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New Sparks Of Energy

Nobody can fully explain ‘electricity’ – yet!.  That was a conclusion from the October meeting of Moleside’s newly convened Science & Technology Group. 

But our failure to elucidate what must also have intrigued Faraday and his fellow pioneers didn’t stop us considering the increasingly important place batteries now hold in our lives.

Our discussion got going with an assertion that one of our group regulars now has no need for mains electricity or gas to run his Cobham home between the months of April and September. 

Having now successfully doubled the battery capacity fed from the solar panels on his home’s roof, he can also include any available storage in his recently acquired all electric car

But his quest for carbon neutrality takes a nose dive in the winter months.

All this focused our attention on a better understanding of progress towards creating batteries that can combine fast charging and greater storage capacity with reduced weight and less dependence on exotic minerals in short supply around the world. 

Our windfarms for example could store spare energy not immediately needed by demand from the grid in currently available, liquid dependent Flow batteries.
But such energy stores are totally unsuitable for moving vehicles. 

We leant that in the sunshine of the USA and Australia, Elon Musk is installing what he calls Megapacks.

These are giant collections of heavy, static batteries in more remote communities charged by any excess solar or wind energy produced locally.  This stored energy then becomes a key player in a reliable public supply should the wind or the sun not be being helpful.

Could such an approach be useful to Britain?  Only, we learn, if our nationwide grid can offer stronger interconnections than we have at the moment  And Mr. Musk does not seem keen on Tesla customers using their current car batteries as part of their domestic electricity supply. His technology and ambition are leading towards what he calls ‘the million mile battery’.  When moving vehicles can have that level of storage available to them then there might be energy to spare to help Tesla drivers also to use their cars to power their homes more efficiently.

The Science & Technology group has evolved from Moleside’s long established Computer Club. The 12 of us who attended the October meet agreed it was a stimulating illustration of the variety of skills, interests and professional experiences waiting for us to discover amongst the friends a club like ours offers us.

Thanks to Alan, Ebert, Philip, Ian, Jobey, Spencer, David and all of us for our flying start. If it goes on like this we’ll have to meet in a bigger room.

The next Science & Technolgy meet will be on Thursday 2 November.