Capturing carbon dioxide instead of releasing it into the atmosphere is a way we can use fossil fuels without it having harmful effects on the climate. Energy storage is a way to address the volatility of clean energy sources like wind and solar power. Excess energy stored during peak production can be used when production ceases, such as when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.
At the end of last year, Southern California Edison turned on the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world in Ontario, California. It is a substation with 80 megawatt-hours of capacity, enough energy to power 2,500 households or charge 1,000 Tesla cars a day.
An abandoned, centuries-old iron mine in the Adirondacks about 100 miles north of Albany, New York may become the site of a new hydroelectric energy storage system. The mine in the tiny hamlet of Mineville near Moriah, New York contributed iron for the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War that took place on Lake Champlain. The mine hasn’t been used in over 45 years.
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee were trying to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn carbon dioxide into a useful fuel. But the unexpected occurred: they found that the first step in their process actually got the job done all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which is already used to power generators and vehicles.
The Carbon XPrize is a five-year, $20 million competition to identify ways to convert carbon emissions into successful, profitable and useful products. Forty-seven organizations from seven countries are competing for the prizes and include large companies, startups and university researchers.
The biggest challenge facing both solar and wind power sources is that they don’t produce power around the clock; they only work when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. As a result, they don’t quite measure up to the requirement for power on demand.