The Storage and Transmission Question


February 8, 2013

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On Friday, an activist New York-based hedge fund threw down the gauntlet to Apple in a bid to force the world’s most valuable company to unlock its $137bn cash pile.

However, that’s not the only storage challenge that the technology giant is currently battling.

Back in January, Apple Insider reported that the US business had reportedly filed a patent for the “on-demand generation of electricity from stored wind energy”.

The patent submission followed company plans to construct a wind turbine that generates power via the conversion of heat energy, as opposed to rotational energy of the turbine’s blades.

The thinking – at least, as far as it currently goes – is that in order to mitigate the problem of wind intermittency, Apple aims to convert rotational energy from the turbine into heat, which is then stored in a fluid and that can be subsequently used to generate electricity during times of low wind activity.

Irrespective of whether this particular idea works, it’s pretty innovative stuff and nobody can point the finger at Apple for not trying to add some fresh thinking to the debate.

The bit that raises questions of course is why Apple is even getting involved in the energy storage and intermittency debate in the first place?

And that’s where the interest lies. Since if a company with the manufacturing and financial muscle of Apple starts getting in on the act – irrespective of whether or not it’s for independent energy and cost savings gain – the potential for future industry innovation is huge.

As we already recognise, the complex challenge of balancing the grid is as much about speed and ease of transmission as it is about storage, supply and demand.

It’s something that was a common theme throughout the conference and panel sessions at EWEA 2013 last week.

However, to capitalise on this early-stage momentum requires a common consensus.

And with the likes of Artur Rozycki, Chief Executive of Polish utility ENEA, already cautioning against “one central [electricity] dispatch in Brussels” and questioning the longer term benefits of EU interconnections, the time for discussion and debate is now.

As the wind energy markets begin driving wider discussions regarding the future of EU energy generation, storage and deployment it’s time to set aside differences and engage.

And this emerging issue of storage is just the start.

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