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Monday, May 18, 2015

Storing the Sun


Batteries are amazing things. Somewhere along the line the sun is captured, turned into charged electrons, and held inside batteries.

But batteries aren’t that efficient and storing the sun in a way that’s cheap, green, and efficient is a huge technological challenge.

So, gather around everyone, I have a really cool idea. Let’s get the U.S. government to budget $1 billion to make a better battery. We will get government, private citizens, and industry to all join forces and work together. Yeah, I know, the Koch brothers will be cursing and throwing lamps against the wall. Okay, sorry guys.

Right now, we are exporting millions of dollars a day out of the country to buy a far more primitive version of stored sun called petroleum. Now, honestly, this stuff is nasty and when you burn it, you fill the air with carbon and pollutants. Oh, I know, Climate Change is just theory. We all know that Al Gore made it up so that he could make starving tree-huggers rich. Right.

A battery is an extremely more efficient way of storing the sun than oil and coal. I know this runs contrary to what the powerful U.S. oil lobby says, and all their media minions like Fox News. But, hey, I graduated from a really good community college and it makes sense to me.

As far as the $1 billion being expensive, well, that’s how much debt the U.S. has created in the time you read the Wall Street Journal in the happy room. Or think about how much money we blow every day using military resources to protect overseas oil fields. The point is, this is $1 billion that will give Americans JOBS. That’s the word Republicans scream constantly every time we environmentalists want to save public land or help some endangered species. So, they don’t want to raise the minimum wage, but they sure love JOBS, so it seems like they’d be on board with this.

Joint Center for Energy Storage Research In 2012 my dream came true when the U.S. Dept. of Energy was given a $120 million, 5-year grant, and with that money they formed the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. This is one of the most important initiatives ever and is a step in the right direction. But $120 million is only a pittance. They need $1 billion to get the job done. Let’s set up private donor programs, encourage grants, and pressure Congress to increase funding. If we are going to live on this Earth with all our modern conveniences, by golly, we need batteries that can store a lot more sun.

Clean Energy

Imagine what better batteries can do. If they are really good you’ll only need HALF as many solar panels, which means a solar system for your house will become more affordable. And better batteries in your car will mean less energy needed to charge them, while offering a greater range.

Solution

Now, the future super battery will require a complete out-of-the-box approach. We’ll have to look at completely new battery technologies, the way battery chemicals react, the way those little ions are charged and stored, and how the energy is transferred. This will take some real thinking, but we humans are sometimes pretty smart, and I know we can do it.

Conclusion

Batteries, my friends. Think batteries as a key to saving the world. They can hold tons of sun and give us the energy when and where we need it. Just how cool is that.

And while I’m on my battery rant, I need to give a plug (no pun intended) for my latest hero, which is Tesla Motors. They are thumbing their nose at the God Kochs and reinventing the future. I’m extremely excited about the new Tesla Powerwall product, which is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can store energy at the residential level. Now, my friends, we as an uncivilization are finally moving forward!!!

Learn More: U.S. Dept. of Energy Joint Center for Energy Storage Research

Photo credit: AlicePopkorn / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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