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Energy storage a key to wind, solar backup

Nov 01, 2011   |   by Scott Kirsner   |   The Boston Globe

Let’s imagine that new wind turbines or solar panels are being installed near where you live. Maybe if you are lucky enough to live on the coast, it’s a new system to generate power from the ocean’s waves.

What happens on those days when there’s no breeze, no sun, or no surf - or on those blazing July afternoons when your town’s electrical needs exceed what nature can provide?

The answer is that you’d get power supplied from more traditional sources. In New England, that means a plant powered by natural gas, radioactive rods, oil, or coal - producing greenhouse gases or facing the challenge of handling spent nuclear fuel.

But a handful of companies around the region are designing new kinds of energy storage systems that could provide a different answer, perhaps helping to speed the spread of renewable power. Using large-scale battery banks or serpentine pipes filled with compressed air, they hope to capture the power produced by a wind turbine or solar panel and release it to the electrical grid when it is most needed. Both approaches would have zero emissions...

In New Hampshire, not far from Seabrook Nuclear Power Station, a start-up called SustainX is designing and testing compressed air storage systems. Founder Dax Kepshire [Th'06, '09] says the technology could store power from any sort of generating facility. ... Founded in 2007 as a spin-out from Dartmouth, SustainX has raised $24 million in private financing, along with a $5.4 million grant from the Department of Energy.

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