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Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) trillions_to_be-made

Published on October 5th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

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Why Wind Storage Worth Trillions

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October 5th, 2009 by
 

Coal power is not base-load electricity by itself. To enable coal to reliably deliver electric power, it took the creation of an entire other national infrastructure; the trans-continental railroad system.

Without the unceasing rail-car-load delivery, every 12 hours, on the hour, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year, of every next 12-hour-supply of fuel for the fire; the fire would go out, the water wouldn’t boil, the steam wouldn’t rise, the turbine wouldn’t turn; the next 12 hours of electricity wouldn’t be made. The fire must never go out.

Coal plus railroad = base-load power.

Even today, a century later, every 12 hours in this nation a trainload of coal from Wyoming or Pennsylvania or Ohio, must arrive at an electric power station near your city, to make your coal power for the next 12 hours. No trainload of coal; no coal power. What does that have to do with wind storage?

Wind plus storage = base-load power.

Making coal into base-load power made a lot of money for the railroad industry in the 19th century. In 1884, when Charles Dow came up with the first stock index designed to track the performance of the largest companies under public ownership, 9 out of the 11 firms in Dow’s first index were railroads. Railroad-delivered coal electricity began in NYC with Edison’s Pearl Street Station in 1882.

Making wind into base-load power will create a similar boom. Too much wind blows at night and far away. Excess wind needs to be stored for daytime use and transmitted from the lonely windy states to cities in order to make wind the 21st century base-load power that coal was from the 19th century.

What the trans-continental railroad was to coal powered electricity in the 19th century, storage will be to wind powered electricity in the 21st century.

Because of the railroad; coal deliveries grew in just 70 years from 8 million tons beginning in 1850 while the civil war raged to 680 million tons by 1918.

When the railroad had problems, the power went out. Unreliable coal deliveries impacted heat and power supplies through the early part of the 1900′s shutting down industrial plants and schools. Even during the Bush administration coal power was still shut down by railroad delivery problems.

That absolutely crucial infrastructure; the railroad industry, has been worth trillions to the coal industry. Generations invested in and grew rich from making coal into base-load power.

Trillions will be made in energy storage making wind and solar into base-load power. New techniques for storage will build the industries that will be the investment booms of tomorrow.

Images: the author and scripophily

Related stories:

For Cheap Baseload WInd Power: CAES

Pump Hydro Underground to Store Wind Power

US Must Socialize Grid to Add Renewable Energy

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • jagadees.s

    They can build power plants near to coal mines and then use cable to transport power. But the did not. Why?

  • jagadees.s

    They can build power plants near to coal mines and then use cable to transport power. But the did not. Why?

  • J Smith

    “Even today, a century later, every 12 hours in this nation a trainload of coal from Wyoming or Pennsylvania or Ohio, must arrive at an electric power station near your city, to make your coal power for the next 12 hours. No trainload of coal; no coal power.”

    This isn’t true. Most coal facilities stockpile enough coal for 30-60 days worth of coal. Only long-lasting (multi-week) rail service interruptions will cause coal generation to be curtailed. Miss a train? No big deal…an extra one will come next week.

  • J Smith

    “Even today, a century later, every 12 hours in this nation a trainload of coal from Wyoming or Pennsylvania or Ohio, must arrive at an electric power station near your city, to make your coal power for the next 12 hours. No trainload of coal; no coal power.”

    This isn’t true. Most coal facilities stockpile enough coal for 30-60 days worth of coal. Only long-lasting (multi-week) rail service interruptions will cause coal generation to be curtailed. Miss a train? No big deal…an extra one will come next week.

  • Bill Woods

    “I believe Germany has a system which stores wind-generated electricity during non-peak hours by converting it into hydrogen – no idea on details though…”

    Not that I know of. Denmark has a system which stores wind-generated electricity by converting it into hydrogen oxide behind dams in Norway and Sweden. It costs Denmark dearly, though.

    http://www.cepos.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/Arkiv/PDF/Wind_energy_-_the_case_of_Denmark.pdf

  • Bill Woods

    “I believe Germany has a system which stores wind-generated electricity during non-peak hours by converting it into hydrogen – no idea on details though…”

    Not that I know of. Denmark has a system which stores wind-generated electricity by converting it into hydrogen oxide behind dams in Norway and Sweden. It costs Denmark dearly, though.

    http://www.cepos.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/Arkiv/PDF/Wind_energy_-_the_case_of_Denmark.pdf

  • Adam Nehr

    Rich,

    The USA has a systemlike that that stores solar energy with hydrogen and provides transportation as well! The system is called called HyRail or Interstate Traveler.

    Try http://www.interstatetraveler.us and you will see the system outline for yourself.

  • Adam Nehr

    Rich,

    The USA has a systemlike that that stores solar energy with hydrogen and provides transportation as well! The system is called called HyRail or Interstate Traveler.

    Try http://www.interstatetraveler.us and you will see the system outline for yourself.

  • Rich

    I believe Germany has a system which stores wind-generated electricity during non-peak hours by converting it into hydrogen – no idea on details though…

  • Rich

    I believe Germany has a system which stores wind-generated electricity during non-peak hours by converting it into hydrogen – no idea on details though…

  • Susan Kraemer

    Good idea, Ed. We do need to find multiple paybacks like rail had.

  • Susan Kraemer

    Thanks for the very interesting points: Yeah, Big Coal is a terrific read that really hammers it home, chrisp. Sorry about those nights.

    Yeah, Russ, the thousands of harebrained and/or(brilliant?) ideas we’ll need to solve all these problems: what makes these times so compelling.

    Bill W: That’s a point. Now that the EPA is carefully tallying carbon, yeah, I wonder if that does include coal train emissions?

  • Ed S.

    Whatever you may feel about the coal power infrastructure (rail, mainly) you cannot ignore the fact that it was put in place because it was useful to more industries than just electricity generation. America was built on rail. Whatever energy storage medium that is proposed will not face the same multi-use benefits of that infrastructure. This makes investment difficult because 100% of the cost must be borne by electricity prices. Sure, the consumer paid for rail to be developed, but it was spread out across hundreds of industries, including personal travel.

    From a technical perspective I like the pairing of offshore wind turbines with some form of gravity or pressure fed water-based energy storage. Hopefully this would minimize the complexity and cost of energy storage.

  • Ed S.

    Whatever you may feel about the coal power infrastructure (rail, mainly) you cannot ignore the fact that it was put in place because it was useful to more industries than just electricity generation. America was built on rail. Whatever energy storage medium that is proposed will not face the same multi-use benefits of that infrastructure. This makes investment difficult because 100% of the cost must be borne by electricity prices. Sure, the consumer paid for rail to be developed, but it was spread out across hundreds of industries, including personal travel.

    From a technical perspective I like the pairing of offshore wind turbines with some form of gravity or pressure fed water-based energy storage. Hopefully this would minimize the complexity and cost of energy storage.

  • Bill W

    This brings up an interesting point: do the models used for calculating the pollution of coal-fired powerplants include the pollution caused by mining and delivering the coal for them? If not, coal power is a lot dirtier than they’re telling us.

    This also points out that the railroads have a vested interest in fighting the shutdown/conversion of coal plants. But maybe if we stop moving so much coal, we can move more of our goods being shipped back onto the railroads and off the highways.

  • Bill W

    This brings up an interesting point: do the models used for calculating the pollution of coal-fired powerplants include the pollution caused by mining and delivering the coal for them? If not, coal power is a lot dirtier than they’re telling us.

    This also points out that the railroads have a vested interest in fighting the shutdown/conversion of coal plants. But maybe if we stop moving so much coal, we can move more of our goods being shipped back onto the railroads and off the highways.

  • Susan Kraemer

    Good idea, Ed. We do need to find multiple paybacks like rail had.

  • russ

    Wind, like solar is a wonderful fuel for power – maybe a little visual pollution but to me that is very minor. Now someone only has to prove an acceptable storage method!

    For baseline power storage was easier with coal as the fuel is used on demand. With wind or solar the fuel comes first followed by demand – a bit more of a challenge.

    There are a thousand ideas – a few good and some totally hare brained – when a company proves one we will see how much it adds to the power cost per kWh. Renewables are already more expensive – doubling the cost will not be a very acceptable solution.

    I have studied storage of natural gas on an industrial basis in an attempt to buy cheap gas for later use. We gave it up as a loser as compression or liquifaction was prohibitively costly for large volumes.

    It will be interesting to follow the progress in time to come.

  • russ

    Wind, like solar is a wonderful fuel for power – maybe a little visual pollution but to me that is very minor. Now someone only has to prove an acceptable storage method!

    For baseline power storage was easier with coal as the fuel is used on demand. With wind or solar the fuel comes first followed by demand – a bit more of a challenge.

    There are a thousand ideas – a few good and some totally hare brained – when a company proves one we will see how much it adds to the power cost per kWh. Renewables are already more expensive – doubling the cost will not be a very acceptable solution.

    I have studied storage of natural gas on an industrial basis in an attempt to buy cheap gas for later use. We gave it up as a loser as compression or liquifaction was prohibitively costly for large volumes.

    It will be interesting to follow the progress in time to come.

  • chrisp68

    So will this stop the trains from rumbling past my house at all hours of the night? I hope so… It’s such ancient technology moving an even more ancient (and dirty) energy source. The book ‘Big Coal’ explains this whole interconnectivity between the mine, railroad and furnace. I don’t think there could be a less efficient way of generating electricity. I think what is most ironic is that Railroad industry no longer uses coal to power their locomotives.

  • chrisp68

    So will this stop the trains from rumbling past my house at all hours of the night? I hope so… It’s such ancient technology moving an even more ancient (and dirty) energy source. The book ‘Big Coal’ explains this whole interconnectivity between the mine, railroad and furnace. I don’t think there could be a less efficient way of generating electricity. I think what is most ironic is that Railroad industry no longer uses coal to power their locomotives.

  • Susan Kraemer

    Thanks for the very interesting points: Yeah, Big Coal is a terrific read that really hammers it home, chrisp. Sorry about those nights.

    Yeah, Russ, the thousands of harebrained and/or(brilliant?) ideas we’ll need to solve all these problems: what makes these times so compelling.

    Bill W: That’s a point. Now that the EPA is carefully tallying carbon, yeah, I wonder if that does include coal train emissions?

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