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 wasted heat (combined heat and power co-generation) or mechanical energy (renewable braking technologies) into electrical energy and overlook the larger 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 despite 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 occur 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 us 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 bigger than necessary, thanks to the biggest 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 won’t 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 replacing disposable batteries make many people dread giving their kids, or seeing their kids get, battery powered toys (they don’t 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 asleep 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 don’t 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