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4 More Climate Saving Technologies April 13, 2008

Posted by Michael Hoexter in Efficiency/Conservation, Energy Policy, Renewable Energy.
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I realize I overlooked in my last post some technologies that will also play a major role in cutting our GHG emissions. This is an oversight on my part. I am not claiming that these 4 additional technologies will lead to more overall GHG reductions if we fully deploy the 20 listed in the first post (I arrived at a figure of approximately 93.7% reductions over 2000 emissions) but they deepen the choices and reiterate the contention of many in the anti-global warming movement that exploratory research is nice but not necessary to cut emissions substantially. More importantly, technologies already exist or will emerge, so the original list is not meant to be exhaustive or final.

Geothermal electric power – “Heat farming” from the heat of earth’s crust and mantle. currently geothermal electric power is restricted to certain hot zones such as Iceland, parts of the western US, Italy and Australia, but an emerging technology called EGS (enhanced geothermal systems) which drills holes deep into the the heat of the lower bedrock will allow geothermal to extend its range to almost any location on earth. Advocates of EGS are asking for $1 billion of research into this technology but additionally, regulatory incentives will drive drillers, currently concentrating on oil drilling to participate with EGS plant developers. (>4% GHG reduction)

Hydroelectricity/Pumped Storage – While the building of hydroelectric dams played a key role in galvanizing the early environmental movement and still provoke strong pro and con feelings, the emergence of global warming as one of the main concerns for the well being of planetary eco-systems has raised the profile of hydroelectricity. Some are unwilling to consider hydroelectricity at all as an option but this fundamentalist position must be reconsidered in light of newer technologies that are more conservative of river environments. Existing dams without hydroelectric facilities can be made productive of power, while new small and medium size dams can be constructed in ways that interfere much less than traditional large hydroelectric dams. Hydroelectricity is one of the higher quality sources of electricity and can integrate well with intermittent renewables. Pumped storage is one of the key storage media other than CSP with thermal storage that can balance energy production with energy demand. (>5% GHG reduction)

Ground Source Heat Pumps – Ground source heat pumps are an existing technology that cut heating and cooling costs by 60 to 75%. Expensive as a retrofit, the additional cost of trenching or bore holes can be reduced when installed with the foundation during new construction. (>6% GHG reduction)

High Voltage Transmission A much overlooked and sometimes hated part of our landscape, the direct current version (HVDC/HVAC) is a more compact, more environmentally friendly, and more efficient version. No GHG emissions are directly attributable to HVDC/HVAC but transmission will allow widely dispersed renewable electricity generators to coordinate and supply electric demand. Transmission allows the most of the top renewable generators to serve electricity demand. (enables >59% GHG reduction with renewable generators)

These can all be described as existing or emerging. However, the EGS system still requires a good deal of rather capital intensive development, so EGS gives partial support to the contention of the “Dangerous Assumptions” authors that research is required for carbon neutral technologies to become available, however it also highlights the need for a market incentive to drive the development and deployment of that particular technology. A temporary premium price per kWh for an EGS plant would, for instance, array market forces behind the development and eventual deployment of EGS plants. This is however, among the 24 technologies in this list one of the few in which R&D is a pre-requisite to deployment.



1. Laurent GUERBY - April 26, 2008

One thing not to forget is that electric cars and renewable electricity production generate synergies: if you’re driving your electric car 10% of the time, it means that 90% of the time it is in garage or parking so it is available as a source of electricity for the grid, as “V2G”: vehicle-to-grid. Since wind or solar are intermittant this generates synergy.

For example the 56 kWh Tesla battery pack is enough for 4 to 5 days of my personal electricity consumption.

These battery pack look expensive but you can make money out of them by buying electricity from the grid when it’s cheap and selling it when it’s expensive (taking into account conversion loss).

2. Michael Hoexter - April 26, 2008

You’re right that distributed storage from electric vehicles (I believe also electric farm equipment) will enable higher penetration of intermittent renewables on the grid. The V2G technology is promising though, as I am trying to keep this list manageable in length, I am assuming its emergence as a outgrowth of the availability of more economical batteries with an energy density of 200 Wh/kg or greater. I included batteries with this energy density as part of the original 20 from the previous post.

More plentiful batteries/ultracaps with this energy density or greater will enable numbers of different energy services to emerge onto the market. For one, the size of the Tesla’s battery pack could be reduced or its range could be increased. Or for PHEVs, their all-electric range could be expanded to cover both local and regional travel for most vehicle owners.

3. Laurent GUERBY - April 28, 2008

Michael, thanks for your detailed answer.

On the availability of more economical batteries I still think that they will go first in cars and then once you have your car(s)-battery may be investing in an additional home battery will make sense or may be not but that will be second (depending on climate, number of cars, …).

The Tesla consumes 160 Wh per kilometer, so once you’ve choosen a reasonable car range it’s easy to convert to battery size independantly of battery cost. When you multiply by a reasonable number of cars and percent of time on parking I think you get your national electricity storage infrastructure for free :).

4. Bill James - May 30, 2008

Have you seen CSX’s television commercial where they show a Prius being loaded on a rail car and state they can “move a ton 423 miles on a gallon of fuel.”

Ultra-light-rail, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) networks can achieve the electrical equivalent of 200-400 vehicle miles per gallon of fuel.

In response to the 1973 Oil Embargo the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment study PB-244854 sketched oil-independent urban transport using PRT. Morgantown’s PRT system was built and has since delivered 110 million injury-free, oil-free passenger miles.

The networks are efficient enough that solar collectors mounted over the rails 6-foot wide gather enough power in a typical day to power 12,500 vehicle-miles per mile of rail.

Instead of large solar array in remote deserts, build them as an integral part of a zero-emission network of on-demand Horizontal-Elevators. The service of a chauffeured car at the cost to operate of an elevator.

Bill James

5. Eileen M. Smith, M.Arch. - June 17, 2008

Thank you for the informative website. The largest problem we face, today, in bringing renewable energy into mainstream use is the attempt to burden individual consumers with renewable energy choices. If every consumer had to purchase a coal plant or a nuclear plant to get their electricity, many people would be without electricity. The Kansas Solar Electric Co~operatives and The K-SEC Model seeks to lease consumer rooftops by providing battery back-up for fifty years as an equity exchange for using the rooftops of their homes and offices.

We have recently issued a million shares of stock at $10 per unit to cover development of the organizational infrastructure for K-SEC’s Phase I Demonstration. Phase I has a goal of producing and installing 10.5 MWp Building-Integrated Photovoltaics [BI-PV] Solar Architecture in Kansas by 2010. This is around $45 M program including a fabrication and training center. K-SEC’s Phase II Foundation plans to install 1,000 MWp BI-PV Solar Architecture in Kansas by 2020.

Consumers do not have to pay for anything except structural modifications to their home or office building in order to accommodate a fully integrated BI-PV solar system and of course they must continue to pay their electric bill. Kansas has a wholesale metering incentive which does not demand venerable fragmented consumers to purchase, install, monitor, maintain and manage interconnection to the grid and related wholesale commerce of the solar resource. Phase II is a $3 billion program. Phase III Management includes computer monitoring of each solar system installed, maintenance and management of the Solar Resource for fifty years.

The K-SEC Model naturally increases Homeland Security, Emergency Preparedness, Environmental Integrity and BI-PV Solar Technology Expertise. Kansas has a wholesale metering incentive which naturally encourages leading consumers and local leaders to form renewable cooperatives to manage the development of this important renewable resource that will provide 10% of the electricity consumed in Kansas by 2020. The most important management feature of this program is the built-in service industry delivered by local renewable cooperatives which are facilitated and supported by a statewide umbrella organization similar to the Kansas Electric Cooperatives [KEC] and rural electric cooperatives. See website for more information and summary of the books and articles I have written.

6. Sandi - December 5, 2008

Your marginalizing and demonizing of hydrogen is quite egregious. Your information and history wrong. There was no conspiracy. also, hydrogen energy was first discovered almost 200 years ago, and was used by NASA. GM and Rockwell have been working in H2 fuel cell since 60s, GM was hiding it, and Rockwell would roll it out at Eco Expos even though no one had heard about it and no one cared. If you want real history go to American Hydrogen Association. H2 had been marginalized until late century.

First it seems you want to frame it as a source, then storage, as if you cannot really figure out what it is. Your information sparse, and as if you only gathered it from critics instead of real experts and leading H2 technology.

In reality, as storage, it makes wind and solar more reliable and will not fill our land fills like batteries. Cleaner, hydrogen can be harvested from any street corner, which is probably why it seems so close. it makes all sources of electrcity more reliable during peak hours, and low demand hours. if solar and wind had no storage, it would be a huge waste.

Also, I read a couple of your pieces here, and energy created from biogas – the anerobic process of sewage and dairy waste into compost, seems to have little understanding or information, yet, converting this waste is so doable and local.

as for upgrading the grid, why bother when we can decentralize power for the same money – and hydrogen storage could play a large part in makling renewable more reliable and less wasteful.

Michael Hoexter - December 7, 2008

I don’t appreciate your misrepresentation of my views of hydrogen. It undermines your credibility as a commenter to suggest that I don’t know what hydrogen is in my posts. I unwaveringly refer to hydrogen as an energy carrier not as a “source”. I really don’t know where you got it that I believe that hydrogen is a “source” of energy…it suggests that you are a partisan of hydrogen intent on distorting the positions of others who are supplying the unpleasant facts about your favored technology.

Also, I don’t use the word “conspiracy” nor suggest that there is a cabal in my treatments of hydrogen though others do suggest this. Again, this makes your commentary above sound like a generic response that you post to defend hydrogen. Some have suggested that there has been a good deal of coordination between the big Three and successive administrations in trying to delay the implementation of battery electric vehicles. I don’t know if collusion is involved in this or that simply those who wish to postpone the adoption of EVs (and now regret it…see Rick Wagoner’s latest discussions of GM’s mistakes) saw in the 1990’s and early 2000’s that they had a common short-term interest in avoiding producing battery electric vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells were a distraction, a form of greenwashing, that have now outlived their usefulness for the Big Three.

Your advocacy of hydrogen as a storage medium for energy ignores the round-trip 70% energy penalty in the hydrogen cycle (30% efficiency). In some contexts and for some uses that may make sense to generate 3 times the electricity to use H2 as an energy carrier, but you and the American Hydrogen Association are just out to lunch if you suggest that hydrogen is an effective storage medium for renewable generators in most contexts. Please base your opinions on science and not on the marketing goals of the Hydrogen Association or the now discarded efforts to postpone the use of more efficient energy storage media.

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