A Big Battery

There are very few genuinely innovative energy products. The problem with energy is that the laws of physics limit what can be done and when it can be done. In the case of electrical energy we have the means of generating electricity from non fuel sources, – wind and light – but until now no really easy means of storing the electricity that we can generate. Attempts to feed solar and wind generated power into a grid fail to be effective in large emission reductions; because of the intermittency of the source of energy we need to have large power stations running on standby by, wasting fuel and creating emissions, to cover the times when the wind does not blow and the sun produces no light.

Tesla Motors have been in the electric car business for some years and one critical problem with electric cars is storing the electricity to power the car. Electric cars need big batteries and it takes what most regard as an unacceptably long time to recharge the battery. Tesla has now announced a large battery that would store electricity made with lithium-ion. They use it in their cars but also it can be used to store electricity generated by wind and light in remote homes. A 10kW version is being sold for around $3,500 and is big enough to power a small three bed roomed home, provided that home has solar PV panels that can generate enough electricity to keep the battery topped up.

The idea is good but we need to see how it will work in practice; particularly important is the embedded energy used in manufacturing, the ease of recycling and the number of charges that a battery can take before it becomes unproductive.

One Response

  1. In my view, such batteries are only intermediate technology.

    Toyota (and others) has a better idea, that is, electricity generated ‘in the car’ using a hyrogen power source (fuel cell). Thus a car’s maximum range is increased and re-fuelling takes only minutes.

    Also, these cars emit only water/vapour.

    Hydrogen can be generated by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis. If we compare the cost/emissions of power stations with hydrogen generation it is obvious that hydrogen generation could ‘mop up’ surplus worldwide windmill/solar generated electricity.

    Hydrogen is transportable in tanks like LNG, so hydrogen generated in Africa/Australia etc using solar power could be transported (like petrol) to the rest of the world in hydogen powered ships.

    This would be a truly everlasting and ‘elegant’ renewable energy resource.

    This would seem to be a more useful way to store electricity.

    Regrettably, without investment in genuine new technology we continue with heavy, inflammable and slow recharge batteries which, unlike fuel cells, simply ‘store’ electricty.

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