How to fix clean energy’s storage problem | Summary and Q&A

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April 27, 2023
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How to fix clean energy’s storage problem

TL;DR

Renewable energy systems currently rely on fossil fuels due to the inability to store excess solar and wind energy, but solutions such as pumped storage hydro, gravity energy storage, thermal energy conversion, and iron-air batteries show promise in addressing this challenge.

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Key Insights

  • 🙊 Solar and wind energy currently fall short of meeting peak electricity demand, resulting in the reliance on fossil fuels.
  • 😑 Lithium-ion batteries, although useful for smaller-scale energy storage, are not a scalable solution for the grid.
  • 👱 Pumped storage hydro, gravity energy storage, thermal energy conversion, and iron-air batteries offer potential solutions for storing renewable energy.
  • 🛀 Potential energy-based storage solutions have shown efficiency and simplicity in harnessing energy from gravity.
  • 🪡 The grid's energy storage needs may require a combination of various storage technologies.
  • 👨‍🔬 Ongoing research and development in energy storage solutions are attracting investor interest.
  • ❓ A patchwork solution will likely be necessary for the grid's transition to renewable energy.

Transcript

This is the typical demand for electricity on a spring day in California. It starts growing around 6 AM, then rises again around 6 PM. Now, this line shows when wind power feeds the California power grid. Wind is variable but often picks up at night. Solar panels, on the other hand kick into gear around 7 AM generate a lot of electricity until ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why can't lithium-ion batteries meet the energy storage needs of the grid?

Lithium-ion batteries, although effective for portable electronics and electric cars, are not currently suitable for grid-scale use due to limited availability of lithium and the need for scalability.

Q: How does pumped storage hydro work?

Pumped storage hydro involves using excess energy during low-demand periods to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher one, converting it into potential energy. When energy is needed, the water is released downhill, generating electricity through a turbine.

Q: How does gravity energy storage differ from pumped storage hydro?

Gravity energy storage, as demonstrated by Energy Vault, uses renewable energy to lift heavy concrete blocks into the air to store potential energy. When released, the blocks spin a turbine to produce electricity.

Q: What is the advantage of utilizing potential energy for energy storage?

Potential energy-based storage solutions, like pumped storage hydro and gravity energy storage, are efficient and have fewer moving parts, relying on gravity as a natural force.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The demand for electricity in California follows a pattern, with wind power picking up at night and solar panels generating electricity from morning until sunset, but neither source can meet peak demand, leading to reliance on fossil fuels.

  • Lithium-ion batteries, while suitable for individual homes, are not scalable for grid use, prompting the exploration of alternative energy storage solutions.

  • Pumped storage hydro, gravity energy storage, thermal energy conversion, and iron-air batteries are potential options being researched to store renewable energy efficiently.

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