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Ask an engineer: grid-level battery storage

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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We’re holding a live Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Twitter right now with Robert Fares, PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at UT Austin, about his research in grid-level battery storage. Follow along with #AskUT and @davidwogan @robertfares @zaragozaaustin.

Update: I’ve embedded the discussion below.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. jerryd 3:31 pm 10/18/2013

    I’d like to know why they are needed? I like batteries, I use them in my EV’s every day.

    The utilities certainly don’t think so as they take them only when given free. Why?

    Nor do renewable energy need them more than any other power source as it’s a made up problem. The gird already cheaply handles variable demand which is far more variable than RE.

    Next most RE, solar, solar CSO, east coast wind, hydro, river/tidal power, biomass is either made when needed most, on demand or steady. Sorry but RE isn’t the problem.

    Grid power is so vast even 1% battery would be huge. Do the math.

    For instance many claim RE needs great back up power yet if you had no RE at all, you’d still need the same backup or more that with RE is basic common sense. Sadly that seems in limited supply.

    Thus a made up RE ‘problem’ propaganda by big utilities, coal, that are scared to death of home/building made power as PV well done, sunelec, each 1kw worth makes 40,000kwhrs over 20 yrs for $.04/kwhr before subsidies. And that scares them big time.

    The grid battery of the future will be EV, home, building units that grid connected can absorb power lows and put power back into the grid when needed. But that is only for second to minute changes, not anything more.

    Facts are in developed countries utilities are going to shrink, not grow, from lower demand both eff/conservation but increasingly by home/building/industry RE and cogen.

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  2. 2. sethdayal 8:40 pm 10/18/2013

    “The gird already cheaply handles variable demand which is far more variable than RE.”

    Here I go feeding one of SCIAM’s more amusing trolls. Always a source of rolling on the floor laughter.

    Jerry is a self admitted illiterate and drug abuser. Obviously he’s been into the ganja again.

    The grid maintains a 10% reserve capacity for unforeseen events and expects a daily 50% load variation predictable well in advance.

    Jerry despite his claim of being a world class competitive sailor is astonishingly unaware that wind gusts can vary 50% in a matter of seconds and drop off completely in ways that can’t be predicted. Gas plant at 100% nameplate must always be standing by wasting fuel idling just in case.

    Not so much of an issue today but with new RES standards forcing the wind/solar to 100% of loads at times, backup is a major concern.

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  3. 3. jerryd 7:12 am 10/19/2013

    You can guess by Seth’s posts who the troll is.

    Read more of his posts and see just how big a troll he is.

    Back to my detailed post with actual facts that matter, I misspelled CSP, Concentrated solar power, which with cheap heat storage gives power 24-7 on demand. Any storage needed there Seth?

    East coast wind happens when needed most with the land/sea breezes. Any storage needed there Seth?

    Biomass on demand, any storage needed there Seth?

    Hydro on demand, any storage needed there Seth?

    PV is made when needed most, any storage needed there Seth?

    If there were no RE, the grid would still need the same amount of back up Seth?

    You make up stuff, mislead and problems that don’t exist and call people names who don’t agree with you Seth which is nearly everyone Seth, Why?

    Even the other trolls don’t agree with you as you have alienated everyone. Why? Sad really.

    Seth, now who is the troll?

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  4. 4. Ar U. Gaetü 7:56 am 10/19/2013

    Doesn’t non-centralized renewable energy production, linked by a national grid, produce the same effect as batteries? If each home and/or town had their own source of safe and efficient energy production, averaging a 10% surplus to the grid, wouldn’t it act similar to a single, nationwide, self-healing entity? For it to fail, wouldn’t it require the loss of energy to 30 million people simultaneously? Even if such a catastrophic event were to occur, the untouched portions would remain healthy with their independent sources.

    The most reliable and cheapest energy grids are composed of diverse varieties of energy sources, whichever is most appropriate to a particular area, whether it is individual home solar panel in Arizona, a Colorado town’s wind farm, or a coastal state’s tide-effect turbines.

    I imagine global grids. With the vast and highly diverse spaces within the US, pollution and climatic dangers from coal, gas and oil, it will be the export of electrons from clean sources that will be the valuable commodity in the near future. True, it could be hoarded for financial greed and political bargaining (much like oil), or it could be uniformly distributed for the exponential advancement in human technology; a basic human right, such as food, clean air and water. Imagine the global internet possibilities by piggy-backing data on such a vast grid (currently, only 30% of the world has internet access).

    Grid batteries; a long term idea for a short term problem.

    [ Note - my comments use reclaimed electrons whenever possible. All unused electron-waste is collected and processed locally. No electrons are shipped overseas for disposal. Our local recyclers must comply with all applicable health and safety laws, and we do not allow the use of child or prison labor at any stage of the electron recycling process. ]

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  5. 5. sethdiyal 4:15 pm 10/19/2013

    Feeding the troll parte deux.

    more ganja Jerry?

    Yup Jerry CSP with storage that nobody is building anymore. It ain’t cheap, nobodies putting in more than 6 hours of it, and you still need the gas plant for cloudly days – just saves fuel.

    There is no hydro reserves to speak off in most of the world, and biomass has been shown to produce far more GHG’s than it saves, while doing massive damage to farm and forest.

    PV once again peaks at noon on a June day well off of peak load in the early evening and has to backed to 1005 name plate with gas plant for clouds floating past and cloudy days as well as winter summer. All it does is save gas.

    Since the fast spolling gas plant to back up not so RE is inefficient OCGT variety, less gas less GHG’s far less money skipping the not so RE and replacing it with efficient CCGT plant.

    I’d recommend a grade school level innernet course for you Jerry so your BS can be made more believable.

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  6. 6. sethdiyal 4:20 pm 10/19/2013

    Sorry Gaeta but wrong.

    A University of Delaware study showed that using wind, a 300% reserve was required to meet 90% energy needs. No solution was found for occasional several week long low/no wind climate variations.

    SOlar is irrelevant as it can’t be depended on to provide power outside mid morning/late afternoon hours.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Rehe1984 4:33 pm 10/19/2013

    my best friend’s step-sister makes $79 an hour on the internet. She has been fired from work for nine months but last month her pay was $16870 just working on the internet for a few hours. this website….

    Link to this
  8. 8. jerryd 3:38 pm 10/28/2013

    Of course Seth forgets 300% extra wind at under $2k/kw still costs less than US, euro nukes at $8B/Gw, 8k/kw.

    Wind also employ more and the excess can make syn fuels, etc.

    Plus Seth ignores the biggest future energy source, home/building power. Why is because they pay retail, $.12/kwhr US average it’s very profitable with PV now in many cases costing 35% of utility power done well.

    Because so widely spread and mostly on demand or when needed power, it averages out nicely, needing no storage or back up. In fact will make good money supplying peak/ high priced power as will EV’s with V2G.

    But Seth doesn’t have the ability to do anything but spread lies about nuke only power. Why Seth?

    Link to this

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