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Just as energy saving has involved individuals, private and public institutions, the accumulation chapter will also affect us all: it is not a prophecy but a reality. To reveal it is Andrea Capriccioli, the project leader of ProGeo, an unconventional energy accumulator, compact but large capacity, which allows the transformation of "low cost" or "non-producible" electricity into chemical energy, accumulating it in the form of methane, for the deferred “on demand” generation of electricity.
1) What is an accumulator? what is ProGeo for?
Just as a computer disk can neatly accumulate files and make them available when you want to review them, just as any living being accumulates energy in various forms, fat in the first place, and then "re-transforms" it into energy when required by the body later on. to an effort, so an energy accumulator "accumulates energy" in various forms and then gives back electricity when requested by users. In particular ProGeo it converts unusable or low-cost electricity into chemical energy using methane as an energy vector. When there is a need for electricity, ProGeo will use the methane produced and "stored" to convert it into that electricity, now necessary and required.
2) What are the pros and cons of ProGeo compared to other “less green” plants? Can the advantage of ProGeo be quantified?
ProGeo shows unique features and benefits:
- it has no limits on the speed of accumulation-sale of electricity and allows “seasonal” accumulations;
- it can be connected at the output to both the electricity and methane networks;
- does not present safety problems;
- has negligible costs in managing the complete life-cycle of the plant;
- the investment relates to the first installation, there are no "replacement" costs:
- it can be placed near any electricity production plant
Over time, however, various designs have been developed storage systems: the first, for example, was that of the hydroelectric pumping basins where nocturnal electricity is converted into potential energy from the water accumulated at the top in collection basins. There are also other storage systems such as those based on electrochemical processes or mechanical or electrostatic systems. All these systems have their specific characteristics and a specific sector of application and for all of them the entire life-cycle must be analyzed to evaluate the pros and cons.
3) What energies, renewable and non-renewable, does ProGeo “work” and how does it use them?
It has been said that ProGeo primarily uses renewable energy sources, that is, regimentable, and their availability does not always coincide with our needs. To give some examples, they range from solar and wind power, less to the use of water courses, sea currents, wave motions and salinity etc. That said, ProGeo can also use "traditional" energies and this can happen for economic reasons.
Whether traditional or renewable is the energy used by ProGeo, the point that "associates" the two origins is that this energy is used for the production of hydrogen electrolytically. It will be the hydrogen produced that will be reacted with the CO2, generating the green-methane to be stored for its use "on demand".
4) How does it behave according to the seasons and consumption peaks?
In our hemisphere during the summer the production of solar photovoltaics could be predominant while at increasing latitudes we will gradually have an increase in wind power, while during the winter wind and plumbing increase their contribution, at the expense of photovoltaics. On the other hand, large rivers seem to be a fairly stable potential source of electricity production and with submerged turbines one could generate energy continuously. The same can be said for the exploitation of the sea currents and the wave mode.
To deal with energy, we consider average energies in this energy framework and above all the consumption and the need that depends on the times and lifestyles, for this reason suitable storage systems are necessary.
In particular,ProGeo will respond to demand peaks with the use of the accumulated methane for the production of "on demand" electricity, that is, ProGeo can produce methane to be introduced into the methane network or to be stored for long periods and this is just a unique option in storage systems. We can use any surplus energy in one season to produce and store methane for another season.
5) How much did it cost and how long to make it?
The ProGeo prototype has yet to be built. The first example will be around 10 kW and will cost around 400 thousand euros, due to the various industrial research and prototype development activities. The first objective will be to produce and market ProGeo up to 1 MW in 2014. From the financial point of view, it should also be emphasized that the highly modular feature of ProGeo is a very important aspect for the reduction of production costs on an industrial scale, as well as for scalability in terms of power.
6) Where has it been or will it be installed? What kind of distribution can it have in Italy?
The prototype will be built in various locations (Uni Tor Vergata and Tecnopolio Tiburtino) and then it will be assembled and tested in an industrial plant where the subsequent high-power products will also be assembled, then installed at the wind farm. The small-sized versions will be distributed throughout the territory at industrial plants, shopping centers and large condominiums with RES installed: a capillary distribution is planned, both at energy production centers and at distributed users.
7) Why invest in such a project? Only private individuals or also public institutions?
The accumulation problem has not yet been solved and every day its strategic need is highlighted in an increasingly distributed energy production system consisting of a large number of different production systems: this is why investing.
The energy problem, from the differentiation of supply to production are topics that affect all of us, not only technicians or politicians, therefore, just as energy saving has involved individuals, private and public institutions, the accumulation chapter will also affect all subjects.
Interview byMarta Abbà