Better energy storage?

Via Geoff Styles, a very intriguing idea: Windfuels, i.e. "storing wind power in gasoline."
Doty Windfuels has been working on a system called RFTS, or Renewable Fischer Tropsch Synthesis. The process looks to use off-peak excess wind energy to recycle CO2 into standard fuels that work seamlessly in the one billion cars and trucks on the road around the world. The chemistry is fundamentally simple and well understood.
Geoff doesn't seem all that enamored of the idea (put off in part, he admits, by the inventor's excessive negativity toward seemingly all other energy alternatives). I'm a bit more positive. There's a lot to be said for building almost entirely on proven technologies (in this case, chemical pathways; the only step not commercialized is reducing CO2 to CO). Even if the economics get worse as other energy storage technologies like CAES begin to compete up the price of off-peak electric power, it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing for there to be one more storage technology in the mix. And even if this specific idea doesn't bear fruit, it encourages further investigation of storing off-peak power as chemical energy (rather than mechanical, e.g. compressed air, or thermal, e.g. molten salt), an avenue I hadn't thought of much, and one which makes a lot of intuitive sense.


  1. Thanks for the comment, and for the open mind.

    As the principle energy market analyst (not the CEO, btw) on the team, I'm largely responsible for much of what Geoff perceived as negativity. But in truth I am quite hopeful for many of the processes. That doesn't change the market reality or the price tag in the real world.

    We reported those prices, because investors may be concerned about rising competition from CAES until they learn it may add ~$150/MWh to the final delivered price of energy; while the peak market price in traded over the MINN hub in MISO averaged ~$40/MWh during 2010... these facts are just that - facts.

    That's not negativity, it's just honest... and we have to be concerned about potential investors' misinformed perceptions of market risk.

    I will state that I believe all avenues should be funded with the following exceptions (because they are more than 2 orders of magnitude away from competitive, and there are no plausible pathways for them to ever become competitive): Fusion, Space-based-solar-power, high-altitude-wind, hydrogen-cars, high-temp-solar-thermal-chemical-conversion, algae fuels, and all geoengineering schemes.

    I personally feel that several concepts that are 1 order of magnitude or more from competitive should still be funded and research should be ongoing, but we should not pretend that these are deployment ready or that these technologies pose a market risk when they very clearly don't... Battery operated electric vehicles fall into this category.

    WindFuels should be extremely profitable without subsidies, and it should also expect to receive subsidies... with the combined effect on assured rapid scale-up that will have a major impact.

    You and your readers are welcome to check out for more information.

    Thanks again for the enthusiasm and open mind.

    Glenn Doty
    Energy Market Analyst
    Doty Energy Group of Doty Scientific Inc or

  2. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for your comment and clarification. I have to say that I agree with Geoff that some of the comments on other energy sources in your presentation seem excessively negative, although I appreciate that this may be partly narrative license to help you tell your WindFuels story as compellingly as possible. But I clearly see the "what you would have to believe" for WindFuels to be a compelling part of the overall energy mix, and I am rooting for the day when the technology is deployment-ready and hits commercial scale. If you beat all of the other to it, good on you.

  3. P.S. Mostly for myself - I had not appreciated that flywheels have also been explored heavily for large-scale energy storage, although I have no idea where the economics are...