The Ergosphere
Sunday, February 11, 2007
 

Two easy pieces

The difficult parts of the emerging renewable energy economy are the high-efficiency biomass converters and new energy storage.  (The biomass-to-electricity converter is a sine qua non for the Sustainability scheme.)  These are essential; without high efficiency the energy yield of biomass is too low to support a high standard of living, and without storage the use of intermittent supplies (such as wind and solar) becomes problematic.

At least, they looked difficult.  Turns out one might be on the way as a solution for other problems, and a big chunk of the other is already available for free.

Storage first.  Nature magazine reports an experiment in the Netherlands which will use cold-storage warehouses as massive demand-managed systems to balance the variability of wind power and the daily demand curve.  (More commentary here, and a short project description here).  During periods of power surplus, the warehouses' refrigeration systems will be run full-bore to chill them by up to 1°C; when power production lags demand, the warehouses will shut off their chillers and coast on their stored heat-absorption capabity.  The possibilities are claimed to be huge:

The net effect would be that the warehouses would act as as batteries — potentially storing 50,000 megawatt-hours of energy — and the food wouldn't melt.

Electricity is expensive to store, but many of the things we make from electricity are not.  I've been touting the possibilities of ice-storage systems for A/C for some time.  Here's an example of DSM which is already available for free — and even has the control systems built in to handle shorter (6 minute) interruptions for the sake of peak-demand management.

This example is a clue-by-four to use on denialists.  They've been saying it can't be done, so now we can point to this and say "Holland is doing it, you ignoramus."  (As far as I'm concerned, anyone denying a confirmable fact gets one free pass along with a hotlink to the information which proves them wrong.  After that, they're fair game for any epithet you like.)  Once the warehouse systems are out there, we can extend the concept as necessary to leverage the variable energy resources.  The population of the Netherlands is about 16.5 million.  The US has about 18 times as many people, and likely about 18 times as much refrigerated warehouse capacity.  If Holland has 50 GWH of energy-banking capability available, the US might already have on the order of 900 GWH.  That's about 2 hours of average US electric consumption.  We'd have to build out one huge amount of wind and solar power capacity to strain that.

Being able to store renewable energy is no good if you can't make it.  So I was very happy to receive a note from a reader telling me about the Gas Institute's solid-oxide fuel cell powered by gasified chicken litter.  The power density of the SOFC was reduced to about 40% of normal due to the low-BTU fuel gas, but it did not accumulate any damaging deposits such as carbon.  The SOFC's going to DOE for testing recently were priced in the $250-$300/kW range; if the same cells were used for converting gasified biomass and nothing can be done to raise the power level again (such as pressurizing the system), the SOFC portion's cost would increase to $625-$750/kW.  This figure seems quite reasonable.  After adding fuel preparation and a microturbine to provide forced-air feed and bottoming-cycle energy recovery (and assuming no increase in power density from pressurization), I guesstimate that the system might cost in the neighborhood of $1000/kW  This is about the per-kW cost of a Capstone microturbine.

Dr. Lau and company appear to have used chicken litter because it is a disposal problem in some areas.  What other energy-rich materials are a disposal problem?  Excess rice straw?  Check.  Excess corn stover?  If you don't have livestock to feed, check.  Forestry waste?  Check.  Municipal green waste?  Check.  Plastic waste, waste cooking grease, etc?  The list goes on and on.

Nobody's sent me a note about a crop waste-powered SOFC being used to generate the CO2 for an algae growth system to make liquid bio-fuels, but at the rate my speculations have been popping up in the news, it wouldn't surprise me if it happens any day now.  It really does move too fast to keep up.

We look to be on-track for a Viridian green future, too late for comfort but sooner than anyone expects.

 
 

Goodbye to Blogger?

On my sign-in just now, I got a notice that I can go straight to my Blogger dashboard without converting to the new Blogger and making a Google account — but I can only do this once.  After this I must have a Google account if I want to post to The Ergosphere.

I don't want a Google account.  I want nothing to do with their data-retention policies, their data-mining, or anything else.  I want to keep my blog strictly separated from everything else I do.

Apparently, if I want to do this I can no longer use Blogger.

I will have to think long and hard about this, but "Two Easy Pieces" may be the final post you ever see on The Ergosphere.

Update 1:13 AM:  And with Google deleting videos critical of Islam, I have exactly zero reasons to support Google by directing my reader's eyeballs to them.  So much for "don't be evil", eh?

Note to Google:  Fuck yourself with a rusty saw blade.

 
Talk largely about energy and work, but also politics and other random thoughts


Mail Engineer-Poet

(If you're mailing a question, is it already in the FAQ?)

Important links

The FAQ
Glossary
The Reference Library

Blogchild of

Armed and Dangerous

Blogparent of

R-Squared




The best prospect for our energy future:
Flibe Energy

ARCHIVES
January 1990 / February 2004 / March 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / August 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / April 2013 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014 / February 2014 / March 2014 / April 2014 / July 2014 / August 2014 / September 2014 / October 2014 / November 2014 / February 2015 / April 2015 / October 2015 / March 2016 / April 2016 / May 2016 / June 2016 / July 2016 / November 2016 / December 2016 / February 2017 / May 2017 /


Powered by Blogger

RSS feed

Visits since 2006/05/11: