Wait... carbon dioxide could be GOOD for cities? (GE has an idea)

Wed, 2016-03-23 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

You’re likely under great pressure to power your city using more renewable energy. But you’re likely under even greater pressure to deliver more power. Power needs may grow by 50% over the next few decades. So how can you do both?

It turns out that the greenhouse gas that’s responsible for all the renewable energy mandates may also hold the key to making those green sources much more effective. As you’ll read below, Council Lead Partner GE is effectively using carbon dioxide as a battery, collecting energy from green sources as its produced and turning it into power when its needed. And the turbine could easily fit on your desk, yet generate power for 100,000 homes.

In the world of energy, things are changing fast — and it’s more important than ever for utilities to keep up with the changes. Clean energy isn’t just a matter of adding some solar panels; you have to ensure they work with everything else, another problem GE is working to solve.

The new carbon dioxide turbine may not be ready for 5 or 10 years, but it could help power densely populated blocks with clean energy and a small footprint, so it’s worth putting on your radar. (For ideas you can use today, check out our recent Special Theme Edition on smart energy.) — Kevin Ebi

Solar power is a great source of renewable energy, but as with many things in life, timing is everything. The sun doesn’t shine on long winter nights when people turn on their lights. On the other hand, a sunny Sunday afternoon can produce an ample electricity surplus that’s difficult to store.

“That’s the grand challenge,” says Stephen Sanborn, senior engineer and principal investigator at GE Global Research (GRC). “We need to make renewable energy available to the grid when it is needed.”

Sanborn and his team decided to solve this problem by storing some of the heat generated by thermal solar power plants in carbon dioxide. These power plants concentrate solar rays with vast fields of mirrors and use the heat to generate steam that spins a turbine. The carbon dioxide effectively works like a battery that can quickly release energy during peak demand.

The irony, of course, is that CO2 is the prime contributor to climate change, and the reason the world is switching to renewable energy in the first place.

Read more at GE Reports.

More stories …
Is your city’s energy renewable? (If not, you could soon become a fossil)
Energy storage: hot on the heels of the renewables wave