Tag Archives: energy storage

Obsolete arguments against climate action

Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET

Conservatives keep repeating the same arguments, even though the facts have changed.

There used to be some fairly plausible arguments against fighting climate change. I don’t mean crackpot theories about hoaxes or the “I’m not a scientist” hokum. Instead, the arguments I have in mind could be made with a straight face by serious people. I don’t think these arguments were ever truly persuasive, but they weren’t nuts.

You still hear a lot of these arguments today, often from conservatives claiming to take more nuanced positions on climate change. But these arguments have gone stale over time, as the facts on the ground have shifted.

Anyone who makes these arguments today just hasn’t done their homework. Here are these ghost arguments, which are living well past the time they should have gotten a decent burial.

“There’s too much uncertainty.” The IPCC’s first report 1990 expressed confidence that greenhouse gas emissions would cause global warming, but also found that warming up to that point had been within the range of normal variation. The most recent 2014 report – which is five times as long, reflecting a far larger body of research – found that warming had progressed to the point of being unmistakable, and well outside the range of natural variation: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”

“China won’t act.” Chinese emissions rose exponentially along with its economy. China refused to agree even in principle to any caps on emissions. So it may have been a reasonable argument that U.S. action would be futile and would give China an unfair advantage. But that argument is well past its “sell by” date. In the Paris Agreement, China agreed to peak emissions by 2030 and committed to interim actions in the meantime. Change has proceeded more rapidly than expected, due to declining prices for renewables, efforts to curb deadly air pollution from coal use, and shifts in the Chinese economy away. In January, China cancelled plans to build over a hundred coal plants. It now seems possible that Chinese emissions have already peaked or will do so no later than 2025.

“Cap-and-trade will crush the economy.” California has had an emission trading system for five years. The economy has been growing and adding jobs over the same periods. The EU and the Northeastern states have their own, less ambitious trading programs. Again, no observable economic ill-effects.

“Renewables will break the grid.”  Since they depend on the weather, solar and wind are more variable as power sources than nuclear or fossil fuels. At one time, that looked like it might be a big problem – an issue that Rick Perry seems to be trying to resurrect. But this problem is looking a lot more manageable than it used to. California utilities are required to get 33% of their power from renewables. Somehow the lights have stayed on, day and night, regardless of weather. Germany has had a huge increase in renewables without causing any decrease in grid reliability. Better grid management is much of the reason, including demand response (paying selected users to reduce power use when necessary). These techniques have their limits, and we will probably need much greater energy storage capacity at some point when fossil fuels are pushed out of the generation mix. But even without technological improvements, electric cars offer an appealing combination of low-pollution transportation and energy storage capacity.

“Renewables are unaffordable.” The high price of renewables compared to cheap goal or natural gas seemed to pose a big obstacle to addressing climate change. The gap is much smaller today, and economic parity does not seem far away and may already have been arrived. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, Just ten years ago, generating electricity through solar cost about $600 per MWh, and it cost only $100 to generate the same amount of power through coal and natural gas. But the price of renewable sources of power plunged quickly – today it only costs around $100 to generate the same amount of electricity through solar and $50 through wind. Given the economics, it’s not surprising that in countries like India, where cost is a key consideration, more renewable capacity is being added to the grid than coal. I don’t want to exaggerate the ease of moving to a zero-carbon economy. There are still formidable difficulties – but they’re not as enormous as they looked a decade or two ago.

It’s convenient to continue believing in these arguments, especially if you’re worried about the risks of dissenting from your ideological soulmates. But ultimately, it’s the road to intellectual bankruptcy.In short, folks, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Source: Obsolete Arguments Against Climate Action | Legal Planet

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

A big test for big batteries

Diane Cardwell and Clifford Krauss, THE NEW YORK TIMES

In Southern California in the fall of 2015, a giant natural gas leak not only caused one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history, it also knocked out a critical fuel source for regional power plants.

Energy regulators needed a quick fix.

But rather than sticking with gas, they turned to a technology more closely associated with flashlights: batteries. They freed up the utilities to start installing batteries — and lots of them.

It is a solution that’s audacious and risky. The idea is that the batteries can store electricity during daylight hours (when the state’s many solar panels are flooding the grid with power), then release it as demand peaks (early evening, when people get home). In effect, the rechargeable batteries are like an on-demand power plant, and, in theory, able to replace an actual plant.

Utilities have been studying batteries nationwide. But none have moved ahead with the gusto of those in Southern California.

This idea has far-reaching potential. But the challenge of storing electricity has vexed engineers, researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs for centuries. Even as countless technologies have raced ahead, batteries haven’t yet fulfilled their promise.

And the most powerful new designs come with their own risks, such as fire or explosion if poorly made or maintained. It’s the same problem that forced Samsung to recall 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in September because of fire risk.

After racing for months, engineers here in California have brought three energy-storage sites close to completion to begin serving the Southern California electric grid within the next month. They are made up of thousands of oversize versions of the lithium-ion batteries now widely used in smartphones, laptop computers and other digital devices.

Read more at: A Big Test for Big Batteries – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Blackouts looming, California speeds battery deployment after southland gas leak

Peter Maloney, UTILITY DIVE

If there is a silver lining to California’s massive Aliso Canyon methane leak, it could be for energy storage projects.

The leak has led to plans for the fast track authorization of two energy storage projects totaling 37.5 MW (150 MWh) that are being built by AES Corp. for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

The projects would be put up in about six months, about a third of the time it would take to build a gas-fired power plant.

“In our world, this is nothing short of incredible,” Alex Morris, director of policy and regulatory affairs at the California Energy Storage Alliance, said.

The project is a demonstration of the “rapid procurement potential” of energy storage, said Matt Roberts, executive director of the Energy Storage Association. It also shows that given the right mix of policies and circumstances, batteries can serve major bulk power system needs typically reserved for traditional power plants.

Read more at: Blackouts looming, California speeds battery deployment after Aliso Canyon gas leak | Utility Dive

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

The home battery you can install yourself is coming

Cade Metz, WIRED

Tesla isn’t the only one building batteries for your home. As Elon Musk and company trumpet the Powerwall, so many other outfits, including Samsung and Panasonic and LG Chem, are fashioning similar devices that can store energy for use when the power grid goes down or grid prices rise. So many are saying that, when paired with solar panels, their batteries can further reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which still provide so much of grid’s power.

All are nice thoughts. But questions abound. Do the economics of these batteries really make sense? Are they worth not only the cost but the hassle of installing them? Are they worth it even if you don’t have solar panels?The ultimate goal here is to create vast networks of home batteries, all fed with solar energy and other kinds of clean power.

Orison, a small startup based in San Diego, wants to show that the people really do want these home batteries. That’s why it’s offering a rather friendly version of the technology via a new Kickstarter campaign. The device is unusually small and light, weighing only about 40 pounds. You can install it on your own, inside the house, simply by plugging into an ordinary electrical socket. And you can get your hands on one if you contribute a mere $1,600 to the Kickstarter campaign.

The device stores only about 2.2 kWh of power—which would, say, run your TV for 5 hours. But you can install additional devices for only $1,100 apiece. And each is designed to blend with a home’s decor. You can choose a device that hangs on the wall or one that stands on the floor, and both models double as an LED light fixture. No, you can’t have one today. But the company says its batteries will ship this summer.

Read more at: The Home Battery You Can Install Yourself Is Coming | WIRED

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Hydrogen split from water using an AAA battery

Mark Shwartz, STANFORD PRECOURT INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY

In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming.

Now scientists at Stanford University have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.  The battery sends an electric current through two electrodes that split liquid water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in the Stanford device are made of inexpensive and abundant nickel and iron.

"Using nickel and iron, which are cheap materials, we were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery," said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. "This is the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low. It’s quite remarkable, because normally you need expensive metals, like platinum or iridium, to achieve that voltage."

In addition to producing hydrogen, the novel water splitter could be used to make chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide, an important industrial chemical, according to Dai. He and his colleagues describe the new device in a study published in the Aug. 22 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Read more via Stanford scientists develop water splitter that runs on an ordinary AAA battery | Precourt Institute for Energy.

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living