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Published on December 25th, 2012 | by Cynthia Shahan

15

Green Storage: New Funding For Wider Use Of The Sunshine & Wind

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December 25th, 2012 by  

 
When the sun shines, illuminating and inciting photosynthesis for plant life, we also catch it with our solar panels. We catch these rays to use them for our electricity needs, and we catch them to hold for times when the sun is hidden away. When the breeze blows, when wind stirs and incites, green power is also plentiful. However, at other moments when consumers need energy, the wind is not always blowing nor are the sun’s rays raining down on us. Renewable energy sources, solutions, rely on the timekeeping of Mother Nature. Sources have an intermittent flow, so storing the energy produced is necessary for the wider use of green energy.

Wind power sunset — green energy

$600,000 Innovation Grant from ARPA-E

To give renewables more with which to work, even greater potential for powering our daily needs, a team led by engineers and chemists at Harvard University will use a one-year, $600,000 innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects AgencyEnergy (ARPA-E) program to develop a new type of storage battery. The grant may be subject to renewal beyond a year, depending on performance. The award is part of a $130-million funding effort by ARPA-E through its “OPEN 2012” program, designed to support innovative energy technologies.

Green energy storage has to be viable — it cannot add much to the price of renewable electricity without making it unacceptably expensive.

Green energy

Practical economics is a great concern. Hopeful that this work will be put into cost-effective form, the researchers are examining how to improve on their “flow battery.” The technology offers grid-scale electrical energy storage based on eco-friendly small, organic molecules. Practical implementation is everything for the program. Researchers are collaborating with Sustainable Innovations, LLC, a commercial electrochemical system developer.

“Storage of very large amounts of energy is required if we are to generate a major portion of our electricity from intermittent renewable sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaics,” says lead investigator Michael Aziz, Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “Currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem. Flow batteries may make stationary storage viable in the marketplace, and that will enable wind and solar to displace a lot more fossil fuel.”


 
“We think our particular approach could have advantages over other flow batteries, such as higher power density, high efficiency, inexpensive chemicals, and a safer type of energy storage,” says Aziz. “The success of this program would render intermittent renewables like wind and photovoltaics dispatchable at will, and thereby permit them to supply a large fraction of our electricity needs.”

Wind turbines at Greenway parking lot, Chicago

One of the key features of this new technology is that it includes a type of highly rechargable fuel cell — flow batteries are suitable for storing large amounts of electrical energy in the form of liquid chemicals, which are flowed past the electrochemical conversion hardware and stored externally in inexpensive tanks that can be arbitrarily large. This permits the designer to independently size the electrochemical conversion hardware (which sets the peak power capacity) and the chemical storage tanks (which set the energy capacity).

Aziz believes that using a particular class of small organic molecules may be the key. These molecules, which his team has already been working on, are found in plants and can be synthesized artificially for very low cost. Aziz is working on this most needed storage with: Roy Gordon, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science at Harvard, who will be responsible for the chemical screening and synthesis of molecules and of practical electrocatalytic and protective coatings; Alán Aspuru-Guzik, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard who will use his pioneering high-throughput molecular screening methods to identify optimal molecules; and Trent M. Molter, President and CEO of Sustainable Innovations, LLC, who will provide expertise on implementing these innovations into commercial electrochemical systems.

“While not eliminating fossil fuels, flow battery storage potentially eliminates a barrier to doing so within the existing energy system and market,” says Aziz.

The Funding Behind This and Other Positive Changes: ARPA-E

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects AgencyEnergy, known as ARPA-E, was launched in 2009 to seek out transformational, breakthrough technologies that are too risky for private-sector investment but have the potential to translate science into great leaps in energy technology, the potential to form the foundation for entirely new industries and have large commercial impacts. ARPA-E has attracted over 5,000 applications from research teams, which have resulted in over 180 groundbreaking projects worth nearly $500 million. More information on the program is available at www.arpa-e.energy.gov.

Image Credits: wind power sunset — green energy by photography.andreasgreen energy by Truthout.orgwind turbines at Greenway parking lot, Chicago by John Picken

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About the Author

is an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.



  • Dave2020

    “The success of this program would render intermittent renewables like wind and photovoltaics dispatchable at will.”
    Nonsense!! That statement is devoid of intellectual rigour. Those ‘intermittent’ renewables are still supplying variable power to the network when nature provides.

    Photovoltaics are incurably intermittent, but wind and wave power are not. All you need to do is place the energy storage before the generator. Then your electricity DOES become dispatchable, to respond to demand.

    It is self-evident that “electrochemical conversion” is the wrong technology for grid-scale storage, other than for PV and that may not even be necessary in practice.

    “Currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem.”

    Wrong again. The raised-weight (gravity) accumulator is a proven, simple, low cost technology that can be easily built into wind installations offshore. All the material needed for their construction is already being used just to hold up big HAWTs!

    Grossly inefficient over-capacity is an incurable feature of conventional wind power. Storage-integrated design ‘converts’ every 20GW of ‘nameplate’ capacity into 100GWh of dispatchable stored energy – problem solved.

    BTW – the right energy storage has always been viable. It pays for itself. Always has done done. Always will. But for the capacity needed now, it is foolish to even contemplate ADDING electricity storage on-grid. Wrong place – wrong technology.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Dave, I only got as far as your second paragraph where you jumped the shark.
      You want to claim that wind and wave can be made dispatchable by adding storage before the generator but solar cannot be made dispatchable by adding storage post-generator, well ol’ son, that dog don’t hunt….

      Stored energy is stored energy.

      • Dave2020

        We all know electricity from storage is dispatchable.

        We all know that from PV it can’t be.

        I simply said that electricity from a wind powered generator can be either.

        And before generator is more efficient/cheaper by a huge margin.

        You wanna split hairs . . . why?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Come on Dave. The electricity you claim from a wind generator to be dispatchable is from stored energy.

          This is not about splitting hairs. This is about pointing out dishonesty.

          • Dave2020

            “The electricity you claim from a wind generator to be dispatchable is from stored energy.”

            Which is exactly what I said and also specified where. These are the most important factors in the efficient exploitation of RE – the energy storage technology (NOT electrochemical, if you can help it) AND its LOCATION. (not on-grid, if you can avoid it)

            That’s the logical design premise which best resolves the over-capacity and over-generation problems that make renewables much more expensive than they need be.

            “All you need to do is place the energy storage before the generator.” (by definition, that can’t be electrochemical!)

            You imply that all stored energy is the same!! That’s evidently NOT true. (in any respect other than “dispatchability”) But I wouldn’t call that dishonest. It’s just a mistake.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You were making an incorrect argument, comparing (wind plus storage) to (solar without storage) and claiming, based on this unequal allowance, that wind was dispatchable while solar was not.

            Now, storing energy before a wind generator may or may not be cheaper than storing energy after it is converted to electricity. We have no data so we do not know.

            What we can be fairly sure of it that that “stored wind” would have to be very cheap as it would be single source storage. It could only store wind energy. It would not perform daily dual cycles of moving nighttime wind to the grid in the morning and then daytime solar into the evening.

            Let me suggest that putting stuff in all caps does not gain you points. It detracts.

            You claim that we should avoid electro-chemical storage. That obviously makes no sense if battery storage turns out to be the least overall expensive. Batteries are easy to site, can be centrally manufactured and delivered to the site. They are modular so the number per site can easily be adjusted as needed.

            I don’t understand why you would not want storage “on-grid”. Connected to the grid and able to load-follow is exactly what one would want.

            In addition the ideal storage should lend itself to being distributed around the grid. Placing some storage in wind farms allows them to use smaller transmission lines and provide more consistent feed to the grid. Distributing storage around the grid allows for lower peak transmission and creates more reliability.

          • Dave2020

            “You were making an incorrect argument.”

            No, not at all. I was just being pedantic. But the two (after or before generator) are in no way comparable. They are “unequal” in operation and capital cost – self-evidently so.

            “putting stuff in all caps does not gain you points.”

            I’m not trying to “gain points”, I’m trying to stress a point, because so many people miss the point. The normal convention of ‘bold’ disappears from the post.

            “. . . it would be single source storage. It could only store wind energy.”

            Bob, if you build an argument on a false assumption, it’s bound to collapse. GIGO.

            Nothing could be simpler, or cheaper, than using surplus electricity from the grid to pump up a raised-weight accumulator. The only additional cost is the price of an electric motor driving a pump. This would give you extra insurance against running out of stored energy during a period of low wind.

            “we should avoid electro-chemical storage.”

            Whatever the pros and cons of different technologies, the fundamental principle is – if you can’t help generating excess electricity, the best strategy is to create demand to use it. i.e. Demand Side Response.

            e.g. Locate PV where there are lots of cars parked during the day. Straight from the sun to the EV batteries. Therefore no additional intermediate storage required, “on-grid.”

            Wind farms are distributed, aren’t they? So’s their storage.

            I don’t understand why you would not want storage “on-grid”.

            It is very simple. If you take surplus electricity off the grid and store it, you consume up to 30% of that power in the process. This is an additional operational cost, year in year out, for ever. Better to design the system with a bare minimum of such wasteful electricity storage.

            When you store energy before-generator you don’t add costs, you add value.

            It would be instructive to study carefully the Danish experience. I’m guessing, the Danes would never, ever opt for grid scale battery storage:-

            http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/business/global/obstacles-to-danish-wind-power.html

            “A major concern is that the supply of electricity might exceed demand for about 1,000 hours each year by 2020.” I’m guessing, the Danes are worried about the inadequate capacity of existing Scandinavian pumped storage, never mind the cost of it.

            “New storage technologies to manage the increase in wind power might also be necessary.” That must be the understatement of the 21st. century! It is a supreme irony that 19th. century energy storage technology can provide a simple engineering solution!

            As I’ve said so many times before, nobody should copy what Europe is doing and repeat the same silly mistakes. That would be really dumb.

            Without any data, it is a fair assumption that the 3,000 tonnes of superstructure and ballast that the ‘Hywind’ needs to stabilize its 138 tonne (top heavy) turbine could be put to more productive use. An imaginative, radical design would answer all of project manager Sjur Bratland’s questions/doubts. (and more besides, that he hasn’t even thought of) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8235456.stm

            To judge from the LCOE figures given here:-
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

            the UK has some way to go to make offshore wind commercially attractive and the USA has a mountain to climb.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Nothing could be simpler, or cheaper, than using surplus electricity from the grid to pump up a raised-weight accumulator. ”

            Conceptually cheap. When/if someone builds one then we will find out what the cost is.

            “It is very simple. If you take surplus electricity off the grid and store it, you consume up to 30% of that power in the process. ”

            Yes, depending on the cost of storage it may turn out that we build “surplus” generation and throw away some of the energy produced. Have you read the Budischak paper?

            * https://docs.google.com/file/d/1NrBZJejkUTRYJv5YE__kBFuecdDL2pDTvKLyBjfCPr_8yR7eCTDhLGm8oEPo/edit *
            *
            *
            *”*When you store energy before-generator you don’t add costs, you add value.”

            Only if the cost of storing energy ‘before generation” is cheaper than “after generation”. That has not been proven.
            *
            *
            *
            *
            *”*As I’ve said so many times before, nobody should copy what Europe is doing and repeat the same silly mistakes. That would be really dumb.”

            That leaves us with the quandary of who we think the least intelligent and knowledgeable, Europe or Dave. Europe or Dave? Europe or Dave? Europe or ….
            *
            *

          • Dave2020

            http://www.ref.org.uk/press-releases/281-wearnandntearnhitsnwindnfarmnoutputnandneconomicnlifetime

            “For offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available.”

            As you have such faith in data Bob, do you accept data you don’t like at face value and with the same confidence as you do the data you like?

            The statement above may be distorted by ideological bias, but there is no way of telling. After all, the windfarm operators and turbine manufacturers are hardly going to draw attention to such inconvenient data, are they?

            One thing we know for sure is that over a period of 10 years a lot more turbines have been deployed in this area, so is this decline in productivity due to over-capacity? I suspect that is a factor.

            “Conceptually cheap”, but unproven doesn’t make a logical case, to my mind. Your view that over-capacity may be a way forward is not supported by any operational data.

            Looking at the real world problems faced by countries with a high penetration of wind, I think a little foresight would come in very handy. It is far better than putting your faith in studies that model scenarios using uncertain data.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/31/world-biggest-offshore-windfarm-scotland

            The recently completed London Array cost £2.8bn per GW (nameplate) and the “world’s biggest offshore windfarm”, planned for Scotland, has a price tag of £3bn per GW. No sign of progress there and these industry reviews don’t paint a rosy picture either:-

            http://www.melodika.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=539296&Itemid=50

            http://bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/12/29/wistful-hopes-for-offshore-wind-energy/npbaIxVU4sAcnKSlnd3QRP/story.html

            He said that the United States had “minus eight years” to make up its mind about supporting wind at the level of Europe. “Wind will be stillborn,” he said. “Many companies will give up on the US.” Normandeau project manager Ann Pembroke shared his dismay. “It’s so disappointing to be surrounded by the number of visionaries here who are dedicated to getting this industry going in the US but can’t.”

            Seems to me, the industry on both sides of the pond would be well advised to take stock of where convention has got them and what a radical redesign could achieve – conceptually.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “For offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available.”
            I assume they mean output capacity?

            Wind turbines ten years old and older would be ones with gear trains. Gear-less turbines were not manufactured that long ago. Gear trains are the weak spot in turbines. It may be that the older turbines will need to be removed, replaced and refurbished.

            Since overall production/installed capacity has been increasing since 2000 in Denmark, hitting record highs is 2011 I would suggest someone needs to dig a bit into those capacity loss claims. Either someone’s data is bogus or there are few of those very old turbines that need to be replaced.

            “One thing we know for sure is that over a period of 10 years a lot more turbines have been deployed in this area, so is this decline in productivity due to over-capacity? I suspect that is a factor.”

            Right. The Danes put too many turbines in the water and sucked up all the wind supply. Yep, you figured that right out.

            “Many companies will give up on the US.”

            Congress continues to jerk the US wind industry around by failing to extend support programs in a reasonable manner. If subsidies are not extended past this year some companies will leave and do their business where profits are better. Is this news to you?

          • Bob_Wallace

            BTW, this –

            ““For offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available.””
            Does not appear in your link nor in the pdf attached to it.

            What I get from the little information presented is that after ten years use it might be necessary to rebuild turbines that use gear trains. I don’t know if bearings could be replaced without lowering the turbines, depends on the the design I would imagine.

            Worst case, bring the unit to the ground. Replace all bearing surfaces, and put it back into service.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Looking at the real world problems faced by countries with a high penetration of wind, I think a little foresight would come in very handy. It is far better than putting your faith in studies that model scenarios using uncertain data.
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/31/world-biggest-offshore-windfarm-scotland
            The recently completed London Array cost £2.8bn per GW (nameplate) and the “world’s biggest offshore windfarm”, planned for Scotland, has a price tag of £3bn per GW. No sign of progress there and these industry reviews don’t paint a rosy picture either:-
            http://www.melodika.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=539296&Itemid=50 http://bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/12/29/wistful-hopes-for-offshore-wind-energy/npbaIxVU4sAcnKSlnd3QRP/story.html

            Did you even think about what you were saying? You post stuff about the uncertainty of government support and try to make it say something about problems of high wind generation penetration.

            I’m getting feeling that you don’t have both oars in the water.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Just one more thing, Dave. Did you happen to check out the organization that produced the study you cited? The Renewable Energy Foundation.
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/may/18/renewable-energy-foundation-wind-farm

          • Dave2020

            This report by Cambridge Econometrics puts an opposing case. For certain, they can’t both be right, but it is just possible that they could both be wrong.

            http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2229288/report-uk-gbp20bn-better-off-choosing-wind-over-gas

            Prof. Gordon Hughes may believe he has done a genuine piece of research, but why do you think I wrote “ideological bias” Bob? I know all about the REF and here is how the story was covered in the US:-

            http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/12/renewable-energy-still-breaking-wind.php

            You and I know how distorted these anti-wind rants are, but if there is a grain of truth in the allegations, politicians and investors will believe this stuff. Even the study is not sure as to the reasons!!

            “The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor.”

            The former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government uses O&M as the rod to beat offshore wind. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9144283/Nuclear-not-offshore-wind-will-power-UK-in-future-says-Sir-David-King.html

            This was and is my considered response to the REF ‘data’:-

            The observed decline in load factor can in part be attributed to engineering failures. There have been well documented problems with gearboxes and generators. This experience led the industry to adopt direct drive – i.e. low-speed generators that necessitate rare earth permanent magnets, which isn’t entirely a good thing, either from an environmental or a cost perspective. I propose a better solution. i.e. divorce generator and turbine by putting energy storage between the two.

            The more likely reason for a decline in load factor is an increase in the incidence of curtailment. It’s an inevitability that the utilisation of renewables will decline as their penetration increases, unless commensurate energy storage capacity is deployed at the same time.

            High O&M costs and mechanical unreliability can be rectified by design. There is no remedy for ‘strategic’ over-capacity. It will always be grossly inefficient, even when demand-side-response loads are introduced so that more power is consumed at night. Supply side regulation is by far the best design premise.

            “The British market faces particular challenges for investors. If significant penetration of renewables is achieved, power stations which are built now will face a future of far lower load factors.” – Pöyry Energy Consulting – ‘Impact of Intermittency’ – July 2009. Now in 2012 Anders Eldrup, chief executive of Dong Energy, is saying exactly the same thing:-

            “Big-scale wind and gas are a sort of yin and yang,” Mr. Eldrup said. Governments would need to allow utilities to earn a premium rate for using gas to encourage the utilities to switch it on and off when needed”. But energy storage on the SAME scale as OFFSHORE wind makes gas ‘back-up’ redundant.

            ‘Intermittent’ wind power inevitably will contain, by its very nature, a huge over-capacity. And Bob, “sucked up all the wind supply” is your invention, not mine. Your advocacy to “throw away” the surplus plays right into the hands of the anti-wind lobby.

            So, the only pathway to efficient sustainable electric power is with energy storage and lots of it. If we can avoid the brainless strategy of over-capacity it will save a fortune and fossil fuels will be pushed out of the market on price alone.

            Demonstrate to the industry and investors that the future lies in making money out of fresh air (and waves). Then the politicians and anti-wind brigade won’t have a leg to stand on.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “So, the only pathway to efficient sustainable electric power is with energy storage and lots of it. If we can avoid the brainless strategy of over-capacity it will save a fortune and fossil fuels will be pushed out of the market on price alone.”

            Since there is no storage proven to be cheaper than building excess capacity your claim is only a thought.

            I suspect that we will develop inexpensive storage, but we cannot build with what we do not have.

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