Ed Conway: There is a start-up on the west coast of America that promises to change the energy industry for ever. But Ares’ revolutionary patented plan has nothing to do with nuclear fusion, solar panels or hydrogen fuel cells. No, it is a train that creaks its way up and down a hill. The train’s job, you see, is not to carry passengers but to act as an energy storage device – a substitute for a battery. When electricity is plentiful, up the hill it whirrs. When there is a power shortage, the train comes down, converting gravity into electricity, which is then fed into the grid. Primitive as this might sound, the principle may be instrumental in getting green energy supply reliable enough to replace fossil fuels altogether. The train is just one version of the idea. Another, more conventional way of harnessing gravity is to adapt hydroelectric dams and reservoirs. Rather than relying on the elements to fill them up over the course of a year, why not install pumps to fill and empty them as the power network demands? Gaps between sunny days could be filled with power saved for, well, a rainy day. A few such plants already exist – most famously Dinorwig in Wales – and some believe that Norway, with its fjords and hydroelectric power stations, could reinvent itself as Europe’s battery. Already the country is in the process of building subsea high voltage links with Britain and Germany. Indeed, one might envisage a world entirely powered by renewable energy. A few months ago the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland created a computer model which proved, in theory if not in practice, that the world could sustain itself on renewable energy at a price close to the cost of fossil fuel power today.
Times 5th May 2017 read more »
Catherine Mitchell, Professor of energy policy, University of Exeter: Ed Conway rightly points out that government policy is lagging behind the pace of technological advance in the energy industry. Muddled policymaking and a litany of U-turns over recent years has resulted in the government resorting to picking winners, such as Hinkley Point, which will inevitably delay the transition to a smarter and more flexible grid that could save the UK £8 billion a year on its energy bills. It is not fair, though, to blame green regulations for the higher costs. As a recent House of Lords committee report found, the main factor driving up the wholesale electricity price over the past 14 years was the rising wholesale gas price. Nevertheless, energy efficiency measures (driven by both customer demand and policy) have more than compensated for the wholesale price rise, typically shaving £290 from annual bills since 2008.
Times 6th May 2017 read more »
Power management firm Eaton has landed a multi-year partnership with Manchester City, becoming the football club’s official home energy storage partner. The partnership will see the launch of a limited edition of Eaton’s xStorage Home energy storage system which it has developed in partnership with, and using second life batteries from, car manufacturer Nissan. The limited edition differs in design from the original xStorage product, coming in Manchester City’s blue and white colours with a City crest on the front.
Solar Power Portal 4th May 2017 read more »