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Here’s a Peek at 5 Ambitious Energy Technologies

January 26, 2011

Here’s a peek at five ambitious, next-generation energy technologies dealing with wind power storage, windows, lithium batteries and biofuels. All five are funded by the Energy Dept.’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which is modeled after an agency that supports innovative defense technology.

  • A large flywheel capable of rapidly storing and discharging wind power coming from wind turbine farms is being developed by Beacon Power of Mass. A lightweight hoop composed of fiber composites and magnetic materials spinning at 8,000 to 16,000 revolutions per minute, the “flying ring” design seeks to provide a cheaper alternative to current pumping systems. Such systems store excess wind energy by pumping water uphill into reservoirs, then releasing it as needed. Flywheels will also have longer life spans than conventional batteries.
  • A new way to store wind power in underground salt caverns until needed is on the drawing board at General Compression, also based in Mass. The system is designed to control the heat when compressing and expanding the air without use of natural gas, which current compression systems rely on to regulate temperatures. The method may be able to hold and discharge eight to 200 hours’ worth of electricity, giving utilities the confidence they need to sign long-term deals with wind farms.
  • Less expensive smart windows…panes that can lighten or darken, depending on a building’s light and heating needs…is the aim of ITN Energy Systems of Colo. The high cost of  such windows now prevents their widespread use.
  • Solid-state lithium batteries for powering cars for far longer distances than are possible with other batteries are in the works at Florida – based Planar Energy. With a manufacturing process similar to that used in the semiconductor industry, Planar’s batteries hold the promise of up to three to four times the energy content of current batteries. They’re built at one-third the cost…a potential boon to the industry, which has lost market share to cheaper overseas competitors.
  • Advanced biofuels that don’t increase greenhouse gas levels…a holy grail of sorts for venture capitalists…are brewing at the Mass. Institute of Technology. MIT is working on engineering two complementary microbial organisms that together can efficiently process carbon dioxide into biodiesel without sunlight.

I’m always amazed at technology even simple things like our shredder. Today the shredder broke and I thought about this blog and what will be the future of shredders (?); purhaps turning the shredders contents into fuel of some sort. At GAI (www.gunwel.com) we are always looking outside the box and attempting to be at the forefront in our field and how we operate our business. Give us a call at 212-979-6830 or stop by for a visit and tell us what technologies you participate in that have revolutionized your business. Or just stop by and let’s talk tax. See you soon!

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