An Interesting Battery

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…

It said:

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:

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…)

A. Watts PG&E bill rates

A. Watts PG&E bill rates

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).

E.M.Smith says:
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 Conclusion

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…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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78 Responses to An Interesting Battery

  1. Speed says:

    Early battery technology and use in the telegraph.

    More here …
    “Battery supplies will be furnished on application to the Superintendent. Operators in charge of stations must see that great care is exercised in the use of these supplies, (particularly mercury, nitric acid, and platina) and that there is always a sufficient quantity on hand.”

    [Petersburg Va. U.S. Military Telegraph battery wagon Army of the Potomac headquarters] Date: c. 1864

  2. Petrossa says:

    Unfortunately a large part of electricity consumers live there where the sun don’t shine: not the wind don’t blow:

    As such it’s a niche market, indeed for outlying parts of poor sunny places.

  3. Ralph B says:

    Do they sell wood pellets in CA? That would be another fire alternative. In NE pellet stoves are quite common. The price per BTU should be quite competitive I would think better than charcoal. You could probably rig an auger powered from a thermo electric power pack to automate the pellet cook top/oven. Heck I bet the workings from an old wind up alarm clock would do the job.

    Not likely economical for you but take one of these and convert yard waste to fuel.

  4. j ferguson says:

    The thing that would worry me about a serious investment in my own land-based electrical supply would be the actions which might be taken by the “authorities.” I have to assume that what’s driving the ridiculous price of peak-event power is that the utility has to do something really expensive to generate those last few megawatts, especially because I suspect that the cheaper methods they must formerly have had have been condemned by the usual folks.

    So here you (and the threshold number of others needed to arouse the envy of your neighbors) would be perking away on your own systems not paying the exorbitant top kw costs, and of course not helping to support the utility’s high cost (even though you are not adding to the load either) and the sorts of people that think we should all rely on public transportation will seek you out and charge you a top-load equivalency fee, or attempt to regulate your installation as a point source of noxious fumes, or noise, or some other focus of their envy of your more or less self sufficiency. Or they could condemn it outright.

    You can get a sense of how people can think about the situation you are contemplating from the interaction between live-aboard-anchor-out people like us and land-dwellers. We very frequently find land-dwellers knotting their panties over our not paying real-estate tax, nor really any equivalent. It is true. It is also true that we enjoy the benefit of the government (well all of us) paid for waterway system.

    David Stockman wanted to institute user fees on the waterways but for some reason it never got anywhere. I agree that it isn’t fair and that it is possible to work the system to receive benefits disproportionate to your contribution, but one hopes that other sorts of disproportionate benefits are available to everyone, just in different form.

    But in the end, we do not burden very much of the system that is supported by their real estate taxes. When we did, we generally paid more than triple our burden on the state helping to support schooling for other peoples’ kids, their interactions with the law, etc. etc. So I tend to think that we have a reserve of real-estate tax good will to draw against.

    I think Ayn Rand’s view of this sort of situation is pretty realistic. The levelers will try to get you. While I’m thinking of Ayn Rand, I don’t have much confidence that her approach works at the strategic level – say national, but it certainly is instructive at the local tactical level.

    Of course a very large part of your problem array is driven by living in California. There are other parts of the country where your (and my) approach to these sorts of problems would be admired. Of course some of these other places would not have the tiered energy charges, TVA country, Kentucky specifically.

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    It seems that this battery is based on the oxidation/reduction of manganese oxide (MnO2 to MnO and vice versa). Nature, instead has chosen, for powering humans, the oxidation/reduction of Iron (Fe+3 to Fe+2) in hemoglobin. Something we never think of. Iron batteries are the cheapest and have light weight.

  6. Fred from Canuckistan . . . says:

    The environmental irony of the powers that be raising rates to force people to conserve electricity and reduce carbon output that actually forces people to use carbon producing fossil fuel powered generators is priceless.

    Because there is always an opportunity cost, especially to the smarter than us folks with an environmental axe to grind.

  7. kakatoa says:


    You bring up a good point about PV being a close match for daily system wide demand for electrical energy. I find it interesting to keep an eye on CASIO’s web site to see what any given days generation profile looks like at the grid level. As more and more utility scale PV comes on line (with must take PPA contracts) I would find it of interest to know the profile of standby thermal generation facilities to meet the true demand profile as to keep the grid up and running actual demand and supply have to be managed NOT averages. Then I would like to know how much CO2 is released by the standby generation plants- getting a value for this number will be “an inconvenient truth”- a phase from V.P. Gore. CASIO warned us a few years back that the effect of our RES might be a bit painful to swallow if your concern is for both keeping the lights on and reducing CO2 levels from the system wide generation mix.

    If your interested in how the implementers of various policies are trying to deal with resource adequacy you may find an upcoming meeting on the subject of interest-

    There are some really interesting graphs for possible over generation on page 8 of the following report and they look a bit like Anthony’s generation graphs.

    Click to access StrawProposal–FlexibleResourceAdequacyCriteriaMustOfferObligation.pdf

    So yes, some viable energy storage is needed and SOON! Who pays for it will be an interesting discussion.

    When I put my little PV system in place, PG&E was still dealing with their bankruptcy and they would not allow me to have a back up generation capability. I had to go with a grid tied interconnection. My only choice was what rate schedule would be best for me. I selected a Time of Use schedule as it provided the most benefit to me as long as my wife and I could minimize our peak time energy usage- a demand response to shift our load to non peak times as much as possible.

    The event days in Anthony’s profile (graph) is the current way the powers that be are trying to effect behavioral changes in energy usage. The extra 60 cents Anthony has to pay via the Smart Rate program during an Event day is the way the regulators are trying to convince folks to reduce their load in the 2 to 7 time period on VERY HOT days. The benefit that Anthony gets for being on a Smart Rate rate schedule is a reduced price for baseline and all other tier usage (except for the event days during the 2-7 time period) for the entire summer.

  8. P.G.Sharrow says:

    Interesting battery but I can’t find availability as of yet. So far it appears to be a cost of 2-3 times lead acid. Rather a bit high considering the cost of raw materials and fab. Still as a local power storage device deserves more examination. I will continue to dig. pg

  9. Gail Combs says:

    Yes an interesting battery that make solar and wind for private use in an increasingly insane world look good however when I read your comment

    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 thing I thought of was the Maurice Strong and Al Gore Molten Metals Inc. scam.

    Lab scale models, DOT funding, and lots of GREED GREEN hype. Jack up the Stock and bailout before the crash. (Yeah I am cynical and increasingly so in the last decade)

    Show me a production product or even a pilot plant product that works for several years and I will believe. There was no pilot plant for the Molten Metals technology before full scale plant was built. After the company I worked for just out of college blew-up a reactor vessel by going straight from the lab bench WITHOUT pilot plant work I am real cynical about that point. (No Mrs R. you CAN’T put a reaction vessel in dry ice to slow down a very exo-thermic reaction, I went on vacation for the day of the plant trial run, so call me a skeptic.)

  10. Gail Combs says:

    OH, and I ran a pilot plant for a rent -a-lab/pilot plant company about fifty miles from Fall River, Massachusetts where Molten Metal was located so there was no excuse for not doing pilot trials. That was the whole reason for the company. We did the lab and pilot work for small or start-ups companies.

  11. Petrossa says:

    Nobody is going to put a active-safe device with enough power to change me and my property in a crater. Whilst you can argue that a few propane tanks can do the same, they are at least passive-safe. They need external energy to catastrophically fail. Batteries don’t and the ‘better’ the battery the easier to fail.

    Having a multi-megawatt or even gigawatt battery storage is having a nuclear device armed with a chinese made controlpanel. It’s not if it will fail, just when.

  12. Greg Hall says:

    Two quick thoughts: Batteries: the “Edison” battery here:
    On Diesel Generators, the Aurora 6000W units here:

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    I got the impression they were still in the “build the factory” mode, but didn’t check closely. As the thing is just activated carbon, pressed MnO and sodium sulphate solution it ought to be possible to have a DIY version (unless there is some serious “magic sauce” being hidden). Would need a press to make the pressed electrodes and maybe a binder, but that ought to be fairly established “art” in the literature. If not selling it, I think it is not a patent violation. (i.e. you are not engaging in ‘commerce’ but in ‘research’…)

    As it looks like a variation on all the other “ion intercalation” batteries physically, the prior art ought to be applicable for “how to do it”.

    Then again, I’d rather “throw money at it” if reasonably priced than try a large DIY power storage device with fancy electronics…


    Interesting stuff…. looks like there’s a long history of DIY style batteries.

    One of my favorites is the Edison Cell. It’s essentially the same as the NiCad battery but with more benign materials. (The NiCad evolved from it). Iron, Nickle, Potassium Lye. Some known to work for many decades. Like that “crowfoot” battery in your first link, but with different materials.

    IIRC it’s as efficient as the NiCad, but lower voltage.


    Being a bit negative aren’t we? As basically ALL of the USA west and Midwest is either sunny, windy, or both, we’re talking a bit more than a “niche”… but even that ignores the bigger point: time shifting line power. PG&E here wants 10 x the price at noon in the summer in Chico than they do at midnight. I don’t give a fig where they GET the electrons, just that I can MOVE them from midnight to noon… 10 cent electrons turned into $1.00 electrons.

    That said: Yes, in most places wind and solar is being installed to harvest subsidy, not energy.

    @J. Ferguson:

    Yes, the power of envy / resentment has always amazed me. How someone can think another person’s gain is their loss never did add up. There’s a third party, that fat government, that will suck down any “leveling” payment and ask for more, never to provide “relief” to the worriers… BTW, my understanding was that property tax originally was to fund public education (maybe it’s a California thing…) so “livaboards” who are retired are not consuming that product anyway…

    But yes, I generally prefer “solutions” that are not attractive of notice… Thus the battery is of interest. Time shifting with silent operation in a hidden part of the garage…

    FWIW, I’d be “out of California in a heartbeat” if I had a job in another State or Country. As it is, I have “sunk costs” in the house and can’t pay two mortgages at once… In a year the last kid moves out. Maybe then… Spousal anchor would need, um, tending too… ;-) Though she is becoming more amenable to the idea of leaving.


    Another fan of the Edison Cell? I see you like Fe / air, but what about Ni Fe ?

    BTW, I thought we were powered by the oxidation of Carbon and Hydrogen (i.e sugars and fats) and the Fe oxidation was just of oxygen transport to the point of use in the oxidation of such sugars and oils…

    @Fred from Canuckistan:

    Yes. In some ways it’s even worse than that. Not just fossil fueled generators, but burning trees and coal (charcoal is a mix of the two) instead of using hydroelectric or nuclear to cook dinner. Moving combustion from highly regulated and clean scrubbed facilities with natural gas, to gasoline and kerosene and charcoal in open fires on the patio, along with the sporadic wood smoke…

    “We had to destroy the environment in order to save it” comes to mind…

    I would 100% rather be using my AEK on 5 to 9 cent / kW-hr nuclear or hydro. Everything benefits then. Me. The environment. The power company. You name it.

    I positively resent that the most reasonable thing for me to do is “burn crap in the yard”.

    But it is just stupid to keep paying usurious rates when a more economical alternative exists.


    Yes, “soon” as they are adding capacity like crazy. I had a subsidy harvester try to sell me a system for my house while standing in the shade of the redwood trees just south of the house and that shade it mid day… Our schools are turning into solar power farms as someone in the political structure is spending school money on them.

    Then there are places like the UK where the match is “not so good”..

    Well, at least it is interesting to watch all the “noise and fury signifying nothing” as the “Regulators” who were supposed to protect us the people from the Evil Bastard Monopolists are now regulating US to protect the profits of said Rent Seekers…

    Oh Well…

  14. Gail Combs says:

    Now that I have let my reflex cynicism vent I have a question.
    You say…

    …I’ve since done some more digging around. Turns out Amazon sells Diesel generators and propane / natural gas generators. Decent prices too….

    And previously you mentioned

    ….Goat Poo is collected and, instead of burning it, fermented in an anaerobic digester (made of local materials – bricks in a hole in the ground, IIRC) and the resultant methane gas piped to the huts to a “stove”. The stove was made of dried mud. Little more than shaped mud where the methane from fermentation, “Gobar Gas”, was mixed with air in a very low pressure ‘jet’ and burned under a pot, that sat in a hole in the dried mud. There was a “clay” (dried mud) chimney that took the exhaust gasses out of the hut. The stove was maybe the size of a can of stew and the chimney about the diameter of your wrist….

    Having tons of Goat and Sheep poo (You have rabbit poo) and the possibility of natural gas generators and a good battery the natural thing to consider is
    Poo => anaerobic digester => storage => natural gas generator => battery array.

    Unfortunately I am not an engineer, any thoughts anyone?

  15. Ralph B says:

    I got stuck in the spam filter

  16. Petrossa says:

    EM, looking at this graph about the windiest places,the most avid investors in wind/solar in europe: doesn’t inspire confidence.

    It’s a niche market for true replacement energy. It’s a nightmare for existing grids which aren’t build to handle those kinds of fluxes. Nobody wants Germany’s spikes anymore, Poland and Czech Republic closed their borders for German electricity. Spotprices become negative. But the investment and maintenance still have to be paid.

    It’s a non-solution except for somewhere in the gobi desert and you desperately need to play WoW.

  17. Gail Combs says:

    The stuff I can find on anaerobic digesters is this:

    With a initial cost of $20,000, they are a far cry from a pit in the ground lined with homemade bricks and out of the reach of most homestead type farmers.

    A j ferguson says:

    The thing that would worry me about a serious investment in my own land-based electrical supply would be the actions which might be taken by the “authorities.” … and the sorts of people that think we should all rely on public transportation will seek you out and charge you a top-load equivalency fee, or attempt to regulate your installation as a point source of noxious fumes, or noise, or some other focus of their envy of your more or less self sufficiency. Or they could condemn it outright…

    And he has it mostly right. The whole reason for the climate madness is to make homeownership and transportation so expensive it is completely out of the range of most people. This forces them into the Agenda 21/Wildlands project enclaves reminesent of feudal estates. Major Bloomberg is already building them in New York City – the “micro-unit” mini-apartment is coming to New York City This is a picture of a layout in full size. link California is already carrying out the trial evictions of homeowners Private Property War Cornell University is even doing research on something called Food Sheds

    More on food sheds and the implications, link and Agenda 21 and the Wildlands Project. A listing of Wildlands Project bills

  18. DirkH says:

    Gail Combs says:
    26 March 2013 at 3:58 pm
    “The first thing I thought of was the Maurice Strong and Al Gore Molten Metals Inc. scam.”

    This looks legit. There’s S and Na; and it’s a flow battery , where you pump a liquid electrolyte. These have always been intended for mass storage. As for Na and S, you can build batteries with them, for instance the NaS batteries that are the big brothers of Li Ion batteries (Na is the next heavier Alkali metal brother of Li); these batteries need to be kept at 200 deg C to liquefy the Sodium-Sulfur electrolite. The flow battery variant works with a solution, therefore has even greater mass and is definitely unsuitable for vehicles due to rather low power density. But would make a nice fixed installation.

    Of course it MIGHT be a scam; but the technology sounds legit.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ralph B:

    I fished it out. Yes, we have wood pellets. (Hell, we are shipping them to the UK to run the lights there…) As home heat isn’t my problem (we have cheap natural gas) I’ve sort of ignored them. Never thought of them as stove fuel. Hmmmmm

    Don’t need one of those pelletizing things. More kg/hr than I could use. I’d need to run it about one day a year… at most.

    If I lived in North Dakota on a few acres of woods, I’d buy one in a flash…


    Continuing in the negativity mode, I see… That MW is the total production. On an individual property would be “one day peak use” which for me is about 8 kW-hr. Less than one gallon of gas worth ( IF I’ve done the quick ‘how much fuel did my generator take’ guess right). About what is in a large commercial vehicle lead-acid battery I think.

    You have a very Europe-centric view. In the American midwest there are steady winds in the 10 to 20 MPH range for long periods of time. In California we often have a cyclical onshore / offshore cycle (mostly on). So Texas wind farms do make sense, as does locating turbines in selected valleys with an E/W orientation in California (and some mountain passes).

    We also have very reliable sun. That’s why so many people want to live here. Our major energy spike is summer air conditioning use. Solar is a near exact match to that demand.

    So you may think that 100 Million people are a ‘niche’, but I don’t.

    What is stupid is to put subsidized solar in places with nearly perpetual clouds and put wind turbines in places where the major demand is for heat when a cold front moves in that has no wind. I.e. Europe.

    BTW, don’t know what WoW is or why I’d want / need to play it.

    It is very practical to use wind and solar for power across large parts of the world (in terms of energy availability). Its just a question of getting the capital costs low enough. They ARE dropping, and with luck will hit crossover on their own eventually. I’m 100% in favor of solar power… IFF it can stand on it’s own… it’s the subsidy crap that is evil.

    Here, my major power use substantially follows sun hours, with a lag of about 4 hours. From about 10 pm to 8 am nearly nothing. (Keep the clocks running. Keep a yard light on out front). It rises with meal cooking and the TV / electronics / computer use. There are all of two “spike” uses other than cooking. The washer / dryer equipment. During about 3 months of winter, the sporadic use of a motor on the gas heater. (Often on sunny cold days).

    Were it not for the high “price of entry” I’d have installed solar panels some years ago. The match is very good. Once price / kW-hr drops under about 20 cents, it’s a no-brainer to choose to use solar here. California is not unique. Just about everything south of Washington State and inland to Colorado follows that pattern (with high cold areas adding a load of winter heating that can be met with gas / wood / burning stuff). It does not destabilize the grid here (yet… once ‘more than peak’ is on line we will need to start ramping down fuel driven generators at ‘peak sun times’) and in fact is presently reducing a huge A/C driven peak load problem. The sun here is VERY consistent We go about 1/2 a year with near / at zero clouds. Another 1/4 year of modest clouds that arrive in predictable clumps. Only about 3 months are ‘an issue’ for low solar and sporadic availability from variable clouds. That’s when it is cold and we need LESS electric power as the A/C is off and we are burning cheap gas.

    Now look on a globe. Most of the world is in warm sunny places. Substantially all of Africa other than the mountain tops. Pretty much everything from California south to about Argentina (modulo the high mountains). Australia. All of it. ;-) South Europe through the Middle East and on down to India. (Honorable mention for the Gobi Desert). Yes, there is a tropical rain band around the equator. When it clouds up and rains, it reduces the need for A/C. Comes in the afternoon right when you want the relief. It’s not a problem, it’s a feature.

    But just to be clear, since you seem in a ‘grumpy gus’ mode: I am not advocating or artificial inducements to ‘go solar’. It ought to be fighting it out in the markets like every other power source. When the economics work, it will be adopted on its own. Solar is stupid in cold dark cloudy places with irregular and weak sun, like high latitude Europe. It makes a lot of sense in mid latitude or equatorial hot sunny places. Beyond that, it is just a question of getting costs to manufacture down.

    @Gail Combs:

    Gobar gas ferments out best at ‘belly temperature’, so you need a warm climate or a lot of cheap insulation. It takes a BIG tank to get a modest amount of gas. There are farmers (mostly pig farmers) who are putting large rubber tops on the “manure pond” and harvesting the gas, then running it into a generator. I’ll look for a link. 10 kW from one pig farm, IIRC. You don’t need the battery as the gas forms slowly and under a lid. Store the gas, make electricity on demand.

    My ‘bunny poo’ would not be enough to run a lightbulb…

    The result of the digester is a great fertilizer.

    Size and cost go together and you can make one at any scale you like, though bigger is better. In India the are just a hole in the ground (lined with cement) and a lid on it. Some pig farms are just a ‘poo lake’ with a giant rubber tarp over it. Designs vary as do costs. This one is about $100 to build:

    Nice intro from Purdue:

    Not the original article (that I can’t find that had photos…) but a good example:


    Collection of other links:


    If you have a feed lot, it can easily pay to ‘ferment the poo’. Gets rid of a lot of the smell, too, and you end up with good fertilizer and enough energy to run the place and maybe have some to sell, depending on size of the operation.

    If you need more, let me know and I’ll keep digging. It’s an interest of mine (has been since the ’70s… I’m not new to this topic.) I set up a ‘toy system’ once (in a gallon jug). It’s not hard, but keeping it warm is trivial for a manure pond, hard for a gallon jug (unless you put an aquarium heater in it…) So “size matters” as the L^2 area L^3 heat production balance naturally with size.

  20. kakatoa says:


    Last time I checked Bloom isn’t doing anything in the residential market, but it looks like they are still removing lots of load from the commercial and industrial sector with their boxes-

    Stationary Fuel Cells Produce 1 MW at Honda Facility

    It’s difficult to tell a business what they can or can not do behind their electric meter. The higher their costs for a kwh the more they will look at alternatives.

  21. E.M.Smith says:


    Santa Clara (very near me) has a mumble MW fuel cell for their power peaks. Just looks like any other building. Added during a major ‘boom time’ here when demand exceeded supply capacity. The ability to just hook to the gas mains and not string more transmission wires nor have a ‘smoke stack’ were winners. We will see more of that.

    Saw an article about home co-gen using fuel cells in Japan. Not seen product in the USA (yet). I’d be happy to have a large water heater that make my electricity … A quick search on it shows a lot in Europe. Little seems popping up here. Maybe I need to add “California” as a search term ;-)

    That worked. Looks like CSU San Bernardino has a 1.4 mW version:

    But “home sized” not yet rolling in the USA. Europe is moving:

    Within Europe new legislation frameworks, such as those derived from the European directive on the promotion of cogeneration (2002/91/EC), contribute to a growing market for residential micro-CHP. As examples of a government initiatives promoting, cogeneration, the UK government has lowered VAT from 17.5% to 5% for households that install mCHP systems, while Italy has developed a net metering approach to electricity tariffs for high efficiency CHP units up to 200 kW.

    In the US, the Department of Energy (DOE) has the ‘Hydrogen Programme’. The DOE-EERE Office, within its Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Programme, is the lead agency for directing and integrating activities in fuel cell R&D. Moreover, the DOE-FE Office, within its Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) that was created in 1999, promotes development of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) for mCHP, amongst other applications.

    Japan however, stands apart from the rest of the world in leading the installation of fuel cell technology, with the government playing a very active role in funding cooperative ventures. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) supports R&D programmes in partnership with various other agencies.

    OK, so “mCHP” is the magic search sauce… Mayb after lunch I’ll look some more. I’d love to have a little Combined Heat & Power solid state thingy sitting in the garage and use nothing but natural gas. Tell them to piss off their electric rate structure…

  22. Petrossa says:

    Continuing in grumpy mode:
    Are you seriously advocating that it’s possible to install high tech installations in a continent where the majority of the ‘countries’ live by the good old times of tribal slaughter and have no intention to change?

    You seriously think anyone is going to invest there to do that. Well, count me out. Or why not install solar in the sahara and wire it up to the European grid? Well, here’s why not: See first phrase. Add to that how on earth are going to channel terawatts to Europe without boiling the Mediterranean? Or the line sbeing blown every other day by yet another ‘freedom fighters’ group.

    Reality sucks.

  23. DirkH says:

    Petrossa says:
    26 March 2013 at 7:42 pm
    “Are you seriously advocating that it’s possible to install high tech installations in a continent where the majority of the ‘countries’ live by the good old times of tribal slaughter and have no intention to change?”

    You mean Africa? Last year the company I was working for had a project request for a control unit for a telecom trasceiver; the purpose was to control a Diesel generator and solar panels to supply the transceiver off the grid, to be stationed somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Kenya. Which of course brings telecom and probably the Internet into the villages.

    “You seriously think anyone is going to invest there to do that. Well, count me out. Or why not install solar in the sahara and wire it up to the European grid? Well, here’s why not: See first phrase.”

    The unrest in North Africa has little to do with tribal slaughter and more with a replacement of a generation of tyrants with other tyrants. These are nations, whether you believe it or not, they even have a military. And they have a transnational political movement called the MB that is best compared to an early 20th century political movement in Germany, not to tribal slaughter.

    A week ago I was sitting in the train next to a woman from Angola. She just returned from a vacation there. She had an iPad or somesuch with which her daughter played. Her German was better than my Portuguese.

  24. Gail Combs says:

    EM thanks for the Poo- generator info. (more would be great) We have over 30 goats and sheep and a dozen equines so plenty of poo machines. North Carolina is cooler than California, we get snow occasionally but the ground temp is about 59F once you get below 20 feet. As you commented poo builds its own heat so that is not really much of a problem.

    I would consider using wood (we have plenty) but the EPA is getting pretty nasty about burning wood so an underground Poo- generator makes more sense since we are ALL electric with no chimney and our major cost is A/C, the well and appliances. (I was looking at geothermal too)

    With the USDA/FDA/EPA getting real nasty about old fashion manure piles we are going to have to do something about the poo-problem anyway. I am think of two, one active and one being emptied of the resulting fertilizer. Money as usual is the problem.

  25. kakatoa says:

    EM, as you are looking at cost effective alternatives to your current energy usage you may want to write a paper on your research-

    Please note the date to get your abstract in (TAX DAY):

    “BECC 2013
    The Behavior, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) Conference 2013 is the premier event focused on understanding behavior and decision-making with respect to energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and sustainability. Annually, 700 participants come together to share new research, discuss innovative policy and program strategies, build networks, and find potential partners for collaboration.

    Abstracts due: April 15, 2013!

    BECC brings together a range of academics, practitioners, and policy-makers from a variety of fields engaged in energy and climate efforts in order to provide the latest and most relevant behavioral research, best practices, and methodologies. The organizers value abstracts from all relevant disciplines concerned with human behavior, society, and culture, especially work from applied anthropology, social psychology, behavioral economics, organizational behavior, political science, communications, and the cognitive sciences.

    We seek 500 word abstracts that address such issue sectors as building & technology design and usage (residential and commercial), transportation, urban design, and sustainable consumption (e.g., food, water, and waste). Abstracts should offer new research findings and/or documented examples of behavior change pilots, programs, or trials. Abstracts should not be a discussion topic, a marketing presentation, or a review or summary of already established work…….”

  26. Quail says:

    CARB (California Air Resource Board) likes to proclaim “Spare the Air” days when it gets really hot and I want to BBQ. Would that affect generator legality? The fines are getting high and now with drive-by verification and more inspectors hired this year they are getting out to pester more nieghborhoods.

  27. Petrossa says:

    I guess you selectively read the news DirkH, instead of relying on anecdotes . I wouldn’t invest a dime in that moneypit. The 30trillion invested over the last couple of decades didn’t exactly turn things around now did they.

  28. DirkH says:

    Petrossa says:
    26 March 2013 at 9:33 pm
    “I guess you selectively read the news DirkH, instead of relying on anecdotes .”

    Hear hear – the last defender of Mainstream Media.

  29. adolfogiurfa says:

    @DirkH: As for the moral advancement (and economic too) the first world has suddenly become the fourth world. Remember when Gen.Mc Arthur asked for just 40 nuclear bombs to disappear China from the planet? Who could lend you money now?

  30. DirkH says:

    adolfogiurfa says:
    26 March 2013 at 9:53 pm
    “@DirkH: As for the moral advancement (and economic too) the first world has suddenly become the fourth world. Remember when Gen.Mc Arthur asked for just 40 nuclear bombs to disappear China from the planet? Who could lend you money now?”

    We could go back to 1917 when the US shipped Trotzky and Lenin to St Petersburg to replace the social democrat government with Bolcheviks.

  31. R. de Haan says:

    Energy Storage online:
    RWE, Vattenfall, all go for local power storage (please translate)
    AVRLA (Advanced Valve Regulated Lead Acid) battery from Hitachi for wind storage but also for home storage:

    And her the 1999 fridge size battery that would change our world at a price of USD 2.500,-

    Some people talk wood pallets. That’s already a done deal. In Europe they have been selling pallet ovens for years now all subsidized. Now Europe has to import pallet wood from the USA (also with massive government subsidies which run in the billions. Isn’t it great that the USA is losing it’s forests with EU subsidies thanks to the “Green Mafia”? Dutch state subsidizes US forrest destruction with billions of euro’s to show a green face:

    I think the time has come to show some civil courage and top the thiefs and robbers with their non problems.

  32. R. de Haan says:

    Sorry, the USD 2.500,- fridge sized home battery story was from 2009

    The RWE solutions now in the market will set you back around 14.000 euro’s. That 2.500 euro home battery will never make it to the market.

  33. Gail Combs says:

    DirkH says:
    26 March 2013 at 10:20 pm

    We could go back to 1917 when the US shipped Trotzky and Lenin to St Petersburg to replace the social democrat government with Bolcheviks.
    I would prefer 1902 and shipping Paul Warburg and his American wife back to Germany permanently.

  34. R. de Haan says:

    Here we have the news that panasonic has started mass producing home power storgae for the German market:

    So does Bocsh, an old German company that just closed their solar panel plant:

    So does GE:

    So does NEC

    Ionex USA?

    In short, the list is endless

  35. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, it looks like “Home sized” cMHP from fuel cells is not quite ready.

    Looks like the state of the art in California. It’s the size of a refrigerator, makes 5kW, runs over 300F internal temperature, and costs , $56,000 – but you can buy one and it gets / got lots of government subsidies… But look at it this way, it lasts 20 years, so that’s only $2800 / year…

    The main product is the ClearEdge5, which produces up to five kilowatts, with the heat by-product suitable for space and water heating. In all, a single fuel cell can produce 43.8 megawatt hours of electricity annually, and has a 20 year lifespan. ClearEdge offers the cell for $56,000 and markets to places where solar energy may be less effective. The primary market is large homes and small businesses, though the marketing and sales focus is on California where high energy prices and government incentives make the units more feasible. The ClearEdge5 is about the size of a large refrigerator. ClearEdge is looking to integrate its 5 kW product with its recently acquired 400 kW units, PureCell Systems, as a way to broaden in the marketplace.

    “Needs more work” comes to mind…

    For the list of $Millions of subsidies it has collected, see the wiki…

    Looks like the economies of scale only make it a good idea at fairly large sizes with consistent heat loads. I’d expect a “microturbine” would be a better match to residential, if anyone makes one small enough…


    Your assertions exceed my statements.

    I stated where it is energetically advantageous and where the solar input matches common demand profiles. Now, or in the future, or in the very far future. I made no assertions about political stability.

    With that said: Yes, there are lots of individual places inside primitive hell holes where folks know how to do things and need power. For example, a western supplied (and perhaps even run) hospital, or hotels in cities next to international airports. Some head hunter village where they are coveting each others sheep and murder for women using axes, not so much… No country is all one thing or all the other. There are places in the USA where I’d not expect much in the way of auto repair. Doesn’t mean someone here can’t use a car and get it fixed.

    Finally, yes, Muslim Nut Jobs wreck places. See New York City for a prime example. What that has to do with the match between solar energy in and electricity demand out is beyond me… A nut job can blow up a Diesel Generator just as well as a set of panels and an inverter. (Though the panels and inverter take far less maintenance to keep running and have far fewer parts to break. Mostly FRUs.) Just more orthogonal stuff.

    Finally, you drag out a reference to a crazy project to use the Sahara as a solar collector for Europe. OK, I can get tW scale power to the EU from Africa without boiling the Med. but I think it is a bit daft to do it that way. Personally, I’d use the heat to make fuel and ship that, if it had to be done. But we power Southern California by shipping in GigaW scale power form Arizona ( Palo Verde nukes) and Washington State. It’s not a technical problem. (Before launching again into the political polemic, see my first statement about political stability issues).

    Simple fact is that in hot sunny places, especially those with primitive grids and political destabilization of the economy, like California; -) , or Kenya, solar can be a very good match to demand needs and often is economical.

    I’d still rather have “Nickle a kW-hr Nuke”… but I’d not snub solar (sans subsidy).


    One of the interesting things happening in the “3rd World” is that parts of it are becoming first world. Often starting with the major cities and then spreading out, but still, it is happening.

    In many ways, the region or small area makes more difference than the country these days.

    BTW, that pan-Arab movement has fairly significant ties to that “German movement” and there was even a Muslim SS unit serving in Europe. It’s an interesting bit of history were post war a load of Germans “disappeared” into some friendly Arab countries…


    Interesting… but I don’t think I’d want to tell them what to ban next ;-)


    Don’t know all the CARB rules. A generator would be best kept, um, discrete anyway. Part of why I like the idea of an added gen head on the Diesel car… “Just tuning up the engine… no nothing else running here…”

    Are BBQ banned on ‘spare the air days’ or is it one of the ‘suggested not mandatory’? (I need to know when to use the gasoline stove instead… then they can try to tell me that cooking over fire on a stove is not allowed… )

    @Gail Combs:

    OK, one Poo-Posting coming up! … in a few days ;-)

    Many of the systems are ‘continuous operation’. One I remember was a large culvert pipe with some baffles. New Poo goes in one end, under a baffle, and one it’s way. Out the other end, from the bottom, fertilizer is drained. In between, gas accumulates between the baffles and goes out a pipe in the top. Non-stop poo gas…

    The Pig Guys often just flush the floor and pipe the “stuff” to the manure pond. So having all that built, put a big rubber tarp over it to make it anaerobic. As gas builds, it lifts the middle of the ‘tarp’ and is removed from wherever is the ‘high side’ while fertilizer is pumped out of the low corner away from the input hose. You don’t need to build giant brick structures like some of the drawings show…

    Oh, and with that ground temp, a ground sourced heat pump can work wonders, for both heating and cooling…


    Back in a bit… have to start my “Solar Risen Bread” to baking in my “Gasoline Patio Oven”…

  36. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    Yes, an endless list of things with unknown, so likely very large, prices and questionable Real Soon Now availability. In the end, this will be a ‘low cost’ race, and I think using Lithium Ion batteries is unlikely to win it… (As I sit here typing on a laptop that went onto ‘life support’ when it had the battery drop to only about 10 minutes life MAX after about a year of use… with lithium ion battery…)

    So far, the design approach the folks in this posting took is looking even better.

    On the flip side, it looks like I’m not the only one who looked at $1/2 to $1 / kW-hr peak and looked at my UPS and thought “Hmmmmmm”… ( I’ve got a couple of old 1 kW UPS boxes – think charger, inverter, battery) from about a decade back that could use a new battery, or just a nice wire to be big external battery…) Were I in Chico with nearly $1 / kW-hr peak, I’d have a selection of thing already plugged into them, and a wire to a large battery in the garage with the UPS “chirper” disabled and a timer between it and the wall socket…

    Somehow I think those Time Of Day charges are going to run into problems…

  37. Rob L says:

    Key metric for battery technology is $/kWh stored. That hinges on 3 things: Depth of discharge, Purchase price and longevity (how many cycles the battery last for). Cost over about 15 years of daily cycling:
    Lead Acid $0.183
    Li-Ion $0.127
    NaS $0.097
    lead acid is actually not very good, and lithium ion (of lower capacity but longer lived A123 iron phosphate type) is pretty good. Sodium Sulphur doesn’t present much of an advantage given trouble with maintaining elevated temperature.

    The game changer would actually be domestic in-ground flywheels. Made of steel or low cost carbon fibre spinning in a vacuum they cost as little as $1-200/kWh, and don’t deteriorate – they could last for many decades with same capacity, and ultimately could be as cheap as $0.05/kWh. Used in conjunction with PV Solar that is now approaching $0.2kWh could just about make it economic for many people in the south-west to go off-grid.

  38. Rob L says:

    The other big question is why does electricity from imported coal in China cost only 8c/kWh, while US with incredibly cheap gas can produce electricity for $2-3c/kWh, yet consumers pay $10-25c?

    Methinks you are all getting screwed by the greens and the utilities.

  39. George B says:

    I am really interested in some of the new “capacitor” technologies starting to emerge. Some of these are extremely interesting. Imagine a battery with a practically unlimited lifetime with the potential for a nearly infinite number of charge cycles. Charge your cell phone with enough power for a full day’s use in 2 seconds. Graphene looks very interesting.

  40. Petrossa says:

    Dirkh: . Sure there are a few rare place where people manage to live reasonably sub standard normal lives, but compared to the immense surface of the continent they might as well not exist.

    Here a dose of reality
    Africa’s Forever Wars
    Why the continent’s conflicts never end.
    There is a very simple reason why some of Africa’s bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don’t have much of an ideology; they don’t have clear goals. They couldn’t care less about taking over capitals or major cities — in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today’s rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people’s children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent’s most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find.

    No stable nation no investment. As i mentioned previously the world has poured 30 trillion $ into the continent with as only result a standstill. Any sane person would withdraw from there, let it go it’s own way and after a century or so see what’s left.

    Thew most stupid thing would be to install hightech gear there. When the white farmers where stolen their lands all productive farms fell to ruin. Everyone has their mouth full of south africa, it’s a destitute place full of crime. Land stolen from the white farmers lays waste:

    Use land or lose it – Nkwinti
    Cape Town – The “use it or lose it” principle will be applied firmly to redistribute farmland to ensure South Africa’s agricultural output does not decline further, minister of land reform and rural development, Gugile Nkwinti, said on Tuesday.

    So in a continent mostly filled with rusty tractors and devastated farms (Zimbabwe) you plan to install highend electric generation plants. And the same people who poke holes in the oil transport lines to siphon it off (environment be damned) is going to let your precious equipment intact?

    Dream on.

  41. E.M.Smith says:

    @Rob L.:

    In California, it is a mix of “Green Screwage” and “Willful Stupidity of the Populace” mixed with “Greed and Avarice”… The “term of art” for it is “Regulatory Agency Capture”. There is a thesis in Economics that says regulatory agencies start out defending the people against the industry and end up “captured” by the industry. I’d add to that the new trend of “deliberate capture by organize pressure groups”.

    BTW, I haven’t seen 10 ¢ power in a long time. I think my lowest “tier” is 19 ¢ and it ranges up from there to 34 ¢ (a tier I’ve not yet reached, I think… the exact boundaries change with what all your neighbors do… )

    So 40 years ago, rates were set based on what was the cost to make the power plus a fixed profit. 10% IIRC. Then, about 1970? the idea came along to play with the regulatory agencies. Bring in more “competition”. It’s been a mess since. Somewhere around the ’90s we played with, as one wag put it, “Buying our power at mini-bar prices”. Enron and rolling blackouts resulted. Now we have political rate setting to “manage” the customer behaviour. So price has no connection with anything other than the coercing the customer into politically correct ideas for “proper” power consumption. (So the two guys who live alone in the house next to me, party and eat all their meals out are “good” while the 4 of us cooking all meals at home are “bad”…)

    I’d say it was to “enrich PG&E” except that the PUC drove them into bankruptcy during the “breakup and buy at the mini-bar” era… So I’m not sure where the money goes. Probably taxed away by somebody…

    The “stupid” part is that they won’t build power plants in California. So large quantities of power are imported from other States. As far away as Phoenix Arizona and Washington State. In the ’90s we were adding little dinky gas generators in “hot spots” that needed extra power so as not to overload grid connections (they won’t add more transmission either…) Calpine was hot then, as they did the gas turbines. ( I think they might have been driven into bankruptcy too, during the regulatory ‘shuffle’ under Gov. Grey “out” Davis…)

    So now the latest fad is Solar Panels. ( I think maybe a lot of the rate money goes into subsidy money for “alternatives”… part of why I’m looking at just going to a “DIY” model. I’m tired of the political games and just want to quit playing. Cost be damned. We’ll see…) They are popping up all over due to a bizarre mix of rebates, tax credits, feed-in tariffs, whatever… Were rates not “crazy high”, it would not be economical at all.

    In short: Political pressure groups and subsidy rent seekers have “cut a deal”…

    @Rob L

    So where are you getting solar at 20 ¢ / kW-hr ?

    @George B:

    Once, long ago, I got a couple of 10 microFarad capacitors @ 50 VDC. Strapped together, they held a pretty good charge. Most folks used batteries to do the igniters in their model rockets. I used that capacitor set. We could get several ‘shots’ out of them (partly as they tended to just vaporize the igniter squib “right quick” ;-)

    I’m fond of capacitors as electricity storage devices…

    Though I do wonder why nobody uses refrigerants for storage. Make a tank with heat pipes between the liquid space and the gas space. Compress gas into liquid. (Heat of vaporization flowing back into gas side via heat pipe, so not lost). Later, vaporize liquid to gas and run back through mini-turbine. Absorb heat of vaporization from the gas side back into liquid side keeping destination side cool. Seems to me it ought to work pretty well. Just a ‘Volume Ratio Phase Change’ battery… VRPC?

  42. DirkH says:

    Petrossa says:
    27 March 2013 at 6:48 am
    “So in a continent mostly filled with rusty tractors and devastated farms (Zimbabwe) you plan to install highend electric generation plants. And the same people who poke holes in the oil transport lines to siphon it off (environment be damned) is going to let your precious equipment intact?”

    Petrossa, you don’t understand me at all. The problems of Africa are problems that the Africans must solve – INCLUDING finding out how to get along with meddling outside powers like the US and China. INCLUDING becoming attractive for investors. Of course the Africans will (and already do) use Solar power where appropriate, as my anecdote about the cell phone tower shows.

    In Africa it is easy in many places for solar power to become economic; there is ample sun and often no competition from a stable grid.

    Sure, warring factions might damage or steal solar panels. But so can they with any other infrastructure. What do you recommend to the African people; not building any infrastructure because it might be damaged by a militia? That’s not how Europe developed ….

    I see all these wars and revolutions and confiscations and executions that you talk about. At the same time, the numbers show that Africa does make progress.

    Oh, did you know that they import a lot of the used cars of Europe, and have very capable village mechanics that are masters in improvisation? Like the Balkan has, and like the Turks have…

    Wonder why they try to repair their cars if they constantly get destroyed in civil wars…

  43. E.M.Smith says:


    You continue to conflate your concern over politics and investment with my statement that the solar energy available is a good match to what is needed. The two are entirely unrelated. I made NO PROPOSAL to finance anything anywhere anytime.

    You are arguing with yourself and your strawman.

    I made statements about the presence of SUNSHINE. That is due to nature and God. Nothing at all to do with people.

    Somehow you seem unable to make the connection…

    So to make it explicit: NO, I would not ever invest in any place during acts of war. Happy?

    Africa is still drenched in sunshine and it is still a very good match to needs. Heck, I’d even go so far as to assert that a couple of solar panels, a battery, and an inverter are far far simpler to keep running than any Diesel generator so even better suited to primitive places in times of duress. (That’s why you see little solar panels on all kinds of instrumentation stuck in all sorts of primitive places. It just works for years and years untended.) Three main parts. NO standard maintenance. All FRU in minutes with unplug / plug. All can be closed modules.

    Just don’t ask me to pay for it, subsidize it, or ship it into a war zone. (None of those asserted by me to be a ‘good idea’ at any time).

    So once again, in the hopes you “get it” this time:

    I am saying that 1) They have sun. Lots of it. Steady and regular. 2) This means solar can work well and with reasonable performance. 3) The need for power tends to be strongest during hot days / evenings and some night lighting can be met with small battery capacity. This is a good match to solar.

    I am NOT saying 1) Anything about the desirability of investing in Africa. 2) Anything about the sanity of African politics. 3) Anything about the intelligence of any 3rd party doing #1 nor the possibility of anyone fixing #2.

    The first group is physics / technology / weather oriented.
    The second group is investment / political / social.

    They are NOT related to each other in any way.

    Got it? I’m saying “The Sky Is Blue” and you are saying “The people are bad”. Different things. No connection. Unrelated. Empty set. No overlap. Orthogonal.

    Don’t know how to make it any more clear… And frankly, what happens to farmers in S. Africa is just not very important to battery technology nor solar panel function. So you want to talk S. African land politics, I can open a topic on that. But this isn’t a S. African Political thread.

  44. Jason Calley says:

    Here is an excellent interview with a gentleman who built a farm-sized methane generator in the 1960s. This particular article is one that I found fascinating when I read it back in the 1970s.

  45. Gail Combs says:

    Rob L says:
    27 March 2013 at 3:54 am

    The other big question is why does electricity from imported coal in China cost only 8c/kWh, while US with incredibly cheap gas can produce electricity for $2-3c/kWh, yet consumers pay $10-25c?

    Methinks you are all getting screwed by the greens and the utilities.
    One word: REGULATIONS

    …There is no official accounting of total regulatory costs, and estimates vary. Unlike the budgetary accounting of direct tax revenues, Washington does not track the total burdens imposed by its expansive rulemaking. An oft-quoted estimate of $1.75 trillion[1] annually represents nearly twice the amount of individual income taxes collected last year….
    The cost of new regulations, however, can be tracked, and it is growing substantially. Following record increases in fiscal year (FY) 2010, regulatory burdens have continued to increase in 2011. Overall, from the beginning of the Obama Administration to mid-FY 2011, regulators have imposed $38 billion in new costs on the American people, more than any comparable period on record….
    The new regulations continue a multiyear trend of heavier burdens placed on the U.S. economy and the American people. This trend did not begin with the presidency of Barack Obama; the Administration of George W. Bush, for example, generated more than $60 billion in additional annual regulatory costs….
    The actual cost of the new regulations is almost certainly higher, for several reasons. First, the reported totals do not include “non-major” rules, i.e., those deemed unlikely to cost $100 million or more annually. Moreover, as agencies estimate the impacts of their own rules, costs are routinely minimized. Nor do agencies always analyze the costs of proposed rules. Twelve of the 75 major regulations adopted by the Obama Administration through the end of March 2011 did not include quantified costs.

    As examples: The animal protection act was considered to have “no financial impact” yet the cost of approved fencing for my business ($5000 gross per year) was over $100,000 for materials alone since the inspector insisted I had to fence in 90ac of lob lolly pine as well as the 10ac of cleared pasture. A friend who makes wine was not allowed to put the lees (stems and pits) from his grapes back on his fields but had to dispose of them as ‘Hazardous Waste’ because they came from a ‘Chemical Process” Another business person in my town was stalled for well over a year because the planning board would not let him re-open his store after an up-grade until he pulled strings with a friend who was a Commissioner.

    In China you just pay the bribe and you are good to go. In the USA petty bureaucrats protect their jobs by saying NO. You can not get fired for saying NO but you can by saying YES so the default is NO unless you have the political pull to get a yes.

  46. Jason Calley says:

    @ Gail Combs “A friend who makes wine was not allowed to put the lees (stems and pits) from his grapes back on his fields but had to dispose of them as ‘Hazardous Waste’ because they came from a ‘Chemical Process”

    Stunningly stupid. There needs to be some new word for this level of stupidity. May I suggest “bureaucratic” stupidity? The goose that laid the golden eggs is being murdered, not by some villain with a hatchet, but by a million parasites who regulate it to death.

  47. DirkH says:

    …and while Petrossa derides me for “wanting to invest” in solar power in Africa (I never said I would) it reminds me of an occasion where I indeed invested in Africa; in a Uranium mining business in Namibia. They tanked; I made a loss – but the reason was less tribal slaughter but just the lack of rich Uranium finds….

    Never did it occur to me that I should have thought about tribal slaughter, civil wars or the likes before investing in a business operating in Africa. And in fact these turned out to be non-issues… in that particular country and place and time.

  48. Rob L says:

    Quick mental calculation: insolation 2500kWh/m² in SoCal or about 300W/m² average, so PV solar should produces about 30% of nameplate 1000W/m² capacity. So a 1kW capacity PV panel produces about .3*8800=2500 kWh per year = $500 at $0.2/kWh. Median PV panel cost ~$2000/kW, median Inverter cost ~$700/kW, maybe $1-2000 to install, call it $10k for a 3kW system that produces $1.5k in electricity per year at $0.2/kWh, though solarbuzz lists cheapest panels at $1000/kW and doing installation yourself might drop cost to nearer $6k for whole system. So depending on what you expect in terms of ROI and maintenance $0.2/kWh seems pretty reasonable to me, you may think otherwise. Checkout solarbuzz for equipment cost etc:

    Distrbiuted natural gas IC generators:
    With current bulk price of gas at 1.5c/kWh 1MW IC natural gas engines can make electricity for 6-7c/kWh (including ~1-2c/kWh capital+maintenance+depreciation). They fit on the back of trucks, run for up to 10 years with little maintenance and can be hooked into any substation in a day or two and are so small that Nimbys can’t beat them in the way they can a large power station. Such systems eliminate the common utility/political excuse of insufficient grid infrastructure/long planning times. They could have enough units to power California in place and working in a couple of months and cut everyone’s power bills in half. Poorer communities/suburbs around California could easily set these generators up for themselves to take advantage even if wrong-headed affluent green communities didn’t.

    These engines are typically large v12 monsters, but a single cylinder <100kW version would still have about the same cost, efficiency and life, and could power 20-30 houses in a neighbourhood during summer, as well as providing all the hot water/heating or heating a community pool etc. They can also feed power back into the grid to cash in on high prices.

    At smaller scale 30kW capstone microturbines run for years and with current low gas prices can produce electricity for <10c/kWh.

  49. Petrossa says:

    DirkH, you have a problem with scale. You see only the extremely thin layer of somewhat civilized people and assume that that represents Africa. It doesn’t. Uranium is exported by the truckload to france, but already now has to fight off the onslaught of jihadist groups that try to return Africa (if in anyway possible) even further back into the stoneage. From the north to south, east to west, it’s mostly a total unsurmountable mess.
    As long as they themselves don’t sort their crap out investing in anything there is only possible for the likes of Shell, and even they struggle.

    Idealism is beautiful. It’s nice in movies, books, philosophy. But realism trumps it anyday. The chinese do it pragmatically. They just buy the country and couldn’t care less about the inhabitants.

    Freedom means you are free to be stupid. If African nations in general prefer to be stupid and fight their silly battles over nothing, well let them. Us inventing stuff to sell to them other then via loans that never will be repaid is a pipedream. Maybe in a few centuries.

  50. Gail Combs says:

    Jason Calley says:
    27 March 2013 at 7:39 am
    …Stunningly stupid. There needs to be some new word for this level of stupidity. May I suggest “bureaucratic” stupidity? ….
    bureaucratsIt Came From Schenectady!

    For those who are not Science Fiction Fans, Harlen Ellison was asked where he got his ideas. He answered from a P.O. Box in Schenectady NY. It is now the standard answer.

    On a more serious note, the average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. It takes about that long for the bureaucracy to grow so large that it stifles the economy and the cost in a decreasingly viable economy becomes too much for the peasants to bear. At that point the aristocracy/politicians lose their heads.

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” – Alexis De Tocqueville, 1805-1859

    If politicians have studied history and wish to keep their heads, they would pay as much attention to repealing useless laws and regulations as they do to passing new ones. They would be very concerned with keeping the economy healthy and the cost of government and the burden of regulations reasonable. Unfortunately there is a group the Fabians, who want the present civilization to collapse so they can usher in their vision of utopia, may the Deities help us.

    Here is an example of their on going interference in US politics. link The CED and CRF are examples of Milner Round Tables ( Quigley who is mentioned in the link, was Bill Clinton’s mentor. This was the best reference I could find in a short time span but it is a bit ‘far out’ This is a better description from Third World Traveler link)

    Quigley excerpts:
    and others of possible interest on the same subject:

    “During the past two centuries when the peoples of the world were gradually winning their political freedom from the dynastic monarchies, the major banking families of Europe and America were actually reversing the trend by setting up new dynasties of political control through the formation of international financial combines. These banking dynasties had learned that all governments must have sources of revenue from which to borrow in times of emergency. They had also learned that by providing such funds from their own private resources, they could make both kings and democratic leaders tremendously subservient to their will.” ~ Carroll Quigley in his book “Tragedy and Hope”

    One of the things I find most interesting is information about these ‘dynasties’ and ‘Clubs’ can be found on websites of both the ‘Left’ and of the ‘Right.’ Historians Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstel made an interesting observation in 2005

    … Over the last quarter-century, historians have by and large ceased writing about the role of ruling elites in the country’s evolution. Or if they have taken up the subject, they have done so to argue against its salience for grasping the essentials of American political history. Yet there is something peculiar about this recent intellectual aversion, even if we accept as true the beliefs that democracy, social mobility, and economic dynamism have long inhibited the congealing of a ruling stratum. This aversion has coincided, after all, with one of the largest and fastest-growing disparities in the division of income and wealth in American history….Neglecting the powerful had not been characteristic of historical work before World War II….

    Certainly makes you wonder doesn’t it?

  51. Gail Combs says:

    Rob L, do you have a link for that natural gas generator? My local electric Co-op is looking for something to replace the four Duke Power coal plants we are losing in NC. Map

    It is ironic that in NC the wood products industry employs 18 percent of the labor force, the total value of wood products shipments is $19 billion annually, or 11 percent of the state’s total income. Softwood lumber production in North Carolina ranks 7th nationally and yet we can’t keep our coal plants open by burning wood. Guess the USA makes more money shipping coal to China and wood chips to the UK.

  52. Gail Combs says:

    Petrossa says….

    I agree with you to an extent. If people do not work for something and earn it themselves they do not value it. All you have to do is look at the “Project Housing” in the USA where the poor were given a place to live. Yet I have also seen ‘poor’ black sections in cities where the people own the houses and had pride in their homes. That is why it should be a Hand -up not a Hand-out and ONLY when asked for. It is also important to LISTEN and not act the know-it-all. Africa is different than other places and the ‘great ideas’ especially in farming have to be applied with care.

  53. DirkH says:

    Petrossa says:
    27 March 2013 at 10:22 am
    “Idealism is beautiful. It’s nice in movies, books, philosophy. But realism trumps it anyday. ”

    I agree completely. It’s just that my assessment of reality is different from yours. I’ll go with mine because I think you are very, very wrong; and sorry, I cannot take your grim worldview seriously, the obviously ongoing conflicts notwithstanding. The trends speak a clear language.

  54. DirkH says:

    And Petrossa, if you think gapminder is “idealistic”; no it isn’t. It is a data aggregator.

  55. Gail Combs says:

    DirkH and Petrossa, don’t forget the elite/bankster meddling that causes resentment, unrest and riots.

    The Elitists main geostrategic goals are:

    – Maintain energy dominance in the Middle East, Gulf, African regions.

    – Support NATO’s further advance against perceived Russian protectionism.

    – To drive the price of oil upwards aggrandizing Wall St speculation while artificially buoying demand for US treasuries.

    – To further consolidate private Anglo/American central banking control over independent states. Only 3 left. Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

    Continued balkanization of all politically and ideologically nonaligned states to maintain destabilized political environment via proxy. E.g. Afghan Helmand AQ pushed south into Baluchistan, pinch point of the Iran Pakistan China energy corridor, and to destabilize the port of Gwadar, main China Sea link to Middle East oil.

    – Continued Global “Harmonization” through policies such as the United Nations policy paper Agenda 21, Codex Alimentarius, Nafta, GATT, SPP, synthesized in tandem with global economic governance through agencies such as the IMF, BIS and The World Bank.

    To get rid of the “strong men” in the Middle East and Africa in order to install democratic (false left/right paradigm) elections through which pro US puppets like Mamdouh Hamza will bring false HOPE AND CHANGE, while they acquiesce to US policies and rubberstamp no bid contracts to US, UK, French corporations while shutting out Russian, Chinese access to Gulf States and African oil. Watch South Sudan as they supply China with 5% of their energy requirements.

    The precursors to WW3 are all basically summed up in these objectives with the resultant cause and effect of the major spheres of influence countermoves creating potential flashpoints. We had two world wars last century and anyone who thinks that there is no risk of another ever again is living in Obamesque delusion….

    This is, in part, the Zbigniew Brzezinski (Obama’s main foreign policy advisor, he also ran the Carter administration back in the 70′s) methodology of microstates and ministates….

    Prescribed reading: The Grand Chessboard, Between Two Ages, The Clash of Civilizations, Tragedy and Hope, Confessions of an economic hit man.
    The people of the African, Gulf and Middle Eastern states will realize in about 3-5 years that they have been duped into believing that they have won their freedom. Democracy is unfortunately a cruel hoax and the global players are using every weapon in their arsenal to achieve it.

    SOURCE: A Response to: When The Derivatives Market Crashes (And It Will) U.S. Taxpayers Will Be On The Hook

    Summer 1995
    “Today I resigned from the staff of the International Monetary Fund after over 12 years, and after 1000 days of official fund work in the field, hawking your medicine and your bag of tricks to governments and to peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. To me, resignation is a priceless liberation, for with it I have taken the first big step to that place where I may hope to wash my hands of what in my mind’s eye is the blood of millions of poor and starving peoples. Mr. Camdessus, the blood is so much, you know, it runs in rivers. It dries up too; it cakes all over me; sometimes I feel that there is not enough soap in the whole world to cleanse me from the things that I did do in your name and in the name of your predecessors, and under your official seal. ”

    With those words, Davison Budhoo, a senior economist with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for more than 12 years, publicly resigned in May, 1988….

    Structural Adjustment Policies are economic policies which countries must follow in order to qualify for new World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and help them make debt repayments on the older debts owed to commercial banks, governments and the World Bank….

    Balancing national budgets can be done by raising taxes, which the IMF frowns upon, or by cutting government spending, which it definitely recommends. As a result, SAPs often result in deep cuts in programmes like education, health and social care, and the removal of subsidies designed to control the price of basics such as food and milk. So SAPs hurt the poor most, because they depend heavily on these services and subsidies.

    SAPs encourage countries to focus on the production and export of primary commodities such as cocoa and coffee to earn foreign exchange. But these commodities have notoriously erratic prices subject to the whims of global markets which can depress prices just when countries have invested in these so-called ‘cash crops’.

    By devaluing the currency and simultaneously removing price controls, the immediate effect of a SAP is generally to hike prices up three or four times, increasing poverty to such an extent that riots are a frequent result.

    The term “Structural Adjustment Program” has gained such a negative connotation that the World Bank and IMF launched a new initiative, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Initiative, and makes countries develop Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). While the name has changed, with PRSPs, the World Bank is still forcing countries to adopt the same types of policies as SAPs.

  56. P.G.Sharrow says:

    So far this battery technology looks fairly good BUT I see no way at present to buy. So, vaporware at present. too bad. The actual manufacture looks simple enough. Nothing high tech or chemical bottle necks that I can see. The main component is very high purity iron powder and carbon pressed into plates separated by soft fiber pressboard, inside a poly box. The question is why is this NOT available yet. pg

  57. P.G.Sharrow says:

    I should add that this looks to be an electrolytic super capacitor as much as a chemical battery. pg

  58. adolfogiurfa says:

    @P.G.: Occam´s razor for everything: Energy is everywhere. We live in a BATTERY!

  59. kakatoa says:

    It looks like Duke Energy is adding in some energy storage-

    “..Duke Energy is actively testing several different applications and battery systems to determine how energy storage can make the grid stronger and more efficient. One of our battery installations, at the Rankin Substation in Mount Holly, N.C., gives a glimpse into how energy storage may ensure grid reliability in a future with more distributed, intermittent generation.

    At the Rankin substation, a 402-kilowatt/282-kilowatt-hour sodium nickel chloride battery system is smoothing out large minute-by-minute peaks and valleys in electricity production from a 1.2-megawatt solar facility at an industrial complex about three miles away…..” .

  60. Gail Combs says:

    kakatoa says:
    27 March 2013 at 3:55 pm

    It looks like Duke Energy is adding in some energy storage….
    They have to given the number of solar farms I see sprouting all over the map… lamb prices are rising as solar farms use sheep to keep grass down and use the lambs to wipe the dust off the solar panels….

  61. DirkH says:

    Gail Combs says:
    27 March 2013 at 5:02 pm
    ” and use the lambs to wipe the dust off the solar panels….”
    Hope they use live lambs.

  62. Gail Combs says:

    DirkH says:
    27 March 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Hope they use live lambs.
    That is what you use the legs for. Pick-up invert swipe and put down. “A helpless sheep is a calm sheep.” Just don’t try it with a goat…

  63. Petrossa says:

    Foto taken by passerby of a (then) 2 yr old german solar farm Any sheep eating that will seriously damage panel and or alignment mechanism

  64. J Martin says:

    Domestic combined heat and power units are a great idea but they have yet to be mass manufactured. I read that when they are, prices will come down to about £2000 whereas at present they cost about £8000. Whereas I can buy a gas central heating and hot water boiler for £1000.

    £2000 I could happily contemplate as it would allow me to get through powercuts unscathed and run the central heating pump through powercuts. But £8000, way too expensive for the side benefit of 1 KW of electricity. I would prefer a 2 KW output so that I could still run the washing machine and tumble dryer. Most of the time it would be going back into the grid paying off it’s cost price, but during powercuts is when it would really come into its own.

    Various sorts are being investigated, 2 different types of fuel cell, a micro gas turbine, a Stirling engine, and perhaps others.

    From learning-by-doing, the price of Japanese 1kW PEMFC systems is shown to have fallen by 19.1-21.4% for each doubling of production volume. Prices are therefore projected to fall from £15,000 today to £6,000 within 10±5 years, A commercially viable price of around £3,000 is however expected to be two decades away,

    From the very thorough pdf linked below.

    The Baxi Ecogen.

    Some people have had them installed, and have posted on a forum about their experiences.

  65. Gail Combs says:

    Petrossa says:
    27 March 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Foto taken by passerby….
    The panels up the road from me are mounted higher and do have grass being eaten by sheep (lambs) I think they are probably using Shetlands which are a tiny breed from the looks of them.

    Those panels in the photo look like they were being sprayed with a herbicide but workers were afraid to get too close to the panels with the spray. Sheep seem to do a better job since the ground underneath was neat and tidy with no tall weeds. If they are out again this summer I may take a photo. You can rotate your breeding and keep a steady supply of smallish lambs. I intentionally aim for lambs in June – July instead of January. (Lambs do not jump on things like goats do)

  66. DirkH says:

    “These micro-supercapacitors demonstrate a power density of ~200 W cm−3, which is among the highest values achieved for any supercapacitor.”

    Hmpf. That’s great, but what’s the ENERGY density. Is it better than existing ultracaps. They usually have 1/10th the energy density per weight of batteries. Maxwell makes them. Stock
    currently crashes.

    The supercap you’ve found seems to have nothing to do with the stuff ChiefIO found. There are many supercap or also called ultracap technologies. The video is low on details and big on bravado.

  67. DirkH says:

    To be more specific, in a Li Ion or any other battery you spend one ion per electron you wanna store, that’s why Lithium is interesting, it is the lightest suitable element, so the “carrier” atóms are relatively light.

    It is difficult to see how a capacitor can beat that… A capacitor works by having more electrons on one plate than on the other, here, the plates are the carrier. C has atomic weight 6, Li only 3. So can they store 2 electrons per C? Or have each C in plate A have one excess electron and have each C in plate B one electron less? Sounds impossible to me…

  68. DirkH says:

    Thinking further: The graphene Ultracap will not be lighter than a Li Ion battery (I’d bet on that). BUT if the production process is as simple as they claim it might become a CHEAP way of producing storage capacity, and therefore it could become interesting for immobile installations.

    Which is of course a rather different claim than what that researcher in the video says…

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  70. E.M.Smith says:


    Somewhere, maybe in comments, I saw a statement that power density was about 1/2 to 1/3 that of Li-Ion batteries (and likely to improve).

    I think that is quite adequate for a lot of things. I’d be happy with that in my laptop (especially if it lasted longer then the single year this one gave me.. )

    That it can “surge” fast is very important for vehicle dynamic breaking. Hard stops are limited by how fast the batteries can charge, so you burn off the excess instead of capturing it into storage. These guys let you capture it. Having a rechargeable flashlight that can sit on a ‘float charger’ forever and not degrade, but run entirely dead, then recharged again in less than a minute? I’d pay good money for that. As my D sized LED Maglight runs for some odd 100+ hours of Very Bright on Alkaline batteries, that are less power dense than Li-Ions, I’d expect about equal performance (which is far longer than I need, really, I’d be happy with 1/2 the light run time).

    There’s a whole lot of places that power density with near instant charge will be valued.

    Oh, and since this is a film of essentially all hybridized orbitals, and C can have high oxidation states, I’d expect a lot of electrons / carbon can be hybridized into that ring structure. Or sucked out. It is essentially a large sheet of delocalized bonds so more electrons will just diffuse into it.

  71. DirkH says:

    Of course; would find its niches, just like the existing ultracaps. I was just thinking of the critical weight requirements in EV’s (as soon as we can charge them inductively on the go, or at traffic lights or similar, this problem would become less severe)

  72. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gail Combs:

    Were I looking for industrial sized generation, I’d get the Capstone Microturbine. Comes in units of 30 kW, 60 kW, or 200 kW and can be ganged together up to 1 mW. If you need more that that, get a nuke ;-) . Also suited to “rough environments” (used at sea on oil rigs), will burn ‘crap gas’ such as from landfill recovery sites, flare gas from rigs, or “pig poo”, Diesel, Kerosene, or Propane. It has an air bearing system so doesn’t need oil changes (nor wear much).

    Local high school was heating the swimming pool (large…) with natural gas. BIG expense. Installed one of the 30 kW with the cogeneration kit. Same gas use as before, but 30 kW of “free” electricity… That was several years ago. Whenever I’ve gone by the “shed” next to the pool, it’s just quietly whirring away… about like the pool pumps in sound level.

    They also have an absorption AC option if air conditioning is what you need… I just wish they made one that was closer to 3 kW in size ;-)

    I especially like the ones that are ruggedized for use on oil rigs. Salt spray. Flammable atmosphere risks. Crappy fuel. No problem.

    Capstone MicroTurbines reliably power onshore and offshore operations using unprocessed wellhead gas (economic or flare, sweet or up to 7% sour) to generate 3-phase, load-following continuous power.


    Perfect for both manned and unmanned platforms, Capstone MicroTurbines can be fueled with unprocessed wellhead gas to provide continuous load following power down to an idle and up to a few hundred kilowatts in easily manageable, redundant 30 and 65kW models.

    Capstone’s offshore C30 and C65 models are UL Certified to meet Class 1, Division 2 NFPA 496. For non-hazardous-area placement, a more affordable stainless steel package is available for each model. Non-hazardous units are UL-certified to meet the new UL220 and UL1741 category for engine generators fueled with “raw natural gas.”

    Capstone MicroTurbines use no oil, lubricants, coolants, other hazardous materials, or even water. This eliminates transporting, storage, and costly hazmat spill/leakage issues associated with engine gensets.

    You’ll also find that a Capstone platform power solution dramatically reduces scheduled maintenance to mere filter changes twice a year. The first minor scheduled maintenance is at 20,000 hours, an overhaul is suggested by 40,000 hours.

    That’s the kind of rugged, low-cost, dependable, set-it-and-forget-it operation you need to maximize platform performance and minimize downtime risk.

    If you are an “island” of power consumption, that “load following” matters… That 20,000 hours is 2 1/4 YEARS to the first scheduled maintenance. At 4.5 years you get an overhaul…

    Beats the pants off a Diesel, IMHO. (And I dearly love Diesels…)

  73. Jason Calley says:

    @ Gail Combs and E.M. I just checked eBay. They have a Capstone 30KW genset with only 500 hrs on it. Price? Right at $4,000.
    If you wanted power for a few small homes or one farm, might be nice. Or use a battery backup for most small loads and the Capstone for big loads and battery charging.

  74. Speed says:

    A little more on battery technology from the sounds too good to be true department …

    New High-Mileage Battery to Be Announced at CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium
    The seventh annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium will unveil Phinergy’s new 1,000-mile aluminum air battery, with prospects of developing faster, long-range electric aircraft flights in the near future.
    [ ,,, ]
    Phinergy CEO Aviv Tzidon announced that a contract has been signed with a global automaker to deliver production volumes of the new device starting in 2017. The entire battery weighs 55 pounds, giving it an energy density more than 100 times that of today’s conventional lithium-ion pack.

    EAA and its members have historically been realistic about the near-term potential of electric aircraft, making proof-of-concept prototypes that work within the limitations of current battery technology. Calling something a “1,000-mile battery” without qualifications (speed, gross weight, useful load etc.) is a red flag but if it works and delivers even 10 times the energy density …

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