Friday, December 23, 2011

The Turbine and The Battery (A Blue Sky Thinking Exercise)

A little Blue Sky Thinking – The Turbine and the Battery.

I am not an engineer. I just like thinking about these things sometimes. It is a way to daydream, relieve a little pressure and let my mind wander.  I was reading The End to Growth and the book mentioned Peak Oil.  There are definite solutions, the future is not fixed.  This actually is a bit of thinking along the lines of an earlier post I wrote, A Turbine Powered Future.  Blue sky thinking is an exercise in thinking without limits where you don't tell yourself something is impossible.

Peak Oil may not be as much of a problem as people think. A transition to more alternative energy is already starting It is fundamentally about hybrid technologies. As lithium ion batteries started they first appeared in cell phones, then they appeared in computers, then in appliances, then the batteries transitioned into cars, now they are scaling to power plant size batteries. A123 Systems is already producing electric grid scale batteries.

At the same time as battery technology is advancing, newer turbine engines and hybrid car engines are being developed. This is scaling to the level of power plants. GE has a new power plant which combines energy grid scale batteries and a turbine engine for burning natural gas. Turbine engines are capable of burning almost any fuel including biofuels.  They are very flexible in this regard.

Hybrid power plants would allow a combination of both liquid fuels and electrically generated power sources to join in a single place allowing for both natural gas or biofuels and solar or wind power to be run out of the same plant. There is no reason if they are on coastlines or rivers that they would not be attached to wave power plants like the Pelamis or hydroelectric power. 

Another aspect of hybridization is the use of both and wind and solar power in the same plant or systems that combine wind and solar together with battery systems. This is going to happen more often. This is an example of a combined solar and wind power system.

Hybridization also affects coal power plants.  Many coal plants are burning biomass with  coal to generate power.  This reduces the amount of emissions.  It is a transitional technology away from coal.  Eventually, the plants could use biomass to generate steam and heat for power without coal.

As battery technology advances, batteries may eventually be powerful enough to power electric jets. The same advances used in creating the hybrid battery turbine power plant could be carried over to create hybrid biofuel electric jet engines. . This is another article, NASA and Boeing Look to Hybrid Jets for Possible Fuel Savings.

The future is not as bad as many people think it will be. Part of my thinking comes from the ideas of Lewis Mumford. During the 1960s Lewis Mumford proposed that civilization could be powered by wind and wave power.  I especially like Lewis Mumford's book Technics and Civilization.  The basis of both wind and wave power is the turbine. He thought this way of powering the world would be quieter, cleaner, and more civilized.  There is both a greater efficiency and elegrance in turbine engines than in internal combustion engines.

More Blue Sky Thinking-- Inflatable Space.

A while ago, I did a little blue sky thinking about how to use inflatables in space. One idea is that roccoons could be used to launch inflatable habitat modules into space.

While this is not a roccoon, this a link to an article about the proposed Stratolaunch aircraft for launching satellites thought it was quite interesting. It might be a way to launch inflatable habitat modules into space like the Bigelow Aerospace inflatable habitat modules.  It looks like it might be a way to build an affordable space program.

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