Wind and solar power, for international, climate, and environmental reasons, are becoming more and more popular. This variability in renewable energy sources creates issues in the management of grid electricity generation. Batteries have chemicals inside and produce electricity by converting the chemical energy into electrical energy.
Positive ions (usually lithium) normally located at the anode, are driven from the anode through the separator, to the cathode building up a net positive charge. During normal battery use, electrons are attracted to the cathode and flow the opposite way - from the anode.
As mentioned above, electricity generated by wind and sun is highly variable, both on an hourly basis and seasonally.
As can be seen from the examples above, management of the grid with renewable generation takes on some new dimensions. The huge advantage of molten salt is that it can retain its heat for up to six hours when stored in specially designed storage tanks. Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) plants are designed to store electric power off peak when it is not in high demand and prices are low.
Wind and solar cycles are quite unpredictable and utility scale storage is very appealing to supplement these technologies. Spare electricity in off peak periods is used to compress air to about 750 psi and store it underground in sealed abandoned salt mines and other rock formations.
According to the Electric Power Research Institute's (EPRI's) energy storage expert, Rich Lordan, "CAES is going to be important." Pacific Gas & Electric is looking forward to participating in a huge 300 megawatt CAES project in Kern County, California.
Due to normal variations in demand, there are small transient load fluctuations on the grid. Flywheel based storage can be a significant help for managing transient fluctuations which will only increase as renewable sources are added to the grid. The only sound heard when standing inside the flywheel system is that of the fans used to cool the electronic equipment inside. Beacon Power, based in Tyngsboro, Mass., is the only grid level flywheel company with a production site. In the laboratory set up at the left, the liquid metal battery is inside the heavily insulated metal cylinder in the center and was kept at 700°C using external heat sources.
The big advantage of liquid metal batteries is that the current can be 10 times that of regular batteries making it fit for grid applications.
As a endorsement of the importance of this research, the MIT project received a grant of about $7 million from the US Department of Energy and $4 million from the French oil company Total. The team has since created a firm called the Liquid Metal Battery Company (LMBC) in Cambridge, Mass. For the vast majority of human history, the setting of the sun limited people’s ability to do work or enjoy leisure time.
The Pearl Street Station featured six “jumbo” dynamo generators, each weighing 27 tons and supplying nearly 100 kilowatts of power (total output of about 600 kilowatts).
Edison’s “central power plant” design was revolutionary—nothing like it had ever been built in the U.S.
As people demanded more and more electricity to power their lives—to operate appliances, lights, streetcars, and factories—the competition to satisfy that demand resulted in larger power plants that provided an enormous amount of electricity. Edison Electric’s Pearl Street Station (1882): 600 kilowatts—enough electricity to light 10,000 60-watt light bulbs. Brooklyn Edison’s Waterside Station (1901): 120 megawatts—enough electricity to light 2 million 60-watt light bulbs. Modern nuclear reactors and coal plants (1970s–present): 1,200 megawatts—enough electricity to light 20 million 60-watt light bulbs.
Although the process at the generator is similar across the board, the sources of energy used to spin the turbines vary greatly. Modern coal-fired power generation is essentially a much larger, more efficient, cleaner, and technologically more advanced version of the steam-turbine process Edison used. With nuclear power, steam is produced by heat released from a nuclear fission reaction (the uranium atom is split in a controlled process that emits a large amount of heat). Power plants are expensive to build, but once they are up and running, they can produce huge amounts of electricity at low costs. Electricity demand is in constant flux, but it follows daily and seasonal patterns that electricity suppliers can anticipate. Hydroelectric plants are somewhat of a hybrid and can perform all of these functions if the plant has enough potential energy stored in water behind a dam.
All of these types of plants—low-cost baseload, flexible intermediate load, and peakers that operate on a premium—are critical to maintaining grid reliability by meeting demand at all times. The previous discussion of baseload, intermediate load, and peaking power plants did not include wind or solar power. When renewables are only 2% of the supply as currently the case, variability is not a big problem. A rechargeable battery is different from a disposable battery in that its chemicals can be refreshed, whereas in a throw away battery when the chemicals are used up, the battery is dead.
Rechargeable batteries have a higher initial cost, but can be recharged very cheaply and used many times.
Electrical energy can be stored in batteries during times when production from wind (or sun) exceeds consumption and the energy can be recovered when consumption exceeds production. How much battery capacity versus wind capacity do you need to make a significant difference in variability?
This means that power is still available for up to six hours after the sun goes low on the horizon - enough to cover the period of peak electrical demand.
Then later, to return the compressed air back to electricity when demand and prices are high. PG&E needs the storage facility to manage the 4,500 megawatts of new wind power coming online in California in 2012 from the Tehachapi Pass Wind Project. When the load is equal to the power generated, the AC frequency is exactly 60 cycles per second (60 hertz). Gas fired generators that are used for frequency regulation suffer a significant loss in efficiency and incur costs for fuel. A flywheel is a mechanical device that converts electrical energy into rotational kinetic energy. The round trip efficiency of a flywheel system is about 85%; the other 15% is used to keep the flywheels turning. In the commercial version, the heat from the chemical reaction should be self sufficient to keep the temperature steady at 700°C so no external heating source will be necessary.


The cost of the final product is expected to be less than $100 per kilo-watt hour (about the same cost as pumping water up a hill to be released later to spin a turbine - the cheapest conventional approach for large scale energy storage). In addition, liquid batteries are expected to have a long life, in contrast to today's batteries.
The $11 million dollar research project was a statement about the potential for this technology. But before it is transmitted on high-voltage power lines and then distributed to our homes and businesses, it needs to be generated by a power plant. Before electricity, people burned vegetable oil, wax, tallow, whale oil, kerosene, and gasified coal to light their homes and businesses. Four coal-fired burners provided the steam energy necessary to turn the massive turbines that ran the generators. Using a central power station separated the energy user from the energy source, making everything from lighting to motors safer to use as well as cleaner, quieter, and more efficient.
In 1901, Edison opened a plant in Brooklyn that was 20 times larger than the Pearl Street Station.
In the system he built, coal-fired boilers heated water, which produced high-pressure steam, which turned a turbine, which powered a generator. The majority of the power in the United States comes from thermal generation—using heat to create high-pressure steam and drive turbines.[6] This is how coal, nuclear, and most natural gas plants produce electricity. Coal plants tend to keep about two months of fuel supply on-site, which limits any supply disruptions and makes them a reliable source of electricity.
For example, in hydroelectric power plants, flowing water spins the turbines.[11] Hydroelectric power is generally as reliable as thermal power, especially when its energy source (water holding potential energy) is stored behind dams in large reservoirs. These large structures—typically 300 to 400 feet tall—rely on a steady wind to turn the turbine blades and produce electricity.[13] Unlike the sources discussed above, wind power is at the mercy of weather conditions that change minute-to-minute, leading to intermittent and unpredictable electricity output.
Solar thermal power uses concentrated solar energy gathered by large arrays of mirrors to produce steam, which powers turbines in much the same way as other thermal generation. Second by second, they must match the supply at their disposal (generation from power plants) with the fluctuating demand for electricity (also called electric “load”). Electricity has to be produced on demand because it is cost-prohibitive to store—huge batteries that have the capability to hold a power plant’s worth of electricity are technically feasible but incredibly expensive. In order to meet demand in different parts of the day, different types of electricity generators are required. These efficiently provide large amounts of reliable, inexpensive power but do not ramp up or down efficiently.
These plants can ramp up electricity production pretty efficiently but are most efficient when they run for a number of hours.
These types of generation are all firm, meaning we can count on them to produce electricity when we need it. This is because wind and solar do not reliably provide baseload, intermediate, or peaking power.
The cost you need for electric bill is very expensive if you count how much money you cost every month and multiply it by a year. The orange line is the contribution from a solar plant, peaking in the afternoon but not enough to satisfy the demand. At the moment, there are three proven methods of storing electric energy on the scale of the grid - batteries, molten salt and compressed air. In this way, electricity production does not need to be drastically scaled up and down to meet momentary drops or to meet peak demand.
The answer depends on the conditions at an individual site but is believed to range between 10% and 20% of the wind system capacity. Because the trough power approach uses conventional steam turbines, it is easy for the system to integrate seamlessly into the electrical grid.
Magnetic levitational bearings (no touching parts) are also used to reduce bearing friction.
Flywheels are not intended for long term storage, maximum storage time is about 15 minutes.
The advantages of flywheel based storage are a very fast response, they help manage renewable fluctuations, no CO2 emissions, lower operating costs than generators and batteries, and they free up one to three percent generating capacity. At capacity, the Stephentown plant provides approximately 10% of New York State’s typical daily demand for frequency regulation services. The majority of former employees were rehired in addition to the purchase of the 20 megawatt Stephentown facility. During the charge process, the current separates both metals out of the electrolyte causing them to gravitate to the two electrodes leaving behind a thinner electrolyte. This page focuses on electricity generation—the creation of electricity from another energy source.
Electricity made it possible to have clean, safe, brilliant lighting without the hassle of burning fuels directly for light.
In 2013, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power accounted for a combined 86 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S. A different type of hydroelectric power, called “run-of-the-river” hydro, runs turbines using river flow without a dam.
Photovoltaic solar panels are unique because they generate electricity directly from sunlight with no spinning turbines—no steam, rushing water, or wind. This concept is referred to as “economies of scale,” and it explains why today’s power generation industry operates at such a large size.
Electricity from existing nuclear, coal, and hydroelectric plants is inexpensive because in many cases the owners paid off the capital costs years ago. Because grid balancing is paramount—no one tolerates a blackout—steady generation paired with generation that can adjust its output to follow demand is an incredibly valuable combination.
Some of the most valuable sources of electricity are the generators that can be relied on during peak periods of electricity demand. Although it can be difficult to match supply and demand second-by-second, it is far cheaper than using battery storage.
It is difficult and inefficient to dramatically increase the electricity output from a coal or a nuclear plant. This is critical because the electricity grid needs to be kept in balance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, no matter the weather and no matter how many people turn on their lights, their air conditioning, or their TVs. Instead of being able to control when wind and solar generation comes online, grid operators take intermittent electricity from wind and solar when the weather permits.
The light blue line is the load minus wind and solar illustrating that renewables can only be a part of the overall mix. During the recharge process, electrons from a charger of the same polarity but with a higher voltage, are injected into the anode creating a reverse current from normal battery operation.


Rechargeable batteries vary in size from AAA camera sized batteries to huge utility scale systems (see the box car size storage unit from A123 Systems at the top of this page).
What time of day do you begin to let the battery discharge after being charged over night? And because of its storage ability, the molten salt system can easily compensate for moving cloud cover and other weather phenomenon. Wind is most powerful at night but needed most during the day, so wind power is ideal for this technology. The main disadvantage of a flywheel system is its short storage time limitation of about 15 minutes.
When the charge period is complete, there remains a voltage differential between the two electrodes which can then drive a current through an external load generating electricity. LMBC announced that it raised $15 million in funding in its B round from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and Total. For example, the energy stored in chemical bonds within coal can be released via combustion and used to drive steam turbines inside power plants or the kinetic energy of the wind can be used to spin a wind turbine.
When Thomas Edison opened the United States’s first central power plant in lower Manhattan on September 4, 1882, he permanently pushed back the darkness, creating a new world.[1] Edison’s new central power plant—the coal-powered Pearl Street Station—would become the prototype for the dawning power generation industry.
A single modern nuclear reactor produces 200 times as much power as Edison’s Pearl Street Station.
The process of using motion to produce electric current—via electromagnetic induction—was discovered by British scientist Michael Faraday 1831.[5] By spinning magnets inside of copper coils, Faraday was able to generate a small but measurable electric current. Coal produces more electricity than any other source—in 2013, coal power accounted for over 39 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S. Hydroelectric power is limited, however, by location—all hydro plants need a steady supply of water, and reservoirs require specific geographical conditions that simply do not exist in most areas of the country. Photovoltaic panels are made up of solid chemical compounds or elements called semiconductors, such as silicon, that can conduct electricity under certain conditions.
It is also the main reason why electricity consumers typically do not generate their own electricity—and why power plants tend to operate for several decades. This is reflected in the map below, which shows the correlation between the use of coal for electricity and low retail rates. The sources of electricity generation that can provide reliable, on-demand power are the most valuable in terms of keeping the lights on.
They are called “baseload” plants, “intermediate load” plants (also called “load following” plants), and “peak load” plants (sometimes called “peakers”). The following chart shows that wind, on average, does not help keep the electricity grid in balance.
The one week of solar power chart at the left from Arizona illustrates very well the natural, but fairly predictable, variability of solar energy. For a much more detailed discussion of wind and batteries see the Xcel Energy Wind-To-Battery Project. Solar is best during the peak times, but excess solar power could be generated during one afternoon in the southwest, stored overnight, and then transferred to the east coast for the next day's peak along super transmission highways similar to interstate freeways.
Operators monitoring the grid will either increase or decease standby power generators to compensate for these transient fluctuations.
The amount of energy a flywheel can store is proportional to the weight of the flywheel, but also the square of the rotational speed. During discharge the two metals then recombine in the electrolyte enlarging the electrolyte with respect to the two electrodes. The fundamentals of electricity generation (typically spinning magnets inside coils of wire) haven’t changed much over time, but the associated technologies have radically changed over time and are constantly evolving. Modern power plants still use Faraday’s discovery, but they do so on a massive scale—the generators weigh several hundred tons and the current can power hundreds of thousands of homes. The graphic below shows electricity demand throughout an average day, with the types of power plants that are used to meet demand throughout the day.
The power on the first, fifth, and sixth days indicate that there was some cloud cover on those days.
Wind and solar power stations are like roads and bridges - once the original costs are paid for, the follow on maintenance costs are almost free as there are no fuel costs. If this occurs the composite carbon cylinder can explode into many, many small pieces of very short lived flying hot ash.
Beacon Power received a $43 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy for the project. The CEO said that the company has passed the R&D stage and was moving into commercializing the technology for large-scale grid applications. Politics also plays a large role and influences the types of fuels we use for electricity, and politics will continue to drive major changes in the future. Washing clothes, washing dishes, showering, cleaning floors, cooling or heating the room, playing guitar, none of them can be done without energy. Analysts can develop algorithms to shorten the discharge period depending on the amount of charge in the battery, but still surround the peak time period. Doubling the weight doubles the stored energy, but doubling the speed quadruples the amount of energy that can be stored.
The loan covered 62.5 percent of the estimated $69 million needed to construct the plant. So, it is impossible to reduce energy in a home unless you want to do all those activities manually. What do you do when the wind is very strong and the electricity generated by the wind exceeds the carrying capacity of the grid? Natural gas and coal were very cheap in the following years and it did not make economical sense to store cheap electricity. When the battery is full and the grid can accept only a limited amount of electricity, the excess needs to be dumped into the ground by the battery management system.
How great this home, then?Of course this kind of homes is really incredible since it can help you reduce the use of energy for your home and it will directly reduce your electric bill. Typically, off grid homes are small in order to completely generate energy to the whole home. The homes are featured with power solar panels that can generate energy from the sun light to the home.



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