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Wherein I weave together stories about developments in renewable energy and an interview with DT rather more skillfully than the Trumper's hair stylist.

The trouble with power from wind turbines and Donald Trump interviews is that they are often produced at inconvenient times. Correction any publicity for Trump is unwanted at any time but there is a link.

Wind turbines are great sources of renewable energy but their drawback is that the wind often blows strongest at times when demand for electricity is at its lowest like the middle of the night.  Smoothing out the excess production of renewables to meet demand is one of the great connundrums that have  plagued moves to totally rely on renewable sources.

Up to now, the solution has seemed to be storing that wind turbine energy in batteries. On a domestic scale that is a fairly good solution however on much larger scales the capital and maintenance cost of the batteries is a huge drawback. Traditional batteries rely on some rather nasty chemicals like sulfuric acid and lead while more novel versions demand large amounts of rarer metals often found in unstable countries or controlled by those you would rather not be beholdent to (like the Chinese with their rare earth metal supplies) There is also a finite supply of suitable materials which needs to be addressed by a recycling chain. To feed into the grid, you need to convert the DC power to AC or up the voltage for HVDC grids.

Commercial producers of wind power are looking to other solutions for countries where there are few battery factories. One method is "pump-storage" where water is pumped to a high resevoir using the spare electricity and is released through a conventional hydro-electric power plant in times of need. However like using dams, this needs a suitable terrain and can damage other industries like tourism and farming if you are not careful. They are also hugely expensive with long construction times.

Now Britain's Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) is exploring another solution. That is using the "unwanted" electricity to liquify air to be stored in insulated silos. When power is needed, the liquid is warmed to abient temperature. The expansion from a liquid to gas provides enough energy to drive a conventional generating turbine of the type used in "heat" power stations. Instead of relying on superheated steam, this uses cool air (minus CO2 and water) at high pressure to force the turbine blades round. IMechE suggests building these power stations alongside other plants that currently vent hot air as a waste product. That would be used to heat up the liquid while the waste cool air would be passed through "cold sinks". These would chill the incoming air at the start of the next storage cycle.  Although this would be about 70% efficient compared to the 80% achieved by batteries, the system uses well tested conventional generating designs and has none of the requirements for complex electronics and exotic materials of a battery storage system at a similar scale.

You could invisage a town based campus  where one side incinerates domestic waste  to produce electricity (often more carbon neutral than transporting to a land fill or central recycling plant). The other side is the cryo-storage unit which when power needs to be generated diverts the waste heat from the recycling to warm up the liquid air. You could even sell the waste CO2 from the cooling process as dry ice for local cold storage. A wind farm out of town would provide electricity for both medium demand periods and in low demand periods power the cryo-storage plant.

The idea of cryo-storage of power was originally developed by its inventor to "fuel" vehicles and the link should show a clip of him driving a car using an version of his engine.

Using air as an energy storage medium is also employed in another proposal being prototyped in 2010 at Nottingham University. The German energy company EOn - which is a major supplier to homes in the UK - funded the trial.

Instead of liquifying air, this scheme uses the spare electricity from wind farms to pump it into huge undersea bladders affectionately called "Wind Bags". The outside water pressure keeps the air in the bladder compressed until needed again to drive fairly conventional turbines.


Talking of wind bags, you probably know that Donald Trump is violently opposed to the Scottish Government for refusing to refuse permission to build an offshore wind plant within sight of his Aberdeenshire golf resort (that he wanted to build on a particularly important sand dune ecosystem on the shore). "Within sight" is a bit of an exaggeration.  The wind farm is so offshore it would appear to the naked eye as a dot on the horizon from his hotel and links.

On Tuesday the Guardian printed an interview Donald Trump: 'It is my hair and it's an amazing thing' in which his lunacy is really starting to show. Sarah Palin and Kate Middleton (Prince William's wife) are both "terrific" although he blames her for the topless photos as she cavorted by a swimming pool (that's Kate not Sarah!)  He ignores the fact that to take them required a very high power long focus camera lens to get smudged pictures - the sort of lens you had to have to see the wind turbines from his gaff.

I bring it to your attention purely for the comments from the Guardian's readers. Those that were not removed for "failing to meet community standards",  ie too abusive, included the following. (I have not provided US translations for some of the English and Scottish idioms but I think the meanings are obvious).

   I'm amazed Governor Romney hasn't pursued him on this.

It's somewhat comforting to know that in order to get the Republican nomination you are still required to be marginally more intelligent than Donald Trump

It was Kates fault she was pictured topless-No you Ponce,actually it was some slimy shite paparazzi fault lurking with a telephoto lens..
If she wants to be topless on a sunny day in her private sphere who says says she cant do that...after all he walks around with a badger glued to his head, nobody says he cant do that.
the man is a complete tosser!
Donald Trump is pretty vile unless you happen to like billionaire real estate speculators with a penchant for gaudy women, gaudy hotels, and gaudy hair.
Donald Trump, I demand that you provide a detailed and anatomically thorough report, conducted by at least two entirely seperate and independent medical professionals, and endorsed by at least two cryptozoologists containing definitive evidence that you are definitely a 100% genetically compatible member of the species Homo Sapiens, by 6.30 AM GMT today.

Anything less than 100% compliance with this request will be taken as incontrivertable proof of my suspicions that you are in fact a vile and inexplicable hybridisation between a mentally-disturbed orangutan and an inexpicably sentient human foreskin infected with syphillis and botulism.

and my favorite if only for the alliteration
Beat it bozo, you're about as welcome in Scotland as jobby in a jacuzzi. Keep your money, we don't want it and we don't want to hear anymore about your old mammy from the isle of skye.
Pathetic yank tartan gonk wannabe wanting to turn our country into a theme park for your millionaire golf-bore friends.
Bearing in mind these are the ones NOT removed by the moderators at the Guardian, I think you can gather he is about as popular in the UK (apart from with rich golf-playing ** *** ***) as he is with Democrats in the USA.

Originally posted to Lib Dem FoP on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 03:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    Why doesn't Mitt Romney carry an iPhone? 1. He has staff to carry his cellphone 2. He has an Ann Droid.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 03:57:31 AM PDT

  •  So, I had to look up "jobby" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    timj, Lujane, duhban, JeffW

    in the Urban Dictionary.

    On behalf of America, allow me to apologize to my Scottish kinfolk for his Trumpness....

    "We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology."-Edward O. Wilson, in "The Social Conquest of Earth"

    by sparkysgal on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 05:06:34 AM PDT

  •  Waaaaaiiit a minute... (8+ / 0-)

    I'm seeing a big huge thermodynamic problem here...

    To cool down a gas to liquefy it, you have to take heat energy out of it - a process that itself requires energy (here, supplied in the form of that "unwanted" electricity).  What does this guy propose to do with the heat removed from the air - blow it out the back of the refrigeration plant where it can't be recovered?  And then it will take more heat to boil the liquid air again.

    I don't know if anyone's tried the math but on the face of it this looks like a hugely lossy process - not worth the time, but more to the point, not worth the energy.  

    •  well heck, who'da thot (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane, JeffW

      there'd be someone here sufficently experienced enough to articulate the problems with the process? is there anything that kossacks don't know?

    •  I imagine it would just go back into the (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayBat, HeyMikey, Lujane, duhban, JeffW

      atmosphere and be dissipated -- part of that 30% loss.

      It's easy to get too jacked up over the efficiency of individual processes and forget the net efficiency of the whole system.

      Compared to a 100% loss -- not storing the unwanted electricity in any form -- a 30% loss ain't that bad.

      If you looked at the 80% efficiency of batteries as the benchmark,  that represents a sacrifice of 12.5% efficiency in order to achieve the goal of not dealing with batteries and their attendant problems.

      I don't know if that's a good trade or not (non-scientist, non-politician, don't even know how to calculate that), but it doesn't seem horrifying.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 09:52:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Devil in the Details (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac, HeyMikey, Lujane, duhban

      A not-very-prominently-reported part of the liquid-air energy storage plan is to site the compressor/liquifier/regenerator plant near a business or factory that produces a lot of waste heat, somewhere like a computer data centre or (somewhat circularly) a thermal power plant and when the system starts returning electricity to the grid that "spare" waste heat gets used to warm the air being pumped through the turbines.

       There are other similar ideas being tried out -- a company in Texas is planning to use an exhausted underground oil reservoir to store compressed air with a 300MW supply rating and (they claim) the capacity to store several GWhr of electricity at about 60% cycle efficiency. How well it works is still to be seen.

       The problem with storage is that it's expensive to build and operate and it doesn't in itself add generating capacity, it just buffers what's available. Renewables add a lot of uncertainty and fluctuation of generating capacity to a grid, assuming they replace baseload (coal, oil, nuclear) or despatchable (conventional hydro) generating stations. The alternative is usually fast-response natural-gas turbine sets that can go on and off-line quickly as the renewables peak or trough due to weather and other factors but they burn carbon and produce CO2.

      •  Another detail to correct in the diary (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Horrible, Lujane, duhban, JeffW

        Contrary to popular belief, China is NOT the only place where the necessary Rare-Earth metals can be found.  There are fairly good supplies in many other countries, INCLUDING parts of the US.

        What China did is to grab nearly complete control of the Rare Earths market by underpricing every other country, mainly (I suspect) via the use of the free labor of prisoners as miners.  Even at that, they were willing to take a loss at it for several years, to allow the mines in other countries to fall into disuse and disrepair, making THEIR supplies appear to be the only "reasonable" source.

        OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

        by mstaggerlee on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 12:09:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If you read the article... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac, HeyMikey, Lujane, JeffW

      The claim is that the cryo-storage is only 25% efficient on it's own, as you're pointing out, and that they would want to co-site the cryo-storage farm next to industrial processes that can make use of and/or provide the low-grade thermal energy provided/required by the cryo-storage.

      They also are looking at using a big honking low-tech thermal sink (a huge tank full of rocks).

      So yeah, they understand basic thermodynamics.  They key is that the phase-change gives this approach a big energy density advantage compared to pumped storage or molten salts or whatever.

      This is exactly the time to be trying a whole bunch of different crazy things. We have to find a way of operating wind/solar farms without requiring a big natural gas turbine right next door.

    •  The rejected heat from a liquefier (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane, JeffW

      comes out as ~160 deg F cooling water from the compression equipment.  This can be saved for later use.

  •  Compressed air underground. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Compressed air in underground caverns is in use in at least two sites (one in Alabama and one in Germany) to store energy. A NJ site may be in operation by now.

    Compressed air energy storage, more generally:

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 11:36:37 AM PDT

  •  Another way to store excess energy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    requires a mountain.  Build a funicular to move something very heavy (like several fully loaded rail cars) up several thousand feet via cable.  Let them descend to re-capture the energy used to move the load uphill.  Building the system is more costly initially but probably more efficient than gas compression.

  •  Wind power is a waste (0+ / 0-)

    The United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind. In other words, whatever we develop won't be that useful elsewhere. So let's put our chips on solar and better nuclear energy (like thorium). While today the U.S. is the big energy hog, the gigantic looming problem is what happens when India and China approach U.S. standards of living. Research to ameliorate those eventualities is far more important than feel good green energy today.

  •  I vote we just (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    stick Trump next to a wind turbine, the man has plenty of hot air.

    Batteries are not terribly bad (in fact lead/sulfur really are not used much anymore) but yes there are a lot of mechinical means of storiing energy being explored.

    Another I heard of was simlar to the air bags only instead of underwater it was compressed air being stored under ground

  •  Trumped by Wind Turines (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    See The offshore demonstration wind farm is happeneing whether The Talking Hairpiece wants it or not. There are too many jobs and way too many TENS of billions of dolars/pounds/euros at stake, and Trump is chump change compared to the offshore wind biz.


  •  Simple question (0+ / 0-)
    Up to now, the solution has seemed to be storing that wind turbine energy in batteries.
    Actually, a prime path has been hydrostorage -- where has battery storage been a serious player at all competitive with the amounts stored by hydrostorage?

    And, the air bags at the sea bottom is something being envisioned/pursued by multiple firms.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 07:40:13 PM PDT

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