Thursday, March 19, 2009

Store It

Many years ago, while I was doing a lot of regulatory work at our State's Public Utility Commission, I was chatting with a former commissioner and now lobbyist. "You know what you folks need, you need an an affordable battry" she said.

That kind of talk always wrinkled me wrong.

I would argue that Solar and Wind, although intermittant in their production patterns, were quite predictable, every bit as predictable as the electric load itself, and besides, why should renewables be held to the higher standard of being a complete electrical system on their own anyway? Base load plants need intermediate plants and peaking plants. Moreover, even though they have value because they run all the time, that is also their weakness.

We can't use our nuclear plant to balance our renewable energy base. But you can use intermediate and peaking generators for that purpose. (You can back down coal plants too if you want)

I would argue that natural gas is our "battry" and a dang good one at that. And for large penetrations of renewables of up to 50%, the existing electric utility fleet should work just fine to balance and match the somewhat variable (but predictable) base renewable supply with the highly variable, and somewhat predictable load.

And therefore, Madame Commissioner, us folks don't need a battry.

But what about large penetrations of renewables, where we go beyond the use of carbon altogether?

Well, we need a battry.

Not a battery in the usual sense, we need a solid state device that stores energy as effectively as a flash drive stores information. It needs to charge in seconds and it needs to be efficient. And, it needs to last a really long time, capable of tens of thousands of charge discharge cycles.

There has been a lot of good news on this front lately. For example, researchers at MIT have invented a lithium ion battery that recharges ultra-quickly, opening the possibility of charging an electric car in the amount of time it now takes to fill up a gas guzzler.

Even last decade's favored technology, nickel metal hydride, is dramatically improving.

And every week it seems, some lab somewhere is making steady steps in developing ultracaps and nanocapacitors that will some day make the photonic energy web a reality. Initial results show that MIT's nanopores "can store 100 times more energy than previous devices of its kind. Ultimately, such devices could store surges of energy from renewable sources, like wind, and feed that energy to the electrical grid when needed.

They could also power electric cars that recharge in the amount of time that it takes to fill a gas tank, instead of the six to eight hours that it takes them to recharge today."

These are all significant developments. But what about something truly advanced, something that can really change the landscape?

Like a magnetic spin battery.

Spin Battery:
Physicist Develops Battery Using New Source Of Energy
Mar. 12, 2009

Researchers at the University of Miami and at the Universities of Tokyo and Tohoku, Japan, have been able to prove the existence of a "spin battery," a battery that is "charged" by applying a large magnetic field to nano-magnets in a device called a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ).

The new technology is a step towards the creation of computer hard drives with no moving parts, which would be much faster, less expensive and use less energy than current ones. In the future, the new battery could be developed to power cars.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

The device created by University of Miami Physicist Stewart E. Barnes, of the College of Arts and Sciences and his collaborators can store energy in magnets rather than through chemical reactions. Like a winding up toy car, the spin battery is "wound up" by applying a large magnetic field -- no chemistry involved. The device is potentially better than anything found so far, said Barnes.

"We had anticipated the effect, but the device produced a voltage over a hundred times too big and for tens of minutes, rather than for milliseconds as we had expected," Barnes said.

"That this was counterintuitive is what lead to our theoretical understanding of what was really going on."

The secret behind this technology is the use of nano-magnets to induce an electromotive force. (clip)

"The possibilities are endless", Barnes said.

Indeed they are.

Once we realize our true condition, and the power of the enlightened mind, humankind can end its dependence on the dead life forms that we presently use to power our days. We can move to an economy and world where we are no longer mining the earth, but harvesting the light that surrounds us.

And we will store it.

And the hundred year oil war

Will End.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good and enlightenkng article

10:50 AM  

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