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Kevin   9/1/2011 2:55:56 PM
I should have added - I'm not a fan of food-based biofuels (corn, etc.) which makes no sense and have low net efficiency, but algae-based or cellulistic, etc. are more hopeful.  Even better would be to synthesize a liquid fuel direct from sunlight, without the messy intermediate "living" process.


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Spot-On Article!
Kevin   9/1/2011 2:44:07 PM
This article hits the nail on the head!  I've followed renewable energy technology my whole life, and storage is indeed a big missing link that has been ignored.  Here's an overview:

1.  Pumped hydro is OK - but only practical at limited locations.

2.  Flywheels don't hold enough energy.  Beacon Power = 25 KWh per unit (100KW peak output). 

3.  Compressed air = inefficient and only practical at limited locations.

4.  Solar Thermal - great potential and could be practical.  See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjwKIQ2ON-M

5.  Grid-Connected EV's = partial solution, but not very practical and problematic (do you want your EV car's battery to be depleted because the power grid had a brownout ?  Will your boss accept this excuse for not showing-up at work?).  Battery Farms = much too expensive and too limited life.

6.  Biofuels / Solar-synthesized fuels = great potential, not proven yet.

7.  Electrolysis / Hydrogen = great potential.  Efficiency of electrolysis is poor, but hopeful recent developments.

I think #4, 6, 7 should be a strong focus of research.  #6 could provide the best overall solution because energy infastructure could change the least (cars and trucks and airplanes could still burn a liquid fuel which is distributed by gas stations).  #4 and #7 could be great for the power grid, but this still leaves open the question of cars and especially trucks and airplanes. I think hydrogen is impractical / unsafe for an automotive fuel, and EV range and recharge times are completely impractical except for short commutes, therefore they are only a partial solution. 

Lastly - While EV's are part of the future energy solution, but are not really that helpful until we power the grid with renewable sources, and of course have adequate energy storage to make the grid reliable.

cheers, Kevin

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Re: Smaller vs Larger
wankap   9/1/2011 2:00:11 PM
I have just completed the design of a new vertical windmill/generator. Vertical windmills do not care from which direction the wind arrives. There is no reaction time required. In this windmill, every vane is self-adjusting.

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Re: Shortage of storage
wankap   9/1/2011 1:56:34 PM
The FCHTMC engine, flying-magnet-dynamo and ecological retrieval of geothermal energy are poised to step forward to champion the replacement of Nuclear Energy and there is no waste material at all! The design is perfectly scalable. Therefore, one may replace the turbines in the nuclear plants with flying-magnet-dynamos powered by large FCHTMC engines. The efficiency of the operation would ring up new scales on cheaper electricity yet unfound. There is no danger to the operators, and reliable operation is assured.

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Smaller vs Larger
oswaldorey   9/1/2011 1:55:17 PM
Maybe we ought to think different, maybe the solution is not to generate and store Megawatts, maybe a smart grid with many small local generators, be it a house, a building a neighborhood all hookep aup and generating energy for their use and sharing the unused power.


RE for very hi output power is probably no reasonable.

Impossible to replace a XXXMw nuclear plant with a similar RE plant.

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Re: Shortage of storage
Bringier   9/1/2011 1:45:23 PM
Luddites are like roaches. They will always be around. They are also like 'the poor' - which is hard to define, but generally means anyone with less than another. The USA needs borders to keep people out. The Soviet Union needed borders and walls to keep people in. All I hear is 'Germany, France, UK, and Japan'. How about China? By our standards 90% of Chinese live in poverty.

At MIT in 1957 about 1/3 of all students were from foreign countries. They were the best and brightest. Most went home & hopefully made their homelands better. Many optioned to stay here & we are the better for it. Read 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' - a history of that project and of much modern science in general. The contributons were from many nations.

Nuclear power is very safe. No one died as a result of Three Mile Island. "China Syndrome' was a movie made BEFORE the accident and quickly released to enhance the 'anti-nuke' movement. Little research is done today. Storage in deep, stable underground facilities in Utah desert areas is something I would definitely insure! There are few of the millions of windmills that once pumped water in the farmlands that remain active. Those farmers who thought ahead built storage tanks. Others had to hand-pump for family and animals.

Wind & solar are 'peaking power' and will not replace coal, natural gas, and nuclear as a source. (We have maxed our hydroelectric.) Maybe Whale Oil for the evening lighting? Chop down trees & have a Franklin Stove for heat? I am a 6th generation American. My family was very successful in Louisiana before it became a state. My ancestors were very involved in the sugar industry both in cultivation and refining. Today we are taking corn off the food market & making ethenol - an inferior fuel unless produced by sugar cane as is done in Brazil. I am now in Texas & we grow crops, produce cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens & more. We ALSO produce & refine LOTS of oil & gas. I see no wells on either the east or west coasts. BUT Mass doesn't even want a wind turbine!

I am a retired engineer. I am a realist & not an idealist. Unlike many engineers I am literate & have studied history. From before the 20th century America became an energy based economy. Steamboats fired with wood or coal gave way to oil. TVA, etc harnessed hydroelectric power. Offshore oil in 1945. Nuclear power soon after. ARE WE TO FORGET OR FOLLOW LIKE PUPPIES THE LUDDITES THAT SAY 'ENERGY IS BAD'? Look around you. I bet that 50% involves petrol products. "OH NOT MY COTTON SHIRT". Farmer grew it it with fertilizer, planted & harvisted with tractors, trucked the product to a gin, where it went to a factory where people made the shirt. Every step was made using energy and 90% is petrol based.

I'm sick of politicans who think that $Billion is a tiny number. We import 50% of oil. We have enough to insure energy independence for at least 100 years based on CURRENT TECHNOLOGY. In 1970 we were told about a 'New Ice Age'. In 2000 it was 'Global Warming' and melting ice caps. In 1970 we were told that USA oil reserves were declining. We filled salt domes with reserves. Today we have TWICE the proven reserves than was said in 1970. BUT we are not allowed to drill for it.

So just drive your Prius and pretend that when you plug it in you are saving the earth. (If you don't know, most electrical energy is from coal, natural gas, or nuclear - less than 1% from wind or solar). No Air Conditioning but you can have fans? Maybe if you can harness a stream or store wind or solar energy. Maybe the Government can give you 40 acres and a Mule in West Texas, Utah, wherever. If you want to 'return to nature' move south to Mexico or east to central Africa.

Bill   WBringier@Gmail.com  

Jerry dycus
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Re: Shortage of storage
Jerry dycus   9/1/2011 12:59:34 PM

   These are carnards saying that RE isn't good because it's unreliable.  And why is one reason above all is demand is far more variable than RE supply with demand varying by 5-1=10-1 rates vs RE  much less, maybe 3-1.YMMV

  Next what happens when a nuke shuts down losing a Gw in one second?  So it too needs back up and far more and these shutdowns  happen almost every day in the US.  While rarely does RE just stop but slopes  down over time, making RE far easier to intergrate.

 Solar has the advantage over nuke in that it happens mostly when needed so far more valuable than always on nukes which about have to give away night time energy production in many cases.

I basically like nukes but they are way too expensive, long to build. What we need are far cheaper, smaller 4 gen nukes with lead, etc working fluids making them far more safe than the antique boiling water units you have to work at to keep from blowing up.

I'm not sure about utility storage but simple lead batteries like used in golfcarts store electricity for under $10/kw/yr, $.01/kwhr and I can't believe utilities can't do that too.  But they don't really need storage as they just turn on, off generators as needed to meet demand.  Only recently has any thought went into even varying the output of these generators but recently they have come throttable from 50-100% power.

Now add more of these as coal plants get replaced by CCGT, home storage to keep power in blackouts or use ones EV, hybrid for back up there or even feed power back into the grid.

But best is millions of small home, business RE where it in most areas even beats coal on price, because they are so many and spread out so much they vary very little as the average each other nicely. As for costs I can buy retail PV at under $1.50/wt, under what is needed to beat coal power price.

Now added to eff buildings with both heat/cold storage, solar thermal panels attached to NG powerplants to reduce it's NG needs when available, hydro storage and many other techs will solve any minor storage problem that might show up in the future but storage problem is just a canard to keep the competition down.

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Re: Shortage of storage
jthomson   9/1/2011 12:43:03 PM
Pumped Hydro systems in service today were developed largely to provide energy storage for nuclear power.  Nuclear power stations operate more or less at a fixed output, so have a storage problem in reverse.  In the 70's, excess output at night was driving the spot market price of electricity below zero (you get paid to use it!).  So both nuclear power and renewable energy require storage. 

This should not be a surprise.  Storage is a key feature of any energy system.  Fossil fuel is, after all, stored energy.  We will have to live with the costs of converting some of our power, nuclear or renewable into a stored form, chemical, thermal or hydraulic to name only three.  There are many possibilityies, of interest in the hydro power area is the use of underground boreholes with large weighted pistons that are lifetd and allowed to fall in the same way a pumped hydro plant operates.  These systems offer small footprints and employ established technologies. 

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Good Ideas
Nbultman   9/1/2011 12:37:50 PM
There are so many good ideas that pop up here as folks comment on the article.  The main issue that I continually see as a major discouragement is that most citizens are so technically illiterate that its nearly impossible to have broad-based community dialog on these serious issues that we face.  We must somehow get folks educated well enough that they can participate in the process.

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Re: Shortage of storage
John.Lashnits   9/1/2011 11:26:50 AM
I haven''t seen anyone mention molten-salt energy storage....seems like it's worth pursuing. "SolarReserve, a Los Angeles, CA-based company, is planning to build a baseload solar power plant in the Nevada desert with almost five times the output of Gemasolar. Tonopah’s planned 110 MW capacity will generate 480,000 MWh per year.  The Tonopah tower will be 653 feet (199 meters).  It will also use molten-salt energy storage (MSES) technology developed by Rocketdyne to build baseload solar capability and dispatch power on demand.  According to SolarReserve, the project will use  generate enough electricity annually to “power 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods.”(4)  Tonopah is strategically located a few miles East of the California border and about half way between Las Vegas and Reno, NV"

Hamilton Sundstrand's Rocketdyne business will provide heat-resistant pumps and other equipment, as well as the expertise in handling and storing salt that has been heated to more than 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. The company says plants using this method will be able to generate as much as 500 megawatts of peak power or run continuously at 50 megawatts.
Molten salt loses only about 1% of its heat during a day, making it possible to store energy for long periods of time. The salt is a mixture of sodium and potassium nitrate.

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