Cold Energy Storage? And a plug for a thoughtful blogger …

Ergosphere is the blog space of a very thought-provoking blogger on energy issues, Engineer Poet.  EP will show up and comment throughout the blogosphere on energy issues — with a thoughtful and critical eye, without question a pointed barb for calling out BS when perceived as BS.  But, perhaps more interesting, EP raises interesting concepts and thoughts — ones that are achievable (at least technologically), often outside the mainstream of consideration, and that could revolutionize man’s energy system-of-systems.  This makes Ergosphere a must-stop blog — on an occasional (several times / month) basis.

So, in stopping by today, the essay / discussion is Two Easy Pieces,


The difficult parts of the emerging renewable energy economy are the high-efficiency biomass converters and new energy storage.  …  These are essential; without high efficiency the energy yield of biomass is too low to support a high standard of living, and without storage the use of intermittent supplies (such as wind and solar) becomes problematic.

At least, they looked difficult.  Turns out one might be on the way as a solution for other problems, and a big chunk of the other is already available for free.

I’m used to ambitious statements of problem and solution from EP … and EP certainly delivers with this one. 

RE Storage, EP once proposed to me that the United States could go a long way toward solving intermittency problems if all refrigerator/freezers would become storage devices hooked to a smart(er) grid.  Make ice when power is cheap/available, run off refrigeration off that ice when the grid doesn’t have surplus/inexpensive electricity.

Evidently, the Netherlands is seeking to do this on a  large scale.

Refrigerated warehouses might soon be used to store not just food, but gigawatts of electricity. A plan dreamt up in the Netherlands could see the giant fridges acting as massive batteries. They would buffer swings in supply and demand from electricity created from renewable sources.

… The net effect would be that the warehouses would act as as batteries — potentially storing 50,000 megawatt-hours of energy

50,000 MEGAWATT HOURS:  That is over two full days of 1 gigawatt of backup storage … pretty impressive.

Then, EP points to developments in using chicken litter for a solid-oxide fuel cell.  As EP notes, they:

appear to have used chicken litter because it is a disposal problem in some areas.  What other energy-rich materials are a disposal problem?  Excess rice straw?  Check.  Excess corn stover?  If you don’t have livestock to feed, check.  Forestry waste?  Check.  Municipal green waste?  Check.  Plastic waste, waste cooking grease, etc?  The list goes on and on.

Renewable power systems … exploding in potential …

And, potentially, energy storing systems, freezing in potential.

As EP concludes,

We look to be on-track for a Viridian green future, too late for comfort but sooner than anyone expects.

In addition to Ergosphere, EP’s work has — for example — been front-paged at The Oil Drum with the editor’s comment “someone who I have always thought was one of the smarter voices in the blogosphere”.  This particular discussion is how to create an energy cycle using agricultural waste to make charcoal and bio-diesel, burn the charcoal for electricity in place of coal, and recycle the waste back into the land as fertilizer. A long but very thoughtful concept development.

EP’s is a voice to listen to … to make one think … and to expand the possibilities on our plates for achieving a sustainable and prosperous energy future.



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