY well. We built a 5MW demonstration system for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and single modules were tested by one of the government research labs. We were also building electric vehicles using this technology capable of a range of 200 miles on a charge at between 45-50 mph, speeds of 70 mph on the highway, and took 5 hours to fully recharge. 

IN 1980 ! ! ! 

So what can we think when someone writes:

 The primary question -- what to do when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow -- really hasn't been answered yet.

It comes to my mind the possibility of probably bia$ed, or ignorant opinions of people like :

"We still can't store the power," Jeff Terry, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois Institute of Technology, who splits his time between studying solar and nuclear power, said in a Design News interview last week. "Right now, it looks like nuclear is the power source that can take us through the next 400 years. Solar and wind still have huge problems."

------ QUOTE    NOVEMBER 16, 2008 The WallStreet Journal


It's far too early to tell which battery manufacturer will win out at the large scale -- and another big entrant is about to complicate the picture even further. In late October, Intel Capital, the venture arm of the chip-manufacturing giant, put its money behind yet another player in the market. Intel backed Beijing-based Net Power Holdings Ltd., which is developing its own version of the flow battery, potentially with a greater cost advantage, given the ability to capitalize on more inexpensive Chinese manufacturing capacity.  ---- UNQUOTE

Master of None
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Re: Biofuels--storing the inputs
Master of None   9/6/2011 1:02:06 PM
It's 1997 and I'm sitting in the passenger seat of diesel car that sounds and performs remarkably like a gasoline engine, careening through the hills of a seashore town in Denmark when we come upon a few very large modern wind generators.

My engineer driver responds to my comment about the inability to well utilize the sporatic or cyclical delivery of the energy with a two word comment.

District Heating.

Nearby were two very large insulated water tanks. They have fuel powered heaters, but they only kick in when the power supplied by the wind farm is insufficient to maintain the minimum temperatures in the tanks.

The large volumes have tremendous thermal capacity. The buildings and homes in the small town recieve their hot water and heat from this system via suitably heat exchangers.

While we are still pounding away at trying to solve the wind utilization on a macro level, we miss taking advantage of oportunities on the micro level which can be learned from folks who have been using wind to perform work for a very long time.

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Biofuels--storing the inputs
jmiller   9/5/2011 11:20:05 PM
I think one of the intersting facts of biofuels is that it does not necessarily need to be produced until it is needed.  Wind has to be produced when it is blowing.  Solar power has to be generated when the sun is shining.  But biofuel energy can be stored before it is broken down, and only produced when it is needed.  This has to be something that can be advantageous.  However, one of the concerns about biofuels is how to store all of the corn/sugar/switchgrass/soybeans. 

Fortunately, a significant amount of these same commodities are currently stored by the American farmer but it when you start to look at the output being an energy source that needs to be reliably supplied...Can the system be set up in a way that it will work?

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Bio-fuel inefficienscies
jmiller   9/5/2011 11:14:57 PM
I've often read comments regarding biofuels inefficiencies.  Is anyone able to supply data to the discussion.  I live in the midwest and know of several biofuel facilities.  One of the largest issues I have with the situation is the way we have subsidies to raise the price of the input and then we have higher input prices which make the biofuels inefficient.  I would love for someone to put together a good summary of what the ral costs are for discussion.

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Re: Flow Batteries
pete   9/2/2011 12:40:28 PM
I believe people are having some success using the vanadium redox battery. I read that a town in south Texas, and a town in Austrailia have them in service.

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Flow Batteries
Robotech   9/1/2011 10:39:59 PM
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In the early 80's, Gulf & Western's Energy Development Associates division had developed large-scale zinc chloride flow battery systems for utility load leveling applications. They worked, and worked VERY well. We built a 5MW demonstration system for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and single modules were tested by one of the government research labs. We were also building electric vehicles using this technology capable of a range of 200 miles on a charge at between 45-50 mph, speeds of 70 mph on the highway, and took 5 hours to fully recharge.

The system required no exotic materials and ran at low temperatures, around the freezing point of water to around room temperature. The batteries also NEVER wore out. You would occasionally have to replace the electrolyte, but this was far safer to handle than the acid from lead-acid batteries, and much more environmentally friendly. (Think bleach with dissolved zinc and a few other minor additives.) Yes, it did use chlorine, but our primary patents were for the chlorine storage system, which nearly eliminated the problems of potential systems failures or leaks.

The batteries weren't really suitable for general consumer vehicles, but would have been fine for fleet operations, such as for delivery vehicles. But where they made the most sense was for large-scale stationary applications, such as these we need now for the renewable energy systems.

Unfortunately, changes in G&W's management shifted the corporate focus to the entertainment industry, and EDA was shut down, shelving the technology. But what was done once can be done again, and there are still those of us who remember how.

I've seen a few negative articles posted about this system and the company, written by people without any actual knowledge about it, or who had some other agenda. Sorry, but they are wrong. I was there, I helped build the systems and run the tests. It worked as advertised.

Now I'm not advocating this system for smaller installations, such as for homes or small business locations. For that I like hydrogen fuel-cell systems, preferably one that can also run on natural gas in addition to the hydrogen separated from water by whatever renewable system is used to generate electricity. A branch of another company I've worked for has a very viable hydrogen storage system.

We have all of the pieces we need to build these systems. We just have to decide to do it.

William K.
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Renewable energy and storage techniques,
William K.   9/1/2011 10:32:47 PM
There is another way to use solar and wind energy, and whatever other ways that we can come up with. That is to come up with quick-startup fuel burning power plants, and then carefully monitor the renewable sources to see when they are waning. Of course, on the clouds issue, how about a bank of mirrors to direct enough energy on the clouds to burn thwm up befor they reach the PV arrays? If that could be done consistently then the clouds problem could be solved, at least for some areas. If anybody wishes to persue the cloud burning concept, fine, no royalty, just acknowleged that I invented it. For the wind generation systems, tapping high altitude winds does seem like a better approack, at some locations it seems like the wind should indeed keep on coming. There, efficient energy storage can be by putting hydraulic flud under pressure in accumulators, making it instantly available when needed. Best thing about it? No new discoveries needed to make it work. OF course, this is not that cheap, either. 



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Hot-Swap Batteries / Flow Batteries
Kevin   9/1/2011 8:28:37 PM
Green Avenger:

Yes...I agree this might be a workable / improved situation for EV's.  I think that the fact that each battery module has a high value (~$5K-$10K) and limited life might make it difficult to get consumers to accept them as generic hot-swap products.  To make this workable, the government probably would need to mandate a universal module standard and assemble an infastructure so that it could be practical for longer trips and multiple car brands, etc.

Another flavor that I forgot to mention is the recent advancements in flow battery technology.  It's too early to see if this will pan-out, but this would let electric cars recharge with a refill model not unlike today....but with some chemical that is recycled / recharged. 

If flow batteries could be made with high enough performance and low enough cost - this also could be interesting for buffering the grid.

Best of success with all the creative thinkers trying to solve these difficult problems!


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Renewable Energy .....
SimpleSam   9/1/2011 7:17:46 PM
You mentioned Car to Grid.  My idea is not about how to store a byproduct but using this byproduct as an fuel replacement.  Electricity is produced in large quantities by hydro plants using water as the source to create electricity or fosil fuels, wind power, solar power, gas etc.  The electricity produced has to be consumed right-of-way in most cases.  So there is a continiuos expenditure of fuels that are dwindling through time.  My idea is that we have the hydro-plants, the turbines, etc. Would it be possible to "convert" these machines to use the byproducts to run the turbines just like water does.  Solar, Air and gas may become plentiful, we have the power grids all over the country; by substituting one for the other we may not depend in fosil fuels to generate electricity.   And get rid of dams so many people are against.  Has anybody tried this before?  

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Re: Spot-On Article!
GreenAvenger   9/1/2011 4:41:17 PM
Good wrap up Kevin, but the potential for battery powered vehicles is much better than you imply.

Have you ever used a drill with a removable battery pack?

Extend that same basic idea to electric vehicle use and you have the work of the company "Better Place."

The thing (the bad idea) that needs to go away for electric vehicles to be a success in the real world is the old idea of having the main battery be a permanent privately owned part of the vehicle.

Try thinking of a battery more like as a generic (reusable and transferrable) "standard size bucket" in which people can carry energy.

In such a "bucket" model you can own the bucket, you can lease it, or you can just rent one as you need it. But you don't have to store them all or charge them all at your house. That is done at charge stations scattered all over town.

And when you need more range (like for a road trip) you stop and pick up a full bucket of energy and you go on down the road and swap it out again and again.

If you really need more range (like for a road trip)... You hook up a (hydrocarbon powered electric generator trailer.) 

If we just stop thinking of batteries as a permanent parts of a vehicle suddenly the electric vehicle begins to look much more practical.

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