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Clean and Green Energy Storage Techniques

Updated on July 27, 2014

Green Energy Storage Techniques

The easily disruptable nature of some green energy technologies like wind and solar is a constant fallback argument for proponents of continued hydrocarbon use. Let's debunk the myth that green energy isn't reliable with some clever engineering solutions. The use of hydrocarbons may seem cheaper, but the real cost includes the health effects of spent fuel toxic exposure. Perceived energy scarcity even leads to war. We have so much to gain by leaving the oil economy behind, and these technologies prove it's possible.

High pressure vessels can be used to store hydrogen generated on site.
High pressure vessels can be used to store hydrogen generated on site. | Source

Compressed Hydrogen/Oxygen Energy Storage

When water is exposed to an electric current water gets 'cracked' into hydrogen and oxygen. Most already know that much; it's basic high school chemistry. To store the energy one need only bottle it, either in traditional pressure vessels or, better yet, in carbon fiber super high pressure bottles. Most of the risk the pressure bottles can be mitigated by burying them at the power storage site. To further mitigate the risks a bank of smaller vessels can be used over a single large container. Since oxygen is readily abundant in the atmosphere, storing it is not strictly required, although a purer oxygen source should yield a higher power output in precision high output models.

So now we have some stored hydrogen and oxygen, but what's next? How does that translate into energy?

What most people don't consider is that when you introduce a catalyst you can recombine the hydrogen and oxygen to get electricity. An early working model of this technology was employed on NASA’s space shuttle.

The ongoing development of the catalyst cell is a new frontier for science. The most basic platinum based models are soon to be replaced by models based on advanced polymers, which are ideal for mass production at a lower cost. This would also help petrol producers save face as they can provide the polymers needed, while reducing their environmental impact through traditional fuel burning.

Here is where things get really interesting though: with new advances in biotechnology it will be possible to design microorganisms with the sole purpose of generating the polymers required for the new generation of advanced fuel cells. These developments have the potential to revolutionize our economy and our lifestyle.

An old device in a new role.
An old device in a new role. | Source

Hydro-Kinetic Energy Storage

Hydro-Kinetic power storage is pretty simple when compared to other technologies. If you have lots of space and live in a warmer climate then this solution may be all you need. The system works by drawing water from a groundwater or artificial subterranean cistern source through the course of the power generating cycle. When the generator stops putting out the desired level of power for whatever reason – night, cloud cover, wind conditions, etc. – an electric actuator opens the release valve and the water returns to the cistern, spinning a turbine while doing so, thus generating supplemental power. The larger you build the tower and cistern the longer the device can run and the higher the output.

Molten salt... wait no, that's just lava.
Molten salt... wait no, that's just lava. | Source

Molten Salt Energy Storage

What's that you say? Salt doesn't melt? Well think again. We're talking about salt melting at industrial temperatures. Core of the earth temperatures - this isn't your stove.

Now that we have that dealt with, we can discuss molten salt as the basis for cutting-edge energy storage for solar applications. In its most basic form, what you are doing is aiming hundreds or thousands of mirrors at a focal point full of salt, which heats up to industrial forge temperatures during the charge cycle. During the discharge cycle the molten salt is used to boil water, and the steam produced spins turbines before escaping or being cycled back into the system, depending on the abundance of water in the area.

Molten Salt Storage Example:

An old fashioned mechanical flywheel.
An old fashioned mechanical flywheel. | Source

Magnetic Flywheel Energy Storage

Using a flywheel to store energy is nothing new; it's been done since the start of the industrial revolution. Large steel flywheels can mechanically store energy for several hours at a time using traditional rotors. Advancements in applied magnetism, however, offer an interesting if under explored method for energy storage. First, you use a set of electromagnets to levitate a large steel disk. Then, you use an angled field to set the disk spinning while in charge phase. In the discharge phase, the disk continues to spin, and the field emitters that set the device spinning now draw energy from the rotation of the steel.

It does get a bit more complex than that simple description, but the efficiency of such storage is close to 97 percent. For comparison, the very best cars are running engines with about 35 percent efficiency.

There you have it: solar energy all day long. I hope you found this look at green energy storage enlightening - be sure to use it to knock the next luddite hydrocarbon enthusiast you debate right out of the ballpark.


References:

Hydrogenics: Fuel Cells

Wikipedia: Flywheel Energy Storage

Access Excellence: Synthesis of Biological Polymers

Clean Technica: Non-Metallic Catalyst Outperforms Platinum

What storage method do you think is most viable?

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