Energy production and storage are in the midst of some major paradigm shifts as businesses and governments focus more intently on matters of sustainability and environmental impact. In the past decade, the way these sectors look at energy has shifted dramatically. While it took many of those years for the energy vision to evolve, electrical engineers also spent that time working on storage solutions that could accommodate a greener future.
The source of all energy on earth is the sun, of course, which relies on photovoltaic converters and wind generation to capture and store electricity. Today, the main source of stored energy is fossil fuel, including crude oil, natural gas and coal. To a lesser extent, nuclear fuels are also used in the production of electrical energy. Both sources of fuel have fallen into disfavor, though, as the question of clean and available energy becomes more pressing.
The market is shifting toward renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, which presents a new set of technical problems to engineers. The most desirable situation for a commercial producer of electrical energy is to supply energy at a constant rate. However, reality requires utilities to respond to rapid changes in demand, and thus, to have a reserve on hand to meet increases in demand.
There are lots of potential solutions for this problem: spinning reserve, pumped-hydro, flywheels and high-pressure air. However, all of these have significant drawbacks: they are not portable, they require expensive infrastructure and added transmission, and they are inefficient for addressing short-term sags. The more realistic way to address the short-term sag problem is with batteries, ultracapacitors or a combination of the two.
If the vision for renewable energy is to be realized, we’ll need both long and short-term storage methods. As the electrical infrastructure evolves, the market will be forced to increase its arsenal of storage devices to include an intermediate solution that can function in both arenas and make the production of local electrical energy more practical.
As we move toward a green energy future, local production that uses renewable sources will go a long way to relieve stress on the grid infrastructure. In order to make this a reality, we will need to develop energy storage media that will likely include improved batteries and high-energy density ultracapacitors, both necessities in a world that continues to consume energy at an exponential rate.
(Brendan Andrews is the vice president of sales and marketing at Ioxus, Inc. He is responsible for the leadership and coordination of Ioxus’ sales and marketing functions and for educating the global market regarding existing and future ultracapacitor technologies).
Exactly. Electricity is so cheap that people have lost sight of the real "costs" electricity generation. It's like water - as much as we want, available on tap. But we pay a heavy price for that, and it's not even necessary. Your Wintel PC sucks 100W instead of 10W because it can, not because it has to.
Micro power stations are quite interesting as mentioned above. Waste heat can also be quite easily used to perform tasks such as water and space heating that normally use electricity of some other energy.
The biggest down sides of micro power is that it is much more expensive.. Micro power still needs to be grid connected so that this generation can be used in industry etc.
Something along these lines is WhisperGen http://www.whispergen.com/. These are domestic (or small industrial) heater/generation units that make far better use of energy. They use stirling engines which are incredibly quiet.
One of the solutions to save on transmission losses would be to have micro power stations installed in each house or a colony or an apartment. Such power stations should run on the waste generated in that house/apartment/colony. The supplement could be given by the Solar panels or wind mills. Such micro power generation will have the double benefits -a) it will save huge capital expenditure incurred to build and maintain large power plants and b) It will make people aware of the cost of electricity generation and the value of the garbage they generate
Wrong. We need to dump the idea that electricity is always available 24-7 at a flat-rate price. Batteries cost more money than the actual PV panels - and exactly where do you think all the materials are going to come from to roll this out on a large scale?
The more cost-effective solution is to implement demand billing, with only limited storage available. Customers who want/need uninterrupted electricity can pay accordingly - a lot when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, and a little when it's readily available. The rest of us can scale back our usage (automatically, perhaps) as we see real-time prices rise beyond a level we consider worthwhile. Much better load-levelling, higher profits, and less complexity and cost.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.