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article imageImproved electricity storage leads to innovation

By Tim Sandle     Jun 2, 2017 in Environment
A study from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee demonstrates how improved electrical storage technology spurs innovation and boosts the efficiency across the entire electricity sector.
The survey, by economists looking at energy conservation, is based on 50 years of collecting patent data from 70 countries and subjecting it to rigorous analysis. As leas researcher Dr. Itziar Lazkano explains: "We looked at companies that had been granted patents in electricity generation technologies and determined the probability that they would apply for future patents."
When this happens this leads to positive reinforcing behavior (or what many economists call 'nudging'), as Dr. Lazkano continues: "We found that having a patent in storage technology made companies more likely to apply for another patent, either in renewable electricity generation technology or in efficiency-improving technology in fossil fuels."
The research does, nonetheless, calls into question the assumption that improved storage alone can lead to reduced carbon emissions by boosting renewable energy innovation. This is because fossil fuel plants benefit from better storage technology and they are able to supply electricity without incurring high ramping costs. In other words, current economic models do not create favorable conditions for many energy companies to switch over to renewables.
Since economics alone cannot lead to a reduction in fossil fuels and a take up of renewables, the researchers recommend that governmental policy measures are needed to increase the use of renewable energy, as well as measures put in place to prevent the increased use of "dirtier" fuels such as coal. The research is presented in the journal European Economic Review ("From fossil fuels to renewables: The role of electricity storage").
The push for renewables remains important, according to the Michigan Technological University. A research team have calculated U.S. deaths per kilowatt hour per year for coal related to air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. the finding is troublesome: by swapping solar photovoltaics for coal, the US could prevent 51,999 premature deaths a year, potentially making as much as $2.5 million for each life saved.
In the academic sector, however, innovations in renewables continue. Sometimes improvements arrive incrementally and even a few seconds shaved off energy conversion can make a difference. To help advance this, scientists from Ames Laboratoryhave captured the moment less than one trillionth of a second a particle of light hits a solar cell and becomes energy. From this they have been able to describe the physics of the charge carrier and atom movement for the first time. This precise measurement has been reported to Nature Communications ("Ultrafast terahertz snapshots of excitonic Rydberg states and electronic coherence in an organometal halide perovskite").
A practical innovation has come from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. This takes the form of a semi-transparent perovskite solar cells have been developed that could be great candidates for solar windows. The window functions very effectively as a thermal mirror, with an average power conversion efficiency of 13.3 percent.
More about Energy, Energy storage, Energy efficiency, Power
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