July 29, 2010

Batteries, Flywheels and Compressed Air

Pushed Along by Wind, Power Storage Grows - NYTimes.com:

Storing energy from variable sources such as wind and solar and releasing it when demanded by the grid is a massive challenge. However, energy storage technologies to level variable and intermittent supply with predictable demand is essential.

Experiments are described in this NYTimes story, but for intermittent sources of energy to be converted into reliable electricity when and where needed, the transmission system needs a cost-effective storage capacity.

Unless these experiments show that practical solutions exist on a massive scale, reliance on wind and sun for more than a tiny amount of electricity may be an expensive boondoggle fueled by emotion and politics rather than science and economics.

The best 'source' of electrical energy for the near term is efficiency improvement.

"As the wind installations multiply, companies have found themselves dumping energy late at night, adjusting the blades so they do not catch the wind, because there is no demand for the power. And grid operators, accustomed to meeting demand by adjusting supplies, are now struggling to maintain stability as supplies fluctuate."
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