Like many of the innovations that might supply a clean energy future, a new system unveiled with much fanfare Tuesday morning is nifty but not necessarily coming soon.
With Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in attendance, Progress Energy Florida and the University of South Florida showed off their latest invention: the Sustainable Electric Energy Delivery System, or SEEDS.
Think of it like a bigger, better battery. It could make renewables like wind and solar more reliable by unchaining them from the weather by storing the energy they generate.
SEEDS uses a mix of sulfuric acid and vanadium, a naturally occurring metal. The demonstration system at Albert Whitted Park uses solar panels to feed electricity into a two-sided tank system containing an electrolyte solution. One side has a positive charge and the other a negative charge. Electrodes collect the energy to be stored or delivered.
Progress Energy Florida billed it as a building block toward "smart" grids that links conventional large power plants, conservation management, and home energy systems. Like many energy innovations, this one remains years away from the market.
"You could do this today," explained Jeff Lyash, president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida. "It's not a question of if it's possible. The question is, 'What is the price? What's the performance? What are the maintenance costs?' "
Lyash declined to guess when he'd have the answers.
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.