back to article Boffins build blazing battery bonfire

Energy boffins have proposed an alternative to lithium-ion batteries: Instead of costly electrochemical cells, which have been known to burst into flames, they have devised a "sun in a box" to store energy for power utilities. Imagine a storage tank 10 meters in diameter filled with molten silicon, alongside a few other …

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  1. redpawn Silver badge

    I'm not worried

    about the battery leaking, just all the stuff used to extract the energy.

    1. Mips

      Re: I'm not worried

      Yeah but:

      Thermal system cannot be more than 50% efficient and more like 40% whereas lithium ion systems are going towards 70%.

      How does that factor.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: I'm not worried

        "Thermal system cannot be more than 50% efficient and more like 40% whereas lithium ion systems are going towards 70%."

        Relevant line from TFA:

        "Lithium-ion costs run about $300 to $400 per kWh-e, he said, while a molten silicon system looks like it can operate at $30 to $40 per kWh-e"

        It's (potentially) ten times cheaper, and that means it can be nine times less efficient and still be worth it.

        1. adam 40

          Re: I'm not worried

          Why compare it to Li-ION batteries though? I thought chemical flow batteries were cheaper and reasonably efficient.

          Also there's now a salt-water electrolyte rechargeable battery which is a cheaper alternative.

        2. Colintd

          Re: I'm not worried

          You're mixing capex with opex. Just because it's much cheaper to build, doesn't mean it will be cheaper to run.

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Interesting idea

    I thought the hot rock idea was already in use, and at considerably less cost per kWh. But maybe the advantage here is in storage capacity per unit volume, especially given the phase change required.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Interesting idea

      Molten salt is used for this purpose already, have easily handled temperature ranges and being plentiful (near the sea). Silicon heat storage involves much higher temperatures - so harder engineering - but is more efficient as a result.

      Salt has a virtuous benefit; with available energy you can get the salt by desalinating sea water. The salt goes into your heat store, enabling the generation of electricity, and the fresh water is likely a valuable resource in hot, permanently sunny areas suited to solar-salt energy schemes.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Interesting idea

        Bah humbug.

        There are no virtuous benefits, just groups looking to extract subsidies. Far from being a 'sun in a box', this is just another example. Plus I'm pretty sure the Sun doesn't fuse silicon.

        So salt's already been used in Spain and California as pseudo-batteries. Problem is the energy losses heating the salt, then converting that heat back into electricity. Which means making a salt-breeder becomes even less efficient given the energy needed for desalination. If you have a hefty power surplus, then it makes more sense.

        Bigger issue is they're usually solutions looking for problems. So solar power. So building and maintaining a large solar power station is expensive. See Ivanpah for more info. $2.2bn for a theoretical 400MW of capacity.. Which it's never achieved, and it'd have been cheaper to use it's gas turbines to generate electricity. That solar plant also uses a LOT of gas. And of course at night, it generates 0MW. Unless it's doing a Spain and spooling up the gas turbines..

        Same for any other solar plant. Power during the day, cost during the night. Subsidy bank snake oil peddlers promise 'solutions'. They'll take expensive power, shrink it due to conversion losses and then sell it on.. Glossing over the implications of all the additional costs involved. Which means no benefit to consumers, because they'll be expected to pay those costs, either directly via energy bills, or indirectly via subsidies.

        There are far cheaper alternatives. So a simple roof-top solar system could store locally using a simple hot water tank and heating element. Cheap, reliable and the operator gets 'free' hot water, give or take solar installation costs. Downside is 'grid scale' battery peddlers don't make money from that, and you can't charge an EV.

        Or if you want to make snake-oil salesman salty, there's always MSR. Standardise and modularise those into say, 1GW or 500MW units and they'll generate power even when it's dark. Or the wind's not blowing.. But that involves the 'N' word, which most Greens hate.. even though it makes far more economic sense, especially if electricity demand keeps growing.

        1. dbtx Bronze badge
          Alert

          pretty sure the Sun doesn't fuse silicon.

          Not right now...

          1. dbtx Bronze badge

            actually never

            Apparently the sun isn't massive enough. Sorry to mislead :(

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: actually never

              Heh, it got me pondering decay chains, so kept me amused for a while :)

            2. Sleep deprived
              Happy

              Re: actually never

              Rest assured that when the Sun engulfes Earth, beach sand will melt.

              1. dbtx Bronze badge

                beach sand will melt

                Making fused quartz? I see what you did there. You could say it's... (dons shades) crystal clear.

          2. Mephistro Silver badge

            Re: pretty sure the Sun doesn't fuse silicon.

            Not by itself, but with sunlight and an image-less solar oven you can fuse about anything.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting idea

          Wot he said.

          The fundamental elephants in the room are:

          1/. Is carbon dioxide really affecting climate significantly?

          2/. If it is, is the cost of reducing it greater than dealing with the cost of climate change?

          3/. If it is, zero carbon nuclear power is already cheaper than windmills and solar panels levelised over a decent lifetime and doesn't need very much storage at all - really just enough to cope with diurnal peaks. Seasonal variation is coped for by doing maintenance in summer.

          3/. Adding storage to renewable energy simply adds more cost.

          The question is, therefore, why we haven't simply gone nuclear?

          The answer is of course that governments - and the EU especially - are not actually interested in lowering CO2 emissions. Presumably they know that CO2 does not affect the climate unduly. They are interested in more state interference in energy and subsidies to cronies and that's why we don't have a carbon reduction obligation but a renewable energy obligation.

          Allowing dear old Germany, home of naturism, veganism and that nice animal loving vegan Adolf, to follow it's virtue signalling Energiewende, which whilst pushing renewable energy production (aided by subsidised German windmills of course!) to new highs, has resulted in - despite the fact that Germany STILL has more hydro and nuclear power running than the UK - in the highest CO2 emissions of any country in Europe, per country, per capita and per MWh.

          And that folks, is one of the chief (t)reasons we need to leave the crony club EU.

          When hysterical ideology and emotional narratives replace sober cost benefit analysis, you may well smell a politically and commercially inspired rat.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1
            Thumb Up

            Re: Interesting idea

            > zero carbon nuclear power

            I'm with you a great deal of the way in advocating nuclear solutions to power generation. I thought I'd point out, though, that if one builds a nuclear power station out of concrete (what else?), it isn't zero carbon. A fine Encyclopaedia Anyone Can Edit currently estimates the quantity of CO2 produced for the manufacture of structural concrete (using ~14% cement) at 410 kg/m3. See also the Green Ration Book.

            1. IanRS

              Re: Interesting idea

              This is why wind turbines are not clean too. Big steel tower on a huge concrete foundation = enormous up-front CO2 cost. Apparently they break even after 20 years, out of a 25 year expected usable lifespan.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Interesting idea

                "Apparently they break even after 20 years"

                Yes. From subsidies. If not spinning.

                If they're running, the big ones have a nasty tendency to eat gearboxes and have their brakes or gearboxes catch fire. It's not so much wind farming as subsidy farming (several large windfarms have been paid about £35k/month/turbine to NOT connect their turbines to the grid - unlike any other form of generation, wind farmers don't have to pay for the lines to connect to the grid or put in storage to prevent South Australia type events, so the grids don't want the costs of their instability)

            2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              "

              I thought I'd point out, though, that if one builds a nuclear power station out of concrete (what else?), it isn't zero carbon.

              "

              Pretty much any form of generating station requires concrete (or equivalent) in its build. A nuclear station may need a bit more than a gas-fired station, but I should think the difference is trivial compared to the saving over the life of the station.

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              "A fine Encyclopaedia Anyone Can Edit currently estimates the quantity of CO2 produced for the manufacture of structural concrete "

              Almost all of the concrete used in a nuke plant is for the outer steam containment vessel of a conventional light-water-moderated reactor, to be able to handle the stresses involved.

              Get rid of the water and your containment vessel is less than 0.1% fo the size at 1000MW output. 1 litre of water at 400C and 20 atmospheres flashes to ~1500 litres of potentially radioactive steam, amd containing that requires a LOT of concrete structure.

              Because it's so much smaller, the containment building can be much much stronger against improbable things things like having a train driven through it - but because it's not full of highly pressurised radioactive water there's no real benefit for a terrorist in trying that anyway (FlIBe salt freezes solid at 400C, so it won't go far if it leaks and it doesn't dissolve in water so biosphere contamination is unlikely - and unlike liquid sodium it doesn't thave a tendency to catch fire at the slightest leak (Hello Monju!))

              Alvin Weinberg should be one of the first saints of the Technological Age. He invented the nuclear reactor as we know it, wasn't satisfied with the dangerous way it was commercialised so made a much safer one and was tarred&feathered for his trouble.

            4. ivan5

              Re: Interesting idea

              @Jonathan Richards 1

              the same can be said for all the renewable windmills and solar panels. In fact MW for MW renewables produce more CO2 output.

          2. Dr_N Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Interesting idea

            AC> The fundamental elephants in the room are:

            That obvious trolls are obvious?

          3. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: Interesting idea

            1/ : yes. While truth is not determined by majority vote, I find it completely absurd to believe 99.9% of climate researchers have been persuaded to join a global conspiracy promoting a fake climate change problem.

            1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              I find it completely absurd to believe 99.9% of climate researchers have been persuaded to join a global conspiracy promoting a fake climate change problem

              While I agree with you, you could use the same reasoning as proof that homeopathy was valid: "I find it completely absurd to believe that 99.9% of homeopathic practitioners have been persuaded to join a global conspiracy...."

              It becomes more likely when you realise that, without climate change, most climate researchers would not have a job (in that field), just as homeopathic practitioners would be out of a job if they admitted they were peddling bovine excrement of the highest order.

              I still, like I said, believe man-made climate change is happening.

              1. Caver_Dave
                Boffin

                Re: Interesting idea

                "Homeopathy is placebo. But that doesn't matter. Placebo works even if you know it is placebo!"

                Sources: my wife the Pharmacist who sells people placebo drugs (for a few pence) but she has to remember to ask what they need to cure before giving them out! Plus many double blind trials where the benefits continue after people are told they are on placebos.

                The human mind is truly strange!

              2. MacroRodent Silver badge

                Re: Interesting idea

                without climate change, most climate researchers would not have a job

                Unlikely. There were climate researchers long before this became a hot item. Hard to say how much it has affected the number of persons working on it, but I doubt it has even doubled or something like that. By contrast, without homeopathy there would be no homeopathists at all. Another difference is that climatology is a science, where evidence makes or breaks theories. Not like pseudosciences, where "researchers" concentrate on confirming the particular fallacy. If global temperatures started falling, and it would continue falling for years, the climatologists would eventually admit they were wrong. But nothing would convince homeopathists that all they see is at best the placebo effect.

                1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

                  Re: Interesting idea

                  Another difference is that climatology is a science, where evidence makes or breaks theories. Not like pseudosciences, where "researchers" concentrate on confirming the particular fallacy.

                  I agree. However, I was pointing out the danger of using the "99.9% of X researchers think X is real" argument. It can easily be quashed, especially by those who have a strong disbelief in X, by saying "they are all in it to save their jobs". There are other arguments to be had, this one doesn't really help the cause.

                2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                  Re: Interesting idea

                  "

                  Another difference is that climatology is a science, where evidence makes or breaks theories.

                  "

                  Really? Such as the evidence that not a single climate model has correctly predicted anything at all, or the evidence that the historical temperature figures were shown to have been altered to support the theories?

                  If what science had predicted 15 years ago had been correct, the chair I'm sitting in would be 5m under water by now.

                  Yes, there is climate change (always has been, always will be). How much man's activities have contributed (if any) is still conjecture rather than science. But in any case it's beside the point. There is no way that Man will change our activities sufficiently to make a gnat's prick worth of difference, so we would be far better off planning how to live with the consequences than coming up with expensive schemes in a vain attempt to prevent the inevitable. And not everything to do with climate change is going to be detrimental by a long chalk - much will be an advantage.

              3. JLV Silver badge

                Re: Interesting idea

                specious argument.

                no one outside of homeopathists takes their claims seriously.

                yes, climate scientists DO gain employment from climate change concerns.

                but someone who managed to scientically debunk climate change, using good old science - i.e. a sound theory with reproducible results - would immediately achieve scientific superstardom.

                and it’s not like there aren’t tons of people willing to bankroll that line of research. Trump and the US coal industry come to mind.

                Or... there’s always the remote possibility that you are wrong. What level, if any, of proof would it take for you to adapt your worldview to new facts coming to your attention?

              4. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Interesting idea

                "It becomes more likely when you realise that, without climate change, most climate researchers would not have a job "

                The difference is that virtually the entire medical field regard homeopaths as fraudsters, whilst climate researchers have bodies of data, a track record of predictions being accurate and an impressive enough resume to be trusted by the insurance industry - actuaries don't work on "touchy feely" shit, they work on cold hard stats.

                You should also realise that whilst homeopaths are quacks who bilk pateints out of large sums of money, most climate researchers are paid absolutely rotten salaries and _WOULD_ get far better jobs in other sectors(*). They're not in it for the money.

                (*) Disclosure, I work with quite a few as part of my job. The pitiful pay is an issue that causes large staff turnover and they _do_ get good pay in other fields when they've finally had enough of sackcloth and ashes. Unlike the millions spent on politicians for conferences, most climate scientists are lucky to get tea and biscuits, let alone travel expenses covered when they meet.

            2. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              Every time I see someone throw the figure 99.9% about like it means anything at all (it doesnt, its a marketing term made popular on antibacterial spays) I wish I could be paid 99.9% of a pound so within 99.9% of my lifetime I may live 99.9% as a rich person.

            3. Esme

              Re: Interesting idea

              I'm not sure if people read what you said properly, Macrorodent, because as stated, I agree with you. I also find it absurd to believe that 99.9% of climate researchers have been persuaded to join a global conspiracy promoting a fake climate change problem. What I believe is that 99.9% of climate researchers have NOT joined a global conspiracy (Occam's Razor decrees that the simplest possibility is usually the likliest) , therefore th claims of most climatologists that we have a climate change problem and that human activities are part of the problem is almost certainly true. Not sure why anyone would downvote you on that unless they are climate-change deniers.

              However, I must disagree with an earlier poster who commented on what "the elephant in the room.." is. IMHO the elephant in the room is that across the board insect numbers have been dropping rapidly, removing the underpinnings of most of the land-based ecosystems. Arguing over whether using hot silicon to store energy is better or worse than some other system seems to me a bit like arguing over precisely how the deckchairs should be arranged on the Titanic. Just store the damned energy so it that what's produced can be used more efficiently! If we run out of things to eat because the biosystem is collapsing around our ears, it'll reduce our need for power storage (or anything else) rather finally.

            4. Qarumba

              Re: Interesting idea

              I challenge you to find a list of all climate researchers, of which there must be at least 1000 on it and indicate those who are "persuaded" and the one or more who has not been "persuaded".

              Also climatology is no longer a science, it is a belief system. In any scientific field you can question any conclusion without being called a denier!

              Whilst most of us agree the climate is changing, as there is sufficient evidence for that, some of us would like to question how you can prove that the majority of that change is caused by mankind.

              Once convinced, some of us would like to see what the optimal solutions might be i.e. work with it, or work against it.

              At the moment the panic reaction is to call everyone who uses fossil fuels evil and tax the blazes out of the poor while providing eye-watering subsidies to the wealthy (e.g. solar panel subsidies that could only be afforded by the relatively wealthy).

              Of course anyone on the IPCC jetting all over the world to exotic locations for a chat are clearly exempt!

              1. David 18

                Re: Interesting idea

                @Qarumba

                "Also climatology is no longer a science, it is a belief system. In any scientific field you can question any conclusion without being called a denier!"

                I thought I was the only one! My biggest problem with the whole debate is the language of religion being used in science. Anyone (going back a few years now) who questioned that proven unreliable computer models were not scientific proof was pilloried. Disgusting, when directed at eminent scientists.

                I have been labelled a Creationist Brexiteer by virtue signalling arty types (who now suddenly "FL Science" without any concept of scientific method) because I have some reservations. (I am an atheist, liberal remainer btw with a lifetime of concern for the environment and pollution by nastier things than plant food!).

                A long time ago I did ponder whether the whole thing was cooked up to make people not want oil as it was running out anyway, and making people frightened to use something works a damned sight better than telling them they can't.

                In the last year or so, I have come to think that it probably is happening - there is some good science happening after all, and the models are just about starting to reflect reality.

            5. TheVogon Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              "1/ : yes. While truth is not determined by majority vote, I find it completely absurd to believe 99.9% of climate researchers have been persuaded to join a global conspiracy promoting a fake climate change problem."

              It's >97% actually: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002

          4. TheVogon Silver badge

            Re: Interesting idea

            "1/. Is carbon dioxide really affecting climate significantly?"

            That hasnt been in any scientific doubt whatsoever for at least 2 decades now.

            "2/. If it is, is the cost of reducing it greater than dealing with the cost of climate change?"

            The models show it is much cheaper to do something about it than to experience it.

            "3/. If it is, zero carbon nuclear power is already cheaper than windmills "

            Nope - nuclear power is way more expensive than renewables.

            3/(sic). Adding storage to renewable energy simply adds more cost.

            That cost is offset becaise because you need less non renewable and less peak generating capacity if you can store energy.

            "The answer is of course that governments - and the EU especially - are not actually interested in lowering CO2 emissions."

            Well they are doing quite well at it compared to most of the rest of the planet.

            "Presumably they know that CO2 does not affect the climate unduly."

            I doubt that they dispute science that is not doubted by a single recognised scientific institution on the planet. You would have to be a moron on the level of Trump to think that.

            "Germany STILL has more hydro and nuclear power running than the UK - in the highest CO2 emissions of any country in Europe"

            Germany is on 36% renewables and about 12% nuclear (The UK figures are ~ 30% and 15%). However Germany generates about 40% of it's electricity from coal - with corresponding high CO2 emissions.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              >> 3/. If it is, zero carbon nuclear power is already cheaper than windmills "

              > Nope - nuclear power is way more expensive than renewables.

              It doesn't matter if it is or isn't. Renewables can't generate enough electricity to replace carbon.

              They could just about (if all stops are pulled out) match electrical generation of the first decade of this century but when you gun for all the carbon sources (transportation, heating, industrial processes) you'll need 6-8 times more than that.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Interesting idea

            1 - Yes, CO2 is really significantly affecting the climate.

            2 - The cost of dealing with it, while significant, is considerably more than dealing with cost of climate change*

            3 - I'm in agreement that (modern, safe(er) ) nuclear power should be part of the mix, but putting all our eggs in that basket isn't very clever either

            3 (again! :) ) Not necessarily - part of the overall cost of renewables lies in their intermittent nature and the need to store / release excess energy when required. The basic production cost has been dropping massively and TCO won't be that far off nuclear

            I'm not disagreeing that the energy / subsidy market can be deeply skewed by governments, but that is true of all energy types. If there's some energy form that's going to be inefficiantly subsidised, I'd rather it be renewables than oil/coal (as in the US and oil-producing countries)

            *This is readily backed up by numbers in the reinsurance industry. Industry losses from climate-change related natural disasters is ALREADY significantly higher in the last couple of years than the previous 10-15 years. That's hundreds of billions being wiped off the balance sheets of mutual funds, pension funds etc invested in reinsurance, as well as increased insurance premiums all round and necessity of strengthening/rebuilding infrastructure costing many billions out of the pockets of property owners and taxpayers.

          6. JLV Silver badge

            Re: Interesting idea

            Germany’s fail is that climate change is too much of a problem to allow the Greens much say in solving it. We agree on that much.

            For the rest, your ranty ramble is fairly content-free. If climate change is happening, something accepted by almost all scientists in the field, costs will be immense over time. Think of the effects on agriculture and losses from coastal real estate flooding.

            All for what? To resist changing the way we generate energy? Yes, it will change economies and yes there will be losers, but people will end up being employed in the new jobs, new companies will grow and life will go on pretty much as before. If youve been paying attention you realize a lot of hardnosed capitalist corporations ARE increasingly banking on climate change being a problem. Because, well, the math and science add up. If it’s happening then it’s just a physical phenomenon, not a political one.

            But, yeah, just keep on putting your head in the sand cuz it doesn’t fit your world view.

          7. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Interesting idea

            1: Yes - and in ways you probably don't realise

            - forget temperature changes, the oceans have increased 30% in acidity in the last 200 years (pH is a log scale) and zooplankton are having trouble forming shells. In geological history, every time that's happened there's been a global anoxic event and the consequences for life on land have been severe (in the short term it would also cause an oceanic food chain collapse which means lots of starving people) - It's all there in the rocks.

            2: See above. How well can our species (and most others) cope with a reduction of atmospheric oxygen to 18%?(equiv 4000 feet at sea level) 16%? (equivalent 8,000 feet at sea level) or lower? Half the planet's breathable oxygen comes from the sea and during anoxic events the rocks show it's typically dipped to 13-14% (10,000 feet seal level equivalent). Can we cope with half the land area of the planet being rendered effectively uninhabitable?

            The heat - of water, not air - is a real problem.

            Tongues of warm water coming in from the Atlantic are destabilising methane clathrates on the Siberian continental shelf/margin (google for "laptev methane emissions") - and whilst what's coming out _now_ is relatively minor (the Russian establishment has started trying to play it down after blanking all coverage for 6 years and they still won't allow independent investigators into the areas), bear in mind that 20 years ago scientists were saying that all such emissions would dissolve into the water coloumn and it would be impossible for gas to make it to the surface (the plumes were about 1km wide at the surface in 2011) - what should worry you is that as the clathrates gas out, it makes the ice that remains porous, more and more unstable and more likely to break loose in a submarine landslide if there's an earthquake - which happen relatively regularly across the arctic.

            Submarine landslide-induced mass methane emissions have happened before - we know the most famous of them as the "Storegga Slides" and those were right on the knee point of warming at the start of our current interglacial period (after the slides, temperatures shot up sharply as did sea levels) - only this time there's the added fun of somewhere between 5-25gigatonnes of methane (carbon) that we can't afford to be added to the atmosphere to think about as well.

            The Global Methane Survey announced a few years back that they'd found 25% more methane in the atmosphere than they could account for from their satellite surveys and blamed it on possible farm animal emissions - but they didn't know about the Laptev Sea and their instruments weren't tuned to pick up methane over water, nor were the satellites in a high enough orbit to measure it anyway (they tried to recheck the raw data when it was brought to their attention (The reaction when shown the reports out of Russia before things clammed up was "What the? Uh oh!").

            There's a new methane survey underway using new instruments but it will take at least a couple of years to see if the "mystery" sources are clathrates. If they are, we may already have _at least_ 3-5C locked in.

        3. Lusty Silver badge

          Re: Interesting idea

          The local hot water storage is a great point, but as is EVs. If you remove the requirement for heating from your power consumption then the relatively small remainder (given low power modern gadgets) could easily be handled by the battery in a modern EV overnight. If every house had on average one EV connected you've already solved the overnight problem at grid scale.

          ML would be able to predict EV usage to give you sufficient juice to get where you're going in the morning, and once there you can charge from the solar again. A simple routine could cope with exceptions, perhaps linked to your diary - certainly O365 can supply destination addresses.

          We need to stop thinking big infrastructure and start thinking small and scalable. In IT speak, let's start scaling out instead of scaling up because it's almost always easier and cheaper. It'll even mean a lower capacity grid, so infrastructure costs will be lower accross the board. We all already have meters (many of them "smart") in homes to watch where power is flowing.

          And don't even get me started on rainwater capture at the property level rather than moaning about water shortages...

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Interesting idea

            The local hot water storage is a great point, but as is EVs. If you remove the requirement for heating from your power consumption then the relatively small remainder (given low power modern gadgets) could easily be handled by the battery in a modern EV overnight. If every house had on average one EV connected you've already solved the overnight problem at grid scale.

            Taking it further, if the EV was parked indoors, then waste heat from battery warmers & charging could heat the home.. Or require less energy because the car's warm. Problem though is typical EV usage would be to discharge during the day/evening as it's driven, so charged at night. And in the UK, problematic if you don't have anywhere to park and charge your EV.

            It really needs an engineering approach to the problem. First, define the requirements. That's pretty much cheap, reliable power because we depend on it as an input cost to pretty much every activity, and for our quality of life. Solutions that increase cost obviously aren't fit for requirement.

            Lobbyists get around this issue by externalising costs, or just outright lies. DECC did this with their levelised costs comparisons for generation by type to try and flatter renewables. As well as being expensve, renewables still have the fundamental problem of being unreliable, hence suggestions like this to 'fix' the problem by adding a lot more cost. That makes no economic or engineering sense.

            That kind of lobbying can also extend to other areas. So nuclear is very low carbon. But concrete! Ok, so yes, it needs a bit. But then so do windmills for foundations, pads for support kit etc. But conrete is also fun. So CO2 production comes from the process of calcination. Heat calcium carbonate to make calcium oxide for cement. So use low carbon energy for that process and it's CO2 debt is greatly reduced. And then reduced further because that oxide absorbs CO2 again over concrete's lifespan. That was a fun realisation discovered by the bionauts in Biosphere 2. CO2 levels in their dome was dropping because their concrete was absorbing it.

            Who knew concrete was a green, sustainable form of carbon capture and storage?

            But such is politics. The concrete thing is one small part of the FUD, especially as the CO2's mostly around cement production, not the sand and aggregate that makes up most of the concrete volume. Either way, nuclear is still by far the cheapest and greenest low carbon generation source.

            1. Rustbucket

              Re: Interesting idea

              When standard concrete absorbs CO2 the concrete is weakened and becomes more prone to spalling.

              Another externality to the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels -- we can expect out concrete buildings, dams and bridges to deteriorate earlier than they otherwise would.

            2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              @Jellied Eel

              "Taking it further, if the EV was parked indoors, then waste heat from battery warmers & charging could heat the home"

              An interesting idea. Hoe exactly does that work on the 6th floor of a block of flats? Bigger lifts? Crane outside the window to hoist the car up?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Interesting idea

                @Pen-y-gors

                Underground car parks with charging points?

                Probably won't work for existing blocks of flats, or could do with a good engineering solution to retrofitting them under buildings.

                An interesting conumdrum for engineers.

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              "especially as the CO2's mostly around cement production,"

              If you have molten salt nuclear, the extreme (800-900C) heat is an ideal replacement source for carbon-sources.

              Ditto on manufacturing carbon-based fuels for things which can't (easily) be electrified - such as longhaul aircraft.

              And then there's the small issue of sidestream production of an inexhausitble supply of helium & xenon, plus using up all that pesky throrium waste which is making rare earth mining impossible in most places, which in turn makes all those other rare earth products a lot cheaper/easier to obtain.

          2. Glen 1 Bronze badge

            Re: Interesting idea

            >If you remove the requirement for heating from your power consumption

            In places where PV is most cost effective, air conditioning (for cooling) is a big current draw.

            The whole point of leaving something to charge overnight is that you know you've got a full tank in the morning. Not to mention the economy7-esq night time power is cheaper.

            I suppose that will change if solar gets a bigger slice of the pi, but with the UK's climate it's more cost effective to go with wind.

            Or y'know, stop pissing about and go nuclear properly.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              "In places where PV is most cost effective, air conditioning (for cooling) is a big current draw."

              Having spent time living in such places - the use of brute force cooling is only one approach.

              People have lived in such areas for thousands of years and engineered a bunch of approaches to keeping cool that usually involved thermal chimneys and natural venting. (Look for chimney structures with the tops painted black - these aren't smokestacks, the solar heated tops pull air up and out of the buildings - very common in older areas across asia and the middle east - and the Persians had cooling systems down to a fine art 3000 years ago)

              Sure, you can stick an Aircon unit on the side of a tin box that acts like an oven, bit it's not much harder to take a few leaves out of old designs and usethe above coupled with double skinned designs that use the heat to pull air through the building in such a way that everyone's kept cool.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Interesting idea

              "The whole point of leaving something to charge overnight is that you know you've got a full tank in the morning. Not to mention the economy7-esq night time power is cheaper."

              The power requirements of an all-electric vehicle fleet more than match the pre-existing UK power requirement.

              Economy7 "offpeak" load might well become the highest load point of the cycle if everyone's charging their cars overnighht. You can pretty much rest assured that no matter what else happens, "offpeak" rates as we know them will effectively cease to exist and the spike of everyone putting their kettles on during the coronation street ad breaks will be a minor bli in the demand graph.

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