Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Wind intermittency problem solved conclusively and cost effectively.

Out on the web, it's recently been reported that the town of Presidio, Texas (population approx 7,500) has just installed a large sodium sulfur battery with a capacity of 32 MWH which they have affectionately named "Bob" at a cost of $25 million dollars. That's interesting you say, so what?

Well this is the final step in making wind non intermittent.


This battery is capable of powering the entire town's entire electricity needs for 4 straight hours.

So what?

Well, do the math. At a total cost of $25 million dollars, that comes out to about $3K per resident.

$3K per resident is hardly going to break the bank.

If this technology was implemented in wind farms all over the country it would lead to a situation where excess wind power could be stored and delivered on demand.

That would in turn lead to a much higher percentage of wind as a proportion of generating capacity being installable without having to upgrade the grid.

In addition, this technology makes it possible for wind turbines to compete as storable sources of energy for electric vehicles. Imagine this: along the interstates, there are car charging stations built with their own windfarms attached along with a number of these sodium sulfur batteries. The energy to charge the cars is gotten from the wind when the wind is blowing but delivered ON DEMAND. We're talking effectively about fixed price fuel for driving in unlimited quantities.

A scientific american article has this to say
So Xcel Energy, Inc., has become one of the first utilities in the U.S. to install a giant battery system in an attempt to store some of that wind power for later. "Energy storage might help us get to the point where we can integrate wind better," says Frank Novachek, director of corporate planning for the Minneapolis-based utility with customers in Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. "The overall cost of electricity might be lower by using energy storage."

The energy storage in question—a series of sodium–sulfur batteries from Japan's NGK Insulators, Ltd.—can store roughly seven megawatt-hours of power, meaning the 20 batteries are capable of delivering roughly one megawatt of electricity almost instantaneously, enough to power 500 average American homes for seven hours. "Over 100 megawatts of this technology [is] deployed throughout the world," Novachek says. The batteries "store wind at night and they contract with their utility to put out a straight line output from that wind farm every day."

That removes one of the big hurdles to even broader adoption of wind power: so-called intermittency. In other words, the wind doesn't always blow when you want it to, a problem Texas faced earlier this year when a drop in wind generation forced cuts in electricity delivery. But with battery backup, the 11-megawatt wind farm outside Luverne, Minn., can deliver a set amount of electricity at all times, making it more reliable or, in industry terms, base-load generation. Plus, the battery effectively doubles the wind farm's output at any given moment—both the megawatt being produced by the wind farm itself (that would otherwise have gone to charging the battery) and the megawatt delivered by the battery.

These guys are not the only ones either. Ceramatec, VRB Power Systems, IBM and others are all working on advanced batteries of one kind or another.

Since the cost of installation of wind turbines are currently on par with new gas turbines, and dwindling supplies of coal can only get more expensive as time goes on, it seems we are now closing in on the end of the fossil fuel age.

Monday, 5 April 2010

First Pre-Production Chevy Volts Roll Off Production Line

I was a little skeptical that GM was really going to do it and was relying more on the Chinese and Japanese to lead us into the post-oil personal transportation age but it seems that GM really is serious. The plug-in hybrid is an excellent solution to the peak oil transition period. If GM and others can ramp up production at least to offset the decline in availability of gasoline post peak then we won't even see large numbers of people having to take the bus because gas prices spike.

Story follows:

The first pre-production Volt rolled off the line at the Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant on 31 March. These pre-production versions of the Volt will not be sold at dealerships, but will be used to assure all steps in the production system will meet the quality targets set by the Volt engineering team.

Assembly workers will build more pre-production Volts in the coming months. These vehicles will be examined by manufacturing engineers as the plant prepares to build retail models later this year.

We have a very experienced workforce at this plant and through all of their preparation and training workers here have been given the privilege to take GM into the future with this car.

—Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager Teri Quigley

The Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range delivers up to 40 miles of pure electric driving before an engine-generator kicks in to sustain the battery charge and extend the range to about 300 additional miles.

Where is JD?

Many people have been asking "where is JD?" or "where is Brewskie?".

The doomers would gleefully answer with "they have accepted that we're doomed and are now hunkering down in their doomstead and manically counting their gold eagles and MRE while calculating how many zombies they can kill per scarce and very valuable round of ammo.

Personally I reckon JD is just bored with the whole peak oil shtick. He has better things to do with his time than argue with fanatics whose real position stems from a belief that modern civilisation is evil and clutch at any available straw to argue that it *must* collapse.

In the case of Brewskie, he's gone back to school and is having fun and is spending his money on beer and pizza rather than saving for a doomstead.