Written by John Kurtz, ESLLC 2015-2016
How often do you see those GE (General Electric) commercials where there is a scientist type figure giving an inspirational monologue about creating a bright future and writing complex formulas on a white board? Too much or perhaps not enough depending on how much you like them? GE always seems to provide optimism but rarely gives specifics of how exactly the energy company is going to change the world for the better. However, do not despair! Recently the company has come up with the technology to back up their overly optimistic commercials; it involves clean energy storage.
If the world is going to become sustainable and use only clean energy, there has to be improvements in energy storage technology. We can build millions of wind turbines and solar panels, but without a way to store energy during non-peak times, we will not get very far in our sustainable energy goals. This is where companies like GE are coming to the rescue. GE recently developed some very efficient technology to utilize the cheap, off-peak energy that is lost when it is not needed. They take the non-peak energy and use it to cool air to -196 degrees Celsius liquid air using a conventional industrial refrigeration plant that can be powered by renewable energy. When the energy is needed, you simply open the tap, the liquid air turns back into a gas, expands in volume, drives a turbine and creates electricity. You can use the excess heat made by the plant and add it to the process to make it even more efficient. Even better, no new exotic and expensive materials are needed for this technology, just good ole stainless steel tanks and the other common materials refrigeration plants use.
Not only can this technology be applied to renewable energy sources, it can be added on to current power plants to make them more efficient. This GE technology is currently being used by Highview Power, a tiny UK company, in a new demonstration plant in the UK. Looks like GE actually has a good reason for being really optimistic about meeting the future’s clean energy needs.
“How Energy Storage Works.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016. <http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/how-energy-storage-works#.VyrR9WPp9FI>.
Scott, Mike. “GE Taps Into The Coolest Energy Storage Technology Around.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 05 May 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikescott/2014/03/21/ge-taps-into-the-coolest-energy-storage-technology-around/#48b30c3c3a03>.