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#1 2021-08-01 19:17:06

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

The Form Revolution


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#2 2021-08-01 19:44:21

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

Thanks to Louis for this new dedicated topic to a single company and technology.

Just Have a Think
291K subscribers
Iron Air batteries use cheap, non toxic, abundant materials and potentially have a far higher energy density than Lithium Ion batteries. The technology was first developed by NASA in the seventies, but no major commercial application has ever come to fruition. Now though, a US company, backed by some pretty big investors, has developed a grid scale iron air battery that could be a real industry disruptor.

I was not aware this was first studied by NASA, but I ** do ** know that NASA has been trying to commercialize discoveries for many years. It sure does seem to have taken a while for this one to find it's way, but now sure does look like the right time.

(th)

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#3 2021-08-02 06:26:07

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

Yes, not that I understand the technology, but it appears the new patented cathode technology they bought in has made all the difference in being able to build a reliable and cost effective battery.

I haven't yet seen any estimates on how cheaply they can produce a KwHe. It's looking like the capital cost might be quite trivial spread over the life of the battery. So it's down to how the land, installation, ongoing maintenance and materials costs feed through. Anything under 15 cents per KwHe will certainly make green energy storage commercially doable in my view.

tahanson43206 wrote:

Thanks to Louis for this new dedicated topic to a single company and technology.

Just Have a Think
291K subscribers
Iron Air batteries use cheap, non toxic, abundant materials and potentially have a far higher energy density than Lithium Ion batteries. The technology was first developed by NASA in the seventies, but no major commercial application has ever come to fruition. Now though, a US company, backed by some pretty big investors, has developed a grid scale iron air battery that could be a real industry disruptor.

I was not aware this was first studied by NASA, but I ** do ** know that NASA has been trying to commercialize discoveries for many years. It sure does seem to have taken a while for this one to find it's way, but now sure does look like the right time.

(th)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#4 2021-08-02 07:33:14

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

For Louis re new topic ...

You've created the potential for a new way-of-doing-things with this new topic, and I'm hoping you will consider following up with periodic updates.

There is nothing in the charter of NewMars (as far as I can tell) that prohibits a member from following a company closely, so I'm hoping you will find time to update this topic every week or so.  There is nothing controversial about the growth of a commercial enterprise, so controversy would not normally be a part of the aura of this new topic.  Instead, steady growth and progress reports are what might reasonably be expected.

It is unlikely anyone else will assume responsibility for tracking this company.  The opportunity is all yours.  I hope you have the time and energy to invest.

(th)

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#5 2021-08-02 12:13:13

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

We've followed Space X pretty closely and they are of course a private company. 

One thing I would mention is that if we get to the position where we have developed effective microwave or laser propulsion, then the ability to deliver huge power from something like the iron-air battery could be a real plus. The technology has been shown to work with very light loads.

tahanson43206 wrote:

For Louis re new topic ...

You've created the potential for a new way-of-doing-things with this new topic, and I'm hoping you will consider following up with periodic updates.

There is nothing in the charter of NewMars (as far as I can tell) that prohibits a member from following a company closely, so I'm hoping you will find time to update this topic every week or so.  There is nothing controversial about the growth of a commercial enterprise, so controversy would not normally be a part of the aura of this new topic.  Instead, steady growth and progress reports are what might reasonably be expected.

It is unlikely anyone else will assume responsibility for tracking this company.  The opportunity is all yours.  I hope you have the time and energy to invest.

(th)

Last edited by louis (2021-08-02 12:24:15)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#6 2021-08-02 12:22:07

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

For Louis ... I understand what I am about to say will be outside your experience, but for others it should be a reminder of relative power density ...

The iron battery (or any battery) employs electron energy states to store energy.

Atomic fission and fusion harness nuclear forces by releasing energy binding baryons.

The concept of a battery powered space ship is interesting, but since the energy density is so low, it will (of course) remain forever a science fiction concept.

Edit at 14:47 local time ...

Weimer, Jeffrey. (2021). Re: What is the difference between atomic bond energy and atomic binding energy?. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_ … n/download.

The citation above is about electron binding ... I count it a good day when I can learn something, or in this case, relearn something.  However, what I'm looking for is a way to compare electron binding (weak) to nuclear binding (strong), so I'll keep looking.

Every citation I've found so far is about electron bonds and binding, and that certainly makes sense because all human life depends upon them.

However, looking more deeply, it is clear that all human life depends upon the smooth functioning of atomic fusion.

(th)

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#7 2021-08-02 13:25:38

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

Google: please show difference between chemical and atomic energy

http://chemsite.lsrhs.net/Nuclear/chemN … rence.html

The difference between chemical and nuclear energyhttp://chemsite.lsrhs.net › Nuclear › chemNucDifference
The difference between chemical and nuclear energy · The amount of chemical energy typically released (or converted) in a chemical explosion is: 5 kJ for each ...
Missing: examples | Must include: examples

Chemistry 2       

advanced search

The difference between chemical and nuclear energy
Chemical Energy
Potential energy that can be converted to other forms, primarily heat and light, energy when bonds form.
The stronger the bond the more chemical energy that can be converted.
Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy is not related to the formation of chemical bonds (which are due to the interactions of electrons).
Nuclear energy is the energy that can be converted to other forms when there is a change in the nucleus of an atom.
The nuclear change can be one of three basic processes:
Splitting of the nucleus
Fusing two nuclei to form a new nucleus
Releasing high energy electromagnetic radiation (gamma rays) to form a more stable version of the same nucleus.
Comparison of energy conversion
The amount of chemical energy typically released (or converted) in a chemical explosion is:
5 kJ for each gram of TNT
The amount of nuclear energy typically released by an atomic bomb is:
100,000,000 kJ for each gram of uranium or plutonium

This comparison shows that (if it is accurate) the ratio beween chemical energy and atomic energy is (about) 5:100,000,000 or 1:20,000,000)

Extrapolating and making due allowance for approximation:

A space craft using chemical energy will require 20,000,000 times more mass than one powered by atomic energy.

(th)

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#8 2021-08-02 13:48:52

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

I was always quite taken by the atom bomb rocket concept...you had on board a series of small atom bombs, that you released and placed behind a shield. When the bomb went off you would speed up to very fast speeds. Presumably, you would accelerate with each bomb until you reached a significant proportion of the speed of light.

tahanson43206 wrote:

Google: please show difference between chemical and atomic energy

http://chemsite.lsrhs.net/Nuclear/chemN … rence.html

The difference between chemical and nuclear energyhttp://chemsite.lsrhs.net › Nuclear › chemNucDifference
The difference between chemical and nuclear energy · The amount of chemical energy typically released (or converted) in a chemical explosion is: 5 kJ for each ...
Missing: examples | Must include: examples

Chemistry 2       

advanced search

The difference between chemical and nuclear energy
Chemical Energy
Potential energy that can be converted to other forms, primarily heat and light, energy when bonds form.
The stronger the bond the more chemical energy that can be converted.
Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy is not related to the formation of chemical bonds (which are due to the interactions of electrons).
Nuclear energy is the energy that can be converted to other forms when there is a change in the nucleus of an atom.
The nuclear change can be one of three basic processes:
Splitting of the nucleus
Fusing two nuclei to form a new nucleus
Releasing high energy electromagnetic radiation (gamma rays) to form a more stable version of the same nucleus.
Comparison of energy conversion
The amount of chemical energy typically released (or converted) in a chemical explosion is:
5 kJ for each gram of TNT
The amount of nuclear energy typically released by an atomic bomb is:
100,000,000 kJ for each gram of uranium or plutonium

This comparison shows that (if it is accurate) the ratio beween chemical energy and atomic energy is (about) 5:100,000,000 or 1:20,000,000)

Extrapolating and making due allowance for approximation:

A space craft using chemical energy will require 20,000,000 times more mass than one powered by atomic energy.

(th)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#9 2021-08-02 14:32:48

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

For Louis re topic ...

First, thanks for the reminder of the galactic putt-putt concept << grin >>  It remains quite viable, I understand.

However, the reason I just logged in is to let you know that your suggestion of using an Iron/Air battery for space missions stayed with me, and I realized that the technology is almost **perfect** for the Moon!

Settlers on the Moon are going to need lots of nuclear power, OR terrific batteries to hold them over for the Lunar nights.

The Iron/Air battery may be just the ticket for those folks!

Both iron and oxygen are available on the Moon, and once harvested and installed in batteries they ** should ** be good for long and reliable lives.

If you have any contacts at Form, they might be interested in bidding for a NASA contract to provide sustainable power for a research base!

(th)

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#10 2021-08-03 08:29:28

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: The Form Revolution

To understand why it will be next to impossible for a battery based solution to form the backbone of grid energy storage, take a look at historical records for wind electricity production in the UK.

https://gridwatch.co.uk/Wind

These are hourly or daily averages.  As the UK is a small land mass at the junction of three different weather systems, climate can be chaotic and unpredictable more than a day or two into the future.  But it is not uncommon for wind speeds in the UK to drop very low for weeks at time and for wind electricity generation to drop to very low levels for days or weeks.  What this means is that effective energy storage will need to store weeks worth of power.  The problem this raises for batteries is that the economics of a battery improve the more intensely it is used.  A battery that is charged and discharged regularly, several times a day, will store and discharge far more kWh than a battery that is only called upon once a year, say.  This has a big effect on the marginal cost of storage of a unit of electricity.  To put it another way, as battery size increases, so does its capital cost.  But its utilisation rate plummets.  A battery that is sized to store weeks worth of electric power, will be very costly to buy and it may only discharge a large part of its capacity a dozen or so times each year.  This means that doubling battery capacity will not simply double the cost of storing an average kWh, it will square it.

This is why in the real world, batteries are used for frequency control on grids and backup powerplants running on natural gas provide backup power.  The battery serves the essential role of reducing the slew rate of a wind farm, allowing combined cycle gas turbines to be brought on line.  These provide power during the long lull periods in wind power generation.  These powerplants have relatively low capital cost and draw gas from huge million cubic metre LNG tanks that can store weeks worth of electricity demand at a relatively low price.

The lesson is that for long-term energy storage, the storage medium itself must be very cheap and low in embodied energy, at least energy that humans have to invest.  There are few things cheaper than a tank, filled with high energy density, rotten dinosaur juice that you didn't have to pay for and can just pump out of the ground.  That is why we do things this way.  But there are other options as well.  One of the most promising options is thermal energy storage.  People use a lot of heat, both for space heating, hot water and industrial processes.  Heat is quite cheap to store.  A tank of hot water, molten salt or lump of rock, is a very cheap way of storing energy and a lot can get stored in a small volume.  Cold as well, is easy to store, in insulated refrigerators filled with phase change materials.  These things will always be cheaper storage mediums than batteries.  A large part of an energy storage solution is to be able to grid control demand for thermal services and to put in place thermal storage as a buffer between supply and demand.

Having done that, about half to two-thirds of the area under that wind electricity chart can be stored cheaply as heat.  If we draw a line along the chart at about 20% of peak capacity, we see that under that line, the number of lulls that we need to fill are much fewer and they are shorter.  But these also are unsuitable for meeting with battery energy storage, because they are shortfalls lasting up to a few days and only occurring once or twice a month, on average.  So you need to use something low cost to fill those troughs.  This is where gas turbines (without waste heat boilers) come in.  Modern stationary gas turbines are over 40% efficient and have very low capital cost and low operating cost, apart from fuel.  That's good, because we only want to use them occasionally, but sometimes, for periods up to a week.  A GT combined with an LNG or LPG tank meets this requirement.  The total natural gas used over a whole year could be small.  But it provides that cheap backup function needed to meet occasional lulls in supply,  lasting days.

This combination: Offshore and onshore wind, grid controlled end use thermal energy storage, and LNG fuelled open cycle gas turbines, could provide a lot of useful electricity to the UK and other North Sea bordering countries at an affordable cost.  It isn't a solution that would work worldwide and there are limits to what it can provide.  But whole system EROI is respectable and total greenhouse gas emissions might be 10% of a coal based energy solution.  Batteries would have a modest role in smoothing lull rates to a figure that grid operators and GT plants can tolerate.  Batteries would also be useful in supplying short term peak loads, associated with specific events and smoothing short term peaks and troughs in demand and supply.  A small but important role to play in overall storage strategy, with most longer term storage carried out either by liquefied natural gas storage or thermal energy storage, both of which can store energy for long periods very cheaply.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-08-03 08:30:38)


Interested in space science, engineering and technology.

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#11 2021-08-03 08:46:44

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

For Louis,

Please consider enlisting help to answer Calliban on his own terms.  By yourself you will not have the resources needed.

I'd like to see a well executed estimate of the cost of an iron/air battery solution such as the one described by Calliban, able to hold power for extended periods.  The investment will be large, but it is a one time investment, like a dam that lasts for many decades.

(th)

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#12 2021-08-03 12:31:10

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09988-z

This paper gives a figure of 10 cents per KwHe in 2019 for lithium ion batteries. That's pretty good in itself.

Clearly the iron-air batteries are going to be substantially cheaper than that. Given the capital cost of the I-A battery is something like
1/6th that of lithium ion my ball park estimate for the operational cost of the IA storage  would be perhaps 2.5 cents per KwHe.

Remember, new nuclear is clocking in at something like 10 cents per KwHe.


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#13 2021-08-03 14:20:55

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

Calliban wrote:

To understand why it will be next to impossible for a battery based solution to form the backbone of grid energy storage, take a look at historical records for wind electricity production in the UK.

https://gridwatch.co.uk/Wind

These are hourly or daily averages.  As the UK is a small land mass at the junction of three different weather systems, climate can be chaotic and unpredictable more than a day or two into the future.  But it is not uncommon for wind speeds in the UK to drop very low for weeks at time and for wind electricity generation to drop to very low levels for days or weeks.  What this means is that effective energy storage will need to store weeks worth of power.  The problem this raises for batteries is that the economics of a battery improve the more intensely it is used.  A battery that is charged and discharged regularly, several times a day, will store and discharge far more kWh than a battery that is only called upon once a year, say.  This has a big effect on the marginal cost of storage of a unit of electricity.  To put it another way, as battery size increases, so does its capital cost.  But its utilisation rate plummets.  A battery that is sized to store weeks worth of electric power, will be very costly to buy and it may only discharge a large part of its capacity a dozen or so times each year.  This means that doubling battery capacity will not simply double the cost of storing an average kWh, it will square it.

Yes it's not unusual for wind speeds to drop to low for days but weeks? There is no evidence from the charts in that link for that claim.

The whole point of the Form Energy battery system is that you can store several days' worth of output in batteries. What we need to find is a realistic worst case scenario and then see what a hypothetical response based on Form Energy batteries would look like.

In doing so, you need to factor in the following:

1. Under any green energy plan not all energy will be produced by wind turbines. Your comments seem to imply that we might depend soley on wind.

2. An iron-air battery system would allow for heavy investment in solar power.

3. Generally there is a high correlation between low wind (a high in terms of atmospheric pressure) and elevated solar power (thanks to clear, cloudless skies). So for most of the days showing low wind generation in the graphs you would have correspondingly high solar power.

4. Under an iron-air battery system,  the need to use hydro for baseload would disappear. Hydro can then be used as an additional emergency reserve (ie reservoirs would be kept topped up for such occasions). Hydro (including pumped storage) supplies about 2.5% of UK's electricity demand. There's no reason why that couldn't be raised to maybe 5% during a period of energy requirement.

5. A green energy system will also include provision for energy from waste, biofuels, tidal. sea current and wave power. Some of these (waste and biofuels) can be stored to a certain extent. So again, we can imagine these could be boosted to supply perhaps 10% of requirements. In addition there will be lithium ion storage being used for diurnal control and short term ouput management and I would also expect there to be a fair amount of hydrogen storage.

6. In addition to domestic supply, you would expect a green energy system to draw on a continental grid. The UK is already linked up to Norway, France and the Netherlands I believe. A connection to Iceland is under active consideration.

7. EV batteries could be used as an energy storage system.

Putting all the above in the mix, it's likely a Form Energy system would only have to cover 60% of output, and not for more than 3 or 4 days.

This is why in the real world, batteries are used for frequency control on grids and backup powerplants running on natural gas provide backup power.  The battery serves the essential role of reducing the slew rate of a wind farm, allowing combined cycle gas turbines to be brought on line.  These provide power during the long lull periods in wind power generation.  These powerplants have relatively low capital cost and draw gas from huge million cubic metre LNG tanks that can store weeks worth of electricity demand at a relatively low price.

You seem to be living in the past. Yes this is how things have been done, but they won't be done that way if iron-air batteries live up to their promise.

The lesson is that for long-term energy storage, the storage medium itself must be very cheap and low in embodied energy, at least energy that humans have to invest.  There are few things cheaper than a tank, filled with high energy density, rotten dinosaur juice that you didn't have to pay for and can just pump out of the ground.  That is why we do things this way.  But there are other options as well.  One of the most promising options is thermal energy storage.  People use a lot of heat, both for space heating, hot water and industrial processes.  Heat is quite cheap to store.  A tank of hot water, molten salt or lump of rock, is a very cheap way of storing energy and a lot can get stored in a small volume.  Cold as well, is easy to store, in insulated refrigerators filled with phase change materials.  These things will always be cheaper storage mediums than batteries.  A large part of an energy storage solution is to be able to grid control demand for thermal services and to put in place thermal storage as a buffer between supply and demand.

See my post above. My guesstimate is that the cost of iron-air battery output could be 2.5 cents per KwHe

Having done that, about half to two-thirds of the area under that wind electricity chart can be stored cheaply as heat.  If we draw a line along the chart at about 20% of peak capacity, we see that under that line, the number of lulls that we need to fill are much fewer and they are shorter.  But these also are unsuitable for meeting with battery energy storage, because they are shortfalls lasting up to a few days and only occurring once or twice a month, on average.  So you need to use something low cost to fill those troughs.  This is where gas turbines (without waste heat boilers) come in.  Modern stationary gas turbines are over 40% efficient and have very low capital cost and low operating cost, apart from fuel.  That's good, because we only want to use them occasionally, but sometimes, for periods up to a week.  A GT combined with an LNG or LPG tank meets this requirement.  The total natural gas used over a whole year could be small.  But it provides that cheap backup function needed to meet occasional lulls in supply,  lasting days.

This combination: Offshore and onshore wind, grid controlled end use thermal energy storage, and LNG fuelled open cycle gas turbines, could provide a lot of useful electricity to the UK and other North Sea bordering countries at an affordable cost.  It isn't a solution that would work worldwide and there are limits to what it can provide.  But whole system EROI is respectable and total greenhouse gas emissions might be 10% of a coal based energy solution.  Batteries would have a modest role in smoothing lull rates to a figure that grid operators and GT plants can tolerate.  Batteries would also be useful in supplying short term peak loads, associated with specific events and smoothing short term peaks and troughs in demand and supply.  A small but important role to play in overall storage strategy, with most longer term storage carried out either by liquefied natural gas storage or thermal energy storage, both of which can store energy for long periods very cheaply.

All the schemes involving molten salt and the like seem to have been big failures.

The best way to fill the troughs is with what is currently "surplus" wind and solar energy which is being earthed and costs effectively nothing at present. And if my calculation re iron-air batteries is correct, then it is a highly affordable system.


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#14 2021-08-04 07:57:08

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: The Form Revolution

louis wrote:

Yes it's not unusual for wind speeds to drop to low for days but weeks? There is no evidence from the charts in that link for that claim.

The whole point of the Form Energy battery system is that you can store several days' worth of output in batteries. What we need to find is a realistic worst case scenario and then see what a hypothetical response based on Form Energy batteries would look like.

A battery based on common materials is certainly a positive development.  Until it is commercialised and mass produced, one should be cautious about assuming what it's cost and performance will be.

But my point is that the cost of storing 1kWh in a battery is not a constant.  It depends upon the capital and maintenance costs of the battery and also the utilisation factor.  If you are fully charging and discharging a battery each day, you are storing a lot more kWh than a battery than is charged and then discharged only once per month.  The levelised cost of storage is calculated assuming a specified charge-discharge cycle length, either 12 or 24 hours.  To put it another way, a 1000kWh battery that is charged and discharged once every day, will store 1000kWh per day, or 365,000kWh per year.  If it is only discharged once per month, the same battery will store 12,000kWh per year.  A factor 30 difference.  And it means the same battery will be 30 times more expensive per kWh stored.  This is before any consideration of other complications, like self-discharge rate of batteries.  It is primarily for this reason (utilisation factor), that batteries are not used for long term energy storage.

louis wrote:

In doing so, you need to factor in the following:

1. Under any green energy plan not all energy will be produced by wind turbines. Your comments seem to imply that we might depend soley on wind.

Wind energy, is by far the best performing renewable energy source under UK conditions and the one most capable of scaling to the 100GW power generation levels that would be needed to support the UK grid under a high renewable scenario.  You can expect it to account for 80% of renewable electricity production in any affordable strategy.  Biomass burned in steam raising plants is also useful, but realistic capacity is very limited.  Biomass is capable of provided a small but reliable baseload as things stand (2-3 GW).  Substantial biomass is imported from Canada.   Whether that will be sustainable in the future is an open question.  Growing sufficient biomass on UK soil to support GW scale power generation is problematic at best, as using arable land for this purpose means diverting some of the best cropland in the world away from cereal production.  Biogas from digestible wastes is already deployed at sewage works and there is scope for scaling biogas production to GW scale in the UK.  But resources are ultimately limited, carbon-nitrogen ratio needs to be carefully balanced to get it to work well; it is relatively labour intensive and production would be seasonal.

Both wave power and tidal stream turbines have been experimented with on a small scale, but are some way away from large scale commercial development.  Tidal stream is the closest prospect of the two.  Tidal stream has been deployed at single MW scale of electricity generation at selected locations in Scotland and Northern Ireland and could be scaled further in the not too distant future.  But it is a very limited resource.  It will not scale to more than a few GW peak capacity at the best sites.  Large tidal barrages on UK estuaries have been discussed in the past, but are not a popular option because of the scale of ecological damage that they would inflict.  Wave power presents significant engineering challenges that will be difficult to overcome.  It means deploying floating steel structures, with significant moving parts, in deep and stormy waters.  Maintenance is a lot more difficult than is the case for Offshore wind, because these are structures that float on the edge of the continental shelf in dangerous waters.  They will need to be engineered to withstand storms with wavefront energy reaching MW per metre and to survive for decades in turbulent, saline water.  That is a tall order.  And it won't be cheap.

We have discussed solar power at length before.  It has been heavily subsidised by past UK governments and there is now tens of GW of solar capacity on the UK grid.  But the UK is one the least favorable climates in the world for solar PV deployment.  We receive less direct sunlight than the high Arctic.  Whether solar power can continue to expand without subsidies is doubtful.  Under UK conditions, its EROI is extremely weak.  This is a good indication that it will not be sustainable in the long term.

Hydropower is a small but useful resource to the UK grid.  It is close to being fully developed at large scale, though microhydro could still add some capacity on smaller rivers, though development may be limited due to the capital cost and environmental impact.  Hydropower' ability to function as backup power is already exploited.  The practicality of doing so will be limited by the ratio of dam capacity to river flow rate and the design of turbines to provide excess power above their typical ratings.  Pumped storage has been deployed at a few sites in the UK, most famously at Dinorwig in North Wales.  Its contributions are important but limited.  The storage time that it provides faces the same problems as you see in batteries.  Increasing storage capacity will increase capital cost proportionately.  But as utilisation rate drops, the cost of storage per kWh increases rapidly.  This is why pumped storage tends to be a useful in storing excess nighttime power from baseloads, and meeting peak demands during daytime.  Using it to store energy for longer periods would be a poor utilisation of the capital asset.

louis wrote:

2. An iron-air battery system would allow for heavy investment in solar power.

Not a good idea, as we have discussed many times already.

louis wrote:

3. Generally there is a high correlation between low wind (a high in terms of atmospheric pressure) and elevated solar power (thanks to clear, cloudless skies). So for most of the days showing low wind generation in the graphs you would have correspondingly high solar power.

To a limited extent.  Wind speeds do tend to be lower in summer generally, as high pressure conditions tend to dominate.  But you cannot design a electricity grid based on what happens 'generally'.  There needs to be high reliability in electricity supply.  Anti-cyclone conditions can occur in winter as well, when daily insolation is 10% its peak summer values.  Low wind conditions typically last for around 1 week.  When this happens in winter, there may be clear skies and low temperatures.  But it can also lead to anticyclone gloom, with persistent fog, low lying clouds and drizzle.  There have been occasions where anti-cyclone conditions have lasted for months (1976, most notably).
https://www.futurelearn.com/info/course … teps/15229

There needs to be backup power supply to produce power during anti-cyclone conditions, which may last a week or longer and for which it is not realistic for any battery system to be viable (I explained why above).

louis wrote:

4. Under an iron-air battery system,  the need to use hydro for baseload would disappear. Hydro can then be used as an additional emergency reserve (ie reservoirs would be kept topped up for such occasions). Hydro (including pumped storage) supplies about 2.5% of UK's electricity demand. There's no reason why that couldn't be raised to maybe 5% during a period of energy requirement.

You don't appear to understand how a hydropower plant works.  You have a river running into a tail lake and that same water flows out either through the turbines or over the penstocks, either directly down the river or into a bottom lake first.  The storage capacity is whatever volume of water you can store behind the dam, multiplied by average head height, both of which are basic design features than are limited by local topography.  You would have to demolish the dam and rebuild it to change that, assuming topography makes it possible at all.

louis wrote:

5. A green energy system will also include provision for energy from waste, biofuels, tidal. sea current and wave power. Some of these (waste and biofuels) can be stored to a certain extent. So again, we can imagine these could be boosted to supply perhaps 10% of requirements. In addition there will be lithium ion storage being used for diurnal control and short term ouput management and I would also expect there to be a fair amount of hydrogen storage.

Have discussed some of this previously.  Biomass can be stored in limited quantities, but not as easily as coal.  It has roughly half of the energy density.  It is typically delivered as chips and is stored in bunkers in an attempt to keep it dry.  Storage is more expensive than for coal and biomass powerplants therefore rely more heavily on regular fuel delivery.  It is vulnerable to getting damp, as well as bacterial and fungal action.  It is prone to catching fire if not kept dry.  As thermal steam raising plants, rather like coal burning powerplants, biomass boilers are most suitable as baseload power plants.  Running them as backup powerplants is not a good use of this type of equipment.  It introduces thermal cycles that limit the life of the plant and increase maintenance costs.

Hydrogen is a diffuse gas.  It can be stored at low pressure in limited quantities, with energy recovered using gas turbines.  But its nature makes it more suitable for covering short term shortfalls in generating capacity.  There may be some options for compression and storage underground in salt caves and the like.  But these opportunities are dependent on local geology.

Every additional piece of equipment that needs to be built to deal with intermittent power generation, it something that has to be paid for and maintained and is something that reduces surplus energy from the overall system.

louis wrote:

6. In addition to domestic supply, you would expect a green energy system to draw on a continental grid. The UK is already linked up to Norway, France and the Netherlands I believe. A connection to Iceland is under active consideration.

Yes.  The UK imports substantial electric power from France and Netherlands.  Imports seem to be increasing as the domestic power supply has atrophied.

louis wrote:

7. EV batteries could be used as an energy storage system.

This isn't going to work for very obvious reasons.  Imagine this scenario: You are charging your car ready for a long drive to a site for an important meeting the next morning.  You need to drive 100 miles in a few hours, to get there in time.  No problem.  Your battery is 80% full and only needs an hour to reach capacity.  You wake up in the morning to find your car battery almost empty, because a wind farm fell off load during the night and the grid operators used your battery as backup.  How pissed off would you be?

louis wrote:

Putting all the above in the mix, it's likely a Form Energy system would only have to cover 60% of output, and not for more than 3 or 4 days.

Well that's me convinced.  Seriously, that determination needs to rest on computer modelling that should be based on historical weather patterns.  Required reliability will be one of the inputs into the model.  The optimum strategy is the one that achieves lowest whole system costs across design life for the specified required reliability.  Maybe your pet battery technology will find a big role in an optimised solution.  Maybe, something else.  Most likely, a combination of technologies.

louis wrote:

You seem to be living in the past. Yes this is how things have been done, but they won't be done that way if iron-air batteries live up to their promise.

I often feel like the middle aged man having to explain the facts of life to one of his kids :-) There is refusal to accept reality, stamping of feet, fascination with something new and misplaced enthusiasm, etc.  Overcoming intermittency is inherently very difficult and expensive, because it is a form of entropy.  Intermittent energy has higher entropy than controllable energy and additional energy and complexity is needed to overcome this.  Doing so at a minimum cost is very challenging, because one way or another, we must either control demand or activate another powerplant to cover the lull.  All of the options have capital costs and operating costs.  So the question is, what is the easiest and cheapest way of making supply and demand match?  There are many options, each with their own benefits and limitations.

Iron-air batteries are an interesting concept.  But remember there have been other touted low cost energy storage options in the past.  Hydrogen energy storage is not new technology.  It is older than electricity.  You see those huge gasometre tanks outside of most UK towns?  That was hydrogen energy storage.  Those tanks allowed daily variations in gas demand to match the varting batch output of coal gas retorts.  They worked, but they were huge and ugly structures.  As soon as natural gas came along, the UK dumped its coal-hydrogen economy.  Sodium sulphur batteries have been around since the 70s.  Lithium ion batteries, flow batteries, CAES.  Each of these things have been around for a while and have found some applications.  But I would be wary of assurances that any single technology is going to sweep the world.  I have explained why it will be difficult for any battery technology, no matter how good it seems on paper, to provide energy storage for days on end.  It is a solution requiring very cheap bulk energy storage at high energy density.

louis wrote:

See my post above. My guesstimate is that the cost of iron-air battery output could be 2.5 cents per KwHe

For what utilisation factor?  This is not a fixed value.  You need to work out capital remuneration costs and operating and maintenance costs over 1 year, and divide it by the number of kWh stored and released.  You will find that the longer and less frequent the lull, the higher the marginal cost of each kWh.

louis wrote:

All the schemes involving molten salt and the like seem to have been big failures.

The best way to fill the troughs is with what is currently "surplus" wind and solar energy which is being earthed and costs effectively nothing at present. And if my calculation re iron-air batteries is correct, then it is a highly affordable system.

Maybe.  But the longer that energy must be stored and the lower the effective utilisation rate, the cheaper the storage medium needs to be.  There are few things cheaper than hot water stored in an insulated tank.  Likewise, a tank of LPG is very cheap for the amount of energy it contains.  It stores 30GJ of chemical energy per cubic metre and has no internal structure, just a carbon steel shell with enough strength to withstand hydrostatic pressure.  Gas turbines are cheap to build and operate, but the fuel is relatively expensive.  So it is suitable only for periodic operation, but it can meet power requirements for weeks if necessary, because that steel tank can store huge amounts of chemical energy very cheaply.  So long as total fuel consumption over a year remains small, total operating cost will be low and capital costs are only $300/kWe.  We can keep fuel consumption low, by controlling the demand side as much as possible.  Install several days of thermal energy storage by making water tanks bigger.  Battery systems and hydrogen could allow short term load balancing as well.  This makes effective lulls less frequent and shorter.  But there still has to be planning for long-term lulls associated with anti-cyclones.

What I have presented may not be an optimal solution, very likely there are problems that I have not foreseen and technologies that I have underestimated.  I spend a lot of time reading about local power system solutions, because it is something that interests me and it is closely associated with my job.  After a while, you developed what is known as 'engineering judgement'.  In terms of reliably meeting consumer demand at minimum cost using mostly renewable energy, nothing is cheaper at present than wind power, backed up by GTs, using thermal demand management to reduce GT fuel consumption.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-08-04 08:34:16)


Interested in space science, engineering and technology.

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#15 2021-08-04 08:22:49

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

For Calliban and Louis for Post #14

A lot of effort went into this post (on both your parts) ... I find it challenging to categorize

SearchTerm:UK energy outlook / analysis
SearchTerm:Energy supply for UK analysis and forecast

The detail of storage of excess gas in the UK was interesting.

For Louis .... since this is your topic I'll toss this idea into the mix ...

The Form battery may find a natural companion in one of Calliban's 1 MW reactors....

Since demand of customers will fluctuate throughout a day, and since the output of the reactor is a constant 1 MW for 10 years, a storage buffer between the reactor and customers would seem necessary.  A water reservoir is an option where (as Calliban points out) the topography is suitable and where water is available.

(th)

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#16 2021-08-04 16:16:33

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

Calliban wrote:
louis wrote:

Yes it's not unusual for wind speeds to drop to low for days but weeks? There is no evidence from the charts in that link for that claim.

The whole point of the Form Energy battery system is that you can store several days' worth of output in batteries. What we need to find is a realistic worst case scenario and then see what a hypothetical response based on Form Energy batteries would look like.

A battery based on common materials is certainly a positive development.  Until it is commercialised and mass produced, one should be cautious about assuming what it's cost and performance will be.

But my point is that the cost of storing 1kWh in a battery is not a constant.  It depends upon the capital and maintenance costs of the battery and also the utilisation factor.  If you are fully charging and discharging a battery each day, you are storing a lot more kWh than a battery than is charged and then discharged only once per month.  The levelised cost of storage is calculated assuming a specified charge-discharge cycle length, either 12 or 24 hours.  To put it another way, a 1000kWh battery that is charged and discharged once every day, will store 1000kWh per day, or 365,000kWh per year.  If it is only discharged once per month, the same battery will store 12,000kWh per year.  A factor 30 difference.  And it means the same battery will be 30 times more expensive per kWh stored.  This is before any consideration of other complications, like self-discharge rate of batteries.  It is primarily for this reason (utilisation factor), that batteries are not used for long term energy storage.

I can't prove it because I don't think the detail is there but I think the $20 per KwH storage claimed by Form Energy covers the number of cycles - the number of cycles is part of the package (in other words, I think that's what "storage" means). What the operation and maintenance costs are - the land, the buildings, the repairs and replacements, health and safety etc - I don't think we know yet but the capital cost for Form's battery is about 17% of the lowest battery storage cost I have seen mentioned. Actually Form I see claim that it will be less than 10% the cost of current battery storage:

https://formenergy.com/technology/battery-technology/

I think that would only be possible if it can handle thousands of cycles. Of course not every battery needs to be used on a daily basis. If the Form system was providing on average say 15% of the total energy needs in a year that would equate to about 55 days' storage. If that were achieved in 5 day batches, that would be one charge every 10 weeks. Of course, there is the issue of diurnal storage. That might be dealt more through lithium batteries and hyrdogen. We don't know yet. Form looks like it might be the back up for the periods of GED - green energy dipping.

louis wrote:

In doing so, you need to factor in the following:

1. Under any green energy plan not all energy will be produced by wind turbines. Your comments seem to imply that we might depend soley on wind.

Wind energy, is by far the best performing renewable energy source under UK conditions and the one most capable of scaling to the 100GW power generation levels that would be needed to support the UK grid under a high renewable scenario.  You can expect it to account for 80% of renewable electricity production in any affordable strategy.  Biomass burned in steam raising plants is also useful, but realistic capacity is very limited.  Biomass is capable of provided a small but reliable baseload as things stand (2-3 GW).  Substantial biomass is imported from Canada.   Whether that will be sustainable in the future is an open question.  Growing sufficient biomass on UK soil to support GW scale power generation is problematic at best, as using arable land for this purpose means diverting some of the best cropland in the world away from cereal production.  Biogas from digestible wastes is already deployed at sewage works and there is scope for scaling biogas production to GW scale in the UK.  But resources are ultimately limited, carbon-nitrogen ratio needs to be carefully balanced to get it to work well; it is relatively labour intensive and production would be seasonal.

Both wave power and tidal stream turbines have been experimented with on a small scale, but are some way away from large scale commercial development.  Tidal stream is the closest prospect of the two.  Tidal stream has been deployed at single MW scale of electricity generation at selected locations in Scotland and Northern Ireland and could be scaled further in the not too distant future.  But it is a very limited resource.  It will not scale to more than a few GW peak capacity at the best sites.  Large tidal barrages on UK estuaries have been discussed in the past, but are not a popular option because of the scale of ecological damage that they would inflict.  Wave power presents significant engineering challenges that will be difficult to overcome.  It means deploying floating steel structures, with significant moving parts, in deep and stormy waters.  Maintenance is a lot more difficult than is the case for Offshore wind, because these are structures that float on the edge of the continental shelf in dangerous waters.  They will need to be engineered to withstand storms with wavefront energy reaching MW per metre and to survive for decades in turbulent, saline water.  That is a tall order.  And it won't be cheap.

We have discussed solar power at length before.  It has been heavily subsidised by past UK governments and there is now tens of GW of solar capacity on the UK grid.  But the UK is one the least favorable climates in the world for solar PV deployment.  We receive less direct sunlight than the high Arctic.  Whether solar power can continue to expand without subsidies is doubtful.  Under UK conditions, its EROI is extremely weak.  This is a good indication that it will not be sustainable in the long term.

Hydropower is a small but useful resource to the UK grid.  It is close to being fully developed at large scale, though microhydro could still add some capacity on smaller rivers, though development may be limited due to the capital cost and environmental impact.  Hydropower' ability to function as backup power is already exploited.  The practicality of doing so will be limited by the ratio of dam capacity to river flow rate and the design of turbines to provide excess power above their typical ratings.  Pumped storage has been deployed at a few sites in the UK, most famously at Dinorwig in North Wales.  Its contributions are important but limited.  The storage time that it provides faces the same problems as you see in batteries.  Increasing storage capacity will increase capital cost proportionately.  But as utilisation rate drops, the cost of storage per kWh increases rapidly.  This is why pumped storage tends to be a useful in storing excess nighttime power from baseloads, and meeting peak demands during daytime.  Using it to store energy for longer periods would be a poor utilisation of the capital asset.

We are certainly blessed with wind resources in the UK but having looked into this before I think asking wind to provide 80% of generation would be pushing it when you also factor in increased demand for both EVs and electric powered heating.

Wave power does not necessarily involve floating structures.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutriku_B … Wave_Plant

But I think it is still solar power where we will still see the greatest growth. The UK may not have the best solar resources but, as ever,
this is really a question of price per unit and that in turn depends on technological solutions to reduce labour input. We cannot tell yet what these will be. Void referenced Novasolix who think they can get to 45% efficient and cheap solar power devices (using rolled film). Who knows how this sort of technology will be used...perhaps we will send out ships to harvest solar energy in the high insolation areas of the South Atlantic using barrage balloons covered in solar film which will charge up 500,000 tons of onboard iron-air batteries. Impossible? Why not? That will free us of dependence on UK insolation.  But if the solar power film is cheap enough, well we may find it easy to apply to roofs or hang it from wire (obviating the need for rigid structures) - as long as it can be automatically rolled up in the event of a storm, that won't be a big issue, if we have long term storage via form.

So, yes, for many reasons I think the future is bright for solar even in the temperate zone.

louis wrote:

2. An iron-air battery system would allow for heavy investment in solar power.

Not a good idea, as we have discussed many times already.

See above. Ultimately this will be decided by price. In many parts of the world solar power is already incredibly cheap with 15% efficiency PV rigid panels. The technology has a long way to go. With the advent of iron-air battery systems lots more becomes possible.

louis wrote:

3. Generally there is a high correlation between low wind (a high in terms of atmospheric pressure) and elevated solar power (thanks to clear, cloudless skies). So for most of the days showing low wind generation in the graphs you would have correspondingly high solar power.

To a limited extent.  Wind speeds do tend to be lower in summer generally, as high pressure conditions tend to dominate.  But you cannot design a electricity grid based on what happens 'generally'.  There needs to be high reliability in electricity supply.  Anti-cyclone conditions can occur in winter as well, when daily insolation is 10% its peak summer values.  Low wind conditions typically last for around 1 week.  When this happens in winter, there may be clear skies and low temperatures.  But it can also lead to anticyclone gloom, with persistent fog, low lying clouds and drizzle.  There have been occasions where anti-cyclone conditions have lasted for months (1976, most notably).
https://www.futurelearn.com/info/course … teps/15229

There needs to be backup power supply to produce power during anti-cyclone conditions, which may last a week or longer and for which it is not realistic for any battery system to be viable (I explained why above).

Well this is the whole point of the iron-air battery storage system. As I said we need an examination of "worst case scenarios".  I don't think the worst case scenarios are as bad as you are suggesting. I don't believe there are periods when wind is absolutely minimal for over a week.

louis wrote:

4. Under an iron-air battery system,  the need to use hydro for baseload would disappear. Hydro can then be used as an additional emergency reserve (ie reservoirs would be kept topped up for such occasions). Hydro (including pumped storage) supplies about 2.5% of UK's electricity demand. There's no reason why that couldn't be raised to maybe 5% during a period of energy requirement.

You don't appear to understand how a hydropower plant works.  You have a river running into a tail lake and that same water flows out either through the turbines or over the penstocks, either directly down the river or into a bottom lake first.  The storage capacity is whatever volume of water you can store behind the dam, multiplied by average head height, both of which are basic design features than are limited by local topography.  You would have to demolish the dam and rebuild it to change that, assuming topography makes it possible at all.

You seem to be asserting that hydroplants operate at maximum capacity all the time. I find that very difficult to believe. I did research this online but couldn't find any figures for what % capacity hydro operates at but, as I say I can't believe it is 100%. Do you know what the figure is? If, let's say, the average was 50% then what I am suggesting is that during these periods of demand requirement you operate at 100% - effectively doubling the amount of hydropower.

louis wrote:

5. A green energy system will also include provision for energy from waste, biofuels, tidal. sea current and wave power. Some of these (waste and biofuels) can be stored to a certain extent. So again, we can imagine these could be boosted to supply perhaps 10% of requirements. In addition there will be lithium ion storage being used for diurnal control and short term ouput management and I would also expect there to be a fair amount of hydrogen storage.

Have discussed some of this previously.  Biomass can be stored in limited quantities, but not as easily as coal.  It has roughly half of the energy density.  It is typically delivered as chips and is stored in bunkers in an attempt to keep it dry.  Storage is more expensive than for coal and biomass powerplants therefore rely more heavily on regular fuel delivery.  It is vulnerable to getting damp, as well as bacterial and fungal action.  It is prone to catching fire if not kept dry.  As thermal steam raising plants, rather like coal burning powerplants, biomass boilers are most suitable as baseload power plants.  Running them as backup powerplants is not a good use of this type of equipment.  It introduces thermal cycles that limit the life of the plant and increase maintenance costs.

Hydrogen is a diffuse gas.  It can be stored at low pressure in limited quantities, with energy recovered using gas turbines.  But its nature makes it more suitable for covering short term shortfalls in generating capacity.  There may be some options for compression and storage underground in salt caves and the like.  But these opportunities are dependent on local geology.

Every additional piece of equipment that needs to be built to deal with intermittent power generation, it something that has to be paid for and maintained and is something that reduces surplus energy from the overall system.

Well you seem to accept these other technologies can make a contribution and I accept that there is a price to pay for that. My point would be that as green energy gets to the 2 cents per KwHe price point or lower, that gives you a lot of flexibility. The advantage of some of these technologies is that they can help balance out supply over an extended period (e.g. winter) and take up less land area than an iron-air battery system.

louis wrote:

6. In addition to domestic supply, you would expect a green energy system to draw on a continental grid. The UK is already linked up to Norway, France and the Netherlands I believe. A connection to Iceland is under active consideration.

Yes.  The UK imports substantial electric power from France and Netherlands.  Imports seem to be increasing as the domestic power supply has atrophied.

Continental grid systems are going to make an important contribution to overall reliability and stability. Again this is an area where technological development can deliver, if we can have efficient transmission over thousands of miles. But even if you lost 80% of your power, it might still make sense to import from the Sahara if solar power is very cheap. The alternative of sending 500,000 ton iron-air battery vessels to charge up in somewhere like Morocco would be another approach.

louis wrote:

7. EV batteries could be used as an energy storage system.

This isn't going to work for very obvious reasons.  Imagine this scenario: You are charging your car ready for a long drive to a site for an important meeting the next morning.  You need to drive 100 miles in a few hours, to get there in time.  No problem.  Your battery is 80% full and only needs an hour to reach capacity.  You wake up in the morning to find your car battery almost empty, because a wind farm fell off load during the night and the grid operators used your battery as backup.  How pissed off would you be?

This would be a voluntary scheme with a financial incentive. This is where you need to look at marginal pricing and so on. It might make sense to say to a driver "If you give us 20 KwHe tonight you can have a free 100 KwHe this summer". That might seem crazy economics. But there will be times when there is a huge energy surplus coming from wind and solar and effectively you give this free charging when those conditions occur."  Also energy providers can effectively charge the non-helpful customers for subsidising the helpful ones. People's use of vehicles is more flexible than you might suppose, especially in an era of working from home and home delivery of food. Also many EVs will only need to be charged up every few days, because people use them for very local commutes. EV power return isn't a big part of the solution but it will be a useful contribution once you have a pool of perhaps 1000 GwHes of electricity sitting in EVs.

louis wrote:

Putting all the above in the mix, it's likely a Form Energy system would only have to cover 60% of output, and not for more than 3 or 4 days.

Well that's me convinced.  Seriously, that determination needs to rest on computer modelling that should be based on historical weather patterns.  Required reliability will be one of the inputs into the model.  The optimum strategy is the one that achieves lowest whole system costs across design life for the specified required reliability.  Maybe your pet battery technology will find a big role in an optimised solution.  Maybe, something else.  Most likely, a combination of technologies.

Well I don't disagree with that need for computer modelling but over the years I have become familiar with a lot of this data so I feel my figure can be supported. The figure cannot realistically be 100%. Once you start factoring in all the other energy technologies available and drawing on a continental grid, the figure goes down and down. I feel that over an extended period of say 5 days when wind and solar combined are always going to be producing a significant amount of energy, never 0%, a figure of 60% is very reasonable.

louis wrote:

You seem to be living in the past. Yes this is how things have been done, but they won't be done that way if iron-air batteries live up to their promise.

I often feel like the middle aged man having to explain the facts of life to one of his kids :-) There is refusal to accept reality, stamping of feet, fascination with something new and misplaced enthusiasm, etc.  Overcoming intermittency is inherently very difficult and expensive, because it is a form of entropy.  Intermittent energy has higher entropy than controllable energy and additional energy and complexity is needed to overcome this.  Doing so at a minimum cost is very challenging, because one way or another, we must either control demand or activate another powerplant to cover the lull.  All of the options have capital costs and operating costs.  So the question is, what is the easiest and cheapest way of making supply and demand match?  There are many options, each with their own benefits and limitations.

Green energy versus nuclear/fossil fuels has been debated here for a long time now. I think I can honestly say that everything has been moving green energy's way. I can't see us ending up anywhere else but with a fully green energy system - not for reasons of sentiment but because it will be the cheapest and most reliable system.

Iron-air batteries are an interesting concept.  But remember there have been other touted low cost energy storage options in the past.  Hydrogen energy storage is not new technology.  It is older than electricity.  You see those huge gasometre tanks outside of most UK towns?  That was hydrogen energy storage.  Those tanks allowed daily variations in gas demand to match the varting batch output of coal gas retorts.  They worked, but they were huge and ugly structures.  As soon as natural gas came along, the UK dumped its coal-hydrogen economy.  Sodium sulphur batteries have been around since the 70s.  Lithium ion batteries, flow batteries, CAES.  Each of these things have been around for a while and have found some applications.  But I would be wary of assurances that any single technology is going to sweep the world.  I have explained why it will be difficult for any battery technology, no matter how good it seems on paper, to provide energy storage for days on end.  It is a solution requiring very cheap bulk energy storage at high energy density.

Well you learn something every day...the gasometers were hydrogen storage? I never knew that! Yes, I know of one in South London which was still in use in the natural gas era - it certainly went up and down during the day!

But of course I think everyone accepts that utility scale hydrogen will be under pressure.

Hydrogen will have a big role to play in the green energy economy, particularly in northern Europe in terms of levelling out winter and summer supply.

louis wrote:

See my post above. My guesstimate is that the cost of iron-air battery output could be 2.5 cents per KwHe

For what utilisation factor?  This is not a fixed value.  You need to work out capital remuneration costs and operating and maintenance costs over 1 year, and divide it by the number of kWh stored and released.  You will find that the longer and less frequent the lull, the higher the marginal cost of each kWh.

I did say "guesstimate"! Yes, you need to factor in all those things. But I suspect with battery technology the capital cost is key.

louis wrote:

All the schemes involving molten salt and the like seem to have been big failures.

The best way to fill the troughs is with what is currently "surplus" wind and solar energy which is being earthed and costs effectively nothing at present. And if my calculation re iron-air batteries is correct, then it is a highly affordable system.

Maybe.  But the longer that energy must be stored and the lower the effective utilisation rate, the cheaper the storage medium needs to be.  There are few things cheaper than hot water stored in an insulated tank.  Likewise, a tank of LPG is very cheap for the amount of energy it contains.  It stores 30GJ of chemical energy per cubic metre and has no internal structure, just a carbon steel shell with enough strength to withstand hydrostatic pressure.  Gas turbines are cheap to build and operate, but the fuel is relatively expensive.  So it is suitable only for periodic operation, but it can meet power requirements for weeks if necessary, because that steel tank can store huge amounts of chemical energy very cheaply.  So long as total fuel consumption over a year remains small, total operating cost will be low and capital costs are only $300/kWe.  We can keep fuel consumption low, by controlling the demand side as much as possible.  Install several days of thermal energy storage by making water tanks bigger.  Battery systems and hydrogen could allow short term load balancing as well.  This makes effective lulls less frequent and shorter.  But there still has to be planning for long-term lulls associated with anti-cyclones.

What I have presented may not be an optimal solution, very likely there are problems that I have not foreseen and technologies that I have underestimated.  I spend a lot of time reading about local power system solutions, because it is something that interests me and it is closely associated with my job.  After a while, you developed what is known as 'engineering judgement'.  In terms of reliably meeting consumer demand at minimum cost using mostly renewable energy, nothing is cheaper at present than wind power, backed up by GTs, using thermal demand management to reduce GT fuel consumption.

Well time will tell. I think we are about to enter a very exciting phase of green energy development, a bit like when Space X first came on the scene. No doubt there will be the equivalents of the FH9 detours but I think eventually a viable system will emerge.

Last edited by louis (2021-08-04 16:17:47)


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#17 2021-08-05 08:35:23

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 4,612

Re: The Form Revolution

Utility Dive - Form Energy's $20/kWh, 100-hour iron-air battery could be a 'substantial breakthrough'

From the article:

BloombergNEF found that lithium-ion battery pack prices fell to $137/kWh in 2020, with projected costs close to $100/kWh by 2023, and manufacturers like Tesla and CATL have dropped prices as low as $80/kWh. A March study published in Nature Energy found that the energy capacity cost of long-duration storage technology must fall below $20/kWh in order to reduce total carbon-free electricity system costs by at least 10%. Capacity costs would have to drop even lower to displace nuclear and natural gas plants, the study found.

So, even at $20/kWh, it still doesn't beat nuclear or natural gas.

Utility Dive - NREL details cost declines needed for long-duration storage to displace nuclear, gas with CCS

From the article:

The researchers used an advanced model of a simulated electric system to evaluate different LDES technologies based on power capacity cost, energy capacity cost and efficiency. The technologies — covering a range of solutions including hydropower, aqueous sulfur flow batteries, hydrogen storage and compressed air — were considered relative to existing energy sources, rather than being assessed as standalone tools. The study found that the energy capacity cost for an LDES solution would have to drop to roughly $10 per kWh to fully displace nuclear power on the grid, and would have to fall to $1 per kWh to displace natural gas power plants with carbon capture and sequestration. The current storage energy capacity cost of batteries is around $200 per kWh.

Now we know why batteries haven't displaced nuclear and gas energy.

Here's what we still don't know about Form Energy's battery:

1. Useful cycle life
2. How many tons of Iron are required to make each battery
3. Future prices for Cast Iron with coal / oil / gas- it's currently around $1,525 per ton

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#18 2021-08-05 09:53:51

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

This link below gives a figure of $215 per ton for iron. I agree however that we need info on all three points.

https://www.metalary.com/iron-price/

I imagine that as with anything if you are going to be buying hundreds of thousands of tons of the stuff, you will get a good price.

Form have claimed that they can get below $20 per KwH and have claimed that they can deliver their system at 10% of the cost of lithium based storage. If they are basing their 10% figure on $137 than that would be $13,  about a third lower than the best price (excluding Tesla) but of course we don't know what figure they were taking. It must have been lower than $200 in order to come in at below $20 per KwH.

I am not sure what is meant by "capacity costs" in this context - do they just mean storage?  The article doesn't seem very well written. For one thing, surely you have to look at the prce of the electricity going into the battery as well and one thing we know about wind and solar is that there have been significant and continuing reductions in the cost of green energy electricity, year by year.

kbd512 wrote:

Utility Dive - Form Energy's $20/kWh, 100-hour iron-air battery could be a 'substantial breakthrough'

From the article:

BloombergNEF found that lithium-ion battery pack prices fell to $137/kWh in 2020, with projected costs close to $100/kWh by 2023, and manufacturers like Tesla and CATL have dropped prices as low as $80/kWh. A March study published in Nature Energy found that the energy capacity cost of long-duration storage technology must fall below $20/kWh in order to reduce total carbon-free electricity system costs by at least 10%. Capacity costs would have to drop even lower to displace nuclear and natural gas plants, the study found.

So, even at $20/kWh, it still doesn't beat nuclear or natural gas.

Utility Dive - NREL details cost declines needed for long-duration storage to displace nuclear, gas with CCS

From the article:

The researchers used an advanced model of a simulated electric system to evaluate different LDES technologies based on power capacity cost, energy capacity cost and efficiency. The technologies — covering a range of solutions including hydropower, aqueous sulfur flow batteries, hydrogen storage and compressed air — were considered relative to existing energy sources, rather than being assessed as standalone tools. The study found that the energy capacity cost for an LDES solution would have to drop to roughly $10 per kWh to fully displace nuclear power on the grid, and would have to fall to $1 per kWh to displace natural gas power plants with carbon capture and sequestration. The current storage energy capacity cost of batteries is around $200 per kWh.

Now we know why batteries haven't displaced nuclear and gas energy.

Here's what we still don't know about Form Energy's battery:

1. Useful cycle life
2. How many tons of Iron are required to make each battery
3. Future prices for Cast Iron with coal / oil / gas- it's currently around $1,525 per ton


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#19 2021-08-05 10:09:14

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

"We expect to be competitive with lithium-ion on a dollar-per-kilowatt basis," Jaramillo said.

If that happens, it would mean that a customer could pay the same for the discharge capacity, but get 150 hours of that discharge with Form instead of four or six hours with conventional batteries.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles … r-duration

What does that mean?

I'm struggling to understand that.


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#20 2021-08-05 11:04:40

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: The Form Revolution

louis wrote:

"We expect to be competitive with lithium-ion on a dollar-per-kilowatt basis," Jaramillo said.

If that happens, it would mean that a customer could pay the same for the discharge capacity, but get 150 hours of that discharge with Form instead of four or six hours with conventional batteries.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles … r-duration

What does that mean?

I'm struggling to understand that.

Discharge capacity is almost certainly talking about power.  A battery can have substantial storage capacity, but low discharge rate.  Supercapacitors and flywheels have both been experimented with as braking energy recovery systems, because accelerating a vehicle requires a huge amount of power, but often modest total energy reserves.  These systems have huge discharge rate.  A flywheel can spin down in seconds.  Think of it as kW/kWh.

For a battery unit supporting a wind or solar farm, discharge rate is more important than storage capacity, because the powerplant can drop off load suddenly and the battery needs to provide sufficient power to prevent grid frequency from crashing, long enough to bring CCGTs online.  So the customers are likely to ask for sufficient discharge rate first and foremost.  Storage capacity is a bonus for them.

If what they are saying is true, 150 hours of storage capacity for the same price as 4-6 hours of Li-ion, then the technology may very well be revolutionary.  Will be interesting to see how this one works out.

It sounds to me like this battery has a naturally low discharge rate due to to the sluggish reaction kinetics of iron oxidation.  That isn't necessarily a problem for what they plan to use it for, I.e stationary applications.  But it will constrain other potential applications.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-08-05 11:12:01)


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#21 2021-08-05 12:07:59

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,305

Re: The Form Revolution

For Callibam re Post #20 and topic in general ...

First, thanks to Louis for asking such a great question, and to Calliban for (what I find to be) a helpful response...

For Calliban ... In connection with a vision of a small business anchored around a 1 MW reactor able to operate for 10 years on lease ...

It seems to me important for the manager of such a small business to have a buffer between customer loads and the steady supply.

Your comment about the discharge rate may or may not be concerning for the buffer application ... I can't quite tell.

What I would envision is a configuration in which the manager of such a small business would have an energy dump application always available to take up power if a customer  need disappears for some reason.  In making the transition from one application to the other, I would think a capacious battery would be needed, and (perhaps?) this battery concept might serve?

An example of an energy dump application might be manufacture of methanol, but it is possible that in fact may not be suitable if the equipment needs to be brought to a high temperature and held there for as long as the process runs.

Perhaps electrolysis of water is a suitable emergency backup energy dump, because (presumably) it could be changed in intensity quickly.

(th)

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#22 2021-08-05 13:12:35

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

That sounds like an odd way of saying "The capital cost of the storage is much lower than in conventional battery systems."

The way I have read their public statements suggests they are not looking to compete with lithium on short term day to day storage.
So it wouldn't be the "smoothing out" kind of storage, this would be the long term, emergency storage that comes into play when wind and solar simply aren't delivering.


Calliban wrote:
louis wrote:

"We expect to be competitive with lithium-ion on a dollar-per-kilowatt basis," Jaramillo said.

If that happens, it would mean that a customer could pay the same for the discharge capacity, but get 150 hours of that discharge with Form instead of four or six hours with conventional batteries.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles … r-duration

What does that mean?

I'm struggling to understand that.

Discharge capacity is almost certainly talking about power.  A battery can have substantial storage capacity, but low discharge rate.  Supercapacitors and flywheels have both been experimented with as braking energy recovery systems, because accelerating a vehicle requires a huge amount of power, but often modest total energy reserves.  These systems have huge discharge rate.  A flywheel can spin down in seconds.  Think of it as kW/kWh.

For a battery unit supporting a wind or solar farm, discharge rate is more important than storage capacity, because the powerplant can drop off load suddenly and the battery needs to provide sufficient power to prevent grid frequency from crashing, long enough to bring CCGTs online.  So the customers are likely to ask for sufficient discharge rate first and foremost.  Storage capacity is a bonus for them.

If what they are saying is true, 150 hours of storage capacity for the same price as 4-6 hours of Li-ion, then the technology may very well be revolutionary.  Will be interesting to see how this one works out.

It sounds to me like this battery has a naturally low discharge rate due to to the sluggish reaction kinetics of iron oxidation.  That isn't necessarily a problem for what they plan to use it for, I.e stationary applications.  But it will constrain other potential applications.


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#23 2021-08-05 14:40:14

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: The Form Revolution

Science direct article on the same battery type.  Provides some interesting details of how it works.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a … 7219300318


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#24 2021-08-05 15:06:31

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 4,612

Re: The Form Revolution

Louis,

The price listed appears to be for Iron Ore, not refined Iron suitable for making things.  There are daily prices for Iron Ore, Pig Iron, and refined Iron suitable for machining (cast / wrought / plate / bar / etc ) into finished products.

Here's how you can tell:

Trading Economics - Iron Ore

From the link above:

Prices for iron ore cargoes with a 63.5% iron content for delivery into Tianjin fell to below $200 a tonne, the lowest since end-May on higher supply and as some Chinese steel producers were told to cut production. Imports of iron ore to China rebounded, with portside inventories up for the third week to 127.34 million tonnes as of July 18th. Meanwhile, steel producers in Anhui, Gansu, Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shandong, and Yunnan provinces were told to limit their production to 2020 volumes amid China’s efforts to curb carbon emissions. Also, China is considering imposing export tariffs on steel rates ranging from 10% to 25% to tame prices.

I can guarantee that their battery doesn't use Iron Ore, because the battery turns Iron back into Iron Ore (discharge), and vice versa (charge).

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#25 2021-08-05 17:51:53

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,859

Re: The Form Revolution

OK, point taken.

kbd512 wrote:

Louis,

The price listed appears to be for Iron Ore, not refined Iron suitable for making things.  There are daily prices for Iron Ore, Pig Iron, and refined Iron suitable for machining (cast / wrought / plate / bar / etc ) into finished products.

Here's how you can tell:

Trading Economics - Iron Ore

From the link above:

Prices for iron ore cargoes with a 63.5% iron content for delivery into Tianjin fell to below $200 a tonne, the lowest since end-May on higher supply and as some Chinese steel producers were told to cut production. Imports of iron ore to China rebounded, with portside inventories up for the third week to 127.34 million tonnes as of July 18th. Meanwhile, steel producers in Anhui, Gansu, Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shandong, and Yunnan provinces were told to limit their production to 2020 volumes amid China’s efforts to curb carbon emissions. Also, China is considering imposing export tariffs on steel rates ranging from 10% to 25% to tame prices.

I can guarantee that their battery doesn't use Iron Ore, because the battery turns Iron back into Iron Ore (discharge), and vice versa (charge).


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