This has been a week full of learning for me—educating and equipping myself with knowledge. It’s one of my messages on the resources page I’m passionate about, and it really is a small step to do good—just learn more, that’s all. I’ve watched a short documentary about Iraqi refugees right here in Minnesota, I attended a lecture on the importance of raising the minimum wage for tipped workers (it has been at $2 an hour for 25 years!), and most recently I watched a live presentation about the future of energy storage and the electric grid, with experts from industry as well as university researchers. (P.S. I just reference the shit out of myself!)
Energy storage is fascinating to me, and it’s basically the grand solution and missing link to all our energy problems. Solar and wind energy are expanding rapidly worldwide, but for them to permanently and entirely replace fossil fuels, they have to be constant—but the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow. As one researcher told us, “6.5% of wind energy in Midwest is curtailed (sent into the ether)--$50 million a year tossed because we can’t use it because it is produced when people aren’t using electricity.”
Cheap energy storage will be a paradigm shift, and it’s coming very soon.
Future of energy storage: Much like wind and solar, it will soon be on an upward trajectory in use, and lower cost. It will disrupt paradigms.
The problem now is that our current electricity system is built (and has to be) to meet peak energy demand—the equivalent would be like designing a highway with 16 lanes for an hour of heavy traffic per day. So what you end up with is huge power plants sitting around not even close to capacity, or wind wasted, etc. Those power plants, though, get paid for in full by consumers through electrical rates—never mind that we only use nothing close to their capacity most of the time.
Energy storage is the missing link, and it’s not just huge batteries. Minnesota has an $18 billion annual energy bill and 130 years of mining holes in the northern part of the state. So one mind-blowing initiative being tested at the U of M would use the mines, which are 300-500 feet deep, to store water, which could then be drained to a lower pool, creating energy via turbines. Then the water is recycled back into the original pit during energy use downtimes. Holy shit.
Another just proven concept will embed silicon nanoparticles into luminescent solar concentrators within regular building/home windows that can efficiently collect solar energy. This is fancy science talk for "solar windows." These windows have the potential to massively increase the surface of buildings suitable for energy generation without impacting their aesthetics—a crucial aspect, especially in metropolitan areas. Holy damn shit.
AND THIS IS ALL JUST IN MY STATE! THIS KIND OF THING IS HAPPENING AT UNIVERSITIES IN EVERY STATE!
So the future looks pretty bright...if we can just hold on.