Electricity! As primary energy for making storable heat.
As of this posting, it’s still stuck in potential energy category because we haven’t had a matching use for it.
The fact is that our current electricity requirements can’t tolerate the variability and flicker effect of weather impacted sources, so the system operators have to prioritize the reliable generators and disconnect the intermittent electricity.
That is coming to an end. The use we’ve been looking for is to make the heat that industry is burning fossil fuels to produce. We don’t hear about that because it would encroach into the market that fossil fuels are holding onto for dear life.
It’s actually kind of mind-boggling because thermal electricity has always been made by burning fuels or nuclear heating. In that context, it’s the result of making steam that turns the turbines that turn the shaft of the generators. That is all we’ve known.
Since 99.99% of consumers have had no reason to ever contemplate what electricity is, and there has been no profit in getting into the details. Those “details” like; electricity generated by wind will work just fine to make heat that industry is buying petroleum products to do.
If you are one of the gazillions of people who have wondered why we can’t use lightning, the answer is that there is no way to predict where lighting is going to strike. No telling when or how much is coming at the ground.
Wind turbines solve 2/3 of that problem by establishing where and how much electricity we’re going to get, but we cannot control When it’s going to come. Oops.
The “when” part has been the whole point of electricity. The reason we’ve never heard about it is that we’ve never been curious about it. This was never talked about because that would have caused people to start thinking about electricity beyond the wall plugin.
Never mind. Google and Siemens have been doing that thinking for you. The same kind of molten “salt” that doesn’t care when the sun heats it, doesn’t care when electricity heats it.
Voila’ heat with no fire… we’re still a couple of steps away from applying that, Energy Storage regulations have been keeping that away from consumers, but Elon Musk has blown those doors open, and the Batteries have now battered down the walls, that electrically powered thermal storage has been stuck behind.
And this my friends is why I’m so much more optimistic about the same kind of future that fossil fuels are terrified of.
I’ll conclude by saying I wouldn’t recommend buying oil stocks for your retirement, and
Happy New Year
©William Ross Williams 2018
Q. When will alternative technologies replace hydrocarbons as the main producers of energy?
That will start when we stop focusing on producing electricity and start expanding the horizons of how we can put it to use.
Electricity from wind and solar will be the dominant source of the energy that will power the expanding global economy. We never have to worry about electricity shortage again in the “consumer world.” It’s going to take a book to explain just how we’re going to do that
This is a book that would be banned by the climate denier government if we lose our first amendment rights.
Why? Because starting from here forward will be a direct assault on the sales of the petroleum products we are consuming today.
The magic will be when we stop our focus on electricity production and start exploring how many things electricity can do that will replace 60-70% the need for petroleum.
The vision that’s in my head is a result of correlating everything I have learned since Christmas Eve 30 years ago. 90% of that learning is the result of decisions I made without the aid of what I’ve learned since.
One hint is that we need to deploy electricity powered transportation at five times the pace that automotive experts think is possible. (Keep in mind that the entire transportation infrastructure system we have today has been designed to be petroleum’s prize revenue generator)
If Elon Musk had not come from so far outside of the establishment and managed to be so successful that the US auto industry has had to follow suit, the rollout of EV’s, globally would still be at a snail’s pace.
The nice thing about batteries is that they really don’t care when they’re charged or how much they are charged at any given time. In other words, they are a perfect use for intermittent electricity from wind and solar.
Another key break that we’ve had is California’s insistence on renewable energy, and even more important is the clearing of the regulatory hurdles for “Energy storage.”
Something I did not anticipate, as I researched various energy storage technologies over the past decade, was that the high cost and the positive impact of lithium-ion battery systems would improve so dramatically that they are justified at utility scale.
This is opening the door for an even bigger opportunity to reduce fossil fuels that will double the Renewable Electricity absorption capability.
We’re on our way
I don’t care how we get there, I just care that we get there as quickly as possible. The evolution of electricity storage since California provided the regulatory environment needed, has been and continues to be astounding.
The ability to convert the electricity from renewable generation or energy from any source that’s being wasted into a useful energy form that can be stored is the next step to the energy future that’s now possible with an alternative mental model.
In conclusion, I will reiterate that we now have plenty of ways to generate electricity without combustion, but saving our planet depends on how many other ways we can find to use intermittent electricity.
© William Ross Williams 2018