Monday, July 31, 2006

"Supergrid" Powerlines For a Nuclear-Based Economy

This months Scientific American publishes an article discussing a new concept in power grids, which transport both electrical power and liquid hydrogen. This is a key enabling technology for the next century because it will allow massive increases in power transport AND even more important, the liquid hydrogen in the network allows excess power to be "stored" or buffered.

This technology would be perfect for a Nuclear + Wind/Solar based economy. It would solve the problem of "intermittent power" that plagues the wind/solar folks. Of course, it would also enable the expansion of nuclear energy, because it would allow the nuclear industry to keep building more reactors on the same existing sites. It's politically much more difficult to build a new nuclear site, but reletively easy to add more units to existing sites.

Scientific American: A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy

Cryogenic, superconducting conduits could be connected into a "SuperGrid" that would simultaneously deliver electrical power and hydrogen fuel.

One interesting point the article made: existing power lines are not only overtaxed, but the system is pretty much at it's limit.

By the way, the co-author of this paper is Chauncy Starr, the former head of the Electric Power Research Institute and one of the great leaders the nuclear industry. If he says it will work, it will work!


At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All kinds of things will "work" but at what cost? We can fill the land with windmills and make enough energy to compensate for any local shortcoming, but at what cost?

Frankly, a quick glance at the capital costs of the SuperGrid lead me to think that this will just be a concept for many decades.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Tom Benson said...

I agree about the cost prohibitions, but I think there will be steady progress this direction. It just makes too much sense to have a grid that can tie together disparate and competitive energy sources. It allows a clean "race" between energy suppliers. If we can get such a competition going, then the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear vs. wind or solar or whatever will eventually be exposed.


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