You Can Now Store Energy in Your Bathtub!

7

APRIL, 2016

Yep, you read the heading of this week’s blog correctly. Store energy in a bathtub…that is, if you have a giant bathtub. And a mountain.

Energy storage research is gobbling up venture capital dollars with battery research, compressed air storage, and fly wheels, but good ole pumped storage is still the dominate way we store energy in the US. In fact, 98% of energy storage in the US is pumped storage and the others make up the remaining 2%.

Pumped storage is when you have a reservoir of water (a giant bathtub) located in an elevated place. When your utility needs to produce more energy, water is released downhill, using gravity it picks up speed and then turns a generator at the bottom to generate electricity. When energy prices are low and there is not as much demand (middle of the night for example) the utility will use a water pump to pump water back up and refill the reservoir, thereby using energy that is not being utilized to create energy when it is needed. Here’s a general diagram of a hydropower plant from howstuffworks.com:

This works great for wind power. The wind tends to blow harder in the pre-dawn hours, while most of us are still sleeping, but may not be blowing when we are running our AC or when we’re at work. Using that wind energy to pump water to the reservoir to be used when there is peak demand is a great way to store that renewable energy that would have gone un-utilized.

Missouri has a great example of the pumped storage owned by Ameren Missouri in the Taum Sauk Reservoir. Click here to learn more about Taum Sauk.

So can you store energy in a bathtub? Sure, as long as it is a really big bathtub, on top of a mountain.

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