We hear so much about the growth of solar and wind power as alternative energy sources, but they both have a downside. They aren’t always “on”. When the wind does not blow or the sun sets, alternative sources of power must be brought online. Sadly, in some areas, this mean coal fired power plants often negating the positive aspects of the wind or sun. The problem is how to store electricity for times these power sources won’t work. There have been some intersting solutions. In one place, I’ve heard that the power from the windmills and solar panels is used to pump water up to a resevior at the top of a mountain. Then, when they are not available, the water is allowed to flow down through pipes and generate electricity through turbines. This is an interesting but the scale and cost is such that it’s not that viable,
Enter our good friend, Elon Musk, creator of the Tesla electric car and Space X. His latest effort is the creation of smaller battery systems designed to store electricity for a single house. When the wind or sun aren’t available, just switch to the batteries. This idea can work and it’s going to be with us very soon.
The interesting difference on this is the scale. If you wanted to use batteries to store enough electricity to power a large city or even a smaller town, the cost would be prohibitive. But, using what Musk has learned from the battery systems for his Tesla carts, building a smaller battery pack that would work for a house is very realistic. Couple this with advances in fuel cells that would also work at this scale, and power companies should start getting very nervous.