Energy and energy storage have always been a major issue for people. In the distant past people had very limited ability to store energy. More or less the only method they had was to cut fire wood, dry it and then burn it when needed. This form of energy storage has obvious limitations. In the more recent past people were able to build such devices as water wheels to spin a grinding stone or to rotate a saw blade.
In this modern world however we have a seemingly never ending need for more sources of clean and cheap energy. Some new sources of energy like photovoltaic solar and wind energy seem like a good idea but they have a fundamental flaw. The flaw is that you can’t control when the wind will blow or when a cloudy day will effect solar output. Due to this fundamental problem other types of on demand energy sources like coal, gas, nuclear, etc must be maintained essentially as back ups. This obviously effects the intended cost benefits of using these renewable sources.
Ok so with all of that in mind, my son who is also interested in energy and I have decided that we are going to build a unique type of battery to store power for his science fair project. The normal approach is to use a chemical battery to store this energy but it turns out that this is both expensive and unwieldy. So our thought is to store energy in a physical form. And the best and cheapest physical form that we can think of is water. Water has long been a common source of energy storage in the form of hydroelectric power.
The idea is to use off peak wind power (night time) or off peak solar power (morning) to turn a water pump to take water out of a lower basin and put it in an upper basin to then be able to be used on demand as needed in the form of hydro power.
In the real world this might consist of putting these pumps at the bottom of Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon dam and pumping water back into the lake. In our science fair world it will consist of two fish tanks, one raised up on wooden legs as the upper basin and one sitting on a table as the lower basin.
Between the two tanks are two pipes, one hooked to a solar pump that fills the upper basin and one that empties the upper basin into the lower basin through a water turbine generator. Yes Amazon sells both a micro solar pump and a mini hydro turbine generator.
In the end we hope to measure the efficiency and determine if this type of physical water battery could represent a real solution to this problem.