Getting Energy From The Energy Store

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Inspired by an interesting guest post entitled “An energy model for the future, from the 12th century” over at Judith Curry’s excellent blog, I want to talk a bit about energy storage.

The author of the guest post is partially right. His thesis is that solving the problem of how to store city-sized amounts of electricity would make a very big difference, particularly for intermittent sources like wind and solar. And he’s right, it would. But he’s wrong not to point out how devilishly difficult that goal has been to achieve in the real world.

Storage of electricity is a very strange corner of scientific endeavors. Almost everything in a 2013 car is very different from what was in a 1913 car … except for the battery. Automobile batteries are still lead-acid, and the designs only differ slightly from those of a hundred years ago.

lead acid batteryFigure 1. Elements of a lead-acid car battery. SOURCE 

Now, we do have nicads and such, but the automobile storage battery is the bellwether for the inexpensive storage of electricity. Cars need a surprisingly large amount of energy to start, particularly if they are balky. If there were a cheaper way to store that big charge, it would be on every car on the planet. Given that huge market, and the obvious profits therein, people have been busting their heads against the problem since before Thomas Edison made his famous statement about automobile batteries.

And despite that century-long huge application of human ingenuity, in 2013 the lead-acid battery still rules. It’s an anomaly, like fusion energy, a puzzle that has proven incredibly hard to solve. Potential solutions have all fallen by the wayside, due to cost, or capacity, or energy density, or dangerous components, or long-term stability, or clogging, or rarity of materials, or a habit of exploding or melting down, or manufacturing difficulties, the number of pitfalls is legion.

So I’ll get excited when we have something other than lead-acid batteries in our cars. Because that will be evidence that we’ve taken the first step … but even that won’t be enough. The other problem is the huge amount of energy we’re talking about. Here’s some back-of-the-envelope figures.

New York City’s electricity consumption averaged over a 24/7/365 basis is on the order of 5 gigawatts (5E+09 watts) continuous. Let’s take a city a tenth of that size, there’s plenty of them on the planet, China alone has dozens and dozens of cities that big, and lets consider how much storage we’d need to provide three days of stored electrical energy for that city. The numbers look like this

5.0E+08 watts continuous times

72 hours equals

3.6E+10 watt-hours of storage times

3.6E+03 seconds/hour gives

1.3E+14 joules of storage needed

So that means we’d need to store 130 terajoules (130E+12 joules) of energy … the only problem is, very few people have an intuitive grasp of how much energy 130 terajoules is, and I’m definitely not one of them.

So let me use a different unit of energy, one that conveys more to me. That unit is “Hiroshima-sized atom bombs”. The first atomic bomb ever used in a war, the Hiroshima bomb released the unheard of, awesome energy of 60 terajoules, enough to flatten a city.

And we’re looking to store about twice that much energy …

I’m sure that you can see the problems with scalability and safety and energy density and resource availability and security for that huge amount of energy.

So while I do like the guest author’s story, and he’s right about the city-sized storage being key … it’s a wicked problem.

Finally, as usual, Judith has put up an interesting post on her interesting blog. I don’t subscribe to a lot of blogs, but hers is near the top of the list. My thanks for her contribution to the ongoing discussion.


PS—Edison’t famous statement about automobile batteries? He was offered big money in those days, something like ten grand from memory, to design and build a better battery for electric automobiles than the lead-acid battery. He took the money and went back to his laboratory. Month after month, there was no news from him. So the businessmen who’d put up the money went to see him. He said he didn’t have the battery, and in fact he didn’t even have the battery design.

Naturally, they accused him of having taken their money and done nothing. No, he assured them, that wasn’t right at all.

He said there had actually been significant progress, because he now knew of more than fifty ways NOT to make a battery for an electric automobile …

Curiously, Edison ended up inventing a nickel-iron-peroxide battery, which was a commercial failure … so even he couldn’t get past lead-acid.

Similarly, we now know hundreds and hundreds of ways not to make a battery for a city. So I suppose that’s progress in Edison’s terms, but after a century the wait’s getting long. I suspect we’ll solve the puzzle eventually, perhaps with something like a vanadium flow battery or whatever, but dang … it’s a slow one.

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Grey Lensman
June 29, 2013 11:59 pm

Willis, I appreciate the thought butHhroshimas leave me and most people cold (dread). How about converting that into tonnes of gasoline? Then we can picture a storage tank, with that amount of fuel and how long it would keep New York going.

P. Hager
June 29, 2013 11:59 pm

Fairbanks Alaska has a city sized UPS. But it wouldn’t last very long (17 minutes). I make it 11MWH or about 4E10 Joules.

June 30, 2013 12:00 am

Lead-acid battery is not the most efficient way of storing energy. The reason why we still use it in our automobiles is that it suits the purpose perfectly but the purpose is not storing large amount of energy. There are numerous criteria to fit: small size and weight, sufficient capacity, resistance to the charge/discharge conditions in cars, and most importantly ability to provide high power output in short time. Efficiency in storing the energy is not among them. Other batteries can store energy much more efficiently but don’t fit the purpose for automobiles.

Grey Lensman
June 30, 2013 12:08 am

Wow, just did it, from, seems it is 200,000 barrels per day of gasoline. Thats the size of a big crude oil tank. 2,000,000 barrels being the capacity of one standard supertanker. So thats one of those every ten days. Thats some battery

June 30, 2013 12:19 am

From what I understand, the best and most cost effective way to store energy is hold water at a high elevation and discharge it to a lower elevation as is done with water behind damns. Which means that wind and hydroelectric could complement each other well. In fact, I believe Danish wind farms sell much of their excess power when conditions are favorable to other Scandinavian countries who have abundant hydro power, albeit at a loss in many cases. You might think that California might be able to take advantage of its topography, reliable sea breezes and sunshine but they are quite averse to dams.

Les Francis
June 30, 2013 12:19 am

It’s all about the electrons. They have to stored somewhere. Lots of stored electrons requires lots of heavy space. Simple really. It’s a matter of physics – always will be. That’s what Edison found out.

Lew Skannen
June 30, 2013 12:23 am

How about a few thousand 1,000 ton Tungsten fly wheels dotted about the city and rotating at speeds that keep the surfaces just subsonic. That should be about the right order of magnitude.
Obviously try and keep them pointed away from fragile objects in case they get loose…

son of mulder
June 30, 2013 12:30 am

What would help me to visualise this is, how many car batteries would be needed to store the electricity to power an average home for 3 days in winter, including heating?

Peter Lang
June 30, 2013 12:31 am

Willis Eschenbach,
Great post here and excellent comments on Judith Curry’s thread too. I’ve added several comments to the Judith Curry thread to explain some of the costs and other issues for readers.
WUWT readers might find two charts on the Electricity Storage Association web site interesting ‘per cycle costs’ and ‘capital costs’ ($ per kW and $ per kWh storage capacity).
The ‘per-cycle costs’ chart show that the cost of electricity from batteries is in the order of 10 to 100 times the cost of pumped hydro energy storage. Pumped hydro energy storage is already expensive and not economically viable for storing intermittent power sources, such as from wind and solar power sources.
The ‘Capital Cost’ chart shows that Na-S batteries (the most suitable for large scale at the moment) shows that
– capital cost per unit power ($/kW) = 1,000 – 3,000 (let’s say $2,000/kW)
– capital cost per unit energy storage ($/kWh) = 200 – 1,000 (let’s say $500/kWh)
Let’s do a rough estimate of the cost of energy storage for Willis figures for New York City;
Average power demand = 5 GW @ $2,000/kW = $10 billion
Storage capacity required (for 72 hours) = 36 GWh @ $500/kWh = $18 billion
Wholesale Cost of Electricity from storage (ref. ‘per-cycle’ cost chart) = 10 c/kWh PLUS the average buy price for renewable energy and transmission @ 20 c/kWh = 30 c/kWh (wholesale).
Add distribution and retail costs.
My suspicion these costs are a gross underestimate.

June 30, 2013 12:38 am

A few things to point out:
1. You mean “Times by 3.6E+03 seconds per day,” not divided by.
2. This problem is already fairly well solved where there is sufficient hydroelectric storage capacity – but the required geography limits its application. Norway is doing quite a good trade in buying cheap excess renewables from the rest of Europe and selling it back later when demand is high. Using the lead-acid battery as a comparison is not terribly relevant – as others have pointed out, it has quite different performance requirements to large-scale storage.
3. Someone mentioned flywheel storage. I think someone was trying this in New York. The major problem seems to be that a mechanical failure in a 1MWHr flywheel at full charge is hard to distinguish from a small bomb.

Steve C
June 30, 2013 12:43 am

The other scary aspect of a 1.3E+14 Joule battery is what happens when something (inevitably) goes wrong. A few hundred thousand barrels of gasoline would certainly make a fire to remember in case of an accident, but should your entire battery decide to short you’ll have those “Hiroshimas” of energy released all at once. Just like the real thing, but bigger.
On the plus side, of course, your energy consumption would drop to levels acceptable to any greenie after your demise.

Chris M on the move
June 30, 2013 12:44 am

Reckon we’ve got it already – coal, gas, nuclear, oil. More energy than you can shake a stick at with a well established delivery system. Just perfect really

Lance Wallace
June 30, 2013 12:45 am

Son of Mulder–
Willis chose a city 1/10 the size of New York or about a million people. So divide his 1.3 X 10^14 by 10^6 to get 1.3 X 10^8 joules. Oddly enough, using Grey Lensman’s link, we find that the very first item on the list of joule equivalents is 1 gallon of gasoline, which is said to contain….1.3 X 10^8 joules.
I haven’t the faintest idea of whether any of this makes any sense, however.

June 30, 2013 12:47 am

Willis, you have 5.0E+08 watt = 5 Gigawatts.
that should be 5.0E+09. watts. Therefore 1300 TeraJoules.
Coal energy = 6.70 KWH / kg coal
coal with 40% energy conversion = 2.68 KWH / kg coal to elec generation
coal rail car = 100000. kg
coal unit train 100 cars = 2.68E+07 KWH elec gen
coal unit train 100 cars = 1.12 GW-Day elec gen
1 GW-day = 86.40 TeraJoules
coal unit train 100 cars = 96.5 terajoules
So use a coal unit train (converted to electricity at 40%) as an everyday concept for a GW-day or 100 TeraJoule of electrical energy.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
June 30, 2013 12:48 am

Tom, you shouldn’t type ‘small bomb’ into a forum. When you type ‘small bomb’ into the internet, the NSA (or GCHQ if you’re in Britain) will knock on your

June 30, 2013 12:59 am

Battery storage – like solar, the big breakthrough is just around the corner, and has been for many decades. They just keep butting up against the laws of chemistry and physics, which apparently can be overcome with further research grants
Also, I don’t want to be living anywhere near a large battery array based on current technologies. To describe such a site as hazardous is an understatement. Try, tick, tick, tick. It is much safer, cheaper and more practical to produce electricity as and when it is needed, such as – now here’s an idea – coal, gas or nuclear power on a well managed grid.

June 30, 2013 1:03 am

For a city, the answer is pretty simple. Electrolyze wastewater to make H2 and O2. Let the O2 go, since you can get it anywhere you have air. It would be better to liquefy the H2 since otherwise the pressure and/or volume get’s quite large. A gallon of gasoline contains 1.3×10^8 J, so we need 10^6 gallons equivalent. Turns out 1 kg of LH2 has almost the same energy as a gallon of gasoline, but takes up 4 gallons of volume. Many cities have million gallon water tanks and we don’t notice them. Storage of sufficient LH2 is on a scale that is practical. Then the question is what to do with the LH2. It’s a half-cell and we could use large scale fuel cells to generate power, or run a gas turbine. With nuclear power it would be worthwhile to work on a LH2 delivery system to run vehicles, and replace gasoline, at least when 1 kg of LH2 has about the same price as a gallon of gasoline.

June 30, 2013 1:03 am

Haha Jim, they haven’t got me yet.
Thinking about this some more, the Hiroshima bomb is not a very useful comparison, either. It might happen to have around the same energy content, but comparing grid-scale energy supply to something that’s designed to release all its stored energy as quickly as possible is not going to give you an intuitive feel for the problem. How often would I have to set one off to power a city of 1/10th the size of NY? AFAICT, about every 36 hours. To make the sort of hand-waving approximation that Wills seems to love, suppose the bomb released all its energy in 5ms and we need to stretch that to cover 36 hours, so we need to reduce the energy intensity by 36 * 3600 / 0.005 = 25,920,000 times. I had a fairly sketch idea what the energy intensity of an atom bomb looked like in the first place; now I’ve got to divide that by 25 million and I’ve completely lost it.
Could I suggest tons of oil equivalent as an alternative? It’s a kind of standard when talking about large-scale energy.

June 30, 2013 1:13 am

A ClaytonPower 400Ah Lithium-ion battery will store 617 kJ/kg
= 617 KW-sec/kg
= 0.171 KWH / kg of battery.
or 7.1 KW-Day per TON of battery.
We need 140,000,000 kg of 400Ah Lithium Batteries just to store 1 GW-day.
That would be the mass of about TEN coal unit trains.
1 coal unit train, filled from Black Thunder and delivered to St. Louis costs about $300,000.
A lithium-ion battery bank big enought to store a GW-day would cost $60,000,000,000.
It is a 200,000 times cheaper the store electrical energy in the form of coal to use on demand than in a lithium-ion battery bank. Finally, you cannot recharge a battery bank 10,000 times before needing to replace it.
ClaytonPower 400Ah Lithium-ion battery = 5.83 kg/Kwh
1 GW-Day = 24,000,000.00 Kwh
ClaytonPower 400Ah Lithium-ion battery = 140,032,414. kg battery/GW-Day
cost of lithium-ion battery = 2.50 $/whr. (Wikipedia)
cost of lithium-ion battery = 2500.00 $/kwh
cost of lithium-ion battery $60 billion / GW-day

June 30, 2013 1:18 am

Gasoline pumping stations are dangerous- the design is inherently bad. They’ve had 150 Fires. Much better would be have an internal pipe to deliver the gasoline and external in which take out the air/ fuel fumes so it solidly seats with gas tank. Then anyone could pump almost anything- it would just need somewhere to the vent the gases and perhaps a quick clean of air to get the last of the liquid out the hose.

June 30, 2013 1:20 am

As others have suggested, the so-called AC Batteries or more properly called Pumped Storage Hydroelectric could provide city-sized energy storage. Some facilities, such as Cabin Creek in Colorado, have more than 300 meters of vertical capacity owing to the mountains in the area, but the Ludington Pumped Storage facility is just 34 m in height, 4 km long and 1.6 km wide. Neither of these facilities is large enough to solve the 500 MW problem for 72 hours (though Ludington is close at 500 MW for ~50 hrs and you need to keep 100 Mm^3 of water laying around).
That is probably safer than storing 600,000 barrels of gasoline as well–and less susceptible to spoilage.

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 1:22 am

In one of Willis’ prior stories, as we were discussing (read: butting heads) 😉 his (to me, worthwhile) challenges encouraged me to do some digging.
One of the things I found that seemed promising was a hybrid hydro process – “pumped storage”. Water is stored in a reservoir at a higher elevation and released to drive turbines at peak demand times during the day – when electricity is both scarce and at it most expensive. That water is captured and held in a lower elevation reservoir and then pumped back up to the top at night when energy is cheap and relatively plentiful.
Some (not all) of the main, regular generation facilities pretty much must run 24/7 as it would be far more expensive (and difficult in many cases) to stop and start them. The power at night from one of these would effectively be essentially free, as it has to run anyway.
A wiki article notes they recover appx 75-80% of pumping costs in generation from the pumped storage. But again, if the pumping energy is from a fixed traditional plant as I understand they need to run all the time anyway – they need constant load.
“Pumped storage” like this is essentially a big battery – a large reservoir of stored power. They are able to start up quickly and make rapid adjustments in output unlike traditional generation.
More info:
Willis – maybe you could take a look at how much energy could be generated with a modest head difference – maybe say 50 feet – which could be more easily achieved in a “constructed” reservoir system (as opposed say to using natural terrain and damming). How bi and deep a resevoir you’d need. It seems these could also be recreational lakes as well?

June 30, 2013 1:27 am

@Willis, Re Rasey at 12:47 am
Sorry, I saw the New York City and 5 Gigawatts, but missed the,
“Let’s take a city a tenth of that size,”
So your 130 TeraJoule is correct for 1.5 GW-day.
$90 Billion dollars of Li-ion batteries, or
$0.00045 Billion dollars of delivered coal.

June 30, 2013 1:29 am

Hydro pumped storage is the cheapest storage method we have, followed by the lead-acid battery. Of course, you can’t have a pumped storage scheme in your car! For New York, you could. But to store 1.3*10^15 Joules you’d need two lakes quite close together, each 100 metres deep and with a diameter of 41 km, with a 1,000 metre fall between the two. Those aren’t two a penny! And that hasn’t allowed for the 75 % efficiency of typical pumped storage schemes.

Bob Koss
June 30, 2013 1:31 am

Storage is only part of the problem if the intention is make wind and solar dispatchable power and replace fossil fuels entirely. Even if you are lucky and manage to make it through a few poor generating days using storage, you have now exhausted that reserve and your storage is depleted. Without a follow on period of considerable length when wind and solar are operating at high production the storage takes a long time to recharge. At least it does unless you have so overbuilt the capacity of the generating system that you end up throwing away huge quantities of energy when times are good.

June 30, 2013 1:34 am

Surely it’s not about a big system storing heaps but lots of small systems. Take the VBR system by Prudent energy. It’ s the Vanadium system Willis mentioned.
500kW – 5MW systems are pretty big units with up to 8 hours storage.

Gene Selkov
June 30, 2013 1:39 am

Tom says:
> Using the lead-acid battery as a comparison is not terribly relevant – as others have pointed out, it has quite different performance requirements to large-scale storage.
There are different formulations of lead-acid batteries. You are right about the car battery, which is good for cranking at 1000A but not optimal for storage. But have a look at the UPS batteries, which are also lead-acid batteries, except they are optimised for endurance. There is nothing out there that is even close to the lead-acid battery type in terms of weight, cost, reliability, and safety.
For traction, the second best has been the iron-nickel alkaline battery (don’t stomp on Edison too hard). Nothing else can sustain a similar number of charge cycles and its power density is just a little worse than that of a lead-acid battery.
For grid-scale storage, the flow batteries seemed to be promising. A humongous bromine polysulfate battery was built in Little Barford a while ago and reportedly wasn’t a total failure, but it has never been commissioned:
“DBERR part- sponsored the Regenesys’ scheme with IVTL in 2001 to build a pilot flow-cell battery as a 12MW storage system at Little Barford power station. The project encountered severe technical difficulties and in 2003, after ITVL was acquired by RWE energy, it withdrew funding. The project was subsequently discontinued.”
Unfortunately, we are not told what kind of difficulties those were, so it could as well have been a total failure. It is there, but it does not work.
So, being the third largest energy storage (after combustible fuels and water) the lead-acid battery remains very relevant to this discussion.

June 30, 2013 1:44 am

but should your entire battery decide to short you’ll have those “Hiroshimas” of energy released all at once.
Remember that the “two-Hiroshimas” is just the energy stored within the battery bank.
If it should short out, then that energy is released and then vaporizes the metal mass of the battery, which will then burn in the air with many times more energy released than just the electrical energy. The metal-oxides will go into the air and fallout into the environment for more trouble.
A mountain of coal can burn, but there is little else that burns with it. Furthermore, a mountain of coal cannot explode or short out.

Gene Selkov
June 30, 2013 1:46 am

Willis mentions (responding to Hoser):
1. The energy required to electrolyze the water.
Heh. Even if it were regular drinking water, you’d have to disassemble your pile and clean the muck from electrodes and insulators, possibly replacing some of them every 1000 hours or less. Imagine how often you’d need to do that if your electrolyte is communal wastewater.

June 30, 2013 1:51 am

Edison was not an inventor, he was a manager who used his understanding of things like patent laws to appropriate the work of actual intelligent individuals to make himself rich, and he electrocuted cats and elephants to screw over Tesla, an actual super-genius inventor.

Edison carried out a campaign to discourage the use[26] of alternating current, including spreading disinformation on fatal AC accidents, publicly killing animals, and lobbying against the use of AC in state legislatures. Edison directed his technicians, primarily Arthur Kennelly and Harold P. Brown,[27] to preside over several AC-driven killings of animals, primarily stray cats and dogs but also unwanted cattle and horses. [28] Acting on these directives, they were to demonstrate to the press that alternating current was more dangerous than Edison’s system of direct current.[29] He also tried to popularize the term for being electrocuted as being “Westinghoused”. Years after DC had lost the “war of the currents,” in 1903, his film crew made a movie of the electrocution with high voltage AC, supervised by Edison employees, of Topsy, a Coney Island circus elephant which had recently killed three men.[30]
Edison opposed capital punishment, but his desire to disparage the use of alternating current led to the invention of the electric chair. Harold P. Brown, who was being secretly paid by Edison, built the first electric chair for the state of New York to promote the idea that alternating current was deadlier than DC.[31]
When the chair was first used, on August 6, 1890, the technicians on hand misjudged the voltage needed to kill the condemned prisoner, William Kemmler. The first jolt of electricity was not enough to kill Kemmler, and only left him badly injured. The procedure had to be repeated and a reporter on hand described it as “an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging.” George Westinghouse commented: “They would have done better using an axe.”[32]
**** Edison, seriously.

Rud Istvan
June 30, 2013 1:52 am

Pumped hydro (or cousin variable release hydro) accounts for over 99 percent of grid storage. All you need is lots of water and a mountain….which is why it does not solve much of the peak shifting problem, let alone intermittency. It is unlikely any battery or capacitor system well ever find major grid scale usage, although they are practical already for distribution level frequency regulation (in devices called statcomms). There are better places to read up on the problems and the research than Judith’s excellent blog. Try EPRI for starters.

Peter Lang
June 30, 2013 1:55 am

Another way to visualise the amount of energy storage required to power New York City for 72 hours is to estimate the area of each of two storage reservoirs, with 100 m vertical separation, for pumped hydro energy storage.
Assume the active storage depth in each reservoir is 10 m, then the area required is 165 square kilometres for each reservoir to store 360 GWh of energy (5 GW x 72 h)
P.S. Correction to my comment @ June 30, 2013 at 12:31 am
Applying Willis estimates for NYC, the energy storage required is 360 GWh, not 36 GWh (5 GW x 72 h).
Therefore, the estimated cost of energy storage is:
360 GWh @ $500/kWh = $180 billion

Steve R
June 30, 2013 2:02 am

A battery does not actually store electricity, but it is this misconception that I think drives so many futile efforts to force its application into uses where it is unsuitable. A battery is simply a temporary storage of energy using a reversible chemical reaction. It can certainly be convenient in many applications but using a battery to store city-sized amounts of energy (or even vehicle-sized amounts) is just silly. Far better, and more efficient, to generate electricity as needed.
In contrast to a battery,supercapitors actually do store energy in an electric field. As such, they are ideal for short-term storage for vehicle purposes. Consider that a conventional vehicle engine must be sized to meet the instantaneous peak power requirement, but the 5 min, 1 min, or even 1/2 minute average peaks are all substantially less than the instantaneous peak. A significantly smaller and more efficient gasoline or diesel engine could be employed if a bank of supercapacitors were employed to store just a small amount energy to be delivered over a just a few minutes.
Oshkosh has some large trucks which use this concept.

Lil Fella from OZ
June 30, 2013 2:07 am

If you have lived in the bush and been reliant on batteries you would understand the dilemma. Cost is prohibitive. I too have heard rumours of the ‘super battery’ but yet to see the real evidence. I have also heard some naïve comments on using batteries to store energy.

Steve Garcia
June 30, 2013 2:08 am

Edison: “…because he now knew of more than fifty ways NOT to make a battery for an electric automobile …”
Hey, Willis, don’t laugh. From my experience in designing equipment and machines and structures, I can tell you that one of the things people pay designers good bucks for is exactly that – knowing what direction NOT to go in. I.e., what doesn’t work.
Not everybody knows what doesn’t work. I’ve seen guys come in and start out in directions I know won’t work. Some listen, some don’t. The ones that don’t. . . they don’t last long.
After a while, you get so’s people think you are making snap decisions, or hip shooting. That isn’t the case at all. It’s just that you can run down the list PDQ of what you know from past experience doesn’t work. It becomes your modus operandi – to look at a new concept for those trouble spots. If you run into one of those, you have to toss the concept out the window as being unworkable. Experienced designers who talk that lingo – we communicate pretty well among ourselves. At some point, even with different backgrounds, we kind of converge.
So, don’t laugh at Edison on that one. It’s very real world.

J Martin
June 30, 2013 2:13 am

What about compressed air storage, which can be as widely distributed as needed, or viable, using a number of smaller generating stations, rather than a few monolithic power stations.

June 30, 2013 2:16 am

The use of carbon nanotubes looks promising for hydrogen storage.

Doug Huffman
June 30, 2013 2:18 am

Modern nuclear powered submarines still use lead-acid cell batteries sized to provide a restart of the power plant. We used to impress ourselves by calculating the effects of releasing its energy in various accident scenarios.
Submarines also electrolyze water for breathing oxygen in a device vulgarly known as “the bomb” (in my experience and generation of technology). My ship carried a numerically large supply of oxygen candles.
An old ship’s navigation gyroscope’s rotor weighed, if I recall correctly from forty years ago, 55 lbm and turned at 35,000 rpm. I slept with my head on the DC to AC converters so that I could manually hold the gyro erect on a loss of power – I was very impressed by photographs of the damage caused by a gyro escaping its bearings.

Claude Harvey
June 30, 2013 2:25 am

Reversible pumped storage (hydro) has been doing the job at roughly 85% efficiency for about 50 years. I helped design and build one just south of Chattanooga, TN in the 1970’s. The Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant is a four-unit facility on the Tennessee River with a total generating capacity of 1,740 MW. The machines include 540,000 hp synchronous motor/generators and reversible pump/generate impellers (Francis type). Net head between the river and the upper reservoir is about 1,000 feet. The plant typically pumps water up the hill during off-peak hours when the system has excess capacity and brings it back down in the generate mode during peak hours when electric power is dear. Since the market value of electric power is high during on-peak hours and relatively low during the off-peak, the plant is a “money machine”. The 85Kwh generated for every 100Kwh consumed is often worth several times that 100Kwh consumed.
The plant is completely automated (my assistant and I designed the controls) and a single operator can swing a total of over 3,400Mh of power from full pump to full generate in a matter of minutes. Although hydro pumped storage is a near perfect solution to the problem of bulk energy storage and retrieval and there are a number of such facilities around the world, getting a hydro project of any stripe permitted anywhere in the U.S. now is well neigh impossible due to “environmental intervention”.

Grey Lensman
June 30, 2013 2:27 am

Pumped storage is high capital cost and subject to escalation, reference Bakun in Sarawak You also need a large volume of water and a large fall.
The splitting water, then using the resultant gases to make electricity when required looks the simplest and possibly cheapest. Mucky electrodes covered by having several. Switch out for cleaning as required, automatic with sonic cleaning. Problem fixed, hopefully.
Nice to see some cost figures on the process.

Steve Garcia
June 30, 2013 2:32 am

@Steve R June 30, 2013 at 2:02 am:
“In contrast to a battery, supercapitors actually do store energy in an electric field. As such, they are ideal for short-term storage for vehicle purposes. Consider that a conventional vehicle engine must be sized to meet the instantaneous peak power requirement, but the 5 min, 1 min, or even 1/2 minute average peaks are all substantially less than the instantaneous peak. A significantly smaller and more efficient gasoline or diesel engine could be employed if a bank of supercapacitors were employed to store just a small amount energy to be delivered over a just a few minutes.
Oshkosh has some large trucks which use this concept.”

Industrial electric motors almost universally use “motor starters”, which are basically capacitors to provide the instantaneous high energy requirements to get the rotor rotating – the same thing an automobile starter motor does to an engine.
This allows the size of electric motors as small as possible – no reason to size the motors according to that initial energy requirement! It saves money and saves energy to do it that way.
* * * *
On that front, I have a question to ask everyone:
Does anyone know if hybrid cars use the electrics at any time in tandem with the gasoline engines? Or is it one or the other?
The reason I ask is that back in the days of the oil embargo there happened to be a study of engine efficiency in St Louis. The study found that, for a car going only 30 miles per hour, when it stopped for a stoplight and then accelerated back up to 30 mph, a car used up 14 times as much gasoline during that decel-accel period compared to if it had kept going at 30 mph. I’ve never forgotten that study.
But my point in asking is this: If the electrics were used just to BOOST the torque during acceleration, that would serve the same function as a motor starter or a super-capacitor in the way Steve R has described here.
Whenever I have my car’s air-conditioner on, I can readily sense the added strain of acceleration, so I got in the habit of turning off my air-conditioner when I have to accelerate hard. It makes a big difference in rate of acceleration. If an electrical boost could be used instead, it seems like that would be a good use in a hybrid.
But that can only take place if the electric and gasoline can be used at the same time. (Hybrids were always out of my price range, so I never inquired enough to find out…)
So, does anybody know?

Gene Selkov
Reply to  Steve Garcia
June 30, 2013 2:58 am

Steve Garcia says:
> Industrial electric motors almost universally use “motor starters”, which are basically capacitors to provide the instantaneous high energy requirements to get the rotor rotating – the same thing an automobile starter motor does to an engine.
A small correction: the motor starter capacitor does not “provide” the energy to get the rotor rotating; it conducts the energy from the power source to the starter coil, if this is the the type of motor you are referring to:
The purpose of this capacitor is to excite the starter coil out of phase with the drive coil. Not quite the same thing as the automobile starter does.

Claude Harvey
June 30, 2013 2:32 am

Re: My post
Typo – Make that “…swing a total of over 3,400Mw of power….”

J Martin
June 30, 2013 2:33 am

Compressed air energy storage.
From Wikepedia; “As of 1896, the Paris system had 2.2 MW of generation distributed at 550 kPa in 50 km of air pipes for motors in light and heavy industry”
“Adiabatic storage retains the heat produced by compression and returns it to the air when the air is expanded to generate power. This is a subject of ongoing study, with no utility scale plants as of 2010, but a German project ADELE is planned to enter development in 2013.[3] The theoretical efficiency of adiabatic storage approaches 100% with perfect insulation, but in practice round trip efficiency is expected to be 70%.”
“Thus if 1.0 m3 of ambient air is very slowly compressed into a 5 L bottle at 20 MPa (200 bar), the potential energy stored is 530 kJ. ~ theoretical energy densities are from roughly 70 kJ/kg at the motor shaft for a plain steel bottle to 180 kJ/kg for an advanced fiber-wound one, whereas practical achievable energy densities for the same containers would be from 40 to 100 kJ/kg.”

June 30, 2013 2:50 am

The ultimate energy storage would be anti-matter stored in a Pennings Trap. A more efficient method of producing anti-matter would be required and room temperature super-conductors.

William Astley
June 30, 2013 2:56 am

The key to very large electric power storage and practical fusion reactors is advanced nuclear engineering (creation of man-made nuclear materials that occur in a ‘neutron’ star, star trek type engineering), the creation of super long closed strings of neutrons with each neutron loop linked in a manner that is akin to the Armour mail the knights used to protect themselves from arrows.
The closed loops of neutrons are super conductive. The binding force on each neutron loop is roughly a million times stronger than the strongest chemical bond. Linking the loops enables the creation of materials that are flexible and have a tensile strength roughly a million times greater than steel (binding force inside the nucleus of an atom as opposed to the binding force of atom to atom).
The engineering challenge is creating the first neutron loops and linking the loops. A very, very hard vacuum (not possible to create on the surface of the planet, requires a manufacturing facility in either a far earth Lagrange point satellite or on the surface of the moon) is required which enables a very, very, strong electrical field to be generated (the limit of the maximum strength of an electrical field that can be created on the earth is the quality of the vacuum) which enables the individual neutrons to be connected as an open string.
When the neutron loops are charged they become circular and stiffen. Charging the neutron loops enables the super nuclear mail to be used to form structures such as an orbital elevator or a space ship.
The chained linked neutron loops has a mirror like appearance (super conductor).
What I am describing above is reverse engineering. Someone has seen the mirror neutron loop mail material and described it (perfect mirror, cannot be burned, absorbs all heat, flexible, cannot be cut or torn apart, and so on). What they are describing is a super conductive, very, very strong sheet of the neutron loops.
The current fusion reactor attempt is using a very strong magnet field to manipulate and compress a super hot plasma (tritium which is highly radioactive and very rare as opposed to deuterium which is not radioactive and is very, very common) to create the condition for fusion of tritium nucleons. That engineering attempt will never work, to be a practical fusion reactor. The neutron mail enables the creation of a tiny reactor that can manipulate individual deuterium nucleons which enables deuterium fusion reaction to take place in a controlled and continuous manner. Small, practical controlled continuous deuterium nuclear reactors removes energy as a constraint. Energy storage would not be required if deuterium nuclear reactors were practical, however, massive energy storage and energy control is required for practical, routine space travel. (The neutron mail for example protects the space traveler from radiation damage due to galactic cosmic rays which makes it not possible for say astronauts to travel to Mars for example as astronauts would be suffering from radiation sickness when they reach Mars and as Mars does not have a magnetic field would die on Mars on the journey home from radiation sickness.)

June 30, 2013 3:09 am

@ A. Scott
As always, we have a problem with energy density and scalability.
The pump-up storage is nice (having “cheap” source of the pumping energy, like your own hydro-power – when you really deliver only at peak demands, or having windpark power supplied to Norwegians), but when you think about these 5GW (even 2GW in time of a malfunctions) to be replaced by pump-up storage then you are talking real beasts.
The higher the head the less discharge you need, so these 50 feet would need a huge dam.
Just for reference – Three Gorges Dam produces 22.5 GW. You may have a peak on facilities required to deliver 5 GW.
It is good that someone takes from time to time a calculator/pencil and does some numerics for ‘great sustainable technologies’
Recommend books by Robert Bryce on energy and power.

June 30, 2013 3:09 am

Lead/acid batteries do not suffer from ”battery memory if charged when not fully dead. Lead/acid can remain on charge or stored not fully charged without any problems. The only advance in battery design is the use of a jell electrolite so if you do turn the battery over, or crash your car, there is no spillage. These batteries are air portable whereas the older type were not.

June 30, 2013 3:17 am

So, to store the amount of energy of 2 nuclear bombs, that would require 2 grams of uramium?
From wikipedia:
“Approximately 600 to 860 milligrams of matter in the bomb was converted into the energy of heat and radiation.” ( )
This should be the best argument to start building some inherent safe reactors, imho. Matter seems to be the best storage place for energy. To release it safely is the only challenge.

June 30, 2013 3:18 am

@Steve Garcia
Somewhere I read about buses in Japan.
They got rid of mechanical transmission. They have a LPG engine driving electrical generator; the electricity drives electric motors at each wheel.
When the bus is braking then the motors act as generators and the generated energy is stored in relatively small accumulators. When the bus starts (accelerates) from the bus-stop or lights then the electrical motors draw the energy from the accumulators thus saving LPG in this very inefficient segment of driving.
Quite a clever way.

Dodgy Geezer
June 30, 2013 3:18 am

The one problem with almost all ‘technical energy stores’ is the danger created when you store a large amount of energy in one place. I suspect that this is a reason why electric cars will never succeed.
We already have LiPo batteries – used extensively for models and laptops, and they regularly catch fire. It’s odd to think that petrol is probably the safest way of storing and transferring energy….

June 30, 2013 3:18 am

I happen to watch a lecture by some engineering type from the energy sector which was held at a conference in Trondheim, Norway. The “green energy” sector is today part of the global warming industrial complex. These nutters are convinced that dangerous human caused global warming is real and a big problem which has to be solved with “green energy”. My impression was that these people are deadly serious.
So this was a serious lecture and the suggestions for a solution was serious.
The problem that was asked was, how to save energy from expected surplus of electric energy which happens at times of high energy production from wind power and when the energy consumptions in the grid are low?
They looked at solution for central Europe and especially Germany.
Obviously, today it is not practical or economical to store this energy using batteries or rotating wheels.
The solution they now are contemplating is to build special hydroelectric dams in Norway for storage of this extra electric energy. This also means that they have to improve the underwater power lines.
Why didn’t they suggest that such dams be built in the Alps?
I don’t know, but this guy came from a norwegian company or institute and maybe it is more complicated to build such dams in the Alp due to higher population density.
Needless to say, while this would work, the wasting in cost and the inevitable energy loss while not as bad as the alternatives, the price and energy loss for this system must be huge.
How to stop these people?

June 30, 2013 3:29 am

Looks like some people are creating ‘business opportunities’.
Norway has experience in hydro dams, lots of fjords. Delivery expensive electricity is a nice and clean money flow – why should they advice to put such storages in Alps 🙂 ?

Grey Lensman
June 30, 2013 3:30 am

To respond to Steve Garcia, I believe that the Audi A6 Hybrid does.
It combines efficiency and dynamism, and acts as either traction engine, generator or starter, depending on the driving situation and performance requirement, has an output rating of 54 bhp and a maximum torque of 211 Nm. The compact and particularly lightweight electric motor is connected to the crankshaft through a clutch. This parallel hybrid concept ensures that the available power is transmitted directly. This delivers convincing drive-off performance and acceleration in just about every driving situation.
As it is directly coupled to the engine, when you brake it collects the waste power directly.

June 30, 2013 3:37 am

Willis, agreed. My electric car suffers from the same limitations of power density vs cost. But there may be a new contender, thanks to a kid in a science fair. Some sort of Hydrogen and Titanium Dioxide energy storage system.

From the YouTube description: “Eesha Khare, 18, of Saratoga, Calif. received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000. With the rapid adoption of portable electronics, Eesha recognized the crucial need for energy-efficient storage devices. She developed a tiny device that fits inside cell phone batteries, allowing them to fully charge within 20-30 seconds. Eesha’s invention also has potential applications for car batteries.”
MIT is working on something similar, a carbon nanotube based ultracapacitor, something Edison could never have envisioned.

Don K
June 30, 2013 3:39 am

Willis. You might want to check on what I believe is probably the largest currently existing battery storage unit — 64mwh — Sodium-Sulfur battery at Marfa Texas. Marfa is apparently in the middle of nowhere at the end of a 60 mile long and notoriously unreliable transmission line. The battery is apparently intended as a buffer to provide power during the frequent transmission line outages. Big gap from there to the storage needs of a major city. Press Release URL =
You might also want to look at Tom Murphy’s blog: It’s a great read in general and the article has a lot to say that’s relevant. The comments on that article are interesting as well — addressing things one might not normally think of like the desirability of being able to remove and replace individual cells in batteries used for serious electric storage.

Doug Huffman
June 30, 2013 3:55 am

Gel electrolyte as an advance; a flaw in modern lead-acid battery design is their sealed cases that prevent disassembly for service, cleaning and refurbishment. That’s probably a marketeering decision to sell more batteries rather than allow repair.
I doubt gelled electrolyte could be filtered and recycled.

June 30, 2013 4:07 am

Reminds me of the hybrid Challenger article a few years back.
A bunch of gearheads took a stock Dodge Challenger R/T with a V8, installed an electric motor in the driveline, and loaded the trunk with batteries. For most driving situations the batteries charged from the V8, then the car was able to cruise from battery power. With the V8 running at idle (to provide power steering and brake vacuum), they could cruise at highway speed for a while. Also at full throttle both the V8 and the electric motor would put power to the wheels, presumably shredding the tires.
Obviously this design didn’t work out, or we’d either be seeing conversion kits all over or be buying them from the showroom. I can’t remember but I’m pretty sure it was something like 24 batteries in the trunk, or maybe the entire back seat area. Try carrying one of those, they aren’t light.

June 30, 2013 4:16 am

Other than the example of cars that the story discusses the situation with submarines is similar.
Nuclear submarines have huge lead-acid batteries because if the reactor shuts off while under water the submarine needs enough stored power to reach the surface where they can then start their diesel generator. The smaller that battey is the more space for weapons or the smaller and cheaper the submarine can be.
In diesel-electric submarines, such as Germany has, the batteries provide the propulsive power while submerged. So the better the energy density the longer the submarine can operate quietly for the same size battery.
Both cases are situations where the best battery technology would obviously be used and they all use lead-acid batteries.
Here is a case where they didn’t use lead-acid batteries. In 2003 a massive NiCad storage battery system was installed.
2,000 square meters
1,300 tons
40 megawatts
And it will supply 7 MINUTES of power for Fairbanks’ 12,000 residents. That time will allow for the cities backup diesel generators to start and come up to power.
That is half an acre for 12,000 people for 7 minutes of power. Try scaling that up for a major city and for even a full our.

Doug Huffman
June 30, 2013 4:20 am

I live on an Island that gets its electrical power from a long distribution through a heavily wooded rural peninsula and a five mile underwater cable. Our diesel electric generators are relatively inexpensive to install, operate and maintain.
My comment on refurbishing batteries was inspired, in part, by being shown their new flashing/control batteries that replaced the eighty year old originals recently.

Doug Huffman
June 30, 2013 4:36 am

Here are some submarine battery details already in the public internet domain

Ralph B
June 30, 2013 4:48 am

While I like Willis’ equating battery storage to atom bombs, the truth is if we were ever dull enough to build such a thing it would be in banks which upon explosion would be significantly less than a fat man or little boy. The cost though…someone mentioned $60B which is only the initial cost…upkeep would be in the order of several billion a year. For that cost you could build 10 1.1GW nukes or 100+ coal fired plants. Stockpile the coal and there is your backup. Gas turbines are great too but if you want to store the fuel onsite its a little more tricky (yeah they can run on diesel, but thats still a lot of diesel, coal is less particular about how you store it). Nuclear fuel is no problem to store, its the spent fuel people whine about. I would have no problem storing a couple spent fuel casks in my back yard if the HOA would let me. (I am an old nuke and done a few reactor refuelings)

Richard M
June 30, 2013 4:49 am

As already mentioned we have an amazingly stable form of energy storage. It is called matter. The future cold fusion devices will probably replace all the larger batteries over the next 20 years. As John Douglas provided, the ECAT is already moving into real applications. MIT is testing LENR and the government is funding several of these studies. Dekaflon is another company said to be ready to introduce real products in the near future.

June 30, 2013 4:54 am

California is building a number of pumped storage facilities to store wind and solar energy. However, their capacity is limited – around 11 hours of 1000 MW output. And the cost is very high – they aren’t much cheaper than a nuclear power plant. They also lose around 30% of the energy
they are sent. They have no ability to replace en masse reliable energy generators. Solar/wind output can disappear for days and weeks, not simply a few hours. So California’s storage is short term, and no solution to the unreliability problem of solar/wind. In the past pumped storage made economic sense, since it allowed large base load plants (nuclear/coal) to operate at peak output efficiency , sending excessive energy to the PS until needed during peak demand hours.
The alternative (using gas power) was much more expensive. But nowadays gas is cheap –
even replacing coal, so pumped storage no longer can be justified economically.

June 30, 2013 5:03 am

Re: pumped hydro storage. A number of years ago–about 30–the proposal was made and studied to build an underground pumped hydro storage facility in Northern New Jersey. It went like this: The upper reservoir would be a surface lake, the lower reservoir would be a cavern excavated out about 2500 feet below ground. The site was that of an old iron mine, and much of the old mine workings were still there, as well as detailed subsurface data and surveys. Ultimately, the idea was tabled as not economically feasible at the time, although I recently learned it is back under consideration. The other potential problem was that there are numerous small geologic faults running through the area; whether they would truly threaten the integrity of such a facility was never determined so far as I know.
This type of facility could be built anywhere the subsurface geologic structure is stable enough to support it, even Kansas.

June 30, 2013 5:13 am

The idea that Edison never invented anything is about as clueless a clam as I’ve ever seen, as is the claim that Tesla was some sort of super inventor. Tesla’s later work was mostly a fraudulent
attempt to garner Fed govt dollars for a series of nutty Tesla ideas about wireless power
transmission, death rays and other nonsense. I might add that nowadays Edison’s direct current is considered the best way to transmit electricity over long distances, not Tesla’s AC current. Edison created tons of inventions before he even had a lab or was a “manager,” a silly characterization for Edison – the person who came up with the ideas his lab worked on.
Edison’s genius spawned an enormous range of inventions. Tesla’s competence was severely limited – and he failed completely on his most cherished ideas later in life.

June 30, 2013 5:17 am

If we think of Thorium as stored energy, why stored energy for cities when we can have LFTR supply it on demand?

michael hart
June 30, 2013 5:18 am

Regarding hydroelectric storage, if room temperature super-conductors were developed then that would allow you to effectively “take the mountain to mohammed”. But they don’t exist yet. People are trying.

Mike M
June 30, 2013 5:32 am

Another tall order that lead-acid provides better than just about anything else specifically for vehicles so far (not counting Li-ion on 787’s just yet..) is reliable service at extreme temperatures. It has to provide a large minimum number of cranking amps at sub zero F yet not disintegrate at ~120 F. Such would not be a requirement for grid storage which could be kept at a steady relatively high or low temperature as required for some specialized electrochemical system.

June 30, 2013 5:55 am

@Steve Garcia
WRT hybrid vehicles and in particular the Toyota. The key is the gears and this page explains it very well –

June 30, 2013 5:59 am

For those who don’t already know it, David Mackay, a climate advisor to the UK’s extinct New Labor government, has written this free book about the storage problems and more. He is a warmist, an alarmist, but has his numbers right, and computes the amount of pumped hydro storage to supply the UK through a longer lull in wind power during a blocking weather pattern. His conclusion sounds a lot like “Canna do, Capt’n!”.

June 30, 2013 6:02 am

arthur4563 says:
June 30, 2013 at 5:13 am
“The idea that Edison never invented anything is about as clueless a clam as I’ve ever seen, as is the claim that Tesla was some sort of super inventor. Tesla’s later work was mostly a fraudulent
attempt to garner Fed govt dollars for a series of nutty Tesla ideas about wireless power”
His nutty idea about wireless power transmission enabled him to build the first radio controlled boat.
Have you ever had ONE nutty idea as revolutionary as that?

June 30, 2013 6:08 am

Don K says:
June 30, 2013 at 3:39 am
“Willis. You might want to check on what I believe is probably the largest currently existing battery storage unit — 64mwh — Sodium-Sulfur battery at Marfa Texas. ”
One peculiarity of those is that they need to be kept at an operating temperature of 250 deg C or so at all times to keep the electrolyte liquid.

June 30, 2013 6:15 am

Anthony Watts says:
June 30, 2013 at 3:37 am
“MIT is working on something similar, a carbon nanotube based ultracapacitor, something Edison could never have envisioned.”
As a general rule, a battery has 1/10 of the energy density per weight as gasoline, and an ultracap again 1/10 of that of a battery. We’ve been hearing about these newer better ultracaps for a while but I’ve yet to see statements about their energy density. The problem is, how many atoms do you need to store one electron. Existing ultracaps need quite a lot.
The biggest maker of ultracaps is to my knowledge Maxwell; their stock shows the usual obsessive-compulsive disorder:
Maxwell 5 year chart at Yahoo finance

Rod Rawson
June 30, 2013 6:18 am

Recent tests on Rossi’s Ecat showed a COP of 6, with the likelihood of far more once it is properly engineered. In a few years that will be no storage problem.

Hans H
June 30, 2013 6:19 am

Me think a giant swiss cococlock would drive a powerplant instead of a coco would solve it…pull it up…and slowly down it goes.

J Martin
June 30, 2013 6:19 am

In Slough UK there is a 350KW pilot plant already operating using excess electricity to compress and cool air to a liquid, which is then used to drive turbines during hours of peak electricity consumption.
In Germany they should be starting this year on a compressed air solution to provide 360MW, for which €40 million has been earmarked.
If compressed air in one form or another looks to be the cheapest solution, then that is the solution likely to be adopted first. The battery hopefuls will be late to the party.

June 30, 2013 6:20 am

Perhaps time to take another look at Tesla’s idea of storing high frequency current in an earth battery that can be drawn on by tapping into the earth’s surface.? Incidently does the earth already store such energy in huge quantities to keep its molten interior in a fluid state? Also nature in one electrical storm generates huge energy discharged in the form of lightning bolts – Now until we can understand the energy in nature, can we get on with developing small molten salt/thorium reaction units, and keep burning our other sources of convenient energy in the mean time..
It seems unlikely that the CO2 released will do anything other than make life easier for mankind while the other sources of energy and delivery are developed. Time for the great leap forward and some lateral thinking in energy proofing the world, before the next asteriod strike wipes us out!! .

June 30, 2013 6:38 am

J Martin says:
June 30, 2013 at 6:19 am
“In Germany they should be starting this year on a compressed air solution to provide 360MW, for which €40 million has been earmarked.
If compressed air in one form or another looks to be the cheapest solution, then that is the solution likely to be adopted first. The battery hopefuls will be late to the party.”
Well they’ve been working on that for quite a while, trying to re-use an abandoned mine. As they write, losses are enormous at 70% efficiency. I think pumped hydro is upward of 85%. Of course they sugarcoat it, and of course, being Germany, it’s subsidized to the hilt. There is a risk of earthquakes due to the frequent pressure changes in that old mine.

Philip Mulholland
June 30, 2013 6:39 am

For details of a working pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme see The Dinorwig Power Station, North Wales

June 30, 2013 6:56 am

Storing energy is TRIVIAL. We have hundreds (or even thousands) of years of stored energy already. We call it natural gas, oil, and coal. The power-to-weight-ratio is at least an order of magnitude higher than any battery, the cost is only in the converter, and the storage is already supplied!

Coach Springer
June 30, 2013 6:56 am

Thanks for all the discussion. But talking about these alternatives reminds me of looking for my glasses while they’re on my head. Oil and coal are wonderful chemical energy storage. Then there are compact physical “batteries” like the atom. And we don’t have to pump roughly equivalent amounts of power into them. It’s already there.
Is there an alternative that is immune from environmentalism criticism anyway? Who’s going to stand for more oxygen going into the air when it’s corrosive and will affect the balance of nature in a very theoretically scientific trappings sort of way? Or more manmade lakes destroying habitat – and with all those dams to fail? Or more mining? Carbon and the atom seem so much more – well, natural – with environmental concerns manageable with evolving technology. And we’re not running out. There is no need for urgency born of extrinsic societal projection.

June 30, 2013 7:01 am

Don K has already mentioned the blog _Do the Math_ — it also has a set of calculations for pumped storage here:
Having followed wind and having been involved on wind power and energy papers it seems to me that the fellow has the right of it. It’s not impossible — but the structures would dominate so much of the landscape as to change the face of North America.
At this point batteries and pumped storage are effective at small scale only and it is unlikely to change for decades — at best.

June 30, 2013 7:05 am

Another great thread Willis!
One thing I didn’t see above, (blame it on old age if someone posted it and I missed it); is need for power long after the ‘eureka’ moment.
That is, it is one thing to ‘claim’ energy storage providing area-wide energy backup coverage for one or two days; it is entirely different to claim said energy storage is good for ‘son of Sandy’, ‘daughter of Katrina’ or ‘San Francisco’s next 1906 scale quake’. One or two days is simply not enough, even for minor episodes of doldrums or cloudy periods affecting ‘natural’ energy supply.
And no!; I do not believe in the slightest that energy generation from wind, tide, solar, hamster wheels, whatever is ‘natural’, even using the most extreme Khmer Vert view of the world. (See, I remembered that excellent suggestion from a previous energy disrupting rare bird thread).

Peter Carroll
June 30, 2013 7:15 am

Instead of “Hiroshimas”, what about using a storage requirement metric of “Car Batteries per Household”? Most people could relate to that. And such local storage would eliminate the Hiroshima effect of storing 120 gigajoules at one large, government-run, government-protected, terrorist-and-Riverkeeper/RobertFingKennedyJr-attraction site. I’m sorry, but I can’t be bothered to run the math but my guess is that the number of CBs needed to power a typical NYC apartment for 3 days would run into the dozens. At $75 per battery, the installation would necessarily cost $3-5,000 (guess) and represent a fire and acid hazard. Anyone less lazy than me know what the storage capacity of a car battery is, in Joules?
OK, before I clicked POST i got to feeling lazy and looked it up. About 2 million joules in a fully charged CB. So, 160 terajoules divided by 2MM = 65MM batteries? And if we say there are 3MM households in New York (ignoring commercial use for a moment), that implies 20-25 car batteries per HH? Plus an allowance for spare capacity, battery degradation, etc. Call it 40-50 batteries/HH? (Please feel free to check my math)

Gene Selkov
Reply to  Peter Carroll
June 30, 2013 7:36 am

Peter Carroll: Your estimate is correct, but there is a more straightforward way to it.
Let’s say, a typical household consumes 1kW on average (much more if heating or cooling is needed, but 1kW is a unit most of us understand intuitively — unlike megajoules). An average-sized (American) car battery has the capacity of 60Ah. At nominal 12V, that gives you (neglecting conversion losses) 0.72kWh. So, to run your 1kW home continuously (and neglecting conversion losses), you need 33 such batteries. During peak heat in the summer, or in the dead of winter, you will need hundreds of car batteries to survive 24 hours.
Europeans will need a hundred of their toy-car batteries just to run their typical dwelling without any climate control.

Peter Carroll
June 30, 2013 7:17 am

Not ‘hoseholds’, ‘households……
[Typo fixed, also changed “2025 batteries per household” to “20-25 batteries” … -w.]

June 30, 2013 7:18 am

For some technical data on a pumped storage system which has been in operation since 1963 see the link below. This facility was coupled with a nearby nuclear power station to provide power during periods of peak demand.

June 30, 2013 7:31 am

The Strategic Bomber Command commissioned the design of a nuclear reactor small enough to fit in a bomber. To keep one of their SAC bombers aloft for a _____ (week?). THey got close….Thorium. We’ve talked about it before. I don’t think storage of power is the answer unless there is some quantum effect that can multiply the effects of the chem/physics reactions. The real problem is transference. How to transfer abundant electrical power to a moving vehicle. I don’t know why Thorium isn’t seen as the silver bullet which shoots big oil, big pollution (not the same as the AGW twaddle), Big green, out of the ………bank.(was going to say tree). I see a purely Thorium generated electrical world with energy transference techniques.

June 30, 2013 7:32 am

Well, a large enough superconductor will probably store that amount of energy. Although, I don’t want to be within 50 miles of it if it quenches….

Gail Combs
June 30, 2013 7:47 am

Sean says:
June 30, 2013 at 12:19 am
From what I understand, the best and most cost effective way to store energy is hold water at a high elevation and discharge it to a lower elevation as is done with water behind damns….
Beat me to it.
Unfortunately that is now ‘illegal’ in the USA not just in CA. SEE THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT
If the EPA can consider a mud puddle in your driveway or a roadside ditch a regulated ‘wetland’ link they certainly would go after any energy storage system using water.

June 30, 2013 8:09 am

Thanks Willis, it is about time someone pulled this mythological rug from under the Green’s feet. When you mention intermittency, they always reply with ‘storage’, and you know that they have no idea what that entails.
The energy storage unit I like to use is ‘Dinorwigs’. Dinorwig is the UK’s largest pumped water system, and it provides 2 gigawatts for 5 hours. You would need an awful lot of Dinorwigs to power NY for 72 hours. And a lot of hills to put them in. And the Greens will not let you put them there anyway (envoronmentalism). And the cost of Dinorwig was astronomic, as the Greens insisted it went INSIDE the mountain.
But this is not the end of the problem. In the harsh 2010 winter, the UK was without wind (and Sun) for a whole month. Forget the storage capacity for powering NY for 72 hours, you need to multiply that by at least ten to cover renewable outages.

June 30, 2013 8:15 am

Have there been any new pumped hydro stations of any significant size built in the USA recently?

Mike Ramsey
June 30, 2013 8:23 am

New battery technology will start small, not city size. Currently, a AA sized Lithium Ion battery has an energy density of 373.5 Watt-hours/Liter. Amprius has started production of small, consumer electronic sized Silicon Anode batteries with an energy density of 580-600 Wh/L depending on cell size, noticeably more than most all lithium-ion cells with a carbon anode.
Silicon absorbs so much Lithium that it swells and breaks which limits the number of recharge cycles to about 500. This problem will be mitigated when Amprius moves to Silicon nano-wire anodes. Think of nanometer sized “AstroTurf” which can absorb vast amounts of Lithium without breaking. This should allow the next generation of Amprius batteries to withstand thousands of recharge cycles. These nanowire anode batteries will have energy densities of 650 or 700 Wh/L
BTW, the energy density of a typical Lead-acid battery is 40 Wh/L Silicon nanowire anode batteries point the way forward for electric cars. Until then, (my opion) I wouldn’t bother.

Logan in AZ
June 30, 2013 8:23 am

Two posts have mentioned LENR, which is still controversial.
A current overview of the LENR evidence is at —
Tyler van Houwelingen updated his summary of the current LENR efforts on 6/20/13.
Fusion is no longer invoked; objection about a Coulomb barrier is now obsolete. For a general comment on the theory, see —

June 30, 2013 8:26 am

Willis ,
a minor point, but I think this paragraph in your post may not be entierly correct,
Curiously, Edison ended up inventing a nickel-iron-peroxide battery, which was a commercial failure … so even he couldn’t get past lead-acid.
if the wikipedia article (link below) has their facts right that the Edison company produced this type batteris for ~70 years (1903-1972) at a profitable level.
And I seem to remember having read somtime back about a century old restored antique electric car powered with the orginal Edson batteries it came with and performing “en par” with todays state of the art li_Ion-powered EV’s, and also a mention of a couple of remote lighthouses in use today still going strong with their orginal edison Edison backup batteriy units working perfectly after half a century ( though I can not 100% vouch for if this is correct, as i have not been sucessful in locating either one of the relevant article or news item again for refreshed reference . I just remember thinking when reading about said items , “aha , a century in battery storage improvement research and developement , has not really gotten anyone out of square one yet , despite the the much touted billinons-dollar intentensive touted recent research “)
A wicked problem indeed this one is.

Yancey Ward
June 30, 2013 8:31 am

While the size of the storage is interesting, how about showing how many lead-acid auto batteries it would take to keep the typical household electrified during a typical night-time?

Mike Smith
June 30, 2013 8:38 am

Everyone seems to assume that a storage system with city-wide capacity needs to be a centralized monolith. I think not.
Much easier for our “leaders” to mandate (with the full force of “law”) that each home and business within its jurisdiction install a more modest system. Such things would look a lot more like the night storage heating systems already used in England.
Making predictions is hard, especially about the future, but I reckon many homes will be required to install some significant energy storage capacity within a few decades.

June 30, 2013 8:43 am

John Douglas says:
June 30, 2013 at 1:05 am
Richard M says:
June 30, 2013 at 4:49 am
As already mentioned we have an amazingly stable form of energy storage. It is called matter. The future cold fusion devices will probably replace all the larger batteries over the next 20 years. As John Douglas provided, the ECAT is already moving into real applications. MIT is testing LENR and the government is funding several of these studies. Dekaflon is another company said to be ready to introduce real products in the near future.

There’s another instance where “Organized Science’s” denialism has discredited it.

Matthew R Marler
June 30, 2013 8:45 am

Willis Eschenbach: 5. The cost, the cost, the cost of all of the above.
As I said above, the battery problem is a wicked one. Waving your hands at hydrogen is not even a beginning of a solution … and no, Hoser, the answer is NOT “pretty simple”. If it were, Edison would have solved it.

I think it’s remarkable that auto batteries have not been replaced after all this R&D. Where weight matters, though, as in medical devices, cell phones, power tools, and model airplanes, lead-acid batteries are not preferred. Liquid fuel, natural gas, and fertilizer have all caused costly explosions — is there any reason to think that large batteries would be more dangerous?
Thank you Willis, for addressing the scale of the problem, and for your and the other commenters’ cost calculations.
Instead of a “Hiroshima” as a unit of energy release, how about an LNG tank? One of those exploded in the Fukushima disaster.

Matthew R Marler
June 30, 2013 8:48 am

rogerknights: As John Douglas provided, the ECAT is already moving into real applications.
There is today not one installation of any size powered by an ECAT.

June 30, 2013 8:48 am

How many lead-acid batteries would you need in a Volkswagen-sized, all electric car to give it a range of, say, 50-75 miles at an average speed of 60 miles an hour? You could use such a car for commuting to work with a stop off at the store on the way home. If it was cheap enough, I’d buy one and use it as a second vehicle strictly for commuting.

June 30, 2013 8:55 am

Most large mining equipment uses electricity to power it. So in a way the machines who are digging out coal, or drilling for oil, are converting electricity into a useful storage medium which can simply be process to release far more energy than what was used to produce it.

June 30, 2013 8:59 am

One more comment on pumped storage. What may be largest pumped storage station in the world is at Bath County in western Virginia. It has 6 pump/turbines at 500 MW apiece, giving 3000 MW of maximum generation and over 20,000 MW hours of energy storage. That being said, try to get a similar facility located and permitted under today’s regulations.

June 30, 2013 8:59 am

jbird says:
June 30, 2013 at 8:48 am
“How many lead-acid batteries would you need in a Volkswagen-sized, all electric car ”
Problem with EV’s is that the weight of the battery quickly becomes the limiting factor, so you can’t easily triple the size of the battery without making the entire car bigger, sturdier and therefore heavier, driving up the energy needed again etc.
That’s why the typical electric small car tops out at 120 km range or so, under optimal conditions, using Li Ion batteries. The link to withouthotair above contains calculations for that.
With lead acid: Don’t try, you’d only overload the Volkswagen. And of course, as usual some people fantasize about using EV batteries as buffers for the grid. The number of recharge cycles is limited. The batteries are designed for a thousand recharge cycles or so. You end up paying a Euro for each kWh going through the battery when you include the battery replacement cost. Or 1.30 USD.
Yes, all this will become slightly more feasible and slightly cheaper with next generation batteries. Just don’t expect a Moore’s Law. Energy storage is not information technology and cannot profit from progressive shrinking.
And don’t put more than 80% of the nameplate capacity into your Li-Ion battery if you want it to last long. They age faster when they’re full. And don’t discharge it too much. That’s not so good either.

Yancey Ward
June 30, 2013 9:00 am

Did some comparing of the lithium batteries with lead acid- the cost for comparable products is about 5-8 times.

June 30, 2013 9:02 am

Yes pumped hydro is great and wonderful. except just like solar and other interesting power solutions it has limited application.
The first limitation is that ideally you need somewhere large at a higher elevation than the power plant to put all that water. That means you have major limitations just in the natural landscape. We don’t have convenient mountains everywhere to stick a storage reservoir in. If you have a location that is great and pumped hydro just might be a storage solution for you but most places don’t.
Which brings up problem two. In the US the green/enviro movement has made it almost impossible to build new reservoirs. There is a reason you don’t see the greens pushing hydro as the clean solution of the future. They oppose ‘damaging’ all that land to create the necessary reservoirs needed. Add in as someone else mentioned that there are very odd laws that let green groups hold your water hostage or do things you didn’t plan on. So you could fill your reservoir with stored energy and then find that you can’t release it, or worse that you can’t divert the water you need to fill it in the first place because some green group didn’t like it.
So yes pumped hydro works great. Using it practically if you don’t have the right conditions? Not so much. It would be like me sticking solar panels on my house. I like with trees shading everything so they would never get direct sun. Would they produce energy? Yes. Would it be smart to install them? Not so much for me.

June 30, 2013 9:05 am

The best battery/energy storage unit?
A tank of gasoline.

June 30, 2013 9:06 am

Since some of the sharpest people are contributing to this thread, I’d like to beg folks to quit using the MSM’s favorite 7/24/365 line, and either use 7/24/52, or 24/365. The first one, and the one that is used, is a 7 YEAR timeline. They really only meant to say all the time for one year. Yeah, I know, modern schooling…

June 30, 2013 9:11 am

I’m always amazed that most people don’t realize that these energy storage devices are so explosive ( just try shorting the terminals on a car battery with a wrench).
Storage on a commercial scale would be target for just about every nut out there.

June 30, 2013 9:16 am

5:13 am
I might add that nowadays Edison’s direct current is considered the best way to transmit electricity over long distances, not Tesla’s AC current.
“Edison’s direct current” was low voltage and never intended for long distance transmissions without huge conductors.
High voltage DC is indeed a promising means of transmission, but you need to convert it to Tesla’s AC power to reduce voltages to consumer levels.

Gary M
June 30, 2013 9:16 am

Hey guys, I have a question for you. Has anyone heard what happened to the solar highway project that the DOT ordered for testing back about 6-7 years ago?
The concept was great as it handled generation, storage, distribution and a whole host of other roadway issues.

Philip Peake
June 30, 2013 9:33 am

Son of Mulder: I looked at my bill for Feb. My house is all electric, and in the Willamette valley in Oregon, I think conditions are pretty average. Obviously, heating costs will be much more in colder areas, and cooling costs will predominate in areas like Arizona, so this is only a guideline.
Anyway, in Feb., according to Portland General Electric I used about 100kWh per day.
That is about 3.6×10^6 J. That is about 3 gallons of gas.
However, converting gasoline to electricity is a lossy proposition, so we are looking at more like 12 to 15 gallons of gas.
A Lead-acid battery charge/discharge is much better, in the 50 to 90% range. You are not going to see anything like 90% efficiency, so assume 50%.
The take-away is that you are much better off using the electricity directly than trying to store it.
In other words, using electricity as we have been doing for the past 100 years.

June 30, 2013 9:41 am

@atheok says: 7:05 am
it is entirely different to claim said energy storage is good for ‘son of Sandy’, ‘daughter of Katrina’ or ‘San Francisco’s next 1906 scale quake’.
Not to mention that the energy storage system must SURVIVE the catastrophe without releasing its stored energy uncontrolllably. Even simple cogen substations are vulnerable: 3 min video as 14th Street East River Con Ed power station transformers explode.
Ooh! this is a cool new document:
Post Sandy Enhancement Plan – Consolidated Edison – June 20, 2013 (PDF, 2.5 MB, 114 pg.)

June 30, 2013 9:46 am

Best to leave 12th century technology where it belongs, in the 12th century.

June 30, 2013 10:06 am

There are comments above the “Pumped Storage” is “efficient” and the way to go. Actually it is just cheaper and very inefficient (energy wasted pumping and then energy lost in making electricity again. I recommend those that think PS is the way to go search “Pumped Hydro Storage” Or go to and look at the size of the reservoir needed Google Maps – “Jocassee SC, Oconee Co.” for what they claim is only good for a “peaking” power station (i.e., about 4 – 6 hours.)
A rough estimate (guess) shows that that Lake Jocassee is much smaller than the NYC Water Reservoirs. So, where are the going to put a lake five – ten times bigger than the largest NYC Water Reservoir? And what is its environmental impact? I seriously doubt a reservoir large enough would get EPA approval let alone the approval of the displaced population.
The energy density is just not there with “Pumped Storage.” This falls in the same category of Carbon Sequestration. Do the math on how much volume that takes. It is in the neighborhood of the Chicago landfill for a 1000 MWatt Power Station. And they are concerned about the problems of “Fracking?” Where are their brains?
Next harebrained idea please.

John Tillman
June 30, 2013 10:09 am

Integrating wind with hydro, nuclear & fossil fuel energy sources is not easy, as the history of the Bonneville Power Authority shows. The Columbia River system is probably the largest wind-hydro complex on earth.
Without generous federal subsidies, of course, the vast forests of windmills on the Columbia Plateau would not exist.

June 30, 2013 10:12 am

coldlynx says:
June 30, 2013 at 9:59 am
“Germany subside battery solutions:”
Well we subsidize all kinds of things. It’s not that significant; you get a cheap loan from the state-owned KfW, a subsidized loan if you will, or more precisely, you can borrow the money for the battery at conditions that only banks normally get, something like that. The KfW BTW is a gargantuan bank only slightly smaller than the Deutsche yet never in the headlines… they are the governments very own financial muscle and subsidizes all kinds of projects in all kinds of countries; only very little ever makes the news. Buying political goodwill; German checkbook diplomacy.

June 30, 2013 10:18 am

Ask any Navy Submarine Vet how “Safe Lead Acid Storage Batteries” are. Several fires and explosions and submarine losses are attributed to battery problems. When taking readings on the battery we had suits with no metal, could only carry non-conductive wooden pencils and a paper pad – no wrist watch, pocket watch, rings, necklace, etc. All tools were plastic coated, etc. OSHA Regulations on battery safety fills a book. Utility procedures are even thicker. More people have been killed by battery fires/explosions than commercial nuclear power.

June 30, 2013 10:26 am

Don K at 3:39 am
largest currently existing battery storage unit — 64mwh — Sodium-Sulfur battery at Marfa Texas.
Wow — maybe that explains the Marfa Lights (joke).
Some background and OT: If you go to the Buffalo Trails Scout Ranch two side trips commonly are the McDonald Observatory and the Marfa lights. The observatory is cool. Marfa reminds me of a scene from “Close Encounters” where people are parked on a hillside waiting for ET.
Wikipedia says: the Marfa lights are: “atmospheric reflections of automobile headlights and campfires.” So the atmospherics have to be right, a no-moon night, and distant lights just right. There was a recent Smithsonian show on the sinking of the Titanic which convincingly blamed warm-air over cold air atmospheric refraction as a key why the lookouts didn’t see the iceberg until it was 30 secs away and why the S.S. Californian didn’t see a massive liner like the Titanic. Many ships logs recorded refractive atmospherics and indistinct horizons. The Titanic story ought to be told as a science lesson while one is waiting (forever) to see those Marfa lights. End OT.

June 30, 2013 10:29 am

From The Economist …
Packing some power
Energy technology: Better ways of storing energy are needed if electricity systems are to become cleaner and more efficient
[ … ]
Surely the answer is to use giant batteries? Although batteries can deliver power for short periods, and can smooth out the bumps as different sources of power are switched on and off, they cannot provide “grid scale” performance, storing and discharging energy at high rates (hundreds of megawatts) and in really large quantities (thousands of megawatt hours). So other technologies are needed—and growing demand, driven chiefly by wider use of intermittent renewable-energy sources, is sparking plenty of new ideas.

June 30, 2013 10:36 am

SandyInLimousin says:
June 30, 2013 at 9:46 am
Best to leave 12th century technology where it belongs, in the 12th century.
And the 12th century technology is so bad our government is hopelessly wasting billions to bring it back to life. Since it contains a fatal flaw, in that it is intermittent and requires development of a yet to be realized source of storage; e.g. batteries.
Pushing solar, wind, biofuels etc. is a misguided distribution of technical and financial resources based on the hoax that CO2 is harmful to mother earth. Efforts would better be spent elsewhere.
Our leaders should learn from history as presented by the History Channel re the “Men who built America.” Good thing we did not have the EPA or Government regulators in those days or we would still be lighting our homes with whale oil and our transportation system would be fouling our cities with horse Manure.
While these men are not treated kindly by “today’s” historians they changed the quality of life that the much of the world enjoys today and we need to recognize that.
Check this documentary out:!3793!10!1775340542!26370390417&ef_id=OPTOUT:20130630165908:s
“Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Astor, Ford and Morgan. Their names are part of history and synonymous with the American dream. These men transformed every industry they touched: oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobiles, and finance. Their efforts transformed a country. Rising from poverty, their paths crossed repeatedly as they elected presidents, set economic policies and influenced major events of their day – from the Civil War to The Great Depression. 12 million historical negatives, many made available for the first time by the Library of Congress, are brought to life to offer an unprecedented view of America’s Industrial Age – and the men who built it. ”
These men were fiercely competitive, which forced technology development without significant Government subsidies (although they did try to get favors from politicians). For example when Rockefeller saw electric lighting making his kerosene sales obsolete, he moved on to develop gasoline for the internal combustion engine which made electric cars useless for over a century. Now we have a foolish policy of pushing for outdated technology that still lack a viable battery. Yet we subsidize and yearn for the development of a car without a viable power/ energy source to provide reasonable range.

June 30, 2013 10:42 am

Matthew R Marler says:
June 30, 2013 at 8:48 am

rogerknights: As John Douglas provided, the ECAT is already moving into real applications.

There is today not one installation of any size powered by an ECAT.

You’re correct, although there is some wiggle room in “moving into.” (Rossi has been “moving into” for years now.) But there ought to be something out in the wild by this time next year. I gather that his new anonymous partner has imposed a gag on him about this. The partner may want to get ready to flood the market with E Cats to get a headstart on the Chinese copycats.

June 30, 2013 10:50 am

Here’s something to bear in mind: a gallon of gasoline gives us about 34,500 W/hr of energy. Thus, a new Tesla S battery pack holds the equivalent of about 2 gallons of gasoline. I think we’re on the fringe of an energy revolution on the order of the industrial and information revolutions, but the breakthroughs will have nothing to do with windmills, solar arrays or hydrocarbons. When we need it, we’ll focus on the problem properly.

June 30, 2013 10:52 am

RE: DirkH at 8:59 am.
The [EV] batteries are designed for a thousand recharge cycles or so. You end up paying a Euro for each kWh going through the battery when you include the battery replacement cost. Or 1.30 USD. [Per kwh]
That is an excellent point. You are ammortizing the battery cost over the electrical energy it will DELIVER over its life, not on its energy CAPACITY. So if a Li-Ion battery costs $2 / watt-hr (capacity) and you can get 2000 cycles in its life (3-7 years of commuting.) , then yes the cost is about $1/kwh transported. The EPA says that a gallon of gasoline = 33.7 kwh. So that means the energy transported by batteries is equivalent to paying $33.699 / gallon of gasoline. …Such a deal!…

June 30, 2013 11:20 am

Speed says:
June 30, 2013 at 10:29 am
“From The Economist …
Packing some power
Energy technology: Better ways of storing energy are needed if electricity systems are to become cleaner and more efficient”
Oh, they have those Isentropic guys from the UK who want to store elctricity as heat and convert it back with an efficiency of 72-80%. I’ve seen that claim from them before.
Now maybe I missed something. Can anyone explain to me how one converts heat to electricity with that efficiency? It looks like magical thinking.

Mark Bofill
June 30, 2013 11:38 am

Thanks to Willis and all involved in the pumped storage discussion. I’d always assumed that was a reasonable way to store large scale power. As usual, serves me right for not doing the math; I didn’t fully realize the scale of the problem until today.

Doug Huffman
June 30, 2013 11:39 am

usurbrain says: June 30, 2013 at 10:18 am “Ask any Navy Submarine Vet how “Safe Lead Acid Storage Batteries” are. ”
There are a couple of SS qualified posting here. Yes, there is risk with batteries, but what is the rate of problems relative to the experience?
Much like comparing contemporary reactor technology safety with Thorium-in-the-sky. A properly asked questions can get a hard numbers answer. How much evidence is there of LFTR safety? The ensemble has zero. The components are individually hazardous.

June 30, 2013 11:51 am

Gildemeister’s CellCube. Sold in N.A. by American Vanadium Company. Coming to a city near you:) Efficient, scaleable, modular and affordable. 2 years deployed in locations around the world with no failures.

June 30, 2013 11:54 am

@Willis: Since you like Hiroshimas as a unit, how many Hiroshimas of battery energy exist in NYC right now, including computer, car, truck, industrial, watch batteries, etc.? Is NYC poised to blow itself up tomorrow in a batta-mageddon? Story in the Sun tomorrow.

June 30, 2013 12:04 pm

One very real “pumped storage” strategy is Ice Storage Air Conditioning.
You freeze a volume of water in the basement of an office building during the cheap night time rates, then you use the ice to chill the air in your air conditioning units during the day.
One metric ton of water (one cubic metre) can store
334 million joules (MJ) = 317,000 BTUs = 93kWh
How how must I lift that ton of water to get that much potential energy?
Enthalpy of Fusion (ice) = 334000 J/kg
Enthalpy of Fusion (ice) = 334000 m^2/sec^2
If PotEnergy = mass * g * height
and g = 9.8 m/sec^2
height = PE / (m * g) = 34082 m
So, freezing a mass of water during low demand is an “energy storage” equivalent to raising that same mass of water to a pumped storage reservoir 34 KILOMETERS in the sky with near 100% efficiency. It is all done within the basement of your building. That is “low hanging fruit.”

Billy Liar
June 30, 2013 12:07 pm

We already have an efficient electricity production system. We have a just-in-time manufacturing process with relatively low distribution costs.
But this is not what we are looking for; we need more expensive electricity so that ‘prices will necessarily skyrocket’ (©B H Obama).
One way of doing this is to store huge quantities of unsold product in expensive wharehousing facilities, variously known as ‘pumped storage’ or ‘batteries’ or ‘compressed air storage’. Another way is to increase distribution costs by an order of magnitude by fragmenting your manufacturing base. Instead of using a few, efficient facilities, gain from the diseconomies of lack-of-scale and spread your manufacturing out to thousands of mom and pop shops, variously known as ‘windmills’ and ‘solar PV’.
I am not being sarcastic.

Billy Liar
June 30, 2013 12:09 pm

wharehousing warehousing

June 30, 2013 12:19 pm

Comparing Edison to Tesla is ridiculous. Edison was a tinkerer. Nothing more. He hired others who were desperate to be able to work in a lab, but Edison almost always took credit himself. Tesla actually understood the principles behind his inventions. And let’s face it, Edison was a grade A A-Hole. He refused to pay Tesla for a DC motor. He was arrogant. He continuously patented inventions from other people without their permission and without paying them. Edison was a tinkerer. He was a hard worker. But ultimately, a tinkerer with zero knowledge of the principles behind what made his inventions work.

June 30, 2013 12:31 pm

There is, in my opinion, a rather simple way to accomplish what effectively amounts to city-wide storage without actually having to build any. All the utility needs to provide is information. Get a cup of coffee and read this:
First, imagine a house that is off grid. Think of your house as being, for the moment, off the electricity grid. Now this doesn’t have to be EVERY house or business, mind you, lets start out small, just a few. So you have a shed or basement with some AGM deep cycle batteries that can power your house for, say, 12 hours of average daily use. You have a charging controller. Lets say in this case you also have a natural gas or propane generator for emergencies and you have the necessary gear to feed power back into the grid. If you are really an off grid system you would have your own wind and solar but in this case what you have so far is some storage, a backup generator, and a charging controller. Maybe you can add a solar panel and a windmill if you want to, no biggie. The important thing comes next.
Now lets say you also do have a grid connection. Lets say it runs through a “smart” meter. Let’s also have six second billing on electricity. Every six seconds the electric company sets the price of grid power based on availability. The electric company broadcasts that price via multicast IP over the grid itself. If the wind comes up and power suddenly becomes abundant, the utility can immediately lower the cost of the power. If the weather gets really hot and there is not a breath of wind, the power company can jack up the cost of power.
At first, imagine you charge your storage at night from the grid and run during the day off the grid. You have “load shifted” your house from being “demand load” to being “base load”. More importantly, if the price of power suddenly drops due to a burst of wind energy, your controller can decide to buy more of it at the lower price and charge your system for less money. If the wind goes away and the price goes up, your controller can back off on the demand. Now lets say an emergency happens where the grid has lost one or more power plants and the cost of power goes through the roof. Your power controller could completely disconnect you from the grid and charge your system from the nat gas generator or even run that generator and SELL the power back into the grid if it is cost effective to do so.
What you have done is by simply providing information i.e. the price of power at six second resolution, you have enabled free market forces to modulate demand to track supply. It becomes advantageous for people to purchase their own storage and maybe keep their energy consumption constant across the whole day or completely shift the load to when prices are lowest. When the grid gets stressed, using the broadcast price of power, controllers begin to back off and the load drops even more. This is all done automatically without any human intervention required. In a dire emergency, the homes could act as additional generation stations, more so if they have a decent local solar or wind generating capacity but if things got really bad, they could even feed the grid from natural gas generators.
The important thing here is that nobody forces anyone to do anything. The utility simply charges fine resolution billing and people are free to buy smart controllers and storage if they want to take advantage of cheap power when it is available. This also acts to increase the load on the grid when power is abundant and allows the utility to sell power that might otherwise go to waste. A freak burst of wind in the middle of the night might mean I want to increase my charge rate and fully charge my system by 2am to take advantage of that cheap power.
Once this information is available to consumers in a standard way and the tech is incorporated into charging controllers, that will drive even more demand for better storage. The extent to which this is “worth it” for someone would depend on the price differential of power between high and low demand times. This also allows the utility to regulate demand by regulating price that reflects the actual supply of power on the grid.
One can even have different multicast groups for different pricing structures. There could be one for commercial, one for standard residential, one for low income residential, etc. Which group a customer’s controller is “allowed” to subscribe to can be managed by the smart meter itself. The meter simply needs a jack or even an inductive coupler that allows it to transmit current price information to the charging controller.
The market then manages its own storage individually.

General P. Malaise
June 30, 2013 12:39 pm

pump water up into a reservoir or produce heat and store the heat. both not without their issues but much better than batteries.
this company has been working on some interesting projects.
a friend has been working for them and he is impressed with their technology.

Claude Harvey
June 30, 2013 12:43 pm

Re: usurbrain says:
June 30, 2013 at 10:06 am
I don’t think that those who discount pumped storage due to efficiency concerns and capital costs appreciate electric power economics. The cost of electric power varies greatly between peak consumption hours and off-peak hours. That variation stems from the cost to generate that power which, intern, stems in great part from the cost of fuel to drive the machines. During peak hours, relatively inefficient and fuel gobbling machines are brought on line to supply that power. During off-peak, inefficient machines are throttled back or shut down and only the most efficient machines get you through the night. Pumped storage essentially converts cheap, off-peak power into very valuable peak power. The spread between those two figures far exceeds the 20% or so power loss that occurs during the conversion.
Although it is true that the capital cost of pumped storage is very high, I know of no existing facility that is not a screaming money-maker from both revenue generated and the value to system regulation and stability. However, as a practical matter and as I noted in my original comment on the subject, environmental intervention pretty much precludes further development of hydro pumped storage in the U.S.

June 30, 2013 12:51 pm

@Yancey Ward at 9:00 am
Did some comparing of the lithium batteries with lead acid- the cost for comparable products is about 5-8 times.
What do you mean by “comparable”?
Li-ion are better where weight is an issue, holding 5 times more energy per kg</a than Lead-acid.
But if weight isn't an issue, then Lead-Acid is cheaper in $/kwh.
from the
In $/Kwh (capacity): Consumer (table 2)
Lead Acid: $8.50;
NiCad: $11.00;
NIMH: $18.50;
Li-Ion: $24.00;
Transport (Table 3) where cost per kwh is amortized over life of energy source:
Li-ion: $0.50 ($0.40 replacement, $0.10 cost of charge)
Gasoline: $0.34 ($0.01 replacement, $0.33 fuel)
Fuel cell (Mobile): $1.10-$2.25 (based upon 4000h life)

William Astley
June 30, 2013 12:52 pm

A) Compressed air systems
Compressed air systems currently have an efficiency of roughly 50% as the compressed air must be heated (natural gas is used to heat the compressed air as it expanded) when it expands to avoid damaging the turbine. (Gas cools when it expands).
It should be noted that 50% efficiency does not include the energy lost to transmit the wind generated electric to the storage site. That would be a further 20 to 30% loss in energy to transmit the wind generated electric to the compressed air storage system.
According to this article there are only two large scale commercial storage systems.
The scheme that stated they could achieve 70% efficiency state that they used the heat that is generated when the gas is compressed to produce electricity. That does increase the efficiency of the system and roughly double the cost of the system. Another consideration is cost. Note German electrical power cost is currently twice that of the US with no storage systems.
Compressed Air Energy Storage Efficiency
Determining efficiency for CAES systems can be hard. If we compress and decompress at a rate that is not appropriate for the specific cavern, efficiency takes a huge hit. In general, CAES is not very efficient to store energy, which is driving costs up. On the other hand, storing the surplus of energy is better than not using this energy at all.
The reason why CAES typically only has an efficiency of about 50% is because we have to reheat the compressed air to be able to generate electricity with a gas turbine.
CAES is currently not very applicable for small-scale residential situations, but rather on larger-scale, closer to where the energy is being harnessed. However, CAES can be used on smaller scales by air cars and air-driven locomotives.
There are currently only two CAES facilities operating on utility scale in the world, one in Alabama and the other one in Huntorf, Germany. We can expect to see more of these facilities in the future when renewable energy sources are taking up more of the grid.
B) Advanced Nuclear engineering, super conducting sheet (further to my above comment)
I believe (see my above comment, after some more thought) the super conductive material was formed from deuterium nucleus (rather than neutrons) in a very, very, strong electrical static field. In a very strong electrical static field the deuterium nucleus which are proton-neutron pairs line up which I would assume enables them to be linked to form a very long string that is then looped onto its self to form a stable super nucleus which is a loop. The loop could have almost an unlimited number of deuterium nucleus (hundred of thousands of proton-neutrons) The concept is the creation of nucleus formations that do not occur naturally. As noted the bond strength within the atomic nucleus is roughly a million times greater than the chemical bond atom to atom. The concept is by creating linked, large loops of nucleus strings to create a material with a very strong tensile strength (roughly a millions times stronger than steel) and a room temperature super conductor.
As I noted in my above comment, I am attempting to reverse engineer a description in 1949 of a room temperature super conducting material that has described as a sheet, of very shiny, uncut able, not affected by a blow torch, material. The super conductive sheet when compressed expanded with an internal force in the material. What the observers in 1949 were describing is a super conducting sheet. I thought the description has interesting as the description was by a number of independent individuals that had no back ground in physics. The description is interesting as it was decades before the discovery of super conducting materials and the individuals did not have time or reason to fabricate a story.

June 30, 2013 1:03 pm

about that 1949 material. This sounds like some of the descriptions I have heard about material found at Roswell. Is this the source for your description?

June 30, 2013 1:08 pm

Now lets scale the idea I presented back a little bit. Rather than having enough storage to power your home for 12 hours, say you have enough to handle the delta from when you run the dryer or air conditioner or oven or when the refrigerator compressor kicks in. You basically keep your demand load on the grid stable during the day and charge your “surge” storage at night when power is cheap. The entire point of “smart” meters is the ability to eventually do demand pricing for power. If they do that, making the demand price available over the grid allows the consumer to better manage their power consumption. Even having a small amount of storage to handle surge demands would be advantageous.

Berényi Péter
June 30, 2013 1:15 pm

There is no need to store electricity as such.

June 30, 2013 1:28 pm

Tesla worked for Edison 1882 to 1885.
Tesla resigned after redesigning DC motors and generators for Edison.
1888 Tesla works for Westinghouse
1891 Westinghouse w/ Tesla wire Lauffen-Neckar (225 kW) in Germany and Ames Hydro (75kw one phase) in America.
1892: Germany sold on AC, GE board of directors overrule Edison and invest in AC.
1893: Westinghouse w/ Tesla wire Chicago World’s Fair with 3-phase (11,000 kW) and
win the Niagara Fall Power Plant contract to build ten (3,700 kW) 25 Hz. AC generators
Edison had Tesla. Edison let Tesla get away.
And J.P.Morgan made many time more money on electrical power than either of them put together.

R. de Haan
June 30, 2013 1:40 pm

We have fossil fuels available for thousands of years to come. That provides us with sufficient time to invent something really radical and effective. Wind mills, solar panels, batteries for mass energy storage…. forget all about it.

June 30, 2013 2:04 pm

@Willis 1:45 pm
The only flaw I can see in the plan is that you can’t easily turn it back into electricity.
No such claim. Only it saves you from NEEDING as much electricity during the day. What has happened is that you have successfully stored the WORK. Therefore energy being generated during the peak times can be used for other demands. Think of it as better than pumped reservoir storage because of increased efficiency (thermal cooling of air) and reduced transmission capacity from pumped storaged reservoir to city.

Chris R.
June 30, 2013 2:21 pm

To Scarface:
Uranium fission (or plutonium fission, for that matter) only
converts a small amount of the critical mass. For example,
the mass of uranium-235 in the Hiroshima ‘Little Boy’ bomb was
42.6 kg. You can’t make U-235 react in significantly smaller
quantities–you must have critical mass. One of the reasons
why plutonium is now used almost exclusively in fission bombs
is that you can get it to go critical by explosively compressing
it; thus you can control the size of the critical mass. But, this
involves a cataclysmic release of energy which destroys the
storage device.
The conclusion is that E=mc^2 is a powerful lever to store
energy, but releasing it is another matter.

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 2:33 pm

Thinking outside the box … what about using existing water bodies in areas with sufficient drop?
In the Mpls MN area there is a large lake – Lake Minnetonka. Downtown Mpls already has hydro electric in the old grain milling area at St. Anthony Falls. It is appx 13 miles (direct freeway connects the two – would allow a comparatively clear construction corridor) and 203 feet drop.
Here are some ‘backyard mechanic’ level calculations – no idea if feasibility (ie: what problems might be incurred with the long distance etc) but if I did math right seems a fair amount of energy possibility there.
I also wonder if the connecting culvert could be also used for a regional stormwater collector system as well, which brings up another interesting option as well.
St Anthony Falls (downtown Mpls on Mississippi river) – elevation; upper pool 799 feet, lower pool 725 feet (There is existing hydro plant at this location now).
Lake Minnetonka – elevation; 929 feet – distance appx 13 miles – Drop = 204 feet or 62 meters
14,528 acre lake @ 1 feet drop = 14,528 acre-feet
(1 acre foot is equal to 1233.48185532 cubic meter)
14,528 acre-feet x 1233.48 = 17,913,024 cubic meter
(1 cubic meter = 0.272 kWh – assuming 100 meter head)
17,913,024 cubic meter x 0.272 kWh = 4,872,342 kWh = 4,872 MW
10’x10’ culvert (100 sqft) = 10 cubic feet/foot
10 cubic ft = 0.28317 cubic meters per foot of culvert
Assume 13 miles of 10 sq ft culvert = 68,640 feet
x 0.28317 cubic meters per foot
= 19,437 cubic meters for 13 miles
x 0.272 kWh/cubic meter (assuming 100 meter head)
= 5,286 kW or 5.29 MW
Adjust above for 62 meter vs 100 meter drop

Doug Huffman
June 30, 2013 2:34 pm

Chris R. says: June 30, 2013 at 2:21 pm To Scarface: “Uranium fission (or plutonium fission, for that matter) only converts a small amount of the critical mass.”
That is intrinsic to ‘bomb’ and not intrinsic to fission.

John another
June 30, 2013 2:59 pm

Rud Istvan says:
June 30, 2013 at 1:52 am
“Pumped hydro (or cousin variable release hydro) accounts for over 99 percent of grid storage.”
I would ;have thought that coal, natural gas and nuclear make up 95+ % of grid storage. I Can’t seem to reconcile hydro being another 99%

Art Rosenshein
June 30, 2013 3:04 pm

FYI New York City actually has an emergency pump storage facility in upstate NY.

June 30, 2013 3:11 pm

The two deepest bore holes drilled (7.4 miles & 7.1 miles) ran into the common problem of 568 degrees F.
It would seem a robotic drill head with added coolant using a vacuum extraction system for the debris/cuttings could overcome that issue.
Getting another 5% in depth = “The Jackpot” for a nice 1700 degree Geo-Thermal source to drive steam driven turbines…

June 30, 2013 3:12 pm

RE: how much of critical mass is converted to energy:
Though the chart linked below doesn’t directly answer that, it is a nifty chart I found last week while reading up on Thorium Fuel Cycle reprocessing.
Composition of Conventional Nuclear Fuel
(17×17 Westinghouse, 3% Enriched, 1100 day irrad, 33000 MWD/MTU, discharge composition
After 3 years [refueling point, I suppose]
the U-235 goes from 3% to 1.1% (U-235+U236)
the U-238 goes from 97% to 94.5%, with Plutonium going to 0.9%
with about 3.5% nuclear poisons and other fission products.
I’m not sure I fully believe it…. I read elsewhere that some of the initial load is salted with short lived poisons to account for the higher enrichment at the start of the run.

June 30, 2013 3:15 pm

arthur4563 says:
June 30, 2013 at 5:13 am
> The idea that Edison never invented anything is about as clueless a clam as I’ve ever seen, as is the claim that Tesla was some sort of super inventor.
Thanks. I don’t have time to write much today, but Edison’s eldest daughter lived next to my grandmother – Aunt Marion as my father and I called her – gave me my first Edison books. Edison was not a scientist – but he was an incredibly prolific inventor with several inventions still going strong.

June 30, 2013 3:22 pm

“That’s the way labs whose output includes intellectual property operate. When you sign up, you agree that things that you invent on company time belong to the company and not to you, just like in Edison’s lab. And that does NOT mean that Edison (or Hewlett and Packard) stopped inventing when they started their labs, it just means that Edison ended up with the patent rights for things invented by men in his employ, just like Hewlett and Packard.”
Willis, you are 100% right, that’s the way when one is employed by a Company.
In my former employ, with a large corporation, all professional employees had a contract that made it clear how inventions are handled.
As one who was involved with numerous patents, the procedure was that your name appears on the patent along with other inventors but the Company owned the patent and paid for all the lawyers and fees to get the patent issued. Also they get to defend it if it is challenged. My former company would provide nice monetary awards and recognition when the patent was applied for and again if the patent was issued. Currently as a consultant for a corporation I presume all relevant inventions are owned by the corporation since they pay me for my time working on the technology.
I am surprised that anyone would think otherwise.

June 30, 2013 3:29 pm

Since inventing commenrcial products is easy, could you invent something for us? I’d like to see how it’s done. Thanx in advance. ☺

June 30, 2013 3:35 pm

My solar panels produce on a cloudy day in winter produce just 5% of the electricity they produce on a sunny day in summer. My latitude (from memory) is 36 degrees, and as you move toward higher latitudes, this problem can only get worse, Storing power over the annual cycle is a 2 orders of magnitude bigger problem than storing power over the 24 hours.
As many people have pointed out in the comments, political/social issues are the main obstacle to building stored hydro facilities. The way around this is to build integrated stored hydro and water distribution systems. This brings powerful lobbies onboard like farmers.
These systems could be used to produce low head hydro in the real time pricing scenario crosspatch describes.

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 3:40 pm

And what about looking at using storm water outflow in areas with significant rain events? The city of Mpls alone has 550 miles of stormwater pipe, 17 miles of stormwater tunnels, 16 ponds and 384 outfalls (where the system discharges to surface waters). Additionally MNDOT has a huge system that collects massive amounts of water from the highways.
Why not, as the systems are rebuilt, do what we did with sanitary sewer many years ago, and create a collector system that aggregates and directs that water to one of several processing points – where it can be used to generate power before being discharged into the rivers etc. Now all sewage is directed to a single huge plant along the river. Most of the surrounding suburbs do the same – directing raw sewage to a single plant in the south metro located on the MN River.
Seems we could do same with stormwater – instead of treatment plants could be generating plants.
Maybe combine with type pumped storage system that used area water bodies during normal times that could capture stormwater and use it when it rained.
The Mpls “chain of lakes” comprise over 1,000 acres, are (or could easily be) interconnected, are appx 130 feet above the elevation of the St Anthony Falls hydro plant in downtown Mpls, and are appx 4 miles away. At 1,100 acres surface area, a 1 foot drop if we assume 100 meter head height would equal about 369 MW if I did math right – this would have to be adjusted to the actual 128 foot (39 meter) head that exists – appx 40% of the 100 meters.

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 3:44 pm

This link has interesting discussion on “National Battery”
Running a 2 TW electrified country for 7 days requires 336 billion kWh of storage.
A 12 V battery rated at 200 A-h (amp-hours) of charge capacity stores 2400 W-h (watt-hours: just multiply voltage and charge capacity), or 2.4 kWh. Large lead-acid batteries occupy a volume of 0.013 cubic meters (13 liters) per kWh of storage, weigh 25 kg/kWh (55 lb/kWh), and contain about 15 kg of lead per kWh of storage.
Putting the pieces together, our national battery occupies a volume of 4.4 billion cubic meters, equivalent to a cube 1.6 km (one mile) on a side. This battery would demand 5 trillion kg (5 billion tons) of lead.
A USGS report from 2011 reports 80 million tons (Mt) of lead in known reserves worldwide, with 7 Mt in the U.S. A note in the report indicates … the estimated (undiscovered) lead resources of the world at 1.5 billion tons.
At today’s price for lead, $2.50/kg, the national battery would cost $13 trillion in lead alone, and perhaps double this to fashion the raw materials into a battery (today’s deep cycle batteries retail for four times the cost of the lead within them). The … $25 trillion price tag is more than the annual U.S. GDP. Recall that lead-acid is currently the cheapest battery technology.
Even if we sacrificed 5% of our GDP to build this battery (would be viewed as a huge sacrifice; nearly a trillion bucks a year), the project would take decades to complete.
But even then, we aren’t done: batteries are good for only so many cycles (roughly 1000, depending on depth of discharge), so the national battery would require a rotating service schedule to recycle each part once every 5 years or so. This servicing would be a massive, expensive, and never-ending undertaking.

June 30, 2013 3:59 pm

RE: how much of critical mass is converted to energy in fission in a nuclear reactor.
Wikipedia: “When a uranium nucleus fissions into two daughter nuclei fragments, about 0.1 percent of the mass of the uranium nucleus[6] appears as the fission energy of ~200 MeV. ”
This only applies to the fissioning nucleus.
From the LWRFuelComp image above, Maybe only 4 % of the mass fissions.
That would make only 0.0004 of the core’s fissionable mass get converted to energy.
Let’s work backwards.
Assume a 1GW reactor running about 3 years, with 33% efficiency conversion from core thermal to electricity. Based upon E = mc^2
Electrical energy from Fuel Load: 1 GW * 3 yrs = 1100 GW-Days (rounded)
1 GW-day = 86 TeraJoules
1 TeraJoule = 1.00E+12 Joules
Electrical energy from Fuel Load: 1 GW * 3 yrs = 9.50E+16 Joules
assume 33% efficiency thermal to electricity. = 2.88E+17 Joules (core thermal)
Thermal E = mc2 = 2.88E+17 kg-m^2/sec^2
speed of light = c = 3.00E+08 m/sec
c^2 = 8.99E+16 m^2/sec^2
mass converted to Energy in 3 year run = E/c^2 = 3.20 kg
If core uses = 24000.00 kg uranium
Fraction of core converted to energy in 3 year run: = 0.000134

Wikipedia Burnup:For example, if a 3000 MW thermal (equivalent to 1000 MW electric) plant uses 24 metric tonnes of enriched uranium (tU) and operates at full power for 1 year, the average burnup of the fuel is (3000MW*365)/24 metric tonnes = 45.63 GWd/t, or 45,625 MWd/tHM (where HM stands for heavy metal, meaning actinides like Uranium, Plutonium, etc.).

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 4:05 pm

Stephen Rasey says:
June 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm
@Willis 1:45 pm
The only flaw I can see in the plan is that you can’t easily turn it back into electricity.
No such claim. Only it saves you from NEEDING as much electricity during the day. What has happened is that you have successfully stored the WORK. Therefore energy being generated during the peak times can be used for other demands. Think of it as better than pumped reservoir storage because of increased efficiency (thermal cooling of air) and reduced transmission capacity from pumped storaged reservoir to city.
Stephan … to me that’s brilliant out of the box thinking – its finding a solution to the problem rather than to a component of the problem. And why couldn’t that tech be adapted to the “home” level – and used to operate both AC but also possibly refrigeration as well.
Dealing JUST with the AC peak electric demand with widespread use of these systems could make a significant difference in our peak energy needs. Creating a home and small business sized module would allow a true large area distributed energy storage system. I wild guess would be that the savings in electrical generation capacity could potentially pay for a large part of this system.
And if I recall there are ways to use cold to generate heat – heat exchangers and ideas like this:
Any idea of the physical size that might be required for a home?

June 30, 2013 4:11 pm

@A. Scott 3:44 pm “National Battery”
I remember reading that about a year ago, but I lost the reference. I’m glad you found it and thanks for posting it. It is a good one, especially the part about the comparison between lead requirements (5 gigatons), current US reserves (7 megatons) and estimated world resources (1.5 gigatons (extractable at much higher prices)

son of mulder
June 30, 2013 4:21 pm

“Philip Peake says:
June 30, 2013 at 9:33 am
I looked at my bill for Feb. My house is all electric………”
Taking your figures of 100KWH per day to run your house on electricity in the winter = 100*1000*60*60= 3.6*10^8 Joules per day
I found a modest car battery (063 Lucas Car Battery Length 210 mm Width 175 mm
Height 175 mm) on EBay for 40 GBP say 60 USD which holds a full charge of 41 AH at 12 volts which I make 12*41*60*60 = 1.771*10^6 Joules. You suggest 50% efficiency and we are looking for 3 days of power so the number of batteries needed is 3*(3.6*(10^8))/(0.5*(1.771*(10^6)))= 1,220 at 60USD each but I’m sure there would be a deal for bulk purchase so= just over 73K USD at worse.
Now where would one keep 1,220 car batteries, that’s 7.8 Cubic Meters of batteries (call it 2Mx2Mx2M) costing 73K USD. Small is beautiful. But they are guaranteed for 2 years so I’d expect a recurring replacement cost of 36K USD per year. Then there is the cost of recharging them when the wind is blowing etc la-la-la.

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 4:25 pm

And just outta curiosity but what about home generation? What is the cost/benefit of running a small generator powered by natural gas during peak times? Many/most homes in the urbanized areas of the US have natural gas to the home. Rural areas often have propane. Decent backup generators are avail for $3000 – $10,000, which would go down further with more widespread use.
Most can generate far more than the needs of the home, or could be scaled up in capacity to do so – any reason they couldn’t sell power back to the grid.
Again – a different form of peak demand generation – wide area distributed network. In effected a form of stored energy, albeit one that requires natural gas to operate. Most also will run on gasoline I think – which provides emergency power in case a natural disaster disrupts the grid and or natural gas distribution.

Gary Pearse
June 30, 2013 4:44 pm

Three days supply is more than excessive.
1) In an emergency we usually lose electricity for part of a city.
2) A wiser solution would be to design grid distribution for rationing out power for essential requirements in an emergency – a few light bulbs, operating essential equipment and appliances – maybe 10% of the usual supply to the areas that are down.
3) Have back-up power – large and small for generating emergency power (we generally do have).
4) Work like heck to restore the power. It would be cheaper to employ 2 or 3 times as many electrical workers than to have some massive storage replacement.
5) Even one tenth of your storage would make for a serious target.

June 30, 2013 4:52 pm

@A. Scott: 4:05pm

Anyway, getting back to our main discussion, if you have a ton of ice, it takes (143 BTU/lb) x (2000 lbs) = 286,000 BTUs to melt it completely. … Somewhere along the line, though, someone decided to use 1 day—24 hours—as the standard time reference here. If the ice melts uniformly over the 24 hours, it absorbs heat at the rate of 286,000 / 24 hrs = 11,917 BTU/hr.
Rounding that number up makes it a nice, round 12,000 BTU/hr. In air conditioning jargon, then, a ton of AC capacity is equal to 12,000 BTU/hr. (EnergyVanguard).

Ok, so a “3 ton HVAC system” running 12 hrs, uses enough energy to freeze 1.5 tons of water.
A ‘icebox” that is 2 m x 1 m x 0.5 meter would be as big as could move into most houses, it would be as big and heavy (empty) as a refrigerator and weight 2500 pounds full. It gives 1 ton of ice good for 3 ton HVAC for only 8 hours. But it is modular… buy three, stack ’em side by side and loose 1.5 sq m or 15 sq ft of floor space. With enough thermal insulation, you can put them outside. All that’s left is to have electric billing rates change enough to make the system pay off in a couple years.

June 30, 2013 4:54 pm

I may be wrong about this and its based on many visits to the Lake Oroville Visitors Center and probably watching the movie they have about building the dam for Lake Oroville 20 or 30 times over the years. But I think that Lake Oroville near to where Anthony and I live, he in Chico and I up in the foothills above, has the ability to do stored hydro.
It’s a half remembered bit from the documentary. The way it might work is that below Lake Oroville are two large artificial bays or lakes on the valley floor. They are generally mostly kept full. But my memory says that part of the planned design is that you can pump water from the bays back into the river and reverse the turbines in the power plant built under the base of the dam to pump water from the bays back into the lake. I don’t think it has ever actually been done but I have the distinct but hazy memory of it being a mentioned feature of the dam and power plant design. It is one reason that the two artificial lakes called the Forebay and the afterbay were built when the damn was put up.

June 30, 2013 5:00 pm

“Incidently does the earth already store such energy in huge quantities to keep its molten interior in a fluid state?”
Kirk Sorensen, at
Says Thorium heats the Earth’s core and also produces the magnetic field.

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 5:08 pm


In 2011, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,280 kWh, an average of 940 kilowatthours (kWh) per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 16,176 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.

Centerpoint says a 17 kW nat gas generator uses about 1.83 CCFH (hundred cubic feet per hour) at 1/2 load … using nat gas cost of $0.73164 (CenterPoint Energy Houston natural gas rate per CCF as of April 2013) they say your natural gas cost for one hour of use is $1.34. At full load, the cost is $1.91 per hour. That breaks down to about $0.158 cents per kW at 50% load or about $0.112 cents per kW at full load. That seems competitive in cost to the electric rate – with all costs and fees etc appears to be appx $0.14 to $0.17 cents per kWh
At the typical avg monthly usage of 940 kWh that would be appx 31.3 kWh per day or about 2 hours operation at full capacity to provide 100% of daily power. More typically I would think it’d be set up on a peak demand system – like the “energy saver” switch avail from some utilities that allow them to cycle your power at times of peak demand.
Seems the backup could run at high load during these peak demand times and send a fair amount of power back to the grid?

A. Scott
June 30, 2013 5:18 pm

@Stephen Rasey

Ok, so a “3 ton HVAC system” running 12 hrs, uses enough energy to freeze 1.5 tons of water.
A ‘icebox” that is 2 m x 1 m x 0.5 meter would be as big as could move into most houses, it would be as big and heavy (empty) as a refrigerator and weight 2500 pounds full. It gives 1 ton of ice good for 3 ton HVAC for only 8 hours. But it is modular… buy three, stack ‘em side by side and loose 1.5 sq m or 15 sq ft of floor space. With enough thermal insulation, you can put them outside. All that’s left is to have electric billing rates change enough to make the system pay off in a couple years.

Cool. For new construction (or serious remodel/retrofits) in suitable climates these could go below grade in a foundation protected basement area. Wall it off and it will remain appx 60-65 degrees most places year round. Modular idea is perfect – add as many as you need.
Any idea what one of these would cost?
Keep in mind as well that in many areas the AC doesn’t run continuously all day – so that 8 hours would potentially be close to enough. At minimum it would handle the high cost (both for elec users and for peak generating capacity) peak demand periods …

Philip Peake
June 30, 2013 5:23 pm

Mulder (son of): Car batteries are probably not the best solution. A long time ago, I visited a GPO telephone exchange (end of the mechanical relay age). Two things were unforgettable, one was the sound of all those relays/uniselectors clicking, and the other was the battery room. The batteries were open vats of sulphuric acid with enormous lead plates – they were probably 5′ cube. The provided enough power to keep the exchange running for a week in the event of power failure.
I doubt that those batteries are still made, but those are what you need.
Charging them is another question altogether. Exactly where you get 100kWh from, each and every day is a bit beyond me.

Gunga Din
June 30, 2013 5:50 pm

With each wind farm build towers which will support massive weights. When there the wind turbines generate excess power, use it to drive a motor to lift the weights. When the wind turbines can’t keep up with demand, let the weights drop and drive a turbine to put the stored power out on the grid.
This would have the additional benefit of providing a compactor to make it easier to hide and then dispose of all the bird carcases.
PS If the towers can’t be built at the wind farm they should be built within sight of the homes of the politicians and other proponents of CAGW “solutions”.
(I should probably put a sarc tag in there somewhere ….)

June 30, 2013 6:07 pm

I’m not sure if this is a true story, but I heard that years ago some of the big Auto Manufacturers in Ontario crunched the numbers and found it would be cost effective to build their own private generator. This was back when they would have been able to do it with a Coal powered generator though I don’t know if that was what they intended.
The local utility caved and backed off on the increased rates they had been threatening their biggest customer with.
Of course these days they could simply sic the EPA on them and either make it impossible for them to build their plant, or make the regulations so onerous that there would be no advantage.

Steve R
June 30, 2013 6:53 pm

@Steve Garcia asks:
“On that front, I have a question to ask everyone:
Does anyone know if hybrid cars use the electrics at any time in tandem with the gasoline engines? Or is it one or the other?
The reason I ask is that back in the days of the oil embargo there happened to be a study of engine efficiency in St Louis. The study found that, for a car going only 30 miles per hour, when it stopped for a stoplight and then accelerated back up to 30 mph, a car used up 14 times as much gasoline during that decel-accel period compared to if it had kept going at 30 mph. I’ve never forgotten that study.”
Basically, you need to “invest” a significant amount of energy to get your vehicle up to highway speed (Newton’s 2nd Law, F=ma). Now you are humming along at constant speed, and other than air friction, you tend move along at constant speed with relatively little power (Newton’s first law). But the light ahead now turns from yellow to red, and you are apparently forced to lose the initial “investment” of energy that you expended to reach highway speed. For an electric drive system a clever trick can be used to recapture a good fraction of that initial investment and to re-utilize it after the light turns green. Regenerative Braking; The vehicles’ electric traction motors can be used to brake the vehicle by acting as electric generators and creating electrical energy. In my supercapacitor example, the electric energy could be stored temporarily and drawn from to get the vehicle moving again after the light turns green.
The same principal has been used for years in diesel-electric locomotives, except that the electric energy generated by the traction motors is normally shunted to large ballast resistors on the roof of the locomotive, and rejected as heat to the atmosphere rather than stored.
Look at these vehicles using the “ProPulse” system developed by Oshkosh: If such a system could be efficiently miniaturized, in my opinion you would have the ultimate general purpose hybrid vehicle. Fully electric vehicle. (Electric motors are so efficient!). Onboard electrical generation (extension cords are so inconvenient!).

June 30, 2013 7:08 pm

Willis, you seem to be a lightning rod for the fanatics. Maybe you can figure out a way to harness their negative energy into something useful.
Oh, you already have–witness nick stokes licking his wounds from your last post. (If you can bear to imagine nick licking his wounds….)
Keep up the effort, we much appreciate it.

June 30, 2013 7:27 pm

dbstealey says:
June 30, 2013 at 3:29 pm
Since inventing commenrcial products is easy, could you invent something for us? I’d like to see how it’s done. Thanx in advance. ☺
Who says inventing commercial products is easy? Not sure what your comment was about.

Mike Ramsey
June 30, 2013 7:27 pm

The energy density of gasoline is 9,700 Watt-hours/Liter. But internal combustion engines are only 20% efficient (thereabouts). So for a battery to compete with gasoline it would need an energy density of 0.2 * 9,700 W-h/L or 1940 W-h/L.

Gene Selkov
Reply to  Mike Ramsey
July 1, 2013 3:19 am

Mike Ramsey says:
> But internal combustion engines are only 20% efficient (thereabouts).
A nitpick, but that would be the efficiency of a small two-stroke motorcycle engine. Even a lawn mower engine is more efficient. Diesel engines reach values in the range of 50% for engines above 10 MW.

June 30, 2013 8:27 pm

JDN says:
June 30, 2013 at 11:54 am
“@Willis: Since you like Hiroshimas as a unit, how many Hiroshimas of battery energy exist in NYC right now”
“One Hiroshima Bomb” is the official unit of energy in warmunist science. Similar to ice area, which is measured in Manhattans (but only when it melts).

June 30, 2013 10:29 pm

“Willis – maybe you could take a look at how much energy could be generated with a modest head difference – maybe say 50 feet – which could be more easily achieved in a “constructed” reservoir system (as opposed say to using natural terrain and damming). How bi and deep a resevoir you’d need. It seems these could also be recreational lakes as well?”
I believe the british statistician David Mackey (name is close) did a study on this for England. He concluded that maybe 10% of the nation would have to be paved over for reservoirs. My numbers could be off some–but the percentage was astonishingly high.

June 30, 2013 10:52 pm

Richard M @ June 30, 2013 at 4:49 am
“… the ECAT is already moving into real applications. MIT is testing LENR and the government is funding several of these studies…”
No the “Ecat” is not being sold. It is not “moving into” being sold or anything like it. Only licences to sell the “Ecat” are being sold to suckers.
But yes the US government did fund Rossi’s previous fraud, his thermoelectric generator. That one was a total failure also
“Rossi sent 27 thermoelectric devices for evaluation to the Engineer Research and Development Center; 19 of these did not produce any electricity at all. The remaining units produced less than 1 watt each, instead of the expected 800–1000 watt.”
I believe Rossi collected something just short of $2 MM from the DOD for his thermo-electric fraud.

June 30, 2013 11:40 pm

There are significant facilities that freeze water at night when the electricity rates are low and then use the ice as a cold source for air conditioning the next afternoon when electricity rates are high. Stanford University has a 4-million gallon water tank under a parking garage they use for this purpose. They estimate this technique saves them ~$1.5 million per year in electricity costs.
A press article here:

Grey Lensman
June 30, 2013 11:43 pm

Frank, its not he head that is important but the velocity of the water. Doubling head, doubles power whereas doubling velocity quadruples power.

Gene Selkov
Reply to  Grey Lensman
July 1, 2013 5:14 am

Grey Lensman said:
> … its not he head that is important but the velocity of the water. Doubling head, doubles power whereas doubling velocity quadruples power.
But nobody uses the energy of flowing water. It is almost universally left to dissipate in reservoirs, and then it’s only the head that matters.
One exception is very small-scale generators driven by floating drums or Archimedes screws that scoop water on the surface.

brad ervin
June 30, 2013 11:54 pm

It isn’t just storage capacity but efficiency of enery storage.
For example, we use hybid cars thinking we can store the energy from deccelerations to reuse for accelerations but how much of the energy sent to the battery is available to be sent back to the drive unit? If we were to try to save surplus energy into batteries how much of that energy would be there when we want it back? How do the losses of any possible system compare? Maybe filling sub-sea ballons with air or pumping water uphill (as has been suggested) compare? (water, being more massive should rule over air as a storage medium but if you don’t have an uphill handy…And…if you fill undersea balloons you would make the oceans rise; fullfilling a vital prediction)
At some point in the efficiency curve it becomes foolish to produce energy to store vice finding a larger energy producer that will meet peak demands and work always. If the energy you are saving in your batteries is free energy that will waft away if unsaved then saving it makes some sense but just because government subsidises something does not make it cheap or free.

July 1, 2013 12:58 am

Cheat sheet for energy storage: see
In the NY case it would require 890’000 tons of lead acid batteries to store these 3 days of electricity production.

July 1, 2013 1:02 am

Necessity it is said is the mother of invention. It is therefore unlikely that renewable energy systems will drive battery development as dangerous or catastrophic global warming due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions is a physical impossibility. The most efficient use of large scale energy storage would be to balance peak and off peak power demands from hydrocarbon fueled power plants, preferably closed cycle gas turbines.
Trying to make solar voltaic or wind power workable as base load power by the addition of large scale energy storage is pointless. The initial problems with the energy generation indicate that these technologies are already a failure in engineering and financial terms without the justification of fraudulent science and subsidies.
PV panels are costly and convert less than 20% of of the visible spectrum to energy. They also require exotic materials in their manufacture and don’t ask about the pollution. The albedo change due to the vast surface area required to produce 17 Terawats would cause near surface heating to rival the warming fraudulently attributed to CO2 by pseudo scientists if built on land.
Wind power requires rare and expensive materials such as neodium for magnets as their generators run intermittently at variable speeds. Low cost common material magnetos require more constant speeds for efficiency. Further to this wind power increases the number of moving parts needing maintenance for a given MW capacity and spreads them over a vast area. Not smart. Removing 17 Terawatts from near surface air in high wind speed areas? Snivelling idiocy.
However large scale energy storage is possible. The most workable methods are hydraulic and pneumatic storage. Both are limited by the geological considerations at given locations, however lake and ocean pneumatic storage is worthy of further consideration. Pneumatic storage has one advantage over hydraulic storage when gas turbines are considered. Stored compressed air can reduce the work needed by the compressor in a gas turbine and thus be reused without the need for a separate turbine. In this scenario, base load power would be provided by closed cycle gas turbine and peak power would be provided using compressed air from storage in an open cycle gas turbine.
Despite natural gas being available on century timescales, it may be that we need to consider changing to solar power in the near future. As CO2 cannot cause global warming, aliens removing all hydrocarbons and nuclear fuels from the planet is the more likely scenario*. If this were the case, large scale solar thermal power could be an option. Open cycle solar air turbines connected to lake or ocean pneumatic storage may work.
The mirror cleaning issue can be overcome by non-greens. A roll to roll sheet of vacuum metallised Mylar can be moved across each mirror panel, with rolls removed for recycling every 3 months. Open cycle solar air turbines also require an air compressor stage.
There is a future for large scale energy storage, it just has nothing to do with wind turbines or PV
*Preferred scenario – aliens removing AGW cultists from the planet for vicious and sustained probings.

July 1, 2013 1:06 am

sorry: The case is 1 tenth of New York City electricity for 3 days

William Astley
July 1, 2013 1:49 am

Further to:
brad ervin says:
June 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm
It isn’t just storage capacity but efficiency of energy storage.
Summing up the key issues concerning the absolute need for storage if one insists on funding the green scams.
1) ‘Green’ energy wind and solar require storage. Western countries are spending billions upon billions to subsidize wind and solar ignoring the storage problem. Ignoring economic and engineering reality does not make the problems go away.
2) If there is no practical storage system then it is a fact that there is a limit to ‘decarboning’ using wind and solar. The limit without storage is around 10% to 15% (very, very optimistically). The 10% to 15% limit is due to real economic and engineering facts which do not change by being ignored. The storage problem has been ignored. As there is no ‘practical’ storage solution the only viable option to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by say 40% is nuclear. The problem is the ‘green’ parties have a pathological hatred for nuclear power.
3) There are currently no practical storage systems. A back of the envelop calculation indicates the proposed storage schemes are not scalable and the cost to store energy is more than double the cost to generate the power from the super subsidized ‘green’ scam. This fact has been hidden from the public and politicians when funding ‘green’ scams. Obviously it does not make sense to subsidize wind and solar as they are dead end schemes if ones goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% and then by 80%.
4) Cost, scale ability, efficiency, and reliability of the storage system are key factors. The current compressed air storage system (prototype two locations in the world) is 50% efficient; however, other losses such as 20% to 30% power system losses to transmit electric power from the wind farms or solar farms needs to be included. Cyclic fatigue and cracks likely make compressed air storage not viable. (The compressed air will escape into the geological formation if the scheme is tried for say 20 years or 30 years which require a new geological formation.) There are obviously limited viable geological formations. (A very large storage system is required.)
5) There is a limit as to how much industry and the public can pay for electrical power. The cost of electrical power in Germany is twice that of the US. The high cost of electrical power is a type of tax as there is less money available to tax and for basic needs. The Western countries are already spending more money than take in via taxes. Very high yearly deficits lead to collapse.
6) A back of an envelope economic analysis indicates that wind and solar are ridiculously expensive if the cost of storage systems is added, even if there was a scalable reliable storage system which there is not.
The EU jobs are concentrated in German. The implications of that fact are not understood. German is hogging the limited EU jobs. Prior to a single currency that would not happen as the German mark would have increase in value relative to high unemployment countries (EU) this would force the jobs to be shared with the other EU countries. The EU is no longer competitive with the world and has been steadily losing jobs. The green scams are one of the principal reasons why the EU will collapse. Green energy to ‘decarbon’ a country is a fantasy, ridiculous.
For the 27-nation European Union, the jobless rate was unchanged in March, at 10.9 percent. Eurostat estimated that 26.5 million men and women were unemployed in Europe, including 5.7 million young people.
Jobless figures for both the euro zone and the European Union are the highest Eurostat has reported since it began keeping the data in 1995, in the days before the euro. In comparison, the unemployment rate in the United States was 7.6 percent in March.
The European economy remains trapped in a torpor with little relief in sight. Governments have tightened public finances to meet deficit targets, and companies remain reticent about hiring. The euro zone’s gross domestic product is widely expected to decline for a second consecutive year in 2013.
Super subsidizes for ‘green’ scam job results in the loss of real jobs.
Each green job in Britain costs £100,000 (and 3.7 other jobs):
The Telegraph points out how expensive it is to support a wind-industry job. My plan to bury bottles with £50,000 apiece in them could halve the cost and employ just as many people.
• A new analysis of government and industry figures shows that wind turbine owners received £1.2billion in the form of a consumer subsidy, paid by a supplement on electricity bills last year. They employed 12,000 people, to produce an effective £100,000 subsidy on each job.
• “Among the examples of extremely high subsidies effectively for job creation is Greater Gabbard, a scheme of 140 turbines 12 miles off the Suffolk coast. It received £129 million in consumer subsidy in the 12 months to the end of February, double the £65million it received for the electricity it produced. It employs 100 people at its headquarters in Lowestoft, receiving, in effect, £1.3 million for every member of staff.” — Telegraph, 15 June 2013
• In Scotland the VERSO study showed for each Green Job created, 3.7 were lost. — BBC, Feb 2011
In Italy, each green job cost 5 jobs from the rest of the economy:

July 1, 2013 2:44 am

I have read of several systems, one in development for cars, that uses hydraulics to capture energy in accumulators to use to boost a vehicle at start up. The first one I read about over a year ago was very heavy duty and intended for use on Garbage trucks which made frequent stops. Payback was estimated at about a year. Too expensive for more conventional vehicles. But apparently there is a car company who has developed a system that uses hydraulics to capture braking forces and store the energy with compressed air to boost the vehicle. They claim a potential for eighty miles to the gallon,though that sounds like blue sky to me.

Mike Ozanne
July 1, 2013 2:45 am

Ah the “Hiroshima”…
I remember in my dim and distant youth working in a small Urethane factory. One of my cow-orkers was a little short on sandwiches when it came to provisioning the picnic. One night, on a slack shift, his car was playing up and had expired as he pulled into the car-park. In his lunch break he embarked on the usual round of cursing, tyre-kicking, and banging with spanners that goes by the name of “user maintenance”. In the course of this pagan ritual his repeated attempts to start the vehicle had drained his battery. At this point he had a flash of lateral thinking of which de Bono would have been proud. We used electric fork lift trucks, little panzer tanks of mass destruction powered by tons of lead/Acid cells in serial-parallel configuration. There was a forklift; there, once the maintenance cover was removed, were positive and negative points from the traction battery to the traction motor, there in his hand were jump leads marked positive and negative. As I strolled by this piece of logical deduction was reaching its denouement. My enquiry as to his thought process reached the “what the f–” part of the general interrogatory standard, when he got his jump leads close enough to his car battery terminals for the whole thing to arc across. They let him out of hospital after a week, having treated his burns, and it didn’t take that long to clean the melted jump lead insulator, and the acid from the car battery off the floor. The forklift was fine, thanks for asking…… Sudden release of stored electrical energy, not the best plan in the world.
And there are other concerns.
My father was in the Signals Branch of the Royal Air Force. In practical terms this usually meant he was assigned to the military side of GCHQ outstations. One of these was located in Cyprus under the innocuous heading 33 Signals Unit which shared premises in Ayios Nikalaos with the equally innocent sounding 9 Signals Regiment RCS. There was a fatal explosion and fire in the emergency battery room, which resulted in a court of enquiry of which my father was part. The unfortunate victim was a new army arrival. The thing was apparently inexplicable until the dots were joined. The voltmeter on the charging panel was defective, one of the battery tops had been opened, there were the charred remains of a zippo lighter, and the new guy had been sent to see how the batteries were charging. Near as they could figure, he’d had no joy with the voltmeter; had removed a battery cap to see if bubbles were rising and had decided it was too dark to check properly without an additional light source…. Nasty stuff Hydrogen, doesn’t react well to being treated with disrespect.
Want a city wide battery back up resource, better make sure it’s idiot proofed to the nines….
As to the general point, energy densities are way to low for a practical and affordable system to be built using the currently available solutions. In addition to that there are issues regarding heat generation when drawing the required load from the cells, and also while storing if short charge times are required. Needs breakthroughs in both theory and engineering before we get to a viable solution.

Gail Combs
July 1, 2013 4:16 am

“That’s definitely one reason I chose “Hiroshima bombs” as the unit of measure … because people (as you point out) don’t realize the safety implications of stuffing a huge amount of energy into a small box.” ~ Willis
No truer words were ever spoken.
Despite what those with the Bambi Syndrone want to believe, Life is Lethal and Mother Nature has a very nasty temperament.
Pointman has a very good essay that points out what happens when a naive do-gooder meets reality The big green killing machine: They sit with God in paradise.

July 1, 2013 4:29 am
dave ward
July 1, 2013 6:22 am

Philip Peake says:
June 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm
“A long time ago, I visited a GPO telephone exchange (end of the mechanical relay age). Two things were unforgettable, one was the sound of all those relays/uniselectors clicking, and the other was the battery room. The batteries were open vats of sulphuric acid with enormous lead plates – they were probably 5′ cube. They provided enough power to keep the exchange running for a week in the event of power failure.
I worked for the GPO / BT for 20+ years, and remember them well. However the huge cells you refer to were only intended to keep the exchange running for a few hours. All such exchanges had auto-start diesel generators which would takeover in the event of mains failure. On the rare occasion that one of these failed, a mobile unit had to be dispatched, and hooked up. I have vivid memories of a mobile ALSO failing to start, and the subsequent panic as the DC bus slowly fell to 45 volts (normally 52), and switches started dropping out… Smaller rural exchanges without gensets had a minimum 24 hrs reserve to allow a van towable battery trailer to be taken out.
In either case there were two separate strings of 2 volt cells, which were regularly rotated between service and standby. It was normal to get 20+ years life from them. Large transformer / rectifiers with motor driven tap changers provided the DC supply. These days all sites have generators, and the old wet cells are gone, replaced by Gell / AGM batteries mounted in the equipment racks. The mechanical exchanges had a huge variation in electrical demand – with the morning 9 o’clock business start being the peak. Conversely at night it was minimal. Modern computer controlled exchanges have a pretty constant demand 24/7.

July 1, 2013 9:07 am

arthur4563 says:
June 30, 2013 at 5:13 am
I might add that nowadays Edison’s direct current is considered the best way to transmit electricity over long distances, not Tesla’s AC current.
There’s some advantages to that, but you still have to put AC in the loop to transform the voltages, like Stephen Ramsey points out above. Which means huge rectifiers, inverters, etc,
Simpler from an engineering viewpoint is just to up voltages on lengthy lines to several million volts (the highest voltages in the US is 765KV lines) — well within current, proven technologies. The only thing stopping that is fearmongering from eco-loons about evil high-voltage lines & sinister “magnetic” effects.

July 1, 2013 2:27 pm

@Willis: Re: battery energy
It was just a fun suggestion. I was thinking that there is probably already a considerable stored energy in batteries right in NYC, possibly a reasonable fraction of a nuke. And i was curious to see if you could do this sort of estimate. It’s far more challenging than your original. I’m not worried about any damage from simultaneously detonating batteries, unless it’s sitting in my lap. I generally agree that one big battery to buffer NYC will be inherently unsafe.

July 1, 2013 2:47 pm

Willis Eschenbach says on June 30, 2013 at 1:38 am, as part of his mostly-good criticism of hydrogen:
“Finally, hydrogen is one of the most dangerous of fuels, because it burns at such a wide mixing ratio of fuel to air …”
Acetylene has a flammable mixing range even wider in both directions, and detonates more easily. It is said to be able to be detonated even anaerobically at pressure much over 2 atmospheres. But, acetylene sees use. (Although not as a fuel for cars …) And it does not appear to me to be killing many people.

J Martin
July 1, 2013 4:15 pm

A. Scott said “From
In 2011, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,280 kWh, an average of 940 kilowatthours (kWh) per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 16,176 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.”

In the UK according to one utilities website the average domestic user accounts for 3,300 KWh per annum.

The Iceman Cometh
July 2, 2013 3:29 am

“people (as you point out) don’t realize the safety implications of stuffing a huge amount of energy into a small box.” I talked to the developer of an electric car. Was it possible to charge at MW rates? He laughed – “Don’t be stupid!” So I told him I charge my automobile at ~20MW – he said it couldn’t be done. Then I took him through the simple arithmetic – half a kilo a second of gasoline at 43MJ/kg is 21.5MW. Most gas pumps will do better than half a kilo a second. He has since given up on his car.
You need to store energy? Fossil fuels do a Great Job!

Reply to  The Iceman Cometh
July 2, 2013 5:18 am

Absolutely! We already have the best energy storage, and the earth provides an excellent storage medium. Between gasoline, diesel and natural gas, no water tank or compressed air or battery will come even remotely close.
We should spend our energies on productive new technologies.

July 6, 2013 8:45 am

For those who are interested in LENR, alias Cold Fusion, it is becoming industrial at fast pace… in few years if not few quarters… Rossi isn only one of the actors in the race.
I’ve written an executive summary, fed by my tech-watch on LENR forum:
a huge blackswan, yet ignored as any paradigm change is.
As usual peer-review, majority opinion, is a way to slow real science, to ignore evidence.
MIT as Eugene Mallove have denounced have they “Hide the Incline” story… their tricks for peer-review is not even hidden. It is official.
To have an educated opinion, please read the data…
AGW is no more a problem, whatever is you position. CO2 is dead for energy. Renewable , coal, oil, nuke, are dead.
— AlainCo the techwatcher of lenr-forum.

July 7, 2013 11:41 am

I’ve seen multiple references to a molten sodium sulfur battery for grid use. I’ve also heard of proposals to use just molten salt as a heated buffer to either nuclear or solar thermal, that way it can build-up a reserve to overcome spikes in supply or demand. As for traditional batteries, supposedly, a hospital near the proposed bridge to nowhere uses a barge mounted battery that is charged periodically by a nearby city.

July 8, 2013 8:25 am

@Willis Eschenbach
My motive was just to shortly give wider information, because as usual the information broadcasted on LENR is too narrow (mostly Rossi-centered, while Defkalion is better positioned, and many others may cause surprises). Those interested would just follow the links, get informed and stop parroting the consensual stupidities broadcasted in Wikipravda, SciAm, Nature…
The actual testable reliable generation evidences are given, at kW level by Defkalion, Rossi, and even by Brillouin, through 3rd party. With less usable result it is well replicated and understood by ENEA, CEA and a thousands of other papers, with a pile of peer reviewed papers, some review in NaturWissenschaften.
It is referenced (maybe through words, not links) in the articles.
Are you sure you read, or try to understand? or maybe you missed the more scientific article cited inside :
You may also requires impossible to respect constraints, like openbox test for commercial products, or fully reliable for PdD experiments where condition are not yet well identified… ignoring blackbox test results, or recent experiments (Like those of ENEA published at ICCF15) where most condition are identified and even actively modified (especially crystallography).
I don’t expect that any of those reference will be accepted, so I won’t try to defend them. I know it is like talking to a wall… any evidence will be rejected, any institution involved will be said fringe from NASA to BARC, Spawar, CEA,NRL, ENEA,Elforsk, EPRI, Amoco,Shell,CNAM … All researchers who were respected the day before they accept LENR will be classified as fringe if not corrupted. that is usual…
Most people will trust the experiments done by incompetent Caltech electro-chemist , and by Mann-inspired MIT fraudsters who did “hide the incline”, when they don’t fill the box of dissenters with texas horse manure, use the local nuclear reactor to ruin experiments, call for 3 successive unsuccessful fraud inquiry on the same scientists, who was before that, a respected professor whose book was in every student bag.
I’ve been respecting Science, and mainstream position for long, but having considered what happened on climate and LENR, I feel it is even more corrupted than politics and finance.
This is explained as I said inside by Kuhn.
So most of people should forget it, you will learn that in Wall Street journal. There is no hope for most people who follow the consensus and not the evidences.
As usual the usual nasty capitalist will take the risk, and break the Berlin Wall… Today, even in france, you can talk of LENR to industrialists, provided you close the door. The doors will only open when the products are on the shelves.
It is ironical that people on WUWT behave like that, but it is human nature, and people have a limited budget for free-thinking and accessing to evidences. I admit that I follow less that climate controversy since I know it is worthless.
BTW the SIF acronym remind me reported wiki-attorney language, used to justify silencing dissenters. so I don’t hope to convince, nor win the battle.
Just consider that rejected wiki-page to see how unscientific, are the LENR denialists.
I don’t hope to convince the conformist who follow the “settled science” and not the evidences.
Whatever people think, they should just avoid investing in anything related to energy, climate, big-science, transportation, heating.
By the way, really one should go to University Of missouri in 2 weeks, and to Austin at NIWeek in August.
Afterward WUWT could take vacation because the non-problem will be solved, at no cost. Only the warriors, and the fear-mongers, will suffer from the end of that absurd war.

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