Energy technology fixes: how to store power?
With more and more renewable energy solutions coming on stream, there is an associated challenge of storing the intermittent power that is being generated. Solar and wind power have the most obvious limitations: when the sun goes down or the winds don’t blow then no power is generated. Some innovative solutions are looking to address the intermittent energy source. There are large-scale innovations such as liquid salt pumped to the top of a tower in the Nevada Crescent Dunes solar plant. There is also Morocco’s ambitious Noor-1 (and later Noor-2 and Noor-3) concentrated solar plants (CSP) that aim to be the largest in the world. These are situated in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Each of the plants are large scale the Nevada Crescent Dunes plant generates 110MW. Noor-1 will generate 160MW of power. Details of the development can be seen here on this Guardian article.
There are a number of additional storage methods being used around the world that include batteries, flywheels, geothermal plants, compressed air, hydrogen and ice. Hydro power is a popular storage method, utilising water pumped to the top of a mountain and then released to power turbines at the bottom. The daytime solar or wind power can pump water up in the day time and then, overnight, the water is release to drive turbines to generate more power. Often these are smaller scale schemes.
According to Navigant, a research company, global energy storage installations are going to be a growth industry with growth from around 1,750 megawatts (MW) in 2016 to nearly 11,000 MW by 2020. There is also a shift from large-scale to more smaller-scale distributed energy generation solutions. Small solar solutions are a good example of this. Battery technology may be suitable to store energy generated in the day time for use when the sun is not shining. Smart energy is the solution and there is a Universal Smart Energy Framework (USEF) that is looking at ways to manage the imbalance in power output. It provides a set of specifications to establish a fully functioning smart grid.
Larger scale battery opportunities for a community are being investigated and proved too. There is an example at Leighton Buzzard, UK where a battery plant provided by Smarter Network Storage (SNS) which has 50,000 lithium-ion battery cells. This provides power for more than 1000 ‘average’ homes. Technologies at this helps to balance the supply and demands of electricity production. Alternatives to lithium-ion batteries such as Aquion‘s saltwater and manganese oxide batteries are deemed more sustainable. Another alternative is Aquion’s saltwater and manganese oxide battery. It is a low-cost and emission free alternative.
All these options are looking promising to assist with the transition to more sustainable energy solutions. They will be much needed to support the outcome of the COP21 Climate Conference that has recently finished in Paris (see below).
The following BBC article was used to help provide information on this blog post: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34974644
Paris COP21 Outcome
Paris saw a major new global climate agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, with an aim of achieving 1.5 degrees. This has been a much needed agreement as 2015 looks to be another record warm year. 2016 is already predicted to be even warmer according the UK Met Office.
The meeting, named COP-21 (conference of parties 21st meeting), has led to a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. In addition there are mechanisms for reporting on progress, transparency around that progress and increasing action over time. 186 countries will therefore review their action plans to reduce emissions every five years. The agreement will need to be ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55% of emissions from 22 April 2016.
According to 350.org the 2 degree pledge would need to keep 80% of the world’s remaining fossil fuels where they are (underground), with the 1.5 degree target requires more than 80%. Countries are required to increase their carbon savings every 5 years to reach these aims.
This agreement is the start of the hard work to reduce global emissions. Held in Paris recently was another conference, the 2015 Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15). This is looking at innovative ways to boost the so-called new economy. The cross-sector participants are from business, Government, finance, the United Nations, non-government organisations (NGOs) and civil society. The aim is to create an opportunity to bolster business innovation and bring scale to the emerging green economy and circular economies. The circular economic model considers resources from extraction through to disposal and encourages re-use of resources. There will be a greater role to be played by private companies in reducing emissions as a result of the COP21 outcome.