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Thursday, July 04, 2013

A Clean Rock Battery to Store Clean Wind Energy?

What a beautiful and intriguing idea! Porous Volcanic Rock Might Be Used As A Giant Wind Energy Battery.
"We’re talking about air far below the water table, in the kinds of places where you would find things like fossil fuels," said Haresh Kamath, energy storage program manager with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Natural gas and other fuels can and have been held in "similar rock formations for millions of years under pressure, and nobody notices anything at ground level," he said. In a CAES [Compressed Air Energy Storage] plant, the underground reservoirs could provide the vessels where compressed air could be pumped and stored using surplus wind energy. During times of higher demand, such as hot summer afternoons, the air would be uncorked, heated, and used to turn a turbine to generate electricity.


Chad Lott said...

I went through and read the articles, plus a few others about this tech, and I don't quite understand how this escapes your usual criticism of the "X technology might save us in the future" formula.

Sure, no one's saying "just 20 years from now" and air compressors exist (which is essentially what this is), but this seems little more than a marketing story answering a problem associated with wind energy, rather than a proximate solution.

It's not as far fetched as uploading consciousness, but it seems like it it's definitely in the neighborhood of wishful thinking to me.

Dale Carrico said...

That's a very fair criticism. I definitely would not advocate handwaving about the clean rock battery as an alternative to advocacy of regulatory policy to cut greenhouse emissions and public investment in actually available renewables here and now. By the way, uploading consciousness is not just utterly practically implausible or conceptually far-fetched (as desktop nanofactories are, for example), but actually logically impossible and conceptually incoherent. The stone battery may well end up failing in practice or be determined to be more trouble than it's worth even to try when it comes to it. Definitely such daydream notions do not provide real compensations to the real problems of windless days and sunless nights that bedevil so much renewable energy provision -- we do not yet have the "smart grid" that draws from other renewable forms or regions or storage for reliably always-on always-adequate sustainable energy provision. This matters. Advocates of renewables who think these problems are already solved are misguided and those who think they inevitably will be solved during the long phase out of extractive energy are expressing a hope that should definitely not be mistaken for a reason. All that said, I honestly just thought the volcanic stone air pressure wind battery was a nifty idea.

Chad Lott said...

I agree with you 100% on consciousness uploading and Grist's perspective on the idea is definitely inspiring.

I've been really grappling with how to balance remaining critical with remaining optimistic and honestly, optimism isn't winning these days.

I also don't mean to be confrontational on this point, it just reminded me of my own position as the resident "buzzkill" among my more progressive leaning friends.

Probably has something to do with watching Oliver Stone's Wall Street recently.