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Can anyone suggest an alternative to energy from a battery?

I'd like a system to replace my deep cycle leisure battery, I currently use this 110 AH leisure battery with a 1200W inverter. I run my computer, lighting and sound system off it while I'm "out in the sticks", It works just perfect, there's more than enough energy to get a couple of days usage between charges, I just wanted to know if there's a greener way of storing the energy - instead of using ye olde plastic box full of acid and corroding metal.

I'm not interested in using a diesel or petrol generator, I'm looking for something a bit cleaner and greener than that, was thinking about the possibility of running a dynamo off a bottle of pressurized gas or air? - I'd probably need an unfeasibly large tank for this tho!

Cheers Chiphackers :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this need to be portable? A pumped storage scheme (essentially bjarkef's answer with water) is used commercially sometimes. \$\endgroup\$ – Dirk Sep 11 '10 at 13:15
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You could collect a lot of lumber (like >50kg), tie it all together and throw a long rope over a big tree branch. Then using several winches lift up all the lumber high in the air, and then utilise the energy of the timber slowly descending towards the ground. The winches would convert high torque to low torque but with a very long rope, which would be a good way to drive a dynamo.

Just thinking alternatively... :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually - that's a pretty cool idea, it's certainly alternative thinking! It's like a cuckoo clock on steroids :) Thanks Bjarkef \$\endgroup\$ – Jim Sep 9 '10 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I was actually thinking of a cuckoo clock. Do take pictures if you decide to try it. :) \$\endgroup\$ – bjarkef Sep 9 '10 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Might be safer to use the energy to pump water into an above-ground reservoir through and generate as it runs back down through a narrow channel. If you leave the reservoir open you would even get a boost when it rains. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – akohlsmith Sep 9 '10 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting...it'll remove the possibility of being crushed accidentally by the load, but it would be harder to set up a reservoir - compared to finding the nearest heavy object to dangle. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim Sep 9 '10 at 20:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's hard to find a 55gal barrel or dozen? Add some PVC and a few valves and the bulk of it's completed. You can probably find a 12V pump somewhere relatively cheap and you've got the "charging" circuit. But now you have the fun part left: generator design. Or, use an impeller to turn the crank of the generator you were going to use in the cuckoo-clock-on-steroids design. This is a REALLY interesting question, I'm glad you asked it. Gets us all thinking! \$\endgroup\$ – akohlsmith Sep 9 '10 at 22:24
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I don't think there's anything necessarily un-green about a battery, unless you're talking about the production methods of energy required to manufacture it. All of the materials in the battery were in the environment somewhere - all the manufacturing process has done is concentrate it into a small package.

If there's anything un-green about a battery, I'd say it's the inefficiency of the cycle. While the above idea is very clever, you still have to put some energy into the system in the first place. If that's a hand crank, then that's pretty good...without getting into the question of the green-ness of the food production that put the energy into the food and then into you (the mind boggles).

Ultimately, I would look at what local power sources you might have available...wind, solar, hydrothermal, geothermal, hydromechanical. And if you want to take it really seriously, you then have to look into what energy went into refining the materials necessary to harness the energy, transporting it, warehousing it...

This is probably more trouble than you asked about, but "energy out in the sticks" is a favorite research topic of mine. If you want to get REALLY serious about it, live underground and don't need 90% of the energy you use in the first place. Then you can run a generator guilt-free in the knowledge that you're light years ahead of the pack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm after a portable system that could be setup in a variety of environments, the problem with a lot of the generation methods you suggest is the lack of portability or ease of setup, especially when trying to generate 110 AH... \$\endgroup\$ – Jim Sep 9 '10 at 21:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate what your saying about how green / ungreen a battery may be, but batteries die far sooner than generators - as long as I'm not using dirty energy to hoist the weight, is it not just a question of the generator being around long enough? ...to generate enough power and outweigh the environmental cost - when compared to a batteries ratio between (environmental cost) : (total power output over full lifespan) \$\endgroup\$ – Jim Sep 9 '10 at 21:32
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How about solar power?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would still need batteries tho, especially when trying to get 1200w...would probably end up with enough panels to cover the roof of a family home! :) \$\endgroup\$ – Jim Sep 10 '10 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I think that's still better than the amount of water he's going to need. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity "1000 kilograms of water (1 cubic meter) at the top of a 100 meter tower has a potential energy of about 0.272 kW·h" \$\endgroup\$ – mjh2007 Sep 21 '10 at 18:06
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One alterna-power answer might be fuel cells. A more old-fashioned and commonly available one would be a generator running off some liquid fuel (probably diesel). You might still want a buffer battery for that, of course, but you might be able to get rid of the inverter in some cases.

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