Saving Billions of Dollars By Energy Time-Shifting
Our technology can provide frequency regulation services by absorbing electricity from the grid, when there is too much energy on-grid, and storing it as solid state energy in a system of cassettes. These cassettes are also constantly being enhanced by solar and wind energy. When there is not enough power in the grid to meet demand and frequency falls below desired limits, the cassettes inject energy back into the grid. Energy can be held longer than many battery systems and does not use toxic lead as many other storage systems use.
Our technology eliminates intermittent production in wind, solar, wave and other generation technologies by storing the unused energy for no-flow wind periods, night-time solar periods and calm-sea wave periods. Some regions must make "constraint payments" to wind, solar and other energy producers when they overproduce energy that cannot be used. Climate change has increased the amount of strong winds and heavy rain which led to high output from wind and hydro power, exceeding available pumped storage capacity. The situation is sometimes exacerbated by a transient restriction in the grid which prevents transfer of the power from grid to grid points. To balance the grid, sometimes major utilities may reduce the output of conventional generation as far as possible and instruct a number of wind, solar or other energy farms to desynchronize or reduce output; but, generators may not always be able or willing to reduce output on request, and would need to be compensated for 'lost' megawatt hours. Wasting energy is a tremendous waste of money in these economic times. Most nations are realizing that to grow generation from wind, solar and other greenpower, more emphasis has to be placed on the provision of economical solutions to the grid-balancing problem.
The solution here is the use of our energy technology as an energy storage and transportation medium. This will prevent the need to constrain, or throw away, usable energy in grid operations. In many energy industry meetings, with geo-politics threatening a sudden end to oil, a key current major topic of interest we have seen is the potential to store surplus renewable energy in the form of chemical energy. This model has a number of benefits, including: increasing capacity utilization of clean electricity generation assets; avoiding the need to curtail renewable electricity generation at times of low demand; less requirement for spinning reserve and stabilization of the grid through demand-side management to name but a few. Can non-toxic chemical energy really solve big energy problems? Even as recently as 43 years ago (1969) this question would not have been an issue as coal gas containing up to 50% chemical energy was piped across the UK for lighting in homes, factories and for streetlights. To find out more about this history of chemical energy use in everyday life one can reference the research at the Institute of Gas Engineers & Managers.
The gas industry traces its origins back to 1792, when England’s William Murdock used coal gas to light his home. He then went on to successfully light his employers’ factory, the Soho Foundry, in 1802. The use of gas for lighting was seen as inherently safer than candles or oil lamps, both of which were notorious for causing fires when their wicks were trimmed. The world’s first gas company was formed in 1812 by Royal Charter, under the seal of King George III, and called the Gas Light and Coke Company. The company provided gas from coal gasification which contained up to 50% chemical energy, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. This was used as naked flames for lighting until the invention of the incandescent gas mantle in 1887. The first gas fire was produced in 1856, meaning heat could also be produced from burning the chemical energy in coal gas. According to Hardy, even when natural gas began to be imported to the UK it was not used directly as fuel, but instead reformed to produce more chemical energy. The eventual conversion of the UK gas infrastructure to methane began in 1969 and was completed five years later by 1974.
This led to the consumer setup we have today where natural gas is used for heating, hot water provision and cooking, but it also allowed for electricity production using gas turbines. These generators offer a fast response and are currently seen by utilities as one of the best methods of balancing the national electricity grid which has an increasing contribution from variable renewables. While the fast response time of these generators is attractive to electricity grid managers, their efficiency and carbon emissions leave a lot to be desired. If we were able to use electrolysers to balance the grid by storing excess renewable electricity on a seasonal timescale, in Fuel Cassettes™, the resulting energy could easily be used for heating, lighting, for distributed power generation or even as a transport fuel with NO modifications to the current distribution infrastructure. Issues around leakage of fuel are not significantly more of a concern than those which surround methane, generally, and are a non-issue with our technology. For example, for the UK government to meet its emissions reduction targets of 80% by 2050, a chemical energy system would be an ideal way to proceed.
This would provide an ultra-low-carbon fuel which could be used in much the same way as our grandparents and great grandparents did for heating and lighting – only this time we could take advantage of fuel cells and benefit from higher efficiencies available with distributed cogeneration. In fact, a Danish demonstration project has been running since mid-2009, in the village of Vestenskov, part of which ran five 1.5 kW micro-combined heat and power fuel cells fuelled by chemical energy. These end-user benefits are being demonstrated in Japan with the success of its EneFarm scheme known the world over, but the Japanese fuel cells still use natural gas and the fuel cell system is expensive, requiring significant government support. Having (relatively) pure chemical energy directly available in Fuel Cassettes™ would enable significant cost reduction for fuel cells by eliminating the need for reformers and the majority of the gas purification components. This balance of plant alone can comprise more than half the component cost of fuel cell systems, and results in parasitic load which reduces power output. If operated with our technology, these fuel cells could be made smaller, simpler and cheaper providing both heat and electricity with zero-carbon point source emissions. The natural evolution is to use electrolysers to generate the chemical energy so they effort could also lighten the load on the ever-expanding electricity grid while at the same time helping to accommodate the variability of increasing wind and solar contributions.
If we were to follow this more holistic route, what would our ancestors think in the future? Will they look back in 2192 (the 400 the anniversary of Murdock’s discovery) and wonder what inspired the short-lived gas age? The World Health Organization and every major research university has recently announced that oil is one of the key causes of cancer in the world and shown that as each developing nation deploys more oil, the cancer in their country increases in equal measure in each and every nation. Our technology not only solves energy problems, it solves each nation’s greatest health issues as well.