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Battery Makers Roll Out Grid Storage
8/9/2012

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A123 Systems' Grid Storage Solution employs 83,000 cylindrical lithium-ion batteries, producing up to 2Mw for 15 minutes (500kWh).
A123 Systems' Grid Storage Solution employs 83,000 cylindrical lithium-ion batteries, producing up to 2Mw for 15 minutes (500kWh).

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: A lake on a hill
Rob Spiegel   8/9/2012 7:07:09 PM
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Sure, the siting challenge is a big one. However, once it's in place, you don't have to keep replacing it.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A lake on a hill
Rob Spiegel   8/9/2012 7:05:00 PM
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While we may be hitting a wall on energy storage, the lake on the hill looks better and better. it's dependable, and once you've bought the land (which is a one-time expense), it's inexpensive.

Charles Murray
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Re: A lake on a hill
Charles Murray   8/9/2012 3:50:40 PM
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For various reasons -- siting challenge being one of the big ones -- I'm not hearing much about pumped hydro, Rob.

Butcher
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Re: A lake on a hill
Butcher   8/9/2012 1:32:03 PM
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The current technologies available for massive energy storage are not much better than a lake on a hill.  With the growing needs for electricity, the limited capacities of these energy storage technologies are probably more suited for supplementing individual home alternative power systems.  We need a major breakthrough in high density energy storage or an extremely efficient source of uninterrupted power. I don't think much will change until then.

williamlweaver
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Re: Bring on the Batteries
williamlweaver   8/9/2012 11:58:06 AM
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Well stated, naperlou. I find it interesting that our heated discussions about solar, wind, hydro, biofuels, and fossil fuels are actually an argument over energy storage. Either collect the solar energy immediately, extract the energy from wind created by evaporating water, from condensed water, from short-term storage in living organisms, or extremely long-term storage in fossilized organisms in the form of petroleum and coal. So I guess our current debates have always been over our preferred energy capacitors...

Rob Spiegel
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A lake on a hill
Rob Spiegel   8/9/2012 11:34:38 AM
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Hey, Chuck, is a lake on a hill still a viable way to store energy? Or has this gone the way of the horse and buggy?

naperlou
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Re: Bring on the Batteries
naperlou   8/9/2012 8:56:38 AM
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William, I want to second that.  Actually, Chuck stole my thunder.  Just last night at an IEEE Committee meeting we were discussing this as a topic for a future meeting. 

I have implemented flywheels as a backup for a data center.  They are smaller and more environmentally friendly (and safer) than standard batteries. 

The biggest issues, beyond cost, are two fold.  One is the conservative nature of the utility industry.  The other is the investment model. 

The utility industry makes their money by providing a reliable source.  It is highly regulated and therefore conservative in its approach.  Based on their incentives, that makes sense.  That is why you have states having to pass laws requiring target percentages of renewables and, now, batteries.

The investment model has served us very well.  Most utitilities are funded through long term bonds.  The government role is to provide regulation, and sometimes support, but generally the investor owned utility is privately funded and provides a steady profit.  Thus, there is a disincentive to take risks, since most infrastructure has to last a couple of decades to justify the investment. 

The upshot is that battery technology, like renewables, has to be "proven" in long term operations before utilities will routinely install them.  Since the technology is so new, this might make sense.  Let's hope the investors in these technologies have a long term view as well. 

Butcher
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Grid Storage
Butcher   8/9/2012 8:40:22 AM
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We are on the brink of a cataclysmic change as the whole world shifts from Petroleum to Electricity. There is a great abundance of opportunities, and needs, for new energy technologies. It feels like an overfilled water-balloon ready to burst. Efficient and dense energy storage is way overdue. At the pace we are transitioning to Electrical Energy I believe our motivation will evolve from convenience to survival.  Then many solutions will quickly surface.

williamlweaver
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Bring on the Batteries
williamlweaver   8/9/2012 8:31:02 AM
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Thanks for a fantastically detailed and comprehensive article, Chuck! It stands to reason that the electricity grid will be wildly more efficient and economical when we have on-line storage within the distribution system. Just imagine how wasteful things would be if we did not have warehouses, stockrooms, and distribution centers for material goods, or reservoirs and tanks for water and petroleum storage. Even the use of capacitors within electronic circuits permit amazing systems to be designed.
 
This of course is not a new observation, but the technology required to realize efficient, large-scale electricity storage is new. Let's hope the promise of a new market with huge demand is enough to spur further development...


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