Monday, April 22, 2024

Are Batteries the Answer For Large Scale Energy Storage?

Letter to the Editor,

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is accelerating the pace of scientific discovery and innovation, and helping us solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. With its ability to analyze vast amounts of data and identify patterns and relationships that might otherwise go unnoticed, AI can help scientists identify new solutions and approaches to addressing complex challenges such as climate change, disease, and hunger. By combining the expertise of scientists with the power of AI, we have the potential to make rapid progress in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems and improving the quality of life for people everywhere. However, it is also important to consider the potential risks and ethical concerns associated with the use of AI in science and to ensure that its development and deployment is guided by a strong ethical framework that prioritizes the well-being of people and the planet. The recent breakthroughs in AI applications and advancements should not be discounted when discussing the issue of TCE’s proposal to build a pumped storage facility in the Municipality of Meaford.

Investing in a pumped storage facility, which takes several years to build and requires a significant capital investment, much of which will be coming from taxpayers, is a long-term and high-risk proposition that is more aligned with the short-term profit motives of TCE than with the long-term interests of Ontarians. With the advancements in AI and its impact on scientific discoveries, it’s important to consider that new technologies and methods of energy storage may emerge and make pumped storage less attractive or even obsolete. This is due to AI’s ability to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and disrupt traditional industries, including the energy sector. Additionally, changes in energy policies and regulations could also affect the market for pumped storage. TCE’s proposition to build a facility that uses decades-old technology is akin to trying to convince you to invest in a pager rather than a Smartphone.

Batteries, including flow batteries and clean non-toxic batteries, are now considered a more viable option for large-scale energy storage due to their efficiency at converting stored energy, lower cost, and improved viability. They offer several advantages over pumped storage facilities, including faster response times, lower maintenance requirements, and greater flexibility. Batteries can be deployed more quickly and at a lower cost, making them a more attractive option for many energy producers and consumers. Furthermore, batteries can be combined with renewable energy sources to provide reliable and low-carbon energy storage. As our energy system becomes more decentralized, with an increasing number of small-scale renewable energy generators, there is a greater need for flexible and scalable energy storage solutions. Batteries are well suited for this role, as they can be installed at a variety of locations and can be scaled to meet specific energy storage needs. Advances in battery technology and manufacturing techniques have led to a reduction in the cost of batteries, as well as an increase in their energy density, or the amount of energy that can be stored in a given volume. These advancements are happening rapidly and banks of large storage batteries will soon approach the capacity of pumped storage. TCE will counter this argument by mentioning statistics about the present state of battery technology, not the projected path. By the time a massive community-disrupting, over-budget, environmentally disruptive pumped storage facility even begins to go into operation the world will be a very different place and science will have leapt forward. If we are not careful we could be paying for this project twice. Once to build it and again to decommission it.

Before proceeding with a project of this magnitude, and expense, a more thorough cost-benefit analysis should be conducted to determine the best course of action. Included in that analysis should be a discussion of the advancements and trajectory of large-scale batteries and the potential impact of decentralized energy storage.

Jeff Smith, Meaford

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