Over at WUWT, in a comment on the thread about Anthony’s solar power system, was a
comment that mentioned a new battery that was likely to be a game changer for stationary power storage and leveling. Right, I think. Seen that before. Yet Another Battery… likely some exotic expensive stuff made with Unobtanium Plating and hypothetically possible…
Comment by CommieBob, so h/t…
Battery storage for on-grid systems may become viable fairly soon. There is a company called Aquion Energy which has developed a battery technology which is showing great promise.
The batteries are relatively inexpensive, long-lived and efficient (you get out almost as much energy as you put in). They are also large and heavy so don’t expect to find them in electric cars.
With the crazy time-of-use pricing in California, these batteries could pay for themselves in a couple of years. You would buy cheap power at night and sell back expensive energy during the day. No solar panels or windmills required! article
Having said the above, I would still be wary of investing in a scheme that relies on nutso electricity rates. There is always the danger that the government will come to its senses. ;-)
That article in the link says:
Battery to Take On Diesel and Natural Gas
Aquion Energy says its batteries could make the power grid unnecessary in some countries.
By Kevin Bullis on February 28, 2012
OK, a bit old at just over a year. Big claims, too. Not need the power grid?
Aquion Energy, a company that’s making low-cost batteries for large-scale electricity storage, has selected a site for its first factory and says it’s lined up the financing it needs to build it.
The company hopes its novel battery technology could allow some of the world’s 1.4 billion people without electricity to get power without having to hook up to the grid.
OK, we’re starting to get the weasel words. “Some” of the world’s people. Those already not hooked to a grid. So they will be selling to poor people. Better be cheap then.
The site for Aquion’s factory is a sprawling former Sony television factory near Pittsburgh. The initial production capacity will be “hundreds” of megawatt-hours of batteries per year—the company doesn’t want to be specific yet.
Well. Hundreds of mW-hrs is a lot of batteries. And it looks like they are going into production, so this is not just vapor ware.
The first applications are expected to be in countries like India, where hundreds of millions of people in communities outside major cities don’t have a connection to the electrical grid or any other reliable source of electricity. Most of these communities use diesel generators for power, but high prices for oil and low prices for solar panels are making it cheaper to install solar in some cases.
To store power generated during the day for use at night, these communities need battery systems that can handle anything from tens of kilowatt-hours to a few megawatt-hours, says Scott Pearson, Aquion’s CEO. […]
Intended for doing ‘swing’ of solar from day to night by poor people. OK… cheap and fairly efficient is needed. If that works, there’s a whole lot of ‘other stuff’ that can be done…
Kicking around the company web site has a whole lot of solicitation of your information and not so much about how the battery works. What is the chemistry.
But I eventually found this PDF from a more public source:
THE AQUEOUS ELECTROLYTE SODIUM ION BATTERY:
A LOW-COST SOLUTION FROM AQUION ENERGY
J. F. Whitacre,1,2 Sneha Shanbhag,2 David Blackwood,2 Eric Weber,2 Alex Mohamed,2Wenzhou Yang,2 and Ted Wiley2
1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon, University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 2Aquion Energy, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
A new low-cost energy storage solution is presented that is based on an alkali-ion manganese-oxide intercalation cathode (positive electrode) and low-cost activated carbon anode (negative electrode). The electrolyte is a neutral pH solution containing dissolved sodium sulfate (Na2SO4) and the battery current collection and packaging system is comprised of low-cost materials produced and processed by highly scalable manufacturing techniques. Results presented include a description of the device and materials, an assessment of battery performance, and a description of ongoing large-scale demonstration projects.
Keywords: Sodium ion battery, hybrid supercapacitor, low-cost energy storage, flow battery, NaS battery, lead-acid battery
OK, it’s a sodium ion battery (first cousin to lithium ion and potassium ion batteries – that is also why Lithium isn’t a ‘shortage’ issue either….) What makes it “special”? Cheap electrode materials of carbon and manganese oxide (mixed oxides and hydroxides). Electrolyte is a neutral pH cheap solution too. Sodium sulphate.
OK, now I”m interested. Darned cheap nearly ubiquitous ingredients in a battery that promises decent performance as it is in the same family of intercalation batteries (where active ions are inter layered with a relatively passive electrode material) as the various lithium ion batteries.
It also looks like these folks were looking for low cost ingredients and easy to make from the start.
The approach described here represents a new alternative. By first assessing raw materials cost and availability of potential precursor materials, and then only accepting those that meet cost and performance criteria into the device development pipeline, we have arrived at a uniquely optimized device.
Work was therefore undertaken starting in 2008 to develop an aqueous electrolyte sodium ion battery system based on interaction electrodes. The resulting technology allows for the use of thick format electrodes (on the order of multiple millimeters), extremely inexpensive separator and current collector materials, and the use of benign electrolyte salts. The cells can be assembled in an open-air environment using simple equipment, and so can be manufactured at a very low cost.
Well, that sure sounds good. The rest of the PDF has some nice performance graphs and other interesting stuff. It has a 1.5 V down to 0.5 V range in use (though I’d stop at 1 V as you don’t lose much capacity and the voltage sag issues are reduced). It shows fairly flat performance even up to 700 cycles (so promises many many more). This isn’t some laptop battery that’s going to die in a year…
It says that up to 80% of the power stored can be recovered with a 4 hour discharge cycle. OK, pretty good. You can’t get it all out in cycling, but the 4 hours is not a bad discharge interval. It matches well to things like peak time grid use. Their chart #3 has a “Coulombic efficiency” that looks to be riding close to 100% and a capacity hanging close to 100% over 700 deep discharge cycles. That is impressive.
This looks like it will work, and be cheap. If the efficiency is even remotely close to right, it means these can fairly easily be integrated with existing solar panel systems to make systems to service peak demand from unlevel supply.
Solar, in California, has a decent match to the peak A/C demand (both being caused by the sun), but not exact. Still it is a great benefit of Solar in California that it has that peak match. But we have a lot more peak demand than peak supply.
As a result, in some of the hotter areas, like inland where Anthony Watts lives, our local utility, PG&E, has instituted some truly horrific tariff rates. I thought I had it bad at 30 cents, then I saw what Anthony posted about peak in his geography (that gets a ‘special’ tariff…)
If you have not read that article, you ought to. (Hit this link to read the article).
Notice that the peak rate is pushing $1 / kW-hr. Given that nuclear and coal run out at under a dime, heck, close to 5 cents in many places, to have a 20 x “uplift” shows how insane our rate structure has become in California. Thanks to “renewables mandates” and “Cap’n Tax”…
With “surge and die wind” sometimes being dumped at negative rates when it is in surplus at the wrong times, and with solar highly cyclical each day and out of sync with demand peaks in most places, and with total peak supply being just flat out too little, there is a large potential market for even a modestly efficient, but cheap and durable, battery. There’s a factor of 10 range in the price per kW-hr on that bill. You could lose 1/2 the power and if the storage is cheap enough, make money time shifting. Or just personally avoiding peak consumption. (That is, I could charge my battery at midnight and use it during peak to never consume any $1 / kW-hr juice…)
I had suggested a different approach in my comments. Generators and a kitchen based on fuels. But a big battery and inverter were part of my plans. Now made even more viable by more outrageous tariffs.
I just “did the math” on a typical Honda gasoline generator (gasoline generators are not nearly as efficient as Diesels) and it gets a 1.56 more consumption than the old Honda Diesel (that I think is no longer made). I used the EU2000i that is max 2 kW and continuous rated 1.6 kW.
At the present gasoline prices here of $4.10 / gallon for regular, you can “make your own” electricity at 64 cents / kW-hr fuel costs. That means it is economical to put a transfer switch (or even just a large plug…) on your Air Conditioning and during those $1 peaks, swap it onto a gasoline generator. Crazy, I know, but that’s what the costing says.
As I have a mandatory generator (due to living in Quake Country) it is a sunk cost for me. THE biggest issue I have with it is the gasoline getting “stale” and that the thing may not be run for a couple of years in a row. So doing occasional “use to prove it still works” and “turn over the gasoline” would be a feature, not a detriment.
As your “peak rate times” are likely just a few hours of the day, and even then, only some days of the year, I’d guess it at about 200 hours / year. Not hard to put that onto a private generator…
I do like your PV solution better, but for folks in the shade, well, even a gas generator is a win on fuel costs. If, instead of $4 gasoline, you use the (roughly) $1.5 / GGE (gallon of gas equivalent) natural gas (conversion kits for generators are available) that drops it to 24 cents / kW-hr which starts to be something of a ‘no brainer’… It covers everything but your baseline low price tier.
Have a 4 kW w/ Honda engine propane / nat gas unit for about $1k (would need to provide your own sound dampening enclosure) and a portable one using Yamaha and 2 kW (or so) in the $1100 to $1500 price range. (with sound dampening built in)
At peak, it would save about 70 cents / kW-hr AFTER fuel costs. So 1400 hours run time to pay for the capital cost of the DIY one. I think that’s likely “doable”, though you end up in “overhaul land” somewhere in there. Then again, if you don’t run it flat out at 4 kW it will likely last longer.
The same folks have Diesels that are small, too, so a 4 kW with enclosure at $1.6 k and one without enclosure for $1.2 k.
No idea what brand or quality. It is possible to put some nat gas into a Diesel, but it takes a certain understanding of some complex stuff. Not for the feint of heart… So likely need to keep it on Diesel for most folks.
OK, two easy DIY solutions. One on Nat Gas with lower capital appliance life at 24 cents / kW-hr that will show up on your PG&E bill as more nat gas usage. One on Diesel at about 41 cents / kW-hr and you buy fuel wherever you want. (Likely one could get ‘off road’ Diesel for about $3.40 / gallon or 34 cent / kW-hr costs…) Capital cost about $1500.
Well. Looks like PG&E is pricing themselves out of the market and DIY is being priced in.
If I lived on a farm, in the country, or anywhere I could run a semi-quiet generator and not wake the neighbors, I’d be exploring it. (And finding out MTBO and overhaul costs).
Now think about adding cheap and effective batteries to that. Now you can get an 8 kW system and run it for only a couple of hours to charge the battery. Generator life just went waaaayyy up, and cost rose only a little. Furthermore, you could likely charge cheaply at 2 am and use it at 2 pm and avoid the expensive rates even without a generator.
Over time, again, ‘if true’, the utilities will get in to the time shifting business too, and then a DIY method may not be worth as much. (Then again, that will depend on the rate commission…) So I’d not commit to any 25 year payback plans…
But one thing is very clear. Anyone living in or near the Central Valley of California in that $1 / kW-hr area really really ought to be looking to ‘get creative’ with power usage and DIY generation. Even using inverters and battery systems for selected appliances. As I noted in a comment just above that last one, it is far cheaper to just use your Propane BBQ / Grill and not the electric kitchen during those times. Heck, it’s even easier to run your emergency generator to power the rice cooker and hot plate if you are cooking during ‘prime heat’ (that just happens to be between about 10 am and 8 pm there … so right when most cooking is done).
March 25, 2013 at 1:16 am (Edit)
Nice system Well thought out and designed.
As I’m more coastal, didn’t know about those incredible nearly $1 rates. Just crazy. At one time I “did the math” on a Honda 12 kW Diesel generator ( I was managing data centers then, and some of them during “bring up” didn’t have power yet, so we rented generators). Came up with an interesting “rule of thumb”. Cost per gallon of Diesel in dollars, move the decimal point over one, you have cost per kW-hr in cents. So with Diesel at $4.10, you get electricity at $0.41 / kW-hr. While it won’t be exactly that rate for all generators, it will be close. And while that doesn’t include maintenance / overhaul costs, used for “peaking” (i.e. infrequently) at 3000 hours or so MTBO, you can get a long life out of a few hours a day in the summer. Running it the other way, at 93 cents / kW-hr, that’s $9.30 / gallon of Diesel equivalent.
I think I’d pick up a small Diesel Generator and put in a transfer switch on the AC… ( I’ve seen them as small as 4 kW. Diesels are more efficient than the gasoline ones, and much more durable).
I’ve take a different approach than solar. Looked at it, but… well, the roof is old. Needs replacing “soon”. Then the neighbor ‘up sun’ planted some redwoods about 25 years ago… Glad to have the shade as I don’t need A/C now hardly at all, but I AM in the shade. So not solar.
My major use is for cooking. AEK All Electric Kitchen.
So I’ve been slowly moving cooking out onto the Patio. As I bake bread daily, it adds up in an electric oven. That is ended as of today. I’ve made a lovely loaf of bread in an oven sitting on a Coleman Camp Stove. ( I have a better stove ‘on order’).
I’ve also gotten good with the American Camp Oven AKA Dutch Oven.
So using gasoline and charcoal. Not electricity. Why? Simple. It is far far cheaper.
Charcoal, per BTU (Joule) is roughly the same cost as Gasoline, which here in California is one of the cheaper fuels available. But just in case for some reason those prices go “way high” under some kind of stupid “carbon tax”, it’s also possible to just burn wood from “yard waste”.
Am I happy about this? No, not really. Slowly moving backwards toward 3rd World cooking methods is not my idea of well thought out economy. But that’s what economics tells me to do. I do have natural gas in the house, and have a natural gas cooktop in hand. It’s planned to install it this summer. So far, natural gas is a bit cheaper than gasoline. (Propane is about the same as gasoline some times, sometimes a bit lower). With any luck, it will stay that way. (But if it doesn’t, I can always slide back down the fuel cost curve).
How burning fossil fuels or charcoal or wood improves the environment is beyond me. Yet that is what I am being pushed to do. Use PG&E Electricity? No, not interested, thanks…
During the time of Gov. Grey “out” Davis, we had rolling brown outs, black outs, and generally flaky 3rd world electricity reliability. At that time I started a ‘power stabilization’ process. Battery box. Inverter. Charger. The idea then was to just move the house onto a giant UPS. That way the power could come and go and I’d not care. I got most of the parts, then we voted out Grey “out” Davis and power stability returned. I still have those parts…
So looks like at some point (after the stove is done, and the “patio kitchen” is done being built) I’ll be getting those parts together along with buying a battery (the one part I’d not bought back then). At that point some of the house can be moved over onto the “giant UPS” and I can decide if I want to charge it in the dead of night, or if it is just cheaper to get a natural gas powered generator and turn natural gas into electricity. Honda makes a very nice commercial cogeneration unit, but last I looked they only sold it in cold parts of the country (thinking California doesn’t need the heat produced… someone needs to tell them about swimming pools ;-)
At any rate, different solutions for different places. Cold coastal vs hot valley.
We are anticipating a $1/2 tariff rate “Sometime Soon” for top usage here (not just peak AC times though). At that point, using my own Diesel to charge the battery box is economical. Simple peak clipping with charge / discharge off the grid too if we get TOD charges. (Right now I only get penalty rates for total usage). At that time I’ll make the decision of Nat Gas generator vs Diesel generator vs time shift vs “just say no” and make my own off grid system
It’s a bother, and I’d really rather not be “In the power business”, but it is what it is. Crazy.
Odd Sidebar: As I have an old Diesel car, and since Diesels are fairly consistent in efficiency for a variety of loads, I can get an add-on generator installed and just let my Diesel car run at modest speeds to charge a battery box. Don’t need to buy a big new Diesel unit. I would need to install a ‘socket’ on the car, but not hard. So I could just leave it running in the garage on ‘low” with the battery box plugged into it as desired. Doubt I’ll go that way, but it’s an option. My average use is about 2 kW, and larger generators for ‘under the hood’ are available. After moving the AEK to “something else”, and if I leave the “sporadic peak” demand things like washer / dryer on the Grid, It ought to only take a few hours a day to top up the battery box. I’m sure a Diesel idling away for 4 to 6 hours a day is not the best for the environment, but it’s cheaper than PG&E…
Some of that you’ve heard before. I put it here for anyone who missed it other times, and to save folks hunting for it.
I’ve since done some more digging around. Turns out Amazon sells Diesel generators and propane / natural gas generators. Decent prices too. I don’t see the need for one, for me, any time soon, as my major use is being converted to direct combustion of fuels and away from electricity. Still, it’s nice to know that for near $1k I can have a Diesel Generator here that could charge a battery bank in a few hours sufficient for 24 hours of use. For about $300 to $400 I could get one that runs on natural gas and makes electricity even more cheaply, that fuel being priced very low right now.
Still, it would be a lot easier and a lot nicer with a big ol’ battery for cheap. And not one made of lead. So I’m hoping this “new improved” battery really is. And becomes available at low costs soon.
Also, I think that electric bill of Anthony’s lets you’all see just why I’ve been on a “stove and patio kitchen” kick lately. You get a couple of that kind of burr under your saddle, well, you want it gone. Pronto…
Anthony took a different approach. Everyone will do what is right for them. That’s how markets work. He “levered up” the loans and went all in for solar. I’m “working on a shoe string” with no debt involved, and all of it “stowable / moveable” in case I get a job outside California and can leave this place. (Yes, I’d love to get a job “somewhere not here” and leave this insanity behind). I’m going for “shift to lower cost fuels”, he’s going for “use the rebate and tariff system to effect”. I’m going for “payback in months”, he’s going for “payback in years”. Then again, mine uses more labor cost to keep it going (as I’m not working) while his is ‘automatic’ since he has no time.
In a nutshell, that’s how Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” of capitalism works. Folks doing what is right for them. No Central Planner can ever figure out all the things people will do. They can only prescribe straightjackets that don’t fit well. Like this loony rate structure driving people and companies out of the State…
So that’s pretty much it. I’ve made a spread sheet of BTU/$ for all the major fuels, and made a “kW-hrs equiv. price” for comparison. Just so I know what fuels will be most profitable for me. It looks like natural gas is cheapest, so that’s the priority. Put in the gas stove top inside. Followed fairly closely by propane, gasoline, and just a bit more, kerosene. So those are the fuels of choice for the Patio Kitchen. (Well, really, downed wood and ‘yard waste’ are cheapest, at free, but that’s more trouble… the liquid fuels are just easier to use.)
To put some numbers on it, I computed cents/1000 BTUs. (Please, no nags about not being metric. Joules are just too tiny. Besides, all the equipment here is rated in BTU and it’s a convenient sized unit.)
From lowest to highest cost, roughly estimated. (For example, natural gas prices vary, so I have a range).
The two primary electric tiers are 19 cents / kW-hr and 30 cents / kW-hr, as our hurdle rates.
Electricity 19 5.6 cents Electricity 30 8.8 Nat Gas low 1.5 Nat Gas High 3.5 Diesel 3.3 (but it is sooty to cook with and often a bit smelly) Gasoline 3.7 E85 4.2 Propane 4.3 Kerosene 4.5 Charcoal 5.2 Coleman Fuel 9.6
The surprise for me was that many of these fuels even beat the low tariff rate electricity. Clearly the natural gas angle is the most profitable. So swapping the cooktop is now the priority. On the patio, I’m likely going to use gasoline in the Coleman Stove for things in pots, and kerosene for the oven. Charcoal for the Dutch Oven. Even charcoal beats the low tariff electricity for cooking…
Coleman Fuel will be set aside as this present stove full gets used up. It was nice for testing, but now becomes “stores for the quake”. E85 is interesting. We have an outlet near here. I may get a gallon just to see what stoves it will work with. As it is indistinguishable from Propane on price, I’ll be treating it mostly as a ‘toy for investigation’ and using propane for many of the appliances. (Like the Smoker. I also have a propane adapter for the Coleman Stove, but gasoline is cheaper for it.)
I do find it interesting that so many of those fuels are so close in price / BTU. Interesting what competition does in markets.
In the end, the cheapest and best fuels end up in the traditional list. Propane, charcoal, kerosene, gasoline, natural gas. Use each where most convenient and don’t worry about which. They are all close enough and much better than electricity from The Peoples Commission On Tariffs And Green Mandates.
And they don’t need a battery to make them available when I want them… In a way, they are their own battery.
I hope that this New Battery works as advertized. It would be great to finally have a workable electricity storage system on an industrial scale. For one thing, it would get rid of some of the most aggressive rate schedule cruft. But it will not lower the overall cost of electricity to where it will compete with the cooking fuels listed above. So my leaving the AEK behind and doing fuels based cooking is a one way street. at least until we get electricity back under a nickle / 1000 BTU. But heck, may not even then…