Stanford researchers have used nanoparticles of a copper compound to develop a high-power battery electrode that is so inexpensive to make, so efficient and so durable that it could be used to build batteries big enough for economical large-scale energy storage on the electrical grid -- something researchers have sought for years.
Great news, everyone! They figured out how to make efficient cheap reliable batteries to store energy from wind and solar power. ... We're saved! .... but....
The researchers need to find another material to use for the anode before they can build an actual battery. [emphasis mine]
*Groan* This is standard reporting for research breakthroughs. It starts out sounding fantastic. Then at the bottom of the article the last minute caveat, like conversion efficiency of 1%, or it can't be used commercially because materials cost a gazillion dollars a milligram.
Lightning seems to me to be unreliable at best in regards to the availability. Also I do believe that the intensity of lightning is massively powerful, but it literally lasts for an instant. The voltage and amps might be high, but the total output in KWh for instance would be relatively low.
Having experience in the field of batteries (a lot!) I do think the topic is pretty cool, we're basically using the same kind of battery as almost a 100 years ago. Not because there isn't any new technology that is more powerful, less heavy, less pollutant for storing electricity, but because it's not economically feasible.
The batteries in some military and astronomical equipment is incredibly powerful in comparison with any batteries you might find in your house, but also massively expensive and sometimes complicated, not all of which are problems that scaling up would solve.
Depending on the region I would think that a combination of more low tech local solutions would be preferable to higher tech, more centralized power generation and storage. In some countries solar energy could be generated relatively cheap, near rivers and inlets one could use smaller local solutions that draw their energy from the flow of water.
This would in many cases require some kind of energy storage. In Spain there are certain experimental installations that use mirrors to reflect and focus the sunlight of a big surface area to one point, in some of those salts are being used to be melted which help to store energy by capturing and releasing their heat.
Perfect batteries would be a dream, there is hope for improvement!
There is always a catch, isn't there? Hybrid cars, solar panels, nuclear energy, you name it and it's has some kind of catch, sometimes small sometimes literally as big as a nuclear disaster.
They're not all powerful. If one country began manufacturing fantastic batteries, everybody would buy them. If politicians tried excessive import taxes, a black market would spring up. The energy industry could only try to buy up the patents, but that would merely slow down the spread of a critical technology.
I'll tell you this, if I knew how to make a 20% better battery for roughly the same price, I would be a made man! Likewise for cheap energy, if you've got a recipe that works you might become quite successful indeed, whether "the energy industry" would like it or not.
It would be really a great discovery if a primary battery of this scale can be developed.
I know that my old buddy Benjamin Franklin had something like that in mind when he was workin' with lightening....
No single technology is going to solve all the problems. Solar is great in some areas and not so great in others. The same for wind. There are two big issues with lightening. It's unpredictable. and how do you store the energy?
I think the future will be a mixture of technologies based on where and what the needs are.
Presently, the only large scale electric storage is the pumped-storage hydro-electric facility. Here, in Los Angeles, our city utility built a 1200 megawatt plant North of the city, in conjunction with the State Water Project aqueduct. We borrow the state's water during high demand, then pump the water back up the hill between midnight and 6am, when the cost of electricity is much lower, due to operating constraints on the large, base-load thermal generators. Other utilities do this, too. It is probably more common in the Southwest than anywhere else. There are few places in the world with consistent, frequent lightning to even consider trying to make use of it. If there were enough wind farms in different parts of the grid, they should average out to a reliable output. Here in SoCal, the highest solar voltaic output coincides with the peak load demand, so putting solar panels on all the office buildings, factories, and even the houses, would work. We just need the price of the materials to come down some more. But the savings in line losses should even things out.
If what is said of this wonderful battery is true, soon transmission and distribution of electrical of power will be a thing of past!