In reading the current issue of New Scientist, I found a pointer to a blog entry called “Bug eats electricity, farts biogas.”
Needless to say, I had to learn more.
So I clicked through to read about some research being done 100 miles from my home as the crow flies, except the crow would run into the Allegheny Mountains on the way.
One of the problems with wind power is that it is not always available when needed. When the wind blows strongly, it produces more power than can be used immediately, but when the weather is calm, supplemental power will be required. The article describes a process for chemical storage of electrical energy produced by wind and other inherently variable sources, primarily solar.
To quote the article: “The new method relies on a microorganism studied by Bruce Logan‘s team at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. When living on the cathode of an electrolytic cell, the organism can take in electrons and use their energy to convert carbon dioxide into methane.” The methane can then be burned to produce electricity, the same way as natural gas can be used but with a significant advantage. Instead of burning a fossil fuel, the process recycles atmospheric CO2, or even better, the CO2 from flues of conventional power plants. It’s carbon neutral.
It gives a whole new meaning to the euphemism “passing wind.”