Energy recycling is becoming more popular as global warming and rising energy costs force people to try to find ways to reduce energy costs. Most large scale efforts in energy recycling focus on converting waste heat (combined heat and power co-generation) or mechanical energy (renewable braking technologies) into electrical energy and overlook the greater potential to recycle wasted electricity.
Big utilities generate electricity to service large populations of customers who are often many miles away. This distance, and the variety of customers serviced have very serious implications for their efficiency. They must over-generate to;
- compensate for the significant amount of wasted energy drained by transmitting the energy over large distances.
- create a buffer that ensures a stable energy supply regularly frequent fluctuations in actual energy needs. Called anticipatory generation, the only possible optimization is to adjust generation to match historical use trends ... then add a margin for stability of the distribution grid. The added margin is a good thing otherwise we'd be more familiar with the catastrophic power failures that occurs when generation fails to meet actual need.
Over-generation is a fact of life when using centralized power generation to meet energy needs but it also has significant implications for consumers and the environment;
- The excess is wasted energy, a privilege that increases the energy prices we pay.
- conventional energy co-generates pollution, so we're actually producing more pollution than necessary to meet actual energy needs on a daily basis.
Here's how we ordinary folks can turn the electrical energy over-generation fact of life into an opportunity to combat rising energy costs and global warming:
For safety's sake, the margin in anticipatory power generation is often larger than necessary, thanks to the largest energy consumers. To harness the excess margin we can use battery chargers to recycle electrical energy and stash it in the chemical storage of rechargeable batteries. This energy recycling method puts so little strain on the power grid that it will not cause energy producers to crank up energy production to compensate, allowing us to gain more useful energy without incurring a pollution penalty, and this is how we can start to use energy recycling to reduce energy costs.
Electrical energy recycling as a viable tool against pollution and rising energy costs:
Many households have battery powered toys, flashlights and other gadgets and are often suckered in by the low cost of disposable batteries so they waste hard-earned money running their gadgets with them. On the other hand, the high burn rate and hassle of frequently rotating disposable batteries make many people dread giving their kids, or seeing their kids get, battery powered toys (they do not seem to mind giving them to other people's kids!).
Case in point: My 3 young children each got flashlights as gifts and they've used them every night for the past three years. They fall sleep with them on (afraid of the dark) and they stay on until morning. I switched to rechargeables within a month after realizing how much money I spent on disposables. I noticed almost no change in my monthly electricity bill and those rechargeable batteries are still going strong. The kids have received many more battery powered toys since then and I do not dread it any more. A few more rechargeable batteries lets me avoid the hassle of buying an endless stream of disposable replacements.
Whether buying 1 or 100s of disposable batteries, we spend too much money and produce too much garbage when compared to using rechargeable batteries:
- Purchase price for a rechargeable battery is 8 times as much as that for disposables, and
- recharging a battery cost 20 times less than replacing a disposable and charging can be repeated 1000 times; same cost as 50 disposables over the life on 1 rechargeable ... but
- even though a fully charged rechargeable battery lasts about as as long as a disposable, being rechargeable up to 1000 times makes using a rechargeable the same as using nearly 500 disposables.
This means that over its lifetime a single rechargeable battery saves you the hassle of buying 500 replacement batteries, cost you 88% (1- (50% 2B8) 500) less, and reduce pollution of landfills by 500 disposable batteries. But it does not stop there with using rechargeable batteries for energy recycling ...
Viability of electrical energy recycling as a weapon against global warming:
Recycling electricity using rechargeable batteries is an integral part of some power generation systems, particularly home based solar and wind power. Interestingly it is not an option exercised by centralized power utilities for two reasons;
- the waste due to transmission lines makes it ineffective and
- the size of batteries needed to service such high needs is either feasible nor cost-effective.
Electrical energy recycling is best for smaller decentralized power systems and this means that the average individual can use it to combat global warming. Here's how:
- Use it for small (100W or less) but important needs such as portable tools and rechargeable gadgets.
- When possible, buy products that use standardize battery types such as 12V car batteries, AA-cell, C-cell, etc. Standardized batteries are more versatile, they can often share chargers and every item that uses one serves as a potential emergency backup battery source for another that has run out of charge.
- Recycle and store the excess generated energy when the use rate is fairly stable (late evenings to early mornings) to avoid causing the generators to increase production (recharging small devices unfortunately load the grid enough to trigger the increase) and prevent an increase in co- generated pollution ... more usable energy% 2B 0 pollution increase = less pollution / energy unit.
- Reuse the recycled energy at your convenience.
Manufacturers and organizations have been using conventional energy recycling to recover wasted energy from their processes and save themselves tons of cash. This method of electrical energy recycling gives everyone the power to increase the efficiency of centralized power plants by increasing the amount of useful energy without increasing co-generated pollution. For our efforts we get to reduce our own energy cost (recharge at 20 times less cost than buying disposable batteries) and everyone benefits from zero increase in pollution.
So until we can rid the earth of highly polluting energy production, keep electrical energy recycling in your arsenal of tools for fighting against rising energy costs and global warming. Harness the low rechargeable batteries and battery chargers to reduce energy cost and reduce pollution.