Creation Care - What's the latest on better and cleaner power storage?

As a layman, I see a number of descriptions of static descriptions on fossil fuels, energy sources for EV’s, and “dirty batteries,” e.g. lithium. What seems to be the future of commercial and personal energy storage and use from renewable technologies?

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For quick discharge, new formulations of batteries seems to be the future. Lithium isn’t a serious problem, but some of the other chemicals in Li ion batteries are problematic, such as cobalt. Solid state batteries could be the next big thing.

Energy density is still a major hurdle for battery tech, but solid state batteries could see a big improvement for ground transportation. Still no replacing dinosaur juice for airplanes, though.

For power-grid storage, there are a lot of interesting ideas. People have been talking about iron batteries as of late, as one example. Pumped hydro is one of the oldest technologies for energy storage, but I’m not sure how effecient it is.

It is essentially running a hydroelectric powerplant in reverse. Excess energy during high winds or sunny days could be used to pump water above a dam where it could be used for making electricity during the night or during calm days.


With a title like that, you must be familiar with the Zondervan lectures on the subject:

These are some of the best video series I’ve come across. Haven’t seen this one by Moo, but I started listening to his series on Romans and fell in love with Keener after discovering him through his series on Revelation.

Thanks, T. And thanks for the articles. Any thoughts on a large commercial application of liquid hydrogen as more efficient than solids and safer, too? I’m all over the place in how to approach this topic, other than to know the current status is…current; it will change.

Scaling up, there’s only pumped storage as @T_aquaticus said and beyond that hydrogen and synthetic methane.

Given that this basically boils down to a pump and motor, the efficiency should be better than 80% with a high degree of predictability and consistency. Would require advantageous site geology.

The real issue is that even instantaneous power requirements have a long way to go before being consistently met by peak renewable production. Nuclear is non carbon, but provides baseline and does not require storage.

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Raccoon Mountain is impressive, if you get the chance to visit. I wonder about its efficiency and economy of scale. and you certainly need the geography for anything like that to work!

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One type of storage that is alredy used in small scale is sand batteries.
Sand is heated to a temperature of 500-600 C with surplus energy. The heat in the sand storages are used later for warming of water (district heating etc.). Getting electricity from heated sand would be possible but the efficiency would be so low that it is not used for that.

Sand batteries must be large, the smallest I know of is 5x5x5 m. Not a suitable method for small apartments.

Knor, any more info on the commercial hydrogen or methane you mentioned?

I have not followed the development of the market. I know that there are already facilities producing green hydrogen/methane. There is much research on power-to-x technologies, so I expect that the technologies will become more efficient in the near future.

One goal has been to link wind power and power-to-x production because the production of wind energy varies a lot. As far as I know, the technology is not yet ready for profitable power-to-x production at the scale of a single wind power station.

From what I have seen, the production of liquid hydrogen could be too inefficient. You lose a lot of energy when you split hydrogen out of water, compress or liquify it, and then transport it. At the same time, infrastructure for battery installments will probably be more costly. As @Klax mentions, scale is an important factor to consider.

My overall view is that we will need a combination of many different technologies. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution.


I’m a big fan of nuclear. Statistics tells us that nuclear is a very safe energy source, but we have this innate fear of threats we can’t see. Our human psyche can understand smog because we can see it, but we seem to have an innate fear of threats we can’t see, such as subatomic particles zipping around at relativistic speeds and high energy photons.

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Nuclear, agreed. Not a quick fix, but a long-term part of a larger response.

Heymike3, Thanks for the video lectures. I’ll watch these.

Raccoon, interesting read. We’re not going to come to a solution during this dialogue, but we’ll provide readers (like me) some of the hurdles - scale, reliably available, immediately available, efficiency, etc. - and some of the technologies being investigated.

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For the record…I am reading some on my own; not just draining all of you! I’ll post a couple of the articles. The first…3 technologies to improve renewable energy storage capacity | World Economic Forum

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Again from WEF. A number of the mentioned technologies touch on this question of clean energy: These are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2021 | World Economic Forum

This is an article about GE’s “Monster Wind Turbine.” A Monster Wind Turbine Is Upending an Industry - The New York Times

That may be true, but most of the loss there will be on the energy retrieval side. Only a fraction of the potential energy given to the water will be recovered as electricity, since the much of that will necessarily be used up in irrecoverable, 2nd-law senses - such as maintaining the flow of the water past the turbines, etc. I don’t know what the final efficiency stats on that storage / recovery look like (and it would be interesting to see), but I’m pretty sure that anybody would be delighted to come up with anything that was nearly as high as 80% when looking at the process as a whole. It might still compare favorably with other storage techniques - I’m not trying to naysay it here.

I didn’t give any thought to the return trip, but that would be on top of pumping losses, so overall you probably get 75% at best. On both the pumping and generation side there would have to be enough head to avoid cavitation and operate the rotors.

Hydroelectric power

Hydropower has among the best conversion efficiencies of all known energy sources (about 90% efficiency, water to wire

How Much Dam Energy Can We Get?

Now, it is the job of the turbine(s) to extract some of the kinetic energy this water would have if it were allowed to shoot out of the bottom of the dam. As a consequence, it comes out at a much more sedate pace. Some of the 10% inefficiency in hydroelectric dams is due to generator inefficiency, but some is because you can’t take all of the kinetic energy out of the water or it would stop flowing and stall the flow of the next batch.

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