LEEDS, England, Aug. 11 (UPI) — British and Chinese researchers say they’ve found a way to deal with sudden peak demands for electricity that could cut fuel costs in half.
Scientists at the University of Leeds and the Chinese Academy of Sciences looked at ways to cope with demands on a national power grid that can vary widely at different times of the day, a Leeds university release said Wednesday.
Power demands usually peak in the early evening after the mass exodus toward home from school and work, and short-lived spikes in demand are common after televised sports events or during commercial breaks, the release said.
Energy companies typically deal with the demand spikes with electricity from power plants that are only switched on to cope with the peaks. But the gas-fired generators often used to feed these peaks are notoriously inefficient and expensive to run, and sit idle for long periods of time, researchers say.
University of Leeds Professor of Engineering Yulong Ding and colleagues propose a more environmentally friendly system that would store excess energy made by a plant supplying the “base” demand and use this to supply the “peaks” in demand as and when they happen.
The key idea would be to use excess energy — not needed during “base” demand times — to power a unit producing liquid nitrogen. At times of peak demand, the nitrogen would be boiled, using heat from the environment and waste heat from the power plant, to drive a turbine or engine generating “top up” electricity to deal with demand spikes.
“On paper, the efficiency savings are considerable. We now need to test the system in practice,” Ding said.
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