Batteries Not Included: $Trillions Spent on Storage Won’t Save Intermittent Wind & Solar

Chaotic intermittency means wind and solar cannot, and will never, replace coal, gas or nuclear.

The fact that wind and solar output plummets whenever the sun sets and/or calm weather sets in has been treated by RE zealots as (yet another) inconvenient truth, that just won’t go away.

In the first few years of the great wind power fraud in Australia, its promoters kept telling us that all we needed to do was spread these things far and wide and we would have an endless supply of ‘free’ electricity, lovingly caressed from mother nature. Well, that didn’t pan out, as any South Australia will tell you.

So, talk soon turned to mega-batteries, as if the wind and solar industry was like some ditzy shopper who’d forgotten to add milk and bread to their shopping list.

The meme is that the chaos delivered by wind and solar can all be solved by giant lithium-ion batteries, of the kind peddled by Elon Musk. The reefer-smoking, Californian carpetbagger managed to offload one unit in wind power obsessed, South Australia, collected $150 million, and was never seen again.

Bill Gates has called the idea complete and utter nonsense: Bill Gates Slams Unreliable Wind & Solar: ‘Let’s Quit Jerking Around With Renewables & Batteries’

But that doesn’t prevent the rent-seeking RE crowd from trying to sell something that can’t possibly overcome the inherent unreliability of wind and solar.

Battery trickery by U.S. utilities
Cfact
David Wojick
5 March 2019

The use of big batteries to partially offset the intermittency of renewables is growing rapidly. Unfortunately some utilities have adopted a deceptive practice with the public, making these battery packs seem much more important then they are. It is all part of hyping the utility’s supposed greenness, which helps their stock price but not their customers.

A recent announcement by the giant Arizona Public Service is a perfect example of this deception. It is a little bit technical, so bear with me. It is all about the difference between megawatts and megawatt hours, which the public (including the average stock analyst) does not understand. APS is trading on this ignorance.

In simple terms, think of a battery as a box of electricity, or “juice.” The megawatt (MW) capacity is how fast you can pour out the juice. The megawatt hour (MWh) capacity is how much juice the box can hold. Which measure is important depends on what you are doing and each has a price.

Here is their clever headline: “APS customers get solar after sunset with major clean-energy projects.”

They then go on to tell the wonderful story of how these big batteries will make solar powered juice available at night, for the family that longs for it (as some apparently do).

“APS will add battery storage to its existing fleet of solar power plants, build new solar plants with storage, and use storage to deliver cleaner energy to customers at times of peak energy usage. As a result, APS customers will be able to use solar energy even after the sun goes down. Family dinners, prime-time television and bedtime reading lights will all be powered by a cleaner energy mix.”

Finally we get some actual facts: “The initiatives announced today will add 850 megawatts of battery storage and at least 100 megawatts of new solar generation by 2025, for a total of 950 megawatts of new clean-energy technology.”

The trick is that they never tell you how little juice these batteries actually hold, which is very little. The 850 MW is the discharge capacity of the batteries, or how fast you can pour out the juice. The MWh, which is how much juice can be stored, is never given. It is unlikely to be more than 850 MWh and may well be a lot less. This is just a small fraction of what APS customers use in a peak hour, so very little of the juice folks are using will be stored solar. Not even an hour’s worth, much less dinner to bedtime. It might just be a few minutes worth.

They even go so far as to make the batteries look like a generator, which is truly deceptive. They add the battery MW to the solar generator MW, which gives a nonsensical result. This is pure double counting, because the juice in the battery is taken from the generator. In fact it is worse than double counting because what comes out of the battery is less than what went in. That is, using batteries to change the time the juice is used actually reduces the usable amount.

A battery is not a generator; it just stores the output from a generator. An 850 MW coal fired generator can produce that much juice, day in and day out, including nights. Wind and solar generators also produce over much of a year, as long as the wind and sun are right. But a battery just produces until it runs out, which is pretty quickly in this case.

Making a battery look like a generator is purely deceptive and that is just what APS does.

It is also noteworthy that APS never mentions what this big solar juice box is going to cost, which is a lot. According to the U.S. Energy Department, big battery systems like this average about 1.5 million dollars a megawatt. At that rate these big batteries will cost APS customers a whopping 1.3 billion dollars, just so the green among them can think they are eating dinner by solar energy at night, which they are not. Solar after sunset is not cheap, far from it. The cost of actually running all night on solar would be astronomical.

I doubt the average customer will be excited about coughing up this kind of money, just so the greens can feel good. But APS loves it because, as a regulated monopoly, the more money they spend the more guaranteed profit they make. I can see their stock price and executive salaries going up as a result.

Simply put, this is battery trickery.
Cfact

Batteries cannot make renewables reliable
Cfact
David Wojick
26 April 2019

Utilities are starting to experiment with adding batteries to wind and solar projects. These storage projects are feeding the mistaken belief that batteries can cure the intermittency that makes wind and solar unworkable as a reliable source of power.

The reality is that these battery projects are trivial in size compared to what would actually be needed to make wind or solar reliable. The cost of battery based reliability would actually be stupendous, far more than we could ever afford.

Here are some simple numbers to make the point. The reality would be far more complex, but the magnitude would not change much.

First comes the cost of utility scale battery facilities. This is much more than just the cost of the batteries. At utility scale these are large, complex facilities. Connecting all of the batteries involved and getting them to work properly together is a big challenge in itself. AC-DC-AC conversions are also a big deal, plus there are buildings, transmission stuff, etc.

In many cases these costs are proprietary, but the U.S. Energy Information Administration has surveyed a number of these facilities. See their “U.S. Battery Storage Market Trends,” May 2018.

The reported costs are pretty wide ranging, but the average is close to $1,500 per KWh, so let’s use that round number.

Note that this is the cost per KWh of storage capacity, not the KWh cost of energy from the batteries taken over time, which is a very different matter. There is a lot of confusion on this point. The KWh cost of juice goes down as the batteries are cycled more often, but the cost of the battery facilities themselves does not change. In fact the cost may go up because batteries that can be cycled faster cost more.

At utility scale we are talking about megawatts, not kilowatts, so the battery cost is $1.5 million per MWh. By coincidence, $1.5 million per MW is also roughly the cost of a wind farm. Much follows from this.

A smallish wind farm might have generating capacity of 100 MW, so costing around $150 million. The cost of the batteries to make this farm a reliable power generator turns out to be much, much greater.

Suppose we want to store enough juice to back up the wind farm for just one day, when the wind speed is too low to generate any power. Let’s say we simply need 100 MW for 24 hours, or 2,400 MWh.

At $1.5 million per MWh that is a whopping $3,600 million or $3.6 billion. In short, the batteries cost 24 times more than the “backed up” wind farm costs. In fact in this case the battery cost will be the number of hours times the wind farm cost.

This huge cost certainly makes the wind farm unaffordable, but it gets much worse. Under standard conditions a wind farm produces no power around 25% of the time, due to low wind conditions. Low wind periods of up to a week are fairly common, created by stagnant huge high pressure systems. The power battery system has to be big enough to accommodate these long periods of no wind power.

A week has 168 hours so we need 16,800 MWh of battery storage capacity, at the enormous cost of $25.2 billion, just to make a $150 million wind farm reliable. This would obviously be absurd, which makes the whole idea of battery backup absurd. Even if the cost of batteries were to come way down, say by 90%, the cost would still be wildly prohibitive.

The battery systems that are being announced by major utilities are nothing like real backup. They seldom store even an hour’s worth of generated power (at great price). But they are often touted as being a big step toward making renewables reliable. This is either deep ignorance or pure deception.

Batteries simply cannot make renewables reliable. They cost too much.
Cfact

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. David O'Neill says:

    In the event of a severe accident with a large lithium Ion storage facility, does any one have good figures on the amount Hydrogen Fluoride and Phosphoric Acid that will be contained in the ensuing gas cloud? I’m told the battery in a place called Surprise, in Arizona, was only 2 MW Hours. What about a 100 MW Hour unit?

  2. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  3. Crispin says:

    Batteries are like the ‘pollyfilla’ of the wind industry. They are a part of the smoke and mirrors used to keep the ruinable energy illusion alive. Especially during weather events like the one below.

  4. Jeff Walther says:

    Faith-based grid: “The wind is always blowing somewhere.”

    Fantasy-based grid: “Magic batteries will fix the intermittency problems of wind and solar.”

  5. I know loads of energy professionals that won’t get the difference between LPG and LNG. It sounds so similar so it surely is similar so what’s the fuss? In reality LPG is closer to gasoline than to LNG in behavior. At least as many don’t understand the difference between MW and MWh. And its here where the RE folks play with us. They must get the difference as if someone twists the facts with such glee, he must know what he is doing here. To me, this is fraud. I mean the legal definition of fraud. A wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. Those managers that uphold those frauds are guilty by association, and they should face a criminal court for doing so. However, it will take balls to do that in the current political climate. We need political climate change in order to deflate the RE bubble.

  6. Jackie Rovensky says:

    On April 5th South Australia during the day was not producing ANY wind energy, the battery was put to work, but funnily enough that day AEMO did not put up any actions on its Dashboard showing what they were doing to prevent a system collapse. The whole of the 5th April is missing from their Dashboard.
    The reason could almost be concluded as being because they were either asleep or working their little butts off trying to keep things moving and just didn’t have the time to update anything onto the Dashboard for that day.
    At the time SA was not only not producing wind energy they were actually in minus (-2MW) as a couple of projects took from the grid to keep their systems ready to start up again when the wind blew. With the battery being recharged from the Grid NOT the wind. Also the rest of the Eastern Grid was in a wind almost free zone. Even on the 6th there were times when turbines looked breathless.
    Yes the wind may blow somewhere but you can’t ensure it’s producing where you want it.
    Disaster, a puff of wind away from chaos with no one in the industry or the ‘Fat Controller’ office wanting to own up to it!!!
    Sitting back and waiting for disaster is not the way to run a energy Grid, its not the way to run a country. It’s time people accepted we need to stop this manic experiment.
    Every time they try to fix it, all it does is cost us more money, money we have to pay for the errors of failed Government Policy and a ditching of commonsense.
    You cannot rush change, forced change will always fail because it is done without critical investigation and consideration for what is possible and acceptable simply to smooth the egos of a few.

    • peter Pronczak says:

      All the more reason to understand the agenda is not about saving us from climate change as Hans Joachim Schellenhuber the Queens envoy to convince G H W Bush that population numbers were a greater threat to the the planet than terrorism, for which he got a Knighthood, and he revealed at the Copenhagen Summit that climate science had revealed the carrying capacity of Earth was 2 million or less people, then the real agenda of alternative energy is revealed: It is Malthusian population reduction.
      It and slavery albeit now wage slavery has always been a fascist agenda.
      Or perhaps, like most, the original establishment of the USA is not understood as being against the usury financial system.

  7. Son of a goat says:

    When questioned about the cost of labor’s climate change policy on Q&A Shorten suggested it was a dumb question as it didn’t take into consideration the cost of inaction.

    On further questioning at the leaders debate he doubled down by stating it was a dishonest question.

    I would suggest for the Australian public to vote for labor and hurtle into 45% renewables without any knowledge of the repercussions is in fact “mindless” on their part.

  8. Peter Pronczak says:

    Does STT have any info on the ability of wind turbines being able to supply enough power to smelt the special metals required for the construction of gearboxes?

    Also what processes are in place for end of life recycling of all alternative energy components?

    I’m reminded of the two women who some years ago organised e-waste collection in Sydney, AU of TV’s, computers, etc., to then be horrified to discover that the special council pickup resulted in the waste being dumped in ordinary landfill.
    And then, illegal container loads of e-waste finding its way to a South African country where it caused health problems as communities burned off the plastics to recover metals for sale.

    We already know that new generation nuclear power is fail-safe with no waste, yet most media don’t reveal this to the public, preferring instead to support children being manipulated into crying over no ‘planet B’ rather than allowing them to be children.

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