Windy Miller

A while ago I was reading about compressed air energy storage in natural underground caverns (probably in something from the IET) and I was surprised that something similar doesn’t get mentioned more along with renewable generation like wind power. On the other hand, the unpredictability of wind does seem to get mentioned as a limiting factor much more; understandably it’s a little hard to react to peaks in demand and energy price if you have no control over when the wind blows.

Given the growing number of off shore wind farms, I wondered if wind energy could be stored by pumping sea water out of something like a large diving bell, allowing the water back in to generate electricity on demand. Turns out that ‘something like a large diving bell’ is a submerged, open bottomed, anchored caisson.


(cc) some rights reserved. Thanks to phault and Zach Putnam for their photos.

The idea might not get a lot of air time but parliament seem interested in storage techniques in general, and there are examples of the possibility being researched and developed, so there may be a future for renewables without as much baseline capacity required from non-renewables. What do you think?

Update: not for offshore wind farms, but @USR_VRB pointed out a very interesting post about a compressed air project, where the air is used to improve the efficiency of gas powered generation. Some good discussion and links in the comments as well. (4 Sept 2009)

Update: there’s a much more in depth discussion of this idea on Salient White Elephant, and it doesn’t look promising unfortunately. (10 Sept 2012)


The IET gets sociable

I recently read Yes, we can twitter while catching up on some E&T reading. Probably the most interesting bit for me was seeing @TheIET is also on twitter, so I tore off the bottom of the page with the link on to check out. Web 0.1 bookmarking then; I still like reading on paper.

The IET twitter account doesn’t look like it’s progressed beyond getting their brand on there; they don’t follow anyone, have a surprisingly small 168 followers and don’t seem to be talking to anyone. Still, hopefully it’s just a small beginning and, amongst the links to their web site, I did spot a press release about the launch of the new IET social networking site! That news somehow passed me by until now, so I’ve been investigating to see what it offers. To start with, I have yet another profile, which is not a big surprise. Earlier today I was scratching my head over a spiced up developerWorks profile. It has a bookmarking service which, for anyone in the IET new to such things is great. While I already use delicious for my own bookmarks, IET Discover combines bookmarks with groups, in what looks quite a similar way to Lotus Connections. There’s already a good selection of groups, although I’ve not found any that appear that active yet. Groups have always been a bit of a mystery to me in things like Facebook, never quite fulfilling their apparent potential, mostly ending up little more than a way to tag yourself as being interested in something.

Talking of tagging, from what I can tell on first look, I can tag my own profile, but other people can’t tag me, which seems like a missed opportunity. I think there’s much more value in tagging other people. In networks where you can tag yourself, I tend to have a poor attempt to start with, and then never return to keep the tags up-to-date.

And finally, I can watch people… except so far I’ve not found anyone to watch. I’m guessing it’s much like adding people to your delicious network.

Overall, it’s an interesting foray into the world of social networking. Like LinkedIn, it has a more professional focus, but it feels more limited by association with a single professional body. With recent homecamp, arduino and related projects in mind, I joined the electronic circuits group, but there are already more established social networks around those topics, whether IET members or not. Having said that, I think there is a place for more focused social networks. For example, I’m a big fan of developerWorks, where I’ve been trying to get some momentum for a community around the MDM Workbench, which is after all a pretty niche topic. So IET Discover looks interesting, and it has the potential to get me more involved in the IET. Time will tell how it turns out… maybe @TheIET will share their view…

Digital Roo

Just flicking through this month’s IET engineering & technology and one of my current favourite photos jumped off the page at me! I should have been expecting it really since I already knew Roo was speaking at the 30th IET Mountbatten Memorial Lecture in November and he has used the photo before but I think it will catch anyone’s eye.

Update: More from Roo about his choice of photo, Darren being published by the IET and a taster of what to expect on the night.