Electricity

For Storing Electricity, Utilities Are Turning to Pumped Hydro

Publication: Yale Environment 360   Date: November 24, 2015   View Article

In the past decade, wind energy production has soared in Spain, rising from 6 percent of the country’s electricity generation in 2004 to about 20 percent today. While that is certainly good news for boosters of clean energy, the surge in renewables has come with the challenge of ensuring that electric power is available when customers want it, not just when the wind blows.

To help accommodate the increased supply of wind, Spain’s utilities have turned not to high-tech, 21st-century batteries, but rather to a time-tested 19th-century technology — pumped storage hydroelectricity. Pumped storage facilities are typically equipped with pumps and generators that move water between upper and lower reservoirs. A basic setup uses excess electricity — generated, say, from wind turbines during a blustery night — to pump water from a lower reservoir, such as behind a dam, to a reservoir at a higher elevation. Then, when the wind ceases to blow or electricity demand spikes, the water from on high is released to spin hydroelectric turbines.

Will Huge Batteries Save Us From Power Blackouts?

Publication: National Geographic   Date: April 29, 2015   View Article

Glacier, Washington, is the final stop for coffee and treats on the Mt. Baker Highway, which ends at a ski area holding the world record for most snowfall in a season. The small town in the woods might seem an unlikely spot for a $9.6 million warehouse to store excess energy, but it might prove the perfect testing ground.

The area’s winter storms routinely knock out power to Glacier, home to about 250 residents year-round and more than 1,000 on busy weekends. Come 2016, its outages should be less frequent thanks to a shipping container humming with lithium-ion batteries hooked up to a substation that will provide up to 18 hours of backup electricity.

The two-megawatt system will allow Puget Sound Energy to study broader applications for grid-scale energy storage such as using it to provide power during peak-hour demand and to maintain minute-by-minute grid balance.

Big Batteries Are Starting to Boost the Electric Grid

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 5, 2014   View Article

Long hailed as a game changer that will allow unlimited amounts of wind and solar energy onto the electric power grid, big rechargeable batteries are beginning to move out of research labs and find a home amid the real-world tangle of smokestacks, turbines and power lines. Today, the reality falls short of the hype about fossil-fuel-free electricity — but experts say that future could be in store.

For the foreseeable future, electric utilities will rely on coal, gas and nuclear power plants to provide a steady base of power, according to Paul Denholm, a senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. But batteries can help balance the flow of electricity as demand ramps up and down throughout the day.

“That is where the hot applications are right now for energy storage,” he told NBC News.

‘Living battery’ generates electricity from sewage and wastewater

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 16, 2013   View Article

A new type of living battery has been created that generates electricity from dissolved organic matter such as that found in wastewater flushed down the toilet or washed off farms and out to sea.

The system is as efficient as the highest performing solar cells and, in theory, could generate as much energy as is needed to treat wastewater with current technology, according to researchers working on the so-called microbial battery at Stanford University in California.

Catastrophic power outages on the rise, but new tech helps keep lights on

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 2, 2013   View Article

Last year, nearly a tenth of the world’s population — 620 million people — lost power at once. The cause? Two simultaneous failures on India’s enormous electric grid.

While these catastrophes are a symptom of infrastructure investment lagging behind rapid urbanization and modernization, technology can help: A new computer algorithm could lower the chances of such massive blackouts from recurring.

Technique turns ash into hydrogen gas

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 11, 2013   View Article

Piles of ash leftover from incinerated trash may be a viable source of hydrogen gas that can be used to generate electricity and power cars, suggests a process pioneered in a research lab.

The trick? Just add water, which reacts with residual metallic aluminum in the ash, explained Aamir Ilyas, a water resource engineer at Lund University in Sweden, who developed the technique.

Whey cool: Dairy waste turned into electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 15, 2013   View Article

Get a whiff of this: Milky rinse water flowing from Wisconsin cheese factories will soon be used to generate enough electricity for 3,000 homes, thanks to an innovative solution to a growing wastewater problem.

For years, the milky rinse water was spread on farmland as a low-grade fertilizer, but the practice was curtailed in the face of more stringent environmental regulations to limit runoff pollution, especially in the winter months when spraying on frozen ground was outlawed.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach