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The US should Invest in Battery Technology to Reduce Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Matt Metz 09/14/19

The United States, and the world in general, would be much better off if we could just develop the technology to store produced electricity effectively and efficiently.

Why? Because without the ability to store produced electricity, we must build the capacity to meet peak demand.

Analogy to understand peak demand and manufacturing capacity

To understand, let’s consider the manufacturers of Christmas tree bulbs. Let’s say that each year, people want to buy 36,000,000 bulbs.

Do Christmas tree bulb manufacturers try to build all 36 million bulbs during the holiday season, which is when people will be buying them? Of course not! The manufacturers build the bulbs about equally throughout the year at a rate of about 36,000,000 divided by 12 months per year divided by 30 days per month, or about 100,000 per day ON AVERAGE. The 100,000 bulbs built each day January through November are stored in warehouses waiting for the Christmas season. Then, when people will order them, they are pulled from the warehouses and shipped to the customers.

The bulb manufacturers only need to build a factory capable of producing 100,000 bulbs per day. It would make no sense for them to build a factory capable of producing all 36 million bulbs in a single month (the PEAK DEMAND), because it would take an expensive and enormous factory and that expensive and enormous factory would sit idle for eleven months of every year.

This idea of building bulbs evenly throughout the year (an AVERAGE RATE), for a PEAK DEMAND in December, works because bulbs can be stored; they don’t go bad and they don’t expire.

In other words, we can supply bulbs from either CAPACITY (factories) or from STOCK (warehouses). The more warehouses you have, the fewer factories you need!

Electricity cannot currently be inventoried economically

But electricity generated by our utilities is not like bulbs. Today, we have no effective and efficient way to store electricity produced today which isn’t needed by our customers until three hours from now, or three days from now, or three months from now.

So our utility companies don’t have the option of building small “electricity factories” (such as hydroelectric dams, coal-powered generating stations, nuclear generators, photovoltaic farms, etc.) and running them evenly throughout the year. They don’t have “electricity warehouses” (“batteries” is the term we use for electricity storage devices) to store up today’s production for consumption by consumers next week; so they have to build electricity factories large enough to meet the peak demand caused by air conditioners running at 4:00 p.m. on September 15th in Phoenix, Arizona.

What would happen if we COULD take electricity produced by our generating stations, and store it in battery warehouses? This would allow the factories to work steadily – at much lower rates – and store unused electricity for consumption at peak demand times.

Using information from the United States Information Energy Agency, we can learn the total demand for generated electricity in the United States, and calculate the average hourly rate at which our utilities (electricity factories) need to run throughout the year. It turns out if we could produce electricity evenly through the year, we would need only 47% of our current generating capacity (electricity “factories”).

We also know our total generating capacity (our electricity “factories”) is comprised of both

·        fossil-fuel-based generators (using coal, gas, and other petroleum-based products) and

·        non-fossil-fuel based generators (hydroelectric dams, nuclear generators, solar panels, etc.).

In this “produce electricity evenly throughout the year” scenario, if we keep all our non-fossil-fuel generating capacity, we could eliminate about 75% of our current fossil-fuel-based utilities.

In other words, if we could just store (“warehouse”) electricity produced by utilities, we could eliminate 75% of our current fossil-fuel-based generating stations. That would allow us to shut down ALL coal-based and petroleum product-based electricity production, relying exclusively on relatively clean natural gas to fill the gap left by our non-fossil-fuel based generators.

Conclusion:

We could eliminate 75% of the fossil-fuels currently consumed to generate electricity if we could effectively store electricity generated by utilities. Therefore, we should focus our efforts and resources on developing effective battery technology.

Doing this will significantly reduce the pollution, climate change, and other adverse side-effects of our reliance on fossil-fuels.

Let's invest in battery technology instead of carbon-based fuels.
 


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