Who needs batteries: pumped storage ‘lake battery’ planned for Baja California
With solar and pumped storage, Mexico could become energy self-sufficient
We were on our way to Huilotán, a jungly ecopark located deep in a canyon just north of Guadalajara.
How the subject of lithium batteries came up, I don’t know, but we were discussing some of their disadvantages, such as the effect of aging and their occasional tendency to burst into flames. That’s when my neighbor Richard Gresham said, “Well, the batteries I work with are a lot more efficient.”
“What kind of batteries are those?” I asked, aware that Rich is a man of many talents and wide interests.
What I learned as we wound our way through the towering cliffs of the Río Santiago Canyon opened my eyes to new concepts and left me with sincere admiration for people who have learned to think outside the box.
All around the world, my neighbor pointed out, interest in solar energy is growing, but by its nature it leaves us with a certain problem: solar generates no energy at all at night. As darkness falls, people turn on their lights, switch on their TVs and are suddenly in need of vast amounts of electricity.
If the human race is ever to depend on solar power for our energy, we must find a way to store some of it for night use. What we normally think of as batteries can’t possibly store enough energy for millions of people to use at night “but,” Rich explained to me, “a kinetic-energy battery can do just that.”
Imagine you have an escarpment, a sheer cliff a kilometer high with a body of water down at the bottom. You pump that water up to a reservoir during the daytime when solar power is not only cheap, but so abundant that you actually have to pay to get rid of it.
Then, at sunset when all those people are about to switch on their lights, you allow that water to start falling back down the cliff, generating peak power exactly when you want it.