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Off Grid Energy Independence
Posted on December 8, 2017 by  & 

Less Grid, Less Battery, More Happiness

The options for progressing towards complete elimination of energy storage of any kind in off grid electricity generation now include the following, all of which should ideally be used together:
1. New forms of energy harvesting that promise higher capacity factor, lower cost of electricity and easier adjustment to demand such as Airborne Wind Energy AWE (tethered drones etc) that taps the four times more powerful and more consistent winds when they fly higher than conventional wind turbines.
2. Existing and new forms of energy harvesting that increasingly cost so little that they can be oversupplied, thus providing adequate power at times when they previously could not. For example, huge areas of photovoltaics or higher efficiency forms of photovoltaics may provide adequate electricity even when the daylight is almost absent. AWE could instantly adjust to demand by altering angle of attack, swept area or altitude, something previously done by a battery.
3. New sources of viably tapped ambient energy, harvesting things with different availability such as waves (including triboelectric TENG or dielectric elastomer DEG wave blankets) and tidal power, photovoltaics tapping infrared and ultraviolet and maybe heat harvesting. All are receiving research attention including viably downsized ocean power. Some with virtually no day-night variation may be used on their own without batteries such as river flow. Ocean tidal flow will only be out briefly at turn of tide and a supercapacitor may cope with that. One promising new version from Okinawa employs small flexible underwater turbines based on dolphins' fins, thus avoiding both storm damage and marine growth, the death of so many other marine projects.
4. Multimodal harvesting with load tracking - preferably three or more complementary sources chosen from the above. For example, although river flow may be fairly constant, such an output may also be achieved by AWE which is much stronger at night, coupled with photovoltaics which maximises in the middle of the day. Wind turbines are currently coupled to photovoltaics but ground wind tends to be weaker at night. Another plus for AWE is that it can instantly respond to demand by reducing swept area, angle of attack or altitude and back in a multimode harvesting system.
Big prizes
As the new IDTechEx Research reports, Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering 2018-2028 and Off Grid Zero-emission Electricity 2018-2038: New Markets, New Technology Roadmap explain, there will be ample electricity for the remotest and poorest communities, self-powered deicing of roads, non-stop charging of the electric vehicles going along them plus self-powered lighting and light emitting signage embedded in the road itself. Indeed, Solar Roadways already offers solar road blocks providing self-powered integral lights. Researchers are working on harvesting road movement and heat and there are 110 solar road projects already. That embraces roads, paths, barriers and parking areas with power boosted by new, more efficient roadside wind turbines with less battery then no battery. Whereas extending a grid costs millions of dollars per mile just for the transmission lines and these are ugly, waste electricity and are a cause of failure. They are vulnerable to terrorist attack and natural disasters. They are no longer the end game for everyone. Indeed, IDTechEx projects around 14.2 kTWh/yr installed capacity of off grid zero emission electricity in 2040, more than on grid.
Genset replacement
There will be clean, safer, more reliable, lower cost, longer lived replacement for diesel gensets for remote locations and emergency backup. Off grid is often a better solution than the national grid in some undeveloped countries or the only way to go but increasingly it is the best option in developed countries. Reduction and abandonment of Feed in Tariffs (FiT) for houses generating electricity by energy harvesting, notably photovoltaics, means less reason to be on grid as battery cost reduces. In prospect is better disaster and terrorist resilience, sometimes cost reduction and sometimes improved reliability/ availability as grids overload or decay. Tesla is taking all its EV charging stations off grid, even the planned megawatt ones for its huge trucks. Zero emission off grid in transportable form will power robotic farms and armies. Tunable, multi-mode harvesting will minimise and sometimes eliminate the battery problems. Gigafactories will arise to make that equipment as gigafactories for batteries start to become a rarity.
Raghu Das CEO of IDTechEx says, "Because these things take time and create new markets, the growth in demand of lithium-ion batteries will not be dented within ten years. Indeed such batteries are busy replacing lead acid batteries. However, in twenty years we may look back at the peaking of lithium-ion sales and say that the Stone Age did not end for lack of stones and battery sales did not peak for lack of batteries. There is always something new around the corner."
New IDTechEx drill down reports on this are Off Grid Electric Vehicle Charging: Zero Emission 2018-2038 covering how Tesla will take all charging off grid and how some solar and solar+wind chargers have become transportable and giving roadmaps ahead. Electricity Generation by Urban Infrastructure: Zero Emission 2018-2050 and Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) 2018-2028 are available. Also visit, the IDTechEx Show! in Berlin April 11-12 with Masterclasses April 10 and 13. This year, Off Grid is the subject of one of the parallel two-day conferences and one of the 2.5 hour masterclasses. The exhibition will have much of interest to those in off grid, energy harvesting and allied technologies. There will again be 3000 paying delegates, 250 presentations and 220 exhibitors.

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Posted on: December 8, 2017

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