LETTER: Green solution to Eskom’s electricity problems
by Rodney Mazinter
Here’s a solution to Eskom’s electricity generation problems.
The Israeli hi-tech company Augwind successfully built a renewable energy facility that compresses air and stores it as an “air battery” to generate electricity when needed.
Electricity is easy to make, but difficult to store for later use as needed. The two main methods are chemical storage by using huge banks of batteries, or pumping water uphill to a giant reservoir and then using gravity to let it flow through generators in a hydro-electric power plant, as is done at Steenbras.
Augwind’s AirBattery method stores the energy in the form of highly compressed air in giant underground reinforced storage tanks. Any excess electricity not needed during low demand periods is used to pump air into the tanks. When you need more electricity, the air is let out of the tanks and used to power generators to turn the stored energy back into electricity.
A 5 MW solar power plant in Israel’s Negev desert together with a 20 MWh AirBattery storage comprises the system. During the day, solar power will generate compressed air stored in the AirBatteries, which can be released at night to produce totally clean electricity.
The company said recent tests showed that the Air Battery’s overall efficiency for commercial use with a capacity above 5 Megawatts is up to 81%, making it highly competitive with existing lithium battery storage systems, but much more environmentally friendly.
Lithium batteries contain chemical components, some of which are not recyclable. The higher initial efficiency of lithium batteries is offset by the huge disadvantage that battery strength fades and batteries need to be replaced – an expensive and pollution-intensive endeavour.
The Air-Battery solution is designed to last for decades. While also being green, it is environmentally friendly, and based solely on sunlight and air in plentiful supply.
* Rodney Mazinter, Camps Bay.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.
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