Total Joke: Elon Musk’s Giant Lithium Battery Never Designed to Deliver Grid-Scale Power

Reefer-smoking Tesla tycoon, Elon Musk convinced South Australians to spend $150 million on a battery that could power the state for all of four minutes. Now that’s salesmanship!

Even as a piece of propaganda, it failed: then Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill touted Musk’s battery as the panacea to his state’s power woes, as he tried to cling to power in March 2018. He was duly ditched.

But, Musk’s ‘legacy’ remains, at least in SA. South Australia is, of course, Australia’s wind and solar capital. Hence, the amount of waffle that’s still spoken about mega-batteries, all the while, ignoring physics, mathematics, engineering and economics.

With a nod to all of those disciplines, here’s Rafe Champion.

Batteries not Included
Catallaxy Files
Rafe Champion
12 May 2019

Here in SA every new project for “renewable energy” has to obtain approval from the State Planning Commission. The proposals are advertised in the paper and are available to the public via a website. The other day I noticed a proposal for a 100 MW/100 MWh battery to be installed at the major sub-station that served the now demolished Northern Power station at Port Augusta.

It will be called the “Playford Utility Battery Storage Facility” in recognition of the power stations developed by the Playford government and now demolished. The project cost is given as $100 million.

It’s quite a beast. There will be 27 containers full of batteries, each 45 feet long and 27 containers with inverters and transformers as well as a control room and the necessary substation facilities to connect it all up to the grid. It is sited adjacent to the Davenport substation where the HV transmission lines to Adelaide and other areas originate. Incidentally the HV transmission organisation also has a project in for approval at the same site, two “synchronous condensers” worth around $45 million, with another six to be sited in other areas later. The battery facility has a design life of 30 years but the batteries will need to be replaced after 15 years. All battery and other components will be imported as they are not available in Australia.

With all the energy madness that we see every day I thought I would try and compute the battery cost to “firm up” a wind farm. I have chosen the Hornsdale wind farm near Jamestown, (host of Mr. Musk’s big battery) for the analysis. Hornsdale comprises 105 3 MW turbines, (total rated capacity 315 MW, over an area of 7,500 hectares). The promotional blurb says it will produce 1,050,000 MWh annually giving it a capacity factor of 38%, giving a “real” capacity of 119 MW. This is probably a bit optimistic but I will use it anyway.

The tricky thing with trying to get a quantity of storage nailed down is the intermittency on an hourly and daily basis. Just because it is rated at an “actual” 119 MW does not mean it will generate at this rate every day, or hour for that matter. I will use an average output knowing that it really does not represent reality but allows a battery cost to be calculated.

At 38% CF an average days output is 119 X 24 = 2,856 MWh. For one days storage there would need to be 29 100 MWh battery storage systems at $100 million each. This would cost $2.9 billion.

After 15 years, or maybe sooner, the batteries would have to be replaced. Say the batteries comprise 80% of the system cost, then the replacement cost after 15 years is another $2.3 billion. If a weeks’ worth of storage was needed multiply those numbers by 7 and get $20.3 billion and $16.2 billion for replacement. The battery systems would need to be re-charged every day. Some days might not be a problem but on others the wind might not cooperate and they would not fully charge. On “good” days there might be some excess to serve demand but it will always be unpredictable.

A chart showing the output from Hornsdale for the past 24 hours indicates the maximum 220 MW at around 7 p.m. yesterday and the minimum at 14 MW at the time of writing, 2 p.m. on 8 May 2019. About half the day was above 100 but over a third was below 50. The official PR uses an “average” of 119 MW over the whole day.

These calculations are for one 315 MW wind farm. Currently we have 6,106 MW Australia wide “installed capacity” in wind. Using the 38% CF this gives a daily output of 55,687 MWh, so one days storage requires 557 100 MWh battery systems costing $100 million each, a total of $58 billion. In 15 years there would be another $46 billion to replace the batteries giving a 30 year cost of $104 billion and it still would not provide “dispatchable” electricity.

How many coal fired or nuclear power stations could we get for that?
Catallaxy Files

10 thoughts on “Total Joke: Elon Musk’s Giant Lithium Battery Never Designed to Deliver Grid-Scale Power

  1. To add a bit of reality to the discussion, batteries in the grid are not intended to provide power for extended periods of time. The purpose of the batteries is to smooth out the sudden fluctuations in grid power supply when the wind dies or the sun goes down, and give enough time to the coal or gas powered backup generation enough time to ramp up their production to compensate for the loss of the ‘green energy’ generators.

    1. But that’s not the sales pitch being run by RE rent seekers. Their line is that we can reach 100% wind and solar by simply adding batteries, making all forms of conventional generation redundant. It’s all part of the ‘inevitable transition’. Or not…

  2. The cost of batteries to raise the electricity shortfall, during one month of low wind, to the annual average – £472 billion

    Search for: “a very poor month for wind power – july 2018”

  3. Thank you for providing a good example of how useless it is to rely on a battery for our energy security. Just one thing to add, on the 12 May Hornsdale was ‘flat-lining’ just about all day and there’s been periods this Month were across the Eastern Grid there has been periods of very poor wind production. with on at least one occasion the battery having to be ‘topped up’ via a depleted Grid.
    The batteries have done one thing and one thing only and that is synchronised the energy flow.
    Should we have had to do this – NO.
    We were constantly being told wind didn’t need backup – what is a battery but a backup to try and prevent disaster.
    Wind companies and their troll’s kept saying the wind would be blowing somewhere all the time – not true and even if it were and there was a breeze in Queensland that would not help SA, Victoria or even NSW to keep the lights on.
    Governments are constantly trying to bring the price of energy down – yet they also constantly allow useless costly wind turbines to be installed and even encourage very expensive battery’s to be installed at old wind sites and at all new ones.
    Of course someone has to pay for it – in SA we those at the end of the line, who were given no say in purchasing it, are paying for Labor’s Musky smelling battery. No doubt when it needs replacing we will have to pay for that as well.
    The cost of energy is the sole reason people are finding it hard to keep up with their expenses – when the cost of energy goes up it reverberates across the whole economical foundations of the country and every business, hospital, welfare agency, school etc. feels the pinch.
    We cannot afford to keep accepting the drivel being pored out by scare scaremongers. Batteries are OK to operate a torch, phone or laptop or kids toy but they cannot do it without being recharged and that takes energy.
    Yes some can be recharged using the sunlight but even that is only good while it is daylight and or there are no clouds. Even wind turbines use energy to keep themselves operational – no electricity no turbines turning – that’s why at times of no wind they draw from the grid.
    Its time people stopped took stock and understood turbines are nothing more than a big fan that causes a lot of pain, and environmental damage.
    Just think if someone had decided to place a huge fan next door to you in their backyard just to catch the wind so it shook the tinkling bells and looked pretty – would it have been acceptable – of course not the outcry would have been shattering, but these companies have been allowed to do just that because they added lies to the ‘sell’ by saying they have to do it so we can have ‘clean’ electricity production – without ever having to prove beyond a doubt they are manufactured cleanly, they produce energy without the need of any additions to help them along and they never said they only operate at a small portion of the capacity stated and huge numbers of them will be needed to even provide for a minuscule of our energy requirements which will mean we will still need ‘backup’ energy sources to ensure we keep the lights on and lifesaving equipment functioning when the wind doesn’t blow.
    These things are no more use than the children’s little handheld windmill they blow to make it turn and its time we stopped letting those hard-sell scaremongers get the upper hand and refused to allow anymore of their monsters to downgrade our environments.
    You only have to look at how much coal is being used for energy production now to know we have no option but to up the anti and either install more coal fired power stations or install nuclear ones IF you believe the ranting of those who have been conned into believing the world is coming to an end.
    Come on the Federal Government take charge and bring sense back into our lives.

  4. I see when watching UK TV a lot of these monsters out in the ocean.
    What does the vibration and Low Frequency Noise do to marine life.
    I know how it makes me feel.

  5. $30B (US dollars) will by you approx 7000MW of 98% Electrical power for 60 years. And that’s a conservative #. If you bought from Korea it would be less

    Sent from my iPad, Hank


  6. Talk about a toxic waste problem! And they’re worried about nuclear waste.

    Sent from my iPad, Hank


  7. Would like to see the figure when the equation is redone at a more realistic 28% .120 billion at a stab..

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