Currently, most of our power generation in Australia comes from coal.
One of the problems with coal (and why off-peak power is cheaper than peak power) is that they require a long period of time to heat up to operating temperature and so they cannot be started and stopped quickly.
From the Climate Spectator (Giles Parkinson) comes: “The biggest challenge is how to manage the growth in peak demand, which is growing at a phenomenally faster rate than baseload power. It will come as something of a shock to most consumers that their soaring power bills are not the fault of green energy subsidies, but mostly because of the neighbour’s newly installed air conditioning unit. Or their own.”
Now peak power is generally provided by gas or hydro as they are capable of following demand better but we don’t have a lot of this kind of generation capacity in Australia and it is expensive. Excess coal-fired power that is generated has to be ‘dumped’ – this is done during off-peak times (generally at night). It’s done by various means but one is to heat up pondages of water – it takes a lot of energy to heat water.
We will be moving towards a low/no carbon economy in the near future. One of the technologies that have been touted for producing electricity when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow is to store the excess solar thermal energy in vats of molten salt. This allows this thermal energy to be recovered later to produce steam to drive turbines.
Instead of ‘dumping’ the excess energy generated from coal-fired power stations, we were to store it instead by heating vats of molten salt??
Could this be used as an interim way of producing greater efficiencies from our current generation plants, while we usher in the new age of low/no carbon energy??
Just a thought……
as always, comments are more than welcome.