Tag Archives: batteries

Power at last!

SP Ausnet had a planned power outage today from about 8:30am to 3:30pm, and it was not pleasant. The weather was grey and drizzly but thankfully not super cold otherwise I have no idea how we would have coped. It seems that electricity is needed for absolutely everything.

Did you know that without electricity the solar hotwater doesn’t work? Yup, because a small pump sends the water up to the solar thingie on the roof. No pump, no circulation, no hot water.

And heating is no better. We have gas heating but…a fan is required to blow the hot air around, and also to stop the heater from overheating. So again, no power, no heat.

But wait, there’s more! I knew the electric oven wouldn’t work, but I forgot that the gas cooktop has piezo electric ignition. Thank heavens I had matches! Actually, that’s one of the good things about living in Warrandyte; we have unplanned outages a lot so candles and matches are staples.

And finally, there are the solar panels on my roof. Great investment for my old age except…when the power goes out, they’re automatically switched off because we ‘feed in’ to the grid. I swear, if I ever win tattslotto, I am buying a battery and hooking the solar panels up to that so we have power even when we don’t have power.

But today wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Offspring and I got stuck into garden stuff. Still a work in progress, but we both feel super righteous. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope your day was productive but pleasant!
Meeks


Advances in wearable tech

I know that most of you won’t be interested in the technical side of this article: https://www.physics-astronomy.org/2020/04/mini-generator-cheaply-converts-heat.html but it could have really important implications for how we use technology in the future.

At the moment, wearable technology is limited by the need to power the device[s] :

a) without bulky batteries, and
b) without those batteries quickly going flat

We could wear little solar panel hats; they could charge the batteries as we walk around. But only outside, and only when there’s some sunshine. Plus there’s the added problem of fashion. Hats simply aren’t ‘in’ at the moment.

Or…we could use the heat of our own bodies to generate power. Mammals maintain a constant body temperature so we could have a constant source of power to run our wearable devices – no need for batteries at all.

Using body heat to generate power isn’t a new idea, but the research described in the article offers a new, more efficient way of doing so. If the researchers can make it work at a cost efficient price, we could be wearing our computers and communications devices within twenty years. Or less.

Let’s just hope that fashion and function go hand in hand. ๐Ÿ™‚

cheers
Meeks


#MXene for batteries of the future?

At this moment in time, the biggest stumbling block to new, clean, renewable technology is old technology – the tech of the battery – but MXene, and new materials like it, could be the trigger that kickstarts general acceptance of renewable technologies.

Why? Because :

‘While MXene wonโ€™t be commercially available or integrated into current technology for about three years, the material has the potential to disrupt current charging tech by rectifying inefficient, long charge times, device deterioration, and systems with relatively short battery lives.’

Now, imagine having vehicle charging ports on every block, like fire hydrants, and electric vehicles capable of recharging their batteries at these port in just a few minutes. In such a scenario, even currently produced electric cars would be convenient enough for general use. Add new car technologies that extend driving range, for example, and you have a world in which there is no reason to have internal combustion engines.

Now think bigger still. Once car batteries become truly efficient, why not extend the technology to the generation of power as well? Tesla already offers storage solutions for electricity generated from renewables. What if these storage batteries become so efficient [and common] that every house or apartment building can afford to generate and store its own power?

Thinking further still, what if all these small, local power plants could talk to each other and shift energy sideways to wherever it’s needed within an entire city?

I may be letting my imagination run away with me, but in such a future, I can see electricity prices coming down and clean air going up. ๐Ÿ™‚

cheers

Meeks


#Solar powered micro-grid + #Tesla batteries = the future?

Just found this amazing article on New Atlas. It concerns a small island being powered almost exclusively by a micro-grid made up of solar panels and Tesla batteries. The batteries can be fully charged in 7 hours and can keep the grid running for 3 days without any sun at all:

Why do I find this so exciting? Distributed systems, that’s why.

“And what’s that?” you ask, eyes glazing over as you speak.

In computing, which is where I first heard the term, a distributed systems is:

a model in which components located on networked computers communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages.[1] The components interact with each other in order to achieve a common goal.

Distributed computing also refers to the use of distributed systems to solve computational problems. In distributed computing, a problem is divided into many tasks, each of which is solved by one or more computers,[3] which communicate with each other by message passing.[4]

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_computing#Introduction]

Okay, okay. Here are some nice, juicy examples instead:

  • the internet,
  • your mobile phone network
  • MMOs [massively multiple player online games] like the one I play,
  • virtual reality communities, and even
  • the search for extra terrestrial intelligence [SETI].

There are heaps more examples I could name, but the point is that all these systems rely on the fact that the power of the group is greater than the power of its individual components. In fact, the world wide web could not exist at all if it had to be run from just one, ginormous computer installation.

So distributed systems can be insanely powerful, but when it comes to powering our cities, we seem to be stuck on the old, top-down model in which one, centralised system provides energy to every component in the system – i.e. to you and me and all our appliances.

Opponents of renewables always cite baseload as the main reason why renewables won’t work in highly developed countries. What they don’t tell you is that to create baseload, they have to create electricity all the time. That means burning fossil fuels all the time and creating pollution all the time.

Centralised power generation also does something else – it concentrates the means for producing this energy in one place, so if there is a malfunction, the whole grid goes down. But that’s not all. If all power is produced in one place, it’s all too easy to strike at that one place to destroy the ‘heart’ of the whole system. It can happen. If you read the whole article on New Atlas, you’ll learn that the supply of diesel to the island was once cut, for months. When the diesel ran out, so did the electricity. Now imagine an act of sabotage that destroys the power supply to a city of millions. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s just a matter of time.

By contrast, distributed processing means that you would have to destroy virtually every component of the system to shut it down completely. A good example of this is our road system. In most areas, if one part of the road is closed for whatever reason, we can still get where we want to go by taking a detour. It may take us a little bit longer, but we get there in the end. Something very similar happens with the internet. Digital information is sent in ‘packets’ which attempt to find the quickest route from point A to point X, usually via point B. However if point B goes down, the packets have multiple alternate routes to get to X. Why should power generation be any less efficient?

In the past, electricity could not be stored, so it had to be generated by big, expensive power plants. That volume of electricity still can’t be stored, but in the future, it may not have to be. I foresee a time when neighbourhoods will become micro-grids, with each house/building contributing to the power needs of the whole neighbourhood. Surplus power generation will be stored in some form of battery system [it doesn’t have to be Tesla batteries, but they obviously work well in distributed systems] to provide power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More importantly, the type of micro-grid used could be flexible. Communities living inland with almost constant sunshine would obviously use solar, but seaside communities might use wave power, others might use hydro or geothermal.

But what of industry?

I may be a little optimistic here, but I think that distributed power generation could work for industry as well. Not only could manufacturing plants provide at least some of their own power, via both solar and wind, but they could ‘buy in’ unused power from the city. The city, meanwhile, would not generate power but it’s utilities companies could store excess power in massive flywheels or some other kind of large scale storage device. And finally, if none of that is enough, companies could do what utility companies already do now – they could buy in power from other states.

In this possible future, power generation would be cheaper, cleaner and much, much safer. All that’s required is for the one-size-fits-all mindset to change.

Distributed is the way of the future, start thinking about it today. ๐Ÿ™‚

cheers

Meeks


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