There's something fundamentally broken about capitalism and economics if having an abundance of something we want is viewed as a "Bad Thing(tm)"

"The problem is that solar panels generate lots of electricity in the middle of sunny days, frequently more than what’s required, driving down prices—sometimes even into negative territory."


@jhertzli Agreed, but the idea is not to choke off the supply, the idea is to store the water when it's plentiful so you can then use it when it's scarce. Ancient civilisations knew that this was the thing to do, and when they did it, they thrived.

We need to do the same with the renewable energy we get. Save it when it's plentiful to further reduce the usage of non-renewable sources.

@ColinTheMathmo there's a reason the prices get *negative* and not zero: grids can get overloaded, which does impact everyone hooked up to them. And increasing capacity isn't cheap. A problem in Europe is that often producers (industrial or domestic) don't get charged the full costs of a grid connection.

@ColinTheMathmo volatility adds costs that people often forget to include when doing comparisons.

@ColinTheMathmo Its technology not economics at fault here: Electricity grids break when there's a mismatch between supply & demand.

So what's needed is a way to store the excess supply until its needed, we need "gridscale batteries". These are fascinating, and there are some surprisingly lowtech designs which are impractical to deploy elsewhere.

@alcinnz @ColinTheMathmo Or, which we could have now: a way to turn the solar power source off when it's not needed?

@alcinnz @ColinTheMathmo No. The technology exists, but it's not being deployed/used, so it's an economic or political problem.

@ColinTheMathmo I guess it's a case of not *quite* what we want, though. We want *reliable* power, which solar panels are not great at. Of course the reason that there are no large scale batteries (which would make solar panels a near-perfect option) in any electric grids is probably largely economical, too

Not sure we wouldn't face a ressources problem at some point. You need a lot of panels by kWh and theses are not made of abundant materials... As far as I know


Yeah, this is an extremely ridiculous statement 🤦

I guess the only *actual* problem is missing storage capacity.

The problem of storage can and should be solved. I wonder what's holding that up anyway. Batteries aren't exactly rocket surgery.

So I venture a guess that it's not a technical issue, but economic and social again.

@quincy I wouldn't belittle @ColinTheMathmo for his ignorance when you are just as ignorant about batteries and why they aren't grid scale.

Maybe be a little less condescending next time. Nobody knows everything.

@loveisgrief ,

You've thoroughly misunderstood my toot. I'm not criticizing or even "belittling" @ColinTheMathmo in the least.

On the contrary, I was signalling my general agreement with the original post, and musing about what could be done about it.

I'm not claiming to be an expert on batteries (which you accuse me of without ground) but instead hoping for one to come along, and explain the challenges to us all.

Maybe assume a little less about me (or whoever you next accuse of being "condescending") next time. Text is notorious for hiding nuance.

@quincy I'm assuming that the "This is a ridiculous statement" is referring to the quotation from MIT review, not to my comment about capitalism and economics.

I think we all know that the technical problem is energy storage and transportation. We still have no technically viable way to store and transport *large* amounts of energy with any degree of efficiency.

The things that's so galling is that the "solution" people have at the moment is to not produce the energy.



@ColinTheMathmo @loveisgrief

1) exactly
2) yes, this is what I was looking forward to hear some opinions on!

@quincy It's like the old Steve Wright quip, where his car mechanic says:

"I couldn't fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder."

Or the doctor who, when you say "Doing this hurts" replies with "Well don't do that!"

But economics and capitalism isn't really trying to solve the energy storage problem, and that's the frustration. For all of us.


@quincy But it's hard to see how capitalism and economics can be persuaded to address this problem. The people with money and power aren't affected by it, and instead are finding ways to make money from it.

It's like going to the Moon ... it requires a very high level commitment from people in power who can invest the money, assemble a team, all without knowing how it could possibly be done.

Although even then, going to the Moon was a reasonable extrapolation from ...



@quincy ... existing technology, it just required the money and the drive.

So ...

What existing technology could reasonably be extrapolated to solve the energy storage and transportation problem, assuming arbitrary amounts of money to incentivise the necessary people, and provide them with the facilities they would need?

And then, who would do it? *Why* would they do it?

The cold war drove the space race, how can we make TPTB sufficiently paranoid to do this?

(4/n, n=4)


@ColinTheMathmo @loveisgrief Yes, I think it requires substantial investment that current economy isn't simply prepared to do because one can just as easily make money by burning fossil fuels etc. until they run out ...

@ColinTheMathmo @loveisgrief

What I'd like to understand is, what is the worst bottleneck?

Wouldn't it at least make sense to store the extra energy produced at noon in, say, used car batteries and then use it locally?

Or am I already making some erroneous assumptions there?

@quincy Some initial thoughts ...

(a) This would be a distributed system, which makes sense from some perspectives, but is harder to build, maintain, and control. Centralising services gives scales of economy and efficiency, and decentralising can be a problem.

(b) Car batteries don't have the storage density you need, unless you're talking about the really modern ones, and (i) they are expensive, ...



@quincy ... (ii) there are none unused, and (iii) when they reach end of life, they no longer have the density anyway, otherwise they wouldn't be EOL.

(c) Used car batteries (using that specific example, the same applies to nearly everything) are really, really inefficient.

Possibly none of this is insurmountable, but it comes down to the same problem:

How can we efficiently store (and transport) energy?

(2/n, n=2)


@quincy It's worth noting, I have no answers, but seeing the technical problem stated baldly and cleanly, along with the observation about needing to make TPTB paranoid to get them moving to provide the resources to solve it, might have value.

(3/n, n=2 ... 8-)



Your chart is ready, and can be found here:

Things may have changed since I started compiling that, and some things may have been inaccessible.

In particular, the very nature of the fediverse means some toots may never have made it to my instance, in which case I can't see them, and can't include them.

The chart will eventually be deleted, so if you'd like to keep it, make sure you download a copy.

@ColinTheMathmo @quincy @loveisgrief We probably need more than one solution here. For example, run your energy consuming gadgets like washing machines around midday. Have a well-insulated water-tank so that you can use some of it to produce hot water. My flat comes with one that is being heated at night when energy is cheapest - that could be switched to a noon cycle.

@gunchleoc I agree completely that changing consumer behaviour would help, and possibly would help a lot.

Having dealt with consumers before, I'm not entirely hopeful that it will happen /en masse/, and certainly not enough to make a significant difference in the long run.

But absolutely yes, these things should be done.

@quincy @loveisgrief

@gunchleoc @ColinTheMathmo @loveisgrief

Regarding car batteries, yes I meant modern batteries from EV, not lead acid starter batteries.

I've heard from several (!) house-owning acquaintances who've rigged up some of these at home (still at 70-80% storage capacity when they're no longer good for vehicles) to store electricity ...

And given that there seem to be a multitude of candidates for storage, this should be a major R&D focus by now!

@gunchleoc @ColinTheMathmo @loveisgrief

Also nice: there seems to be a lot of R&D going on regarding cell types.

Lithium and other relatively expensive materials can be swapped out for cheaper, or at least more diverse, ones

Batteries are hard. They heat up, loose capacity over time, are highly flammable ( as is rocket fuel, maybe not as much ... But still highly enough for serious concerns), are made of rare and hard to recycle materials and so on. Energy storage is hard and electricity is one of the worsts. Even modern batteries loose a lot of Watts between what you consume at charge and what you get when using them.

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