A methodology to investigate the generation, transport and storage of energy based on a multi-physics approach, tied to the end use application, is presented. Often little or no consideration is given to the end use or desired product of the energy used. Current energy generation, transport and storage are dominated heavily by a few large sectors, notably electricity and hydrocarbons. These are very effective and practical systems that facilitate the delivery of vast amounts of energy. It is then not surprising that most strategies for renewable energy generation and storage revolve around this centralized model in some way. In larger scale generation, power is usually fed onto the electrical grid with a current challenge being grid stabilization with increasing penetration of intermittent renewable resources. In small grid-independent system a mix of battery and hydrocarbon storage are often used to keep a micro-grid available for various end use applications.
A paradigm shift in the thinking and design of energy systems based on the required end use or product is needed. The philosophy and motivation that lead to the consideration of this new approach are outlined in this article. Following this a summary of a methodical approach to developing the most energy and cost-effective solution to general processes by considering their end-use physics is presented. Examples of innovative energy generation, storage, and transport solutions based on the multi-physics approach are then outlined. Finally, a brief description of the Multi-physics Renewable Energy Lab (MPREL), a demonstration facility based on the approach and currently under construction at the Naval Postgraduate School, is given.