Plugging In: The ‘Batteries Will Save Intermittent Wind & Solar’ Myth Goes Up In Flames

Snake oil salesman pitches ‘cure’ for sunset & calm weather.


Mobile device users dread the moment when their phone or tablet signals the end of what’s stored on board, prompting furtive efforts to reconnect to the power grid. Sure, over time, battery life has improved on smart phones and iPads, but hitting the natural limit of the power that can be stored in such devices, is a daily reminder of the critical necessity of being able to connect to a fully functioning and reliable power grid, when batteries run flat.

For almost a century, electricity generation and distribution were treated as a tightly integrated system: it was designed and built as one, and is meant to operate as designed. However, the chaotic delivery of wind and solar have all but trashed the electricity generation and delivery system, as we know it. Germany and South Australia are only the most obvious examples.

In response, latterly, the narrative has shifted to “storage”. RE zealots now sound like ditzy homemakers who had forgotten to build a wardrobe big enough to stow their stuff before they moved in.

For wind and solar acolytes, physics and economics are boring impediments. However, the colossal cost of giant lithium batteries means that – between now and kingdom come – their contribution to our electrical supply will remain laughably trivial. As this German study confirms below.

Analysis Suggests Elon Musk’s Vision Of A Battery-Powered Society Remains An Unworkable Fantasy
No Tricks Zone
Pierre Gosselin
30 October 2020

Our energy supply system finds itself in a transformation over to a far greater share of renewable energies. Though some have been fooled into believing the transformation can be done completely in just a matter of a few years, sobriety tells us it’s going to take considerably longer, and batteries are not the answer to the supply volatility problem.

Battery storage “still needs to demonstrate that it eventually can become cost-effective and reduce its significant ecological footprint,” says Dr. Sebastian Lüning.

Wind and solar energy’s high supply volatility require mass storage capacity whose solution remains off in the future. Chart above depicts Germany’s demand and supply by wind in sun.

What follows is the abstract of a review of renewable energies (starts on page 204) by Dr. Sebastian Lüning.

As the share of renewable energies keeps rising in the global energy mix year by year, volatility of wind and solar energy sources needs to be carefully counterbalanced with adequate Electrical Energy Storage (EES). Suitable storage solutions need to have mass storage capacity to supply whole countries for several days to weeks during renewable supply gaps. At the same time, storage needs to be cost-effective and full-cycle energy losses need to be minimized. Stimulated by the wish to achieve decarbonization as quickly as possible, significant research efforts are currently underway worldwide to come up with solutions to the energy storage challenge. This article summarizes the most promising technologies to fill the EES gap, highlighting advantages, challenges and chances of mid-term technological breakthrough. In order to facilitate the discussion, the storage technologies are grouped here into the following categories: (1) Rechargeable batteries, (2) Pumped hydro energy storage, (3) Power-to-gas and power-to-liquid, (4) Compressed air, (5) Thermal, and (6) Flywheels.

Whilst all technologies will be useful for specific applications, artificial fuels (power-to-liquid and power-to-gas) appear particularly promising to take the energy transition to a new level. Artificial fuels can be stored and transported using established transportation logistics from the hydrocarbon industry. Systems are easily upscalable so that renewable supply gaps of several days or even weeks can be effectively bridged. Artificial fuels can be exported to customers over great distances without major losses, opening up the chance to not only capture surplus electricity for domestic storage but also to specifically produce energy for the export market. The latter applies particularly to sun- and wind-rich regions.

A second promising technology for the energy transition is thermal energy storage (TES) which may soon allow 24 hour operations of solar plants as well as energy storage between the seasons with only small losses.

Battery storage has also got potential but still needs to demonstrate that it eventually can become cost-effective and reduce its significant ecological footprint. Clearing the energy storage bottleneck will be the key challenge for a full-blown switch to renewable energy societies and a robust commercial basis for energy producers, with no recourse to state subsidies.

Clearly, there’s a long way to go before a zero-carbon energy supply can be achieved. People who say it can be done by 2025, 2030 or even 2050 don’t know what they’re talking about.
No Tricks Zone

‘Batteries will save us’ myth goes up in flames.

7 thoughts on “Plugging In: The ‘Batteries Will Save Intermittent Wind & Solar’ Myth Goes Up In Flames

  1. The latest lead-acid technology using lead carbon plates have a life expectancy of 20 yrs @25c, this is a proven technology that Telstra and global telecommunications systems rely on and have done so for many years, lithium-ion batteries are not a sound investment at this time due to life expectancy from $ invested.

  2. It is odd that the energy suppliers are being coerced by the Green movement into investment in technology which doesn’t produce any energy at all and in fact is a a consumer.

  3. It is indeed odd that energy suppliers are being coerced by the Green movement into investing in technology which doesn’t produce any energy at all and in fact consumes it.

    1. “it takes 1153.6 watt hours to make a 1000 watt hour battery”
      The video presenter indicates that 1,153.6 watt hours of energy is required per watt hour of battery capacity manufactured. On that basis it would take 1,153,600 watt hours to make a 1000 watt hour battery or 1,153.6 kilowatt hours to make a 1 kilowatt hour battery.
      Lithium batteries are generally considered to have a useful life of around 10 years not 3 as mentioned in the video. This compares with wind turbines, which have a life of around 20 years (maybe) and baseload coal power plants which normally have a life of at least 40 years.
      As usual Lily D’Ambrosio gets her sums wrong. As is the norm with renewables cultists she bases her pricing on the wholesale electricity cost. But as long suffering power bill payers know (or should) we are forced to pay a retail price which has added into it the cost of the LGC subsidy paid for renewable generation. It was the renewables house of cards to begin with that distorted our once orderly electricity market and artificially inflated the wholesale price of once cheap reliable baseload power. If it weren’t for the intermittency of renewables generation, battery storage would not be required at all.

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