I'm in the (long) process of building a house. The house will have solar panels, but it bugs me that I can't be off the electric grid entirely. There's no convenient and economical way to store energy at your own house while the sun is shining. But is that technology imminent?

Some car companies are allegedly coming out with vehicles that operate on compressed air. Here's one.


How hard would it be to convert that compressed air technology to a home generator? My solar cells could compress air during the day and the compressed air engine would produce electricity at night. There would be plenty of waste in the process, I assume, but it sounds feasible to me.

I'd also like to have a house with two elevators that are balanced so that when one goes down, the other is pulled up. And I would only use the elevators for going down, so my weight causes one side to be heavier than the other. To slow the descent, I'd be compressing air into my home air battery. If you need to go up, you use the stairs. It's healthier. I'd have a full-power elevator option for the elderly and handicapped, but everyone else would be an energy producer.

Then I'd put the guest bathroom on the second floor so I gain some electricity every time a guest goes to take a whiz. It wouldn't balance out the water use, but it would make me feel better. And every time my wife or kids asked me where some lost item or other was, I'd say, "I saw it upstairs."

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May 19, 2008
Scott - Don't know if someone's suggested this before, but you might want to punch Flywheel energy storage into Wikipedia and see what you get. Not sure how safe something spinning at 50k RPM is during an earthquake, but I'm sure there's ways to safeguard it. Surely not foolproof, but if a magnitude 8.something comes along I'm fairly certain your flywheel exploding will be the least of your worries. It has the advantage of being compact relative to your other methods. I'm not sure how economical it is. It might be about the same cost as using compressed air or hydroelectric storage (which seem to lend themselves better to large scale storage than small)
May 19, 2008
Pumped water storage is supposedly about 85% efficient for utilities -- something I find incredibly good. The problem with using air for storage is that you lose energy in compression and expansion unless the air is stored in insulated compartments. I think a nice water tower might be a good addition to the house -- not only would you have a reserve for water but you can use it for energy storage. You could even mount a wind turbine on top for additional energy collection. If it had a central hollow core, it could be used for generating air flow in the house, too.
May 19, 2008
I think you have moved into that "I am so rich they will call me eccentric rather than kooky" phase of your life.

But if has the potential to move us forward environmentally and you get some blog material from it, I'm all for it!
May 19, 2008

Have you looked at or heard of storing the energy as hydrogen. There are hydrogen generators that break apart water into hydrogen and oxygen and separate the two. You can store the hydrogen in large tanks then. Using the same technology that's in hydrogen powered cars, when you convert it back to water by combining with oxygen, electricity is produced. It's about the most efficient system out there to do what you want. It would take excess energy produced during the day and store it up for night time. There's a guy on an Alaskan island that has a huge set up for this because there are no electric lines to his house. He's totally off the grid and can store enough energy up in the summer months to last the long winter nights. I know it costs a lot of money to set up, but it can't be much more than 2 elevators and all that compressor gear.
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May 19, 2008
How about replacing escalators at the mall with the same kind of elevators? If you're overweight you can only ride down. If you're fit or slim, you can ride up when someone bigger is riding down. Of course, if you're really slim, you might bump your head on the ceiling when the car reaches the top, especially if a weight watcher's group is riding down. But every innovation needs a test pilot. If you "rang the bell" when using the elevator, you get a fast-food coupon to even the odds next time.

By why stop there? Put 8-foot hamster cages in the mall, mark them with a big "keep off" sign, let the teenagers in, and the mall will be feeding energy into the grid in no time. If the cage flashes a light and dispenses a piece of candy on a random schedule, the whole thing will need industrial-strength bearings to keep from burning out. At that point, you add a coin box to collect quarters and wind up feeding the homeless, too. Some inventions almost create themselves.
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