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My idea is this: divert excess energy that comes from peak renewable energy production to ad-hoc public works whenever we have more than we can put in batteries. I just don't know what things like that exist. Are there any projects that we could divert energy to as we have it, like "on supply" instead of "on demand", and in which we don't necessarily need to hit a quota of energy diverted it's just like "whenever we can, it's good to do so"? The only thing I can think of is using the energy to desalinate water near oceans. In that scenario we just use all of the excess energy produced each day that we can't store in batteries on desalinating water, to increase local water supplies. If it so happens that we don't have any excess energy for a few hours or even a few days the salination plant would just slow down until it receives more energy.

Thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ Hydrogen by electrolysis, electro-plating, baking cookies, crushing rocks, etc,, etc., $\endgroup$
    – Transistor
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ who is we? You and me in our houses, or us as a society? You & me in our houses should probably just stop generating. $\endgroup$
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Transistor Oh no, we won't be able to eat hot new cookies during cold rainy days! $\endgroup$
    – Vladimir
    Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is not in the renewable energy excess, "solar turbines" can work idle, no problem here. The problem is where to get energy during a windless cloudy or snowy time. Nuclear and combustion power plants cannot rise power so fast to compensate wind and sun (NPPs are not tunable at all). So, in the limited availability of hydro plants, which maneuverability is suitable for compensation, the total power of solar and wind plants is limited by the first. The consequences of energy system imbalance are widely presented in the news media (and in bills). $\endgroup$
    – Vladimir
    Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 1:26

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There are 2 fundamental options, consume it for useful "green" purposes, or store it.

The biggest battery in the world is the water in a hydrodam. I'm not implying that generators need to reverse direction but flow can be modulated to reduce demand. Otherwise efficient reverse pumps might be able to draw on local surplus renewables when peaking or use massive Lithium banks such as Tesla has done.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, pumped-storage hydroelectric plants are the most efficient energy storage devices today. Chemical accumulators are not so effective, expensive, have short life, harmful and require complex electronics. But, in Europe, for example, all places, suitable for such plants, are already occupied. Solution is to create united continental power grid through many time zones, but this is more politics than engineering. $\endgroup$
    – Vladimir
    Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 1:06
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An excellent example of a "renewable storage battery" is the Water Mountain, Dinorwig in Wales.

It's use is designed to help cover peaks in energy demand, being able to go from standby to full power output in about 6 seconds. Can't get coal or nuclear to react that quickly... Can also reduce output rapidly, but water hammer has to be avoided.

The upper reservoir is replenished overnight when there is "spare" or "excess" power available from those nuclear or coal plants that cannot be ramped down that quickly.

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The best option is to distribute it down the grid to consumers at a discount and let them figure it out. Some items can be directly controlled/prioritized by the provider for grid management, such as domestic hot water heaters. But the better way is to let large or sophisticated consumers manage their demand based on a floating rate structure and rate prediction models. If every internet-connected laptop on the planet could regulate it's charger, you'd probably have the ripple covered right there.

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One ad-hoc use is power to heat. This is sometimes done in district heating or otherwise large heating systems. It's called power to heat (PTH)

The problem with your idea is that if you build a complicated desalination plant, you want to use it at capacity most times. A PTH is comparatively simple. A PTH installation would be paired with a gas boiler or cogeneration plant or pellet stove or whatever. If needed by the grid operator, the burner would power down and the PTH supplies heat.

I don't want to argue that PTH is better than pumped hydro, it's different and serves a different purpose.

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Just a thought i picked up by a youtuber: You could use excess energy for bitcoin mining, since that energy should be the least expensive it could generate some profit. Saying that without expertise in bitcoin mining! The other options i can think of is power to gas or liquid.

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