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How Renewable Energy and Storage Solutions Stack Up

The need to tackle global climate change and energy security makes developing alternatives to fossil fuels crucial

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Electricity Transmission

Intermittent sources are less troublesome if they feed a bigger grid; a region with 100 scattered installations of wind and solar could count on some average level of input. But the existing grid cannot handle bulk power transfers over huge distances.....[ More ]

Ice Storage

Ice Energy, a company based in California, sells equipment that yields 500-gallon blocks of ice at night, in building basements. Making ice at night is easier than doing so during the day, because the temperature of the outdoor air, to which the compressor must release the heat, is generally lower than it is earlier in the day.....[ More ]

Compressed Air

The Alabama Energy Cooperative opened a compressed-air energy storage plant in 1991, using coal plants that ordinarily would be idle at night, to pump air into a hollowed-out salt dome at a pressure of more than 1,000 pounds per square inch.....[ More ]

Stationary Batteries

A Vancouver-based company, VRB Power Systems, sells “flow batteries,” with tanks to hold hundreds of gallons of electrolytes. Run in one direction, the system absorbs energy; in the other, it gives it back, in megawatt-hour quantities.....[ More ]

Fuel Cells

Electricity from any source, such as solar, wind and even coal, can be used to break up water molecules into their hydrogen and oxygen components in a device called an electrolyzer. The hydrogen can then be run through a fuel cell to make electricity.....[ More ]

Automotive Batteries

Automakers want a lithium-ion battery that will endure 15 years and 5,000 charge cycles, far more than the familiar lithium ions in today’s consumer devices. The goal is a price of $300 per usable kilowatt-hour of storage for a battery that would run a car for 40 miles, assuming a little more than three miles per kilowatt-hour.....[ More ]

Solar-Photovoltaic

Two layers of semiconductor materials, one with extra electrons and the other with extra “holes,” are sandwiched together in photovoltaic panels. When the material absorbs sunlight, excess electrons move from one layer to the other, creating an electric current.....[ More ]

Ocean Wave Power

Hydroelectric has been developed as far as it can go, given environmental concerns about dams. But the Pacific Northwest coast could produce 40 to 70 kilowatts per meter, according to the Department of Energy.....[ More ]

Geothermal

Unlike wind or solar, geothermal works on demand. “The heat in the earth is there; you can bank on it,” says Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and President Barack Obama’s nominee for energy secretary.....[ More ]

Wind

Wind is the most promising, most advanced—and perhaps most problematic of the renewable energy sources. In 2007 developers installed more than 5,000 megawatts in the U.S., raising the installed base by 46 percent.....[ More ]

Solar-Thermal

In solar-thermal, a trough-shaped mirror that tracks the sun over the course of the day focuses light to heat an oil- or water-based fluid in a black pipe. The pipe snakes over miles to a heat exchanger, which makes steam to drive a turbine.....[ More ]

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