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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

New Ideas for Renewables: Storing Energy


    There is good news and some more good news this past week for advances in renewable energy. First, a team of researchers from North America reported that they have found a way to store unused, surplus energy from renewable resources like wind turbines and solar panels. A report by Chemists from Calgary University says that they have found a way to convert electrical energy into chemical energy by means of a new catalyst. This is important because although electrical energy “cannot simply be stored”, chemical energy can, which means that this new catalyst could fill the great need for an efficient method of storing excess clean energy for when it is needed when sources have lower intake, such as slower winds or less sunlight for wind or solar power.
    Second, two members of the team, Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel, have thought up another way to utilize reconverted water in fuel cells with a process that would involve no pollutants, and possibly no water loss. If the hydrogen and oxygen results from split water molecules are stored separately then reconverted into water whenever it is needed, it could result in large amounts of energy to be converted to electricity. The difficulty so far is that the conventional catalysis in the process depends on crystalline minerals that are toxic, expensive, and rare. Still, this obstacle may be overcome, as the team also said they have had a successful reaction with a new equally-useful, safer, and cheaper electro-catalyst.
    After learning more details on different renewable resources, it is especially encouraging to hear about progress and interesting to take a deeper look into the possibilities of cleaner energy. To start, being able to store energy from renewable resources would be an amazing achievement, especially considering how much it is needed. The article went into the more technical side of energy, and it helps to realize and appreciate the complexity of it all. One of the drawbacks of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power is that is amount of energy produced isn’t always constant. Depending on weather conditions (specifically wind speed and amount of sunlight), sometimes energy demands are not met and so we turn back to non-renewable sources like fossil fuels. But if extra energy could be stored, it could be applied to compensate for days when less energy is produced. News of advancements being made by people who are really trying to find more environmentally-conscious options adds to a sense of motivation to keep working towards goals like these that really do make a difference. I wonder how far technology like this can be applied, from replacing a lot of fossil fuels with renewable energy to maybe even opening up other possibilities for other renewable sources.

Sources
Radford, T. (n.d.). Renewables burn a little brighter | Climate News Network.Climate News Network.

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