Liquid energy storage system gets the "MOST" out of the Sun
Solar power is potentially the greatest single energy source outside of controlled nuclear fusion, but the Sun is literally a fair weather source that relies on daytime and clear skies. To make solar energy a reliable, 24-hour source of energy, a team of scientists at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg is developing a liquid energy storage medium that can not only release energy from the Sun on demand, but is also transportable.
The Chalmers team has been working on variants of its system, called a MOlecular Solar Thermal (MOST), for over six years, with a conceptual demonstration in 2013. It differs from other attempts to store solar energy in things like heated salts and reversing exothermic reactions in that the MOST system stores the energy directly in the bonds of an organic chemical.
In this case, the scientists exposed a hydrocarbon called norbornadiene to light. This alters the chemical bonds, turning it into quadricyclane. Altering the temperature of the quadricyclane or exposing it to a catalyst reverses the effect and energy in the form of heat is released and carried off by a water jacket.
According to the team, the present system converts 1.1 percent of sunlight directly into chemical bonds, which is 100 times more efficient than the 2013 version that could only manage 0.01 percent. In addition, the new liquid storage system replaces ruthenium, a rare metal, with carbon-based elements that are much cheaper. Additionally, it can go through over 140 store and release energy cycles without noticeable degradation.
"The technique means that we can store the solar energy in chemical bonds and release the energy as heat whenever we need it." says team leader Kasper Moth-Poulsen. "Combining the chemical energy storage with water heating solar panels enables a conversion of more than 80 percent of the incoming sunlight."
The teams says the system allows solar energy to be stored and transported before being released as heat when and where it's needed.
The research was published in Energy & Environmental Science.
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This gives the grid the ability to have very granular control of storage solutions, the ability to seek out lowest bidders, and the ability to deal with emergency demands and could be handled with a mostly simple technical backend.
Another thing I expect to see is if I have a solar array I can always pump water up hill in the day, wind coils, compress air, pulley weights into the air on cables, push rocks up a hill, or use a number of non-toxic non chemical methods to store energy. Once solar creates demand for this energy shifting (from day to peak in evening) market I expect to see a lot of back yard experiments and competition for the best ways to do it. We should be able to create a fairly simple set of protocols to enable intelligent control of all of these micro storage sites in a way that isn't proprietary and allows a lot of useful research data to be extracted .
In adding up all of the costs involved in building a moon based power plant (a comprehensive energy audit), it would indeed be seen to be a boondoggle of astronomical proportions (pun intended) before it was even half done. The costs would far outweigh the benefits by several orders of magnitude at the very least. And don't forget that the link from the Moon down to Earth would be impossible because the Moon orbits us. How would a stable link be maintained with a receiver? And the microwave radiation would be absorbed by and reflected off of anything in its path, like say water vapors, dust particles, airplanes and any birds that might fly through the beam. And what's the amount of energy loss in converting the solar energy into microwaves? What is the MTBF rate of the magnetron? Will there be spares that can be switched into and out of the loop as needed? I'll bet that not even one of those things mentioned was sufficiently answered by the proposer of the system, if they were brought up at all. You are wise to not take such an idea seriously.