116: A Day at the Beach – Ocean Batteries

Matt and Sean talk about oceans as renewable energy storage? The tide may be turning.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “How the Ocean Could be the Future of Energy Storage”: https://youtu.be/gd1fTJ-csio?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4dFnLD9622FK77atWtQVv7

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On Today’s episode of still to be determined. We’re gonna be talking about whether or not we should be getting amped up to go to the beach. That’s right everybody we’re gonna be talking about Matt’s most recent episode how the ocean could be the future of energy storage.
Hi everyone as usual I’m Sean Ferrell I’m a writer I write some sci-fi I write some books for kids and I’m all around inquisitive about things tech and with me of course is the origin of this entire discussion which would be my brother Matt who is the host of undecided with Matt. Matt how you doing today I tired yes, many miles on my body many many miles drove four and a half hours yesterday with my son and my partner to look at.
I’m doing pretty well how about yourself you tired.
College for said son it went fine but driving is always a chore I Do not do it at all regularly I do not own a car. So this was a rental car and.
And how did that go.
Yeah, it’s exhausting.
Getting in and out of the city is always the hardest part so you look at a map and you say this is a 3 hour drive why does my Gps tell me it’s going to be four and a half hours it’s because an hour and a half of that will be the final seventeen miles which is yeah.
Yes, whenever I come to visit you. It’s always like I come from Boston under New York and it’s like it’s a straight shot and then the last like ten miles the last 10 miles usually takes like a third of the trip.
Yeah, yeah, if there was an option where they said okay, your Gps tells you that this is a three and a half hour drive but when you get there, you will be smacked around for 40 minutes by somebody in the front yard of. House where you’re trying to get I would actually prefer that over the stress of driving ah because part of the stress with me with driving is of course maniac drivers I’m surrounded on the road by people who.
Apparently are completely impervious to damage or pain I I myself am not I drive with a sense of I am mortal I could be harmed. But yeah, so this discussion that we’re gonna be having today as intriguing and interesting as I do find it. Listeners may recognize a certain amount of Sean not brainworking time Sean Brain Sean Brain feeling weird. So I apologize in advance for any times where I stumble over my words or I say something but be a little dumb. Having said that we are going to be talking about how the ocean could be the future of energy storage this episode dropped on April Twenty Six 2022 and it was almost like a part 2 to your previous episode.
Because it was here. It kind of was.
And what was interesting to me is as we were having our discussion around part one which had to do with water batteries and the use of pumping water or other liquids to higher points to then allow them to use gravity to come down and run turbines and so on and so forth. As we were having that discussion I thought in my head I Wonder if you could do anything with the Oceans I Wonder if you could do anything where you submerged something and used air pressure and and I didn’t go that direction I didn’t ask you about any of that but I felt a little prescient as I was watching this episode I was just like.
I am a genius I may be exhausted from my drive but I am a genius so you heard it here first folks. But as we as we get into the episode. Um, one of the things. That stood out was the amount of wear and tear and this was in the comments from a lot of the viewers they were saying things like what Alexander Linder said Alexander says a lot of the problems with these energy storage solutions is that seawater is so corrosive. The 20 to 30 year life expectancy may or may not be overblown because of degradation materials. Especially that water bladder solution flexible plastics. Don’t stay flexible for 20 years even under optimal conditions and I couldn’t help but wonder if you saw anything around this research. Indicated they were researching that aspect of this because if anybody’s been around if anybody’s been to a dock if anybody’s been to a shipyard where they see large vessels and large amounts of equipment that are in seawater you see a lot of rust. See a lot of things growing on the metal and I am curious about that aspect. It’s very nice to say look it’s going to cost us $12000000 to take this giant ball and submerge it and attach it to the seafloor. It’s another thing to say we’re going to have to redo that every five years so
Right? Yeah, no.
Did you see anything in that regard about how the research around the degradation of materials would be incorporated into these costs.
Yes, they are doing testing all these companies are doing different kinds of testing to try to assess that aspect of it which is how they come up with those timeframes. But as you know on paper what you come up with because you can do accelerated testing. Things like in solar panels. They do this. They do um these lab experiments to solar panels to figure out how long they’ll last they basically put them to hell for a short period of time and then they can extrapolate okay, that is going equate to maybe 30 year life
Or the videos we’ve seen of cell phones in an environment where they are repeatedly dropped from a you know six foot height ah just to test durability of.
They’re doing similar things with this of like.
Right? So so in this case, they’re doing that kind of testing and they’re trying to assess it for that. But it’s also none of these things have actually been used for 20 to 30 years so there’s a difference between what you kind of come up with in a lab experiment versus what’s going to actually last for that projected time. My hunch based on what I’ve read and seen is that it would be somewhat in the ballpark. But of course real world may might tick off 5 years or 8 years off of that estimate depending on what what’s actually happening in the wild.
How much of this is also incorporating the diversity of underwater environments around the world. Not all offshore sites are built equal and. There are some places where the tidal currents might in fact, be so strong as to remove any availability of doing something like this like I’m thinking about 1 of the installation suggestions was you could have your wind turbines mounted directly above. 1 of the pressure spheres that would allow that to then be directly underneath if I understood what was being said in the video the sphere could be directly beneath the wind turbine and I thought well good luck doing that in the north sea where the. Windswells of the waves are enormous and any attempt to put any kind of structures into that water might be laughed at at best by by engineers and god so ah, my question is. What kinds of environments are they talking about when they’re talking about doing stuff like this you mentioned german research going into this. What is the what is the body of water that the german research is looking toward and what other.
Places around the world might be similar that would allow for this kind of installation.
Mostly like for the european pink countries that are exploring this. They’re looking at things like the black sea or like you know areas around the Uk and you know Norway and stuff like that. So. It’s like they’re probably focused more on those regions but it doesn’t mean that I get your point but it feels to me like you. Probably could engineer a solution for pretty much anywhere based on what I was reading um, but it does seem like it’s going to be a kind of a dicey situation for some locations like you could put theoretically put a wind turbine pretty much anywhere but there are probably areas where the winds might get so intense.
Um, right right.
It might just tear apart the wind turbine. So it’s there’s probably similar cases for this too. There’s probably going to be restrictions if there’s too much sheer or like stress from the the currents in the water.
And how married is the Underwater tech to the the elements that were like the creation of. Solar or wind which is creating power which is then used to drive the liquid or air in or out of the chambers. How much of that could actually be on land and how much would actually be required to be close in proximity to.
Those devices like the the inclusion of the wind turbine as sort of a this could be kind of a natural pairing of the wind turbine right? above these spheres and I understand the logic of that but would that be a major requirement of this technology or could you in fact, have. Yeah, ah you know dozens of yards of lead that go from these underwater chambers to an onshore site that is doing things with solar or other forms of energy creation so that you would be doing things at a distance.
There’s there’s no restriction to that you could. You could have a massive wind installation or solar installation onshore that’s pumping this energy out the reason why you probably wouldn’t want to do that is you’re kind of. Shunting the energy a huge distance into the ocean to then have to shunt it all the way back and there’s going to probably be energy loss as part of that flow where part of the I don’t want to say the ingenuity or the ingeniousness of this structure would be if you have an offshore wind farm. You have to get that energy onshore anyway. So if your storage system is like right by it. You’re not doing like ah a back and forth. You’re just kind of going down and then and then in so it’s kind of like a pit stop before it comes all the way in. So it’s it’s going to be a little more efficient. There’s going to be less cabling needed. So it’s like it’s kind of optimizing the. Flow of the energy versus kind of like backtracking on itself. So but there’s no restriction to that. But you’d be I’d be a lot of cabling to go ah 2 ways when you’d only have to go one way if you do it from the ocean.
Right? And there’s the aspect of mobility that came into my mind as I was watching this with like floating solar panels. There would be an advantage to be able to.
Essentially you could uncouple from 1 site and move them to another site so that perhaps if your expectation around a certain season was well. This is a and 80% of the days are cloudy during this period of year. So we move this site actually to another location to. To take advantage of a different time of year is that built into this as well or am I overthinking is this really kind of a we’ve put these things in the ocean this is the site of our power production. This is where we’re doing this.
You’re overthinking it. It’s like once you’ve you’re mooring something into a specific location and you’re laying down all the cabling that’s required to pick it up and move it would it would not be worth the time or money to do that. You’d you’d want to pick your placement of this. Up front to optimize the best performance as you can. So if you’re going to be building. You’re not going to want to build this in an area that’s only going to be able to generate significant power for a third of the year you’re going to want to place it in a place that you know is going to be generating power all year round as best it can.
Lastly, there was this comment from George Pretnick and it tied into something that I had been thinking about so I’m going to read his comment and then add on my own thoughts and ask you to respond to both George wrote. 1 very large problem with any subsurface energy generating device in salt water is anything below. The surface is immediately colonized and occupied by all manner of ocean life forms, barnacles, clams, coral algae and whatever else will grow and build on the surfaces inside and out necessitating constant scraping and cleaning. This applies to freshwater as well. Zebra mussels clog water intakes in the great lakes and some major rivers. So I got to thinking about not only that as far as an impact on the device but I was thinking as I was watching the video has there been anything that you’ve seen around effectively. Biofuel in the form of these naturally occurring sea creatures or water creatures that would form in certain areas has there been any attempt to take that and be able to utilize that in some form of energy generation in the form of I don’t know. Algae or or other forms of collecting of biomass by letting it simply grow in a place to then harvest it and use it in some way.
Sort of the only thing I can say is there’s algae into biofuel. But I’ve never seen where they will deliberately let algae grow kind of out of control in a natural environment because if you do that it could actually create problems. So for algae for Biofuel the. Move is to try to do that in controlled environments like basically you’re setting up a lab basically to generate this stuff. Um I haven’t seen something that’s just naturally taking the wildlife ah wind turbines that are offshore like the barnacles and all that stuff that grows on it. It can be beneficial. For that to happen for the ocean life because it gives the like coral reefs it gives them something to grow on and kind of to it can rejuvenate an area because they have these structures that they can come and grow on but it’s a good point that that same thing’s gonna happen to these things they have to be moving and changing that could cause problems.
Um, yeah.
So It kind of goes back to the original question that you raised in the beginning which is how is this actually going to be impacted out in the wild and so it’s like until we start getting these in pilot Facilities. You know those lab tests to project. Um, we’re not going to know exactly how long they’ll last or how difficult it will be to maintain it. Because that’s going to be happening.
It’s hard to look into the future. It’s hard to tell how that’s all going to be impacted. But as I mentioned earlier I felt a little bit like I did look into the future when I was talking to you last week and thinking like what about the ocean. So I’m asking listeners. When was a time that you felt like you had seen into the future. There are certain aspects of these videos that Matt puts together that sometimes feel like we are looking at science fiction that just happens to be happening now has there been a time when you’ve been watching these videos and been like yeah I thought of that I I had that idea. Let us know in the comments you can either drop it in the comments through the contact information in the podcast description or you can just scroll beneath this video on Youtube and leave a comment there and as always please do consider reviewing us on Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts Spotify Podcasts I’m gonna stop saying the word podcasts wherever you found this. Please go back there and leave a review please do share it with your friends and if you’d like to support us more directly. You can go to still tbd fm and click the become a supporter button. Allows you to throw some coins at our head and we do appreciate each and every bruise all of that really does help to support the show and thank you so much for listening or watching and we’ll talk to you next time.
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