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Thermal Storage Hopium

Thermal Storage Hopium

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After realizing that there is not enough mining capacity to “produce” the necessary amount of metals to build enough batteries (not only lithium, but copper, nickel and much more), a mad scramble to find an alternative electricity storage solution began. Last time I revisited the problem, the hype was all about using aluminum waste to convert its embedded chemical energy into hydrogen and heat. Now its time for thermal batteries to receive their fare share of criticism.

Thermal storage is touted as a “clean and sustainable alternative” to Lithium-Ion Batteries. According to media reports: “The thermal batteries industry is in the nascent stage of development, but it is gaining increasing attention, as governments and companies worldwide look for alternative green solutions. These batteries work by heating a substance to store thermal energy, which can be converted into heat or electricity. Energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind farms, can be stored to use when energy is not being produced on-site, to ensure a stable flow of electricity to the grid.”

Well, where to start? It is one thing to store excess electricity generated by wind and solar as heat, it is quite another to convert that heat back into electricity… A “problem” grossly overlooked by the technutopists pushing this idea. You see, the efficiency of such an energy storage system is still ruled by physics, and thinking that this is just another “problem” to be solved, well, is magical thinking at best. As discovered by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824, not even an ideal, frictionless engine can convert 100% of its input heat into work: that nasty second law of thermodynamics puts a fundamental limit on the thermal efficiency of all heat engines…

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