Fantasyland Fiction: Batteries Will Never Solve Wind & Solar’s Hopeless Intermittency

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, South Australia, Texas and California 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.

The point is taken up by Sky News’ Chris Kenny below.

‘You can’t run an electricity grid on make-believe’: Kenny
Sky News
Chris Kenny
11 May 2021

While “barracking” for renewables has obvious attractions, it’s no use “pretending” batteries are the solution to energy storage, according to Sky news host Chris Kenny. “Energy storage is the problem with renewable energy, it’s the only issue really, the big one,” Mr Kenny said. “But these politicians and commentators think there’s already some king of big battery nirvana. “Now there are plenty of people barracking for renewable energy, good on them, it’s a free world and renewables of course have lots of obvious attractions. “But it is no good pretending that batteries are the solution. You can’t run an electricity grid on make-believe.”

Transcript

Chris Kenny: Now you might’ve seen an interview yesterday with my colleague, Tom Connell. He spoke with the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, about his decision to veto a proposed Northern Australia infrastructure fund loan for a wind farm in Queensland. Now Pitt suggested the proposal was rejected for failing to meet criteria for being affordable, reliable and dispatchable, and their exchange was, well, it went around a bit like a wind turbine.

Tom Connell: Can you tell me though, what size, for 157 megawatt wind farm, what size battery do you need to make it dispatchable?

Keith Pitt: Well, Tom, all I can tell you is that intermittent wind and solar-

Tom Connell: That’s a basic question.

Keith Pitt: … is not dispatchable.

Tom Connell: But it is with a battery if it’s big enough?

Keith Pitt: Well, I’ve made a decision based on what we-

Tom Connell: Yeah but hang on. That’s just a basic question. I just don’t understand why you won’t agree that it could be… A better battery can back up a wind farm.

Chris Kenny: Now on a whim, forget the semantics of the word dispatchable. The real issue here, the one Tom wasn’t given an answer on, was whether batteries are a viable backup for a wind farm, and didn’t the climate evangelist chortle over this exchange? It’s been a big hit on social media. Ten’s political editor Peter van Onselen said, “This is beyond insane,” referring to the interview, “a must watch.”

ABC Sydney radio presenter Wendy Harmer said, “Lots of great stuff coming in this space, including Keith Pitt one day being able to utter the word “battery.”

Republican Movement chief Peter FitzSimons said, “What am I missing? Why does minister Pitt prevaricate? Why is it such a sensitive thing to acknowledge the obvious, that a battery can back up a wind farm? Sky journo doing a good job here, holding him to account. Notice that a wind farm can be backed up,” he says, “by a battery.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt says, “Just astonishing. This is why the Libs can’t be allowed to use the fund to support new coal and gas projects. This week the Greens are moving amendments to stop that money going to coal or gas through the Northern Australia infrastructure fund. Will Labor support it?”

And the Warringah Independent Zali Steggall, a climate activist of course says, “This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Keith Pitt is the Minister for Resources. Australia has lots of the world’s rare earth minerals to make batteries. This is the industry of the future. We could be world leaders in lithium batteries, but instead we get this.”

Check it all out. It’s all, “Hail the coming of the mega battery.” They’re just pretending that the battery thing is easy. You have a wind farm, store the energy in a battery. Steggall becomes all sort of a mining advocate now for rare earths. These politicians and journalists mock Pitt but seriously contend that batteries are a way to firm power supplies from wind farms. If they stopped to think for just one minute, they might realise that if that were the case, the whole world would probably be net zero already.

Energy storage is the problem with renewable energy. It’s the only issue really, the big one, but these politicians and commentators think there’s already some kind of big battery nirvana. Let’s take for example South Australia’s so-called big batteries. The biggest in the world, it was, when it was first built a few years ago. A hundred million dollars worth of battery with taxpayers stumping up an undisclosed share. Now sure, it’s helped to smooth out the grid in the new renewables world. Good. And it makes money by buying cheap and then selling high. But as a firming tool, give me a break. It doesn’t pretend to do that job.

This massive installation would power South Australia, by far the smallest mainland state, it would power it for less than three minutes, or it would power that proposed wind farm, replace the energy from that proposed wind farm in Queensland that Keith Pitt was talking about, it would make up for that energy for one hour.

How many hundred million dollar batteries would one state need to cover a full day of a wind farm being in the doldrums, or a windless week? Here’s a reality check from physicist and engineer, Mark Mills, who’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Mark Mills: … and wind and solar only work when the wind blows and the sun shines, but we need energy all the time. The solution, we’re told, is to use batteries. Again, physics and chemistry make this very hard to do. Consider the world’s biggest battery factory, the one Tesla built in Nevada. It would take 500 years for that factory to make enough batteries to store just one day’s worth of America’s electricity needs.

Chris Kenny: There you go. There’s plenty of people barracking for renewable energy. Now good on them, it’s a free world and renewables of course have lots of obvious attractions, but it’s no good pretending that batteries are the easy solution. You can’t run an electricity grid on make-believe.
Sky News

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. The AEMO publishes data on the amount of electricity generated by each generator. It shows that on 5 June 2020 at 11 AM the whole of wind went below 10% and stayed that way until 8 PM on 6 June 2020. During that period of 33 hours on average 5.5% of the plate capacity was generated. Suppose you have a single wind farm of 200 MW. On average you will get from this close to 30% that is a 30% efficiency. That means 60 MW hours every hour. Back to our 33 hours, normally 1980 MW hours will be produced. In the period of the wind drought above only 363 MW hours will be produced. Subtracting one from the other produces the figure of 1617 megawatt hours. That is what you need for stability from energy storage for that 33 hours. By the way the Hornsdale reserve battery in South Australia is 192 MW hours and cost $161 million. In the storage stakes batteries are toys.

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