Interesting energy storage solutions?

Rechargeable batteries
I published this post on the IBM Global Eco Jam last week and it generated some interesting feedback so I thought I’d re-publish it here too to solicit your thoughts –

I was at the NewNet CleanTech Investors Summit in London last November.

At this event a poll was taken asking which CleanTech issues were perceived as being most important/having the most potential by the investment community – the answers were Energy Efficiency and Energy Storage.

I have seen several posts here on efficiency but none on energy storage so I said I’d start one.

What are the most interesting energy storage solutions people are seeing emerging.

I’ll kick off –

The two most interesting I have seen are
1. Thermal storage using heavily insulated bricks (!) for domestic energy storage (resistive heating) and
2. Metal air batteries – zinc air batteries are scheduled to come to market later this year. Zinc is abundant, cheap, non-toxic, non-explosive and readily recyclable. Zinc air batteries have an energy density about two to three times that of lithium ion batteries.

With that energy density and price point, it should be possible to build utility scale storage (allowing renewables to store excess energy when the wind is blowing strongly, and sell it when the wind drops or demand increases, for example).

Are there any other options people are seeing (and let’s leave pumped hydro out of this discussion – it is old tech, expensive and has significant environmental impacts).

One of the respondents pointed me to news out of Stanford in December that Stanford scientists are harnessing nanotechnology to quickly produce ultra-lightweight, bendable batteries and supercapacitors in from everyday paper!

What other interesting forms of energy storage have you come across?


5 thoughts on “Interesting energy storage solutions?”

  1. I heard that Switzerland (and France?) pumps water to the top of a mountain at night, using nuclear power, and then runs it down the mountain during the day to generate hydro …

  2. @Dennis – this is a widespread practice and most countries have some form of pumped hydro storage. However, it is, as I said in the post, expensive and can have significant environmental consequences

    @Chuck – thanks for your comment here and under another name on my original post (!) – I’m not a big fan of Vanadium for a few reasons 1. it is expensive, 2. it is not abundant (found mostly in China, Russia and South Africa) and 3. it is highly toxic. By the way Chuck, what’s the weather like in Alberta these days?

    @David – thanks for that David.

  3. George Bernard Shaw said “One should never be absolutely sure about anything”. This is good advice and applies to those who have written pumped storage off so entirely.
    Tom, I’ll try to dig up your email address to get you up to speed on some of the very interesting energy storage schemes I have come across, including pumped storage.
    Just in case I luck out on your email address, my email address is – if you are interested?

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