Renewable energy is constantly in the news and being spoken about on social media. Any time I put out a blog on solar energy I am added to countless renewable energy lists on Twitter, as people strive to promote sustainable energy and/or their renewable companies or organisations. The problem with renewable energy is that it’s storage is limited. The technology to store energy is yet to catch up with renewable capability. Storing energy is important because we need to meet the peak demand for energy, which is often after the sun has gone down.
One remedy for this is currently underway in Morocco. They are building, and have already opened the first phase, the biggest concentrated solar power station in the world. It will be the same size as Rabat, Morocco’s capital. The plant works by concentrating the sun’s energy to heat water. The subsequent steam will drive turbines and the energy can be stored to be used in peak times when there is no sun. This technology is a romantic alternative to the original steam engine but on a enormous scale. With Morocco proving the scale that is possible, and the abundant space in Africa, it could be the answer to the power problems the continent faces.
One of the most high profile proponents of renewable energy storage is Tesla. They are already trying to break new ground with their electric cars, but not they are also working on a home battery to enable consumers to capture and store solar power. In April, Enel Green Power SpA announced that they were going to test Tesla’s home power kit in South Africa. South Africa is facing regularly increasing power prices, and people are looking for solutions. The kit is currently selling for $10,000 and includes a power inverter, lithium battery and can also come with solar panels. Currently, there are only certain sectors of society that can afford such a solution, but the more it is tested and used, the more efficient it will be and the more affordable it will become. At the current price in South Africa, it is expected to pay for itself in 8 years.
But it is not just these high profile innovations that can make a difference for Africa’s power problems. LiGE has developed a kinetic-based system as opposed to traditional chemically-based storage systems. It works by using renewable energy to compress air, using hydraulics, storing the energy in a bottle. This energy can then be released, also using hydraulics and power your house, or business, during peak times. Wawrick Leaper, the engineer that designed the product says he simply combined energy storage, compression and electricity generation together to create a system that combines them all, and has a life cycle of 30 years, much longer than any battery on the market. He also suggests that in theory this system can also be scaled up to grid level.
This, to me, seems like a suitable solution that could be rolled out across the continent, enabling villages to store their own energy. It could be a solution to many social problems, from enabling people to cook with electricity rather than coal pots, reducing health problems, to enabling people to charge their phones and be online.
I was contact by Abigail Carson about her recent invention FES. She wrote this about it.
The FES is the new energy store with the potential to replace batteries and achieve an independent sustainable energy network and planet. The FES stores energy kinetically but is charged and discharges at will, electrically. The rotating mass (rotor) is forever levitated as it spins (~144,000rpm), but of course, the ‘gold’ at the heart of the design cannot be disclosed. The process of energy transfer within the FES is like nothing ever before. When the FES is implemented renewables will never be rendered intermittent or inefficient ever again – it is the missing link to becoming 100% sustainable.
From what Abigail says, this innovation has a chance at solving the renewable energy storage issue. Inventive Africa will keep you posted with further developments.
Renewable energy and the ability to store it is the worlds holy grail. Much of Africa is developing and in order to develop and industrialise effectively energy consumption will increase. Africa is in a difficult situation. Experts the world over preaching, and rightly so, that we are slowly killing our planet by combusting coal and gas to create electricity, but countries throughoutAfrica need this boost in energy to further their development. The continent needs the development of more solutions to enable it to develop quickly and cleanly. There are many ideas out there, including the one presented at TedX Stuttgart, which plans to lift a mountain to store the energy! If you know of any more, please share your thoughts, like this post, and add @inventiveafrica on Twitter.