Thursday, November 21, 2013

Notes - Sustainabiltiy and Energy Storage Stystems

The following are notes on the sustainable energy sector and the potential of energy storage technologies.
  • Sustainability
    • Energy storage is useful in order to balance the grid
      • grid balancing is making sure that the amount of energy being produced by the grid is equal to the amount of energy being used by it
    • Issues it solves
      • As the amount of renewable sources continue to increase, the fluctuating nature of the energy production means that we will need to capture any "excess production" in the case that renewable sources produce too much energy
      • This becomes profitable if storage beats the costs of turning on and off other generators such as coal, gas, etc.
    • Issues facing growth of industry
      • We would require variable renewable sources to generate greater than about 20% of our electricity in order for this to become viable
        • variable includes wind/solar, production dependent on variable sources
        • non variable renewable includes hydropower, biomass, geothermal because their sources are controllable

      • As is clearly shown in the above solar amounts to .12% of our total energy production, and wind amounts to 3.36% for a total of about 3.48%
        • Solar although it is a rapidly growing field is still dependent on subsidies, although this may soon change, something needs to change in the market in order for there to be an increase in buyers
        • Wind is completely dependent on government subsidies. There is near 0 production when subsidies are taken away, so wind development relies on smart governmental decisions
          • Cue Government shutdown
        • Additional Complications
          • there is steep competition given by China which has better economies of scale as they are investing heavily into the older silicon based solar which is cheaper to purchase
            • Note China as a whole is not yet profiting, but they are gaining a powerful grip on the market
          • US is "going big" in solar arena by increasing efficiency of their cells
            • this would need to be coupled with trends i.e. requires help from mainstream media in order to become successful
              • Exceptions - First Solar, although product has increase in efficiency, a byproduct was that the it "looks better" as electrodes are attached beneath rather than on top of the modules in order to increase efficiency
              • This is similar to Apple which used a sleek design in order to sell the product, meeting the social needs of the user
            • Similar story to Solyndra this means US companies require large initial investments, reduces amount of entrepreneurs capable of accessing the market
  • Energy Storage
    • There are two divergent paths a company can take
      • Invest into countries outside of the US
        • By taking control of third world countries there is a potential to have access to the infrastructure of an entire market over time
        • Can sell to a more mature market
      • Invest into a longer time span
        • assumes that the US will not tolerate other countries exceeding our infrastructure base
          • Has some merit i.e. average internet speed competition of Asian countries now being counteracted with Google fiber and other extreme high speed connections
          • Fiber slowly replacing copper

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