Numbers Game: Smashing The Wind & Solar Power Storage Myth With Arithmetic

Rent-seekers would have it that giant lithium-ion batteries are the simple answer to wind and solar’s hopeless intermittency, but that notion doesn’t stand first contact with the wind and solar industry’s nemesis: arithmetic.

The wishful claim that we’ll all soon be powered by nothing but wind and solar is, of course, utter nonsense. And, as Francis Menton details, big talk about big energy storage systems is just that.

Report On The Status Of The U.S. Energy Storage Project
Manhattan Contrarian
Francis Menton
7 April 2022

As you likely know, on April 22, 2021 the “United States” “set a goal” of reaching “100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.” You know that because on that date (Earth Day!) President Biden issued a press release so announcing, although the document does not inform us how Biden was able to commit the “United States” to such an ambitious goal by the device of a mere press release, without any sort of affirmative action from the Congress, let alone any consultation with you.

Previous posts here have noted that there is a rather gigantic obstacle to achieving the goal of “carbon free electricity,” namely the need for vast amounts of energy storage to transform wildly-fluctuating intermittent generation from the wind and sun into steady 24/7 electricity supply. For example, this post from January 14, 2022 reported on calculations by a guy named Ken Gregory as to how many gigawatt hours of storage would be needed to balance a fully wind/solar-supplied grid for the United States assuming consumption at 2020 levels. (Mr. Gregory’s calculation was in the range of 250,000 GWH, with a cost in the hundreds of trillions of dollars.) And this post from March 27 reported on various jurisdictions (California, Australia, New York) hurtling toward a “net zero” future without ever bothering to calculate how many GWHs of energy storage they would need or how much it will cost.

But clearly the people committing us to these goals have to know that a fully wind/solar and fossil-fuel-free electricity future requires lots of energy storage. After all, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that wind and solar produce nothing on a calm night. And indeed, if we look around at what our government is up to, we find considerable activity on the energy storage front. But there is an almost complete disconnect between, on the one hand, current efforts of small research grants and pilot programs to investigate which of various new technologies might work, and, on the other hand, a multi-hundred-trillion dollar total transformation of the entire energy economy that will supposedly be accomplished within the next 13 years using technology not yet invented let alone demonstrated at scale.

Here are just a few examples of what is currently going on out there in the energy storage world:

  • The federal Department of Energy has a big program going on called the Energy Storage Grand Challenge. An article from Energy Storage News, September 24, 2021, gives a comprehensive update. Central to the program will be constructing a new research center where various alternative strategies for what they call “long duration” energy storage will be investigated for feasibility. Thus it does appear that they have at least figured out that to make a wind/solar-supplied grid last through a year, you are going to need storage that can hold thousands of GWH of charge for many months on end. Lithium-ion can’t do that. But ESN notes that not only do the “long duration” technologies not yet exist, but the research center to investigate them doesn’t exist yet either, nor has construction begun. From ESN: “The DOE is also helping to get a US$75 million long-duration energy storage research centre built at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is expected to open by or during 2025.” So maybe we can start this basic research some time around 2025.

  • And what potential technologies will be investigated? In the same article from ESN, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm weighs in: “Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm famously expressed a view earlier this year that flow batteries are “good for grid storage,” and these enthusiastic words appear to be carrying over into action.” Hey, Secretary Granholm went to the Harvard Law School, so that makes her at least as qualified as I am to opine on what kind of storage the U.S. should acquire to store, say, 250,000 GWH of energy for six months. ESN reports that Granholm’s DOE has thus just awarded some $18 million in grants to four entities investigating various aspects of these hypothetical “flow batteries.”

  • In the somewhat less mythical category, here is an article from ESN just out today on the subject of zinc batteries, with the headline “e-Zinc raises US$25m to begin commercial pilot production of long-duration storage.” You only have to read a little of this to realize how totally remote from the needed capabilities these technologies currently are. “The [zinc battery] technology is being touted as a means to replace diesel generator sets in providing backup power for periods of between half a day to five days. . . . That ability to discharge at full rated power for several days potentially would take it past the capabilities of other non-lithium alternatives like flow batteries. . . . However, e-Zinc is yet to move beyond the pilot stage.” The technology to discharge at full rated power for more than “a few days” is not even at the “pilot stage.”

None of these articles, or much else from the Department of Energy, will give you much clue as to how much the deployment of any of these technologies might cost. But doing some searching today, I have dredged up a July 2019 document from the Department, with the title “Energy Storage Technology and Cost Characterization Report,” written by K. Mongird and a bunch of co-authors. This piece attempts to make cost comparisons among a large group of potential energy storage technologies, and to give cost projections for each as of 2025. The technologies are sodium-sulphur, lithium ion, lead acid, sodium metal halide, zinc-hybrid cathode, and redox flow. The authors actually attempt an honest assessment of costs, including not just the capital cost of acquiring each type of battery, but also the costs for the power conversion system (converting from AC to DC and back), the “balance of plant,” and “construction and commissioning.” The cheapest of the technologies in this analysis is lithium ion at $362/kwh, with the difference between that figure and the less-than-$200/kwh that Tesla currently charges consisting of the conversion, BOP, and C&C costs. But keep in mind that lithium ion technology only carries about 4 – 8 hours of discharge capability.

The second cheapest here is the zinc technology, at $433/kwh. Recall that Mr. Gregory calculated a storage need of about 250,000 GWH for the U.S. to back up a wind/solar system providing just the current level of electricity usage. Multiply by the $433/kwh, and you get approximately $108 trillion. If you’re planning to electrify all automobiles and home heating and cooking, you can at least double that figure. And this is the technology where they are hoping to demonstrate 5 days of discharge capability, against a need of more like 6 -12 months.

None of this is real.
Manhattan Contrarian

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. I am an Australian and run a website https://www.spasmodicenergy.com here which deals with these issues. It makes accessible the data of the past 12 years on the eastern grid of Australia. This shows when analyzed that massive blackouts are inevitable for Australia.

    I show the detail of this on my website at https://www.spasmodicenergy.com/Reference/Coal%20Station%20Closures.pdf.
    I show that the predicted closure of five coal stations by 2029 will collapse the Australian eastern grid. To replace them with the principal source of grid renewable energy requires expanding the current wind infrastructure by 329% and constructing 910 GW hours of electrical storage in 8 years. Snowy Mountains 2.0 (a large PHES being built) has 350 GW hours of storage when it is built that is already allocated. So another three will need to be built but where and how?

    The stations to be closed supply output of 21% of electricity on the eastern grid. Fossil fuels as a whole 65% so if by some miracle they are to be replaced with renewables there is another 44% to go. There is no doubt that storage is a myth and not possible.

  2. Reblogged this on whatyareckon and commented:
    Biden has not only lost his mind but he’s losing your money down a deep hole called renewables!

  3. Can you guys remember the report that stated if a wind facility had a wind turbine fire that it would cancel out the developers claims of greenhouse gas savings?

    This is Parke with Ocotillo Wi d Turbine Destruction

    Sent from my iPhone Parke Ewing W6PRK

    >

  4. Rafe Champion says:

    The real capacity of “big” batteries compared with the demand in the grid.
    https://www.riteon.org.au/netzero-casualties/#2112

  5. catweazle666 says:

    What happened to the nickel-iron-alkaline storage batteries that were popular a decade or two ago?
    Relatively cheap, common, easily recyclable materials, low toxicity, long life expectancy, high depth of discharge and a reputation for durability. The battery can withstand overcharge, overdischarge and short-circuiting and yet last 20 years or more.
    And they never never catch fire!

  6. The climate energy narrative is claimed to be “fossil free” but it is clearly MINERAL DISRUPTIVE FULL. All claims of “leaving fossil fuels in the ground” are lies, every form of electrical generation uses it. It is impossible to “leave fossil fuels in the ground” and still have electricity.

    Minerals for batteries are “fossil fuels” where no real “fossils” exist as we perceive them (i.e. like dinosaurs that also may be another marketing scam) petroleum, natural gas, even thermal energy is that very thing, minerals. Disruption of minerals should be the focus then.

    Like what the health care marketeers do with disease in rebranding and broadening the category in order to disrupt your perception of your own health, telling you that you are sick when you are not to sell you more stuff for broader pipelines to your money, we need to refer to MINERAL DISRUPTION in all discussions in order to disrupt their schemes as this then broadens the public view of what “fossil fuels” really are MINERALS. Reference periodic table of elements, and reference the science, petroleum contains minerals, petroleum and natural gas are minerals, Earth contains minerals, Earth is minerals, all of it is “fossil fuels”.

    None of the climate cultists ask themselves why does there need to be “backup” in the first place they are too busy worshiping their gods. The nursery school illusion presented the public through their tell-lie-vision screens for now 20 and plus years back was that you connect a windmill to the grid it supplies power (no mention how they also draw energy from the grid for ancillary functions that eat up a lot of energy or how they burn up energy as they actually power the blades on to burn up excess to balance or to keep lubricated) just build enough of them and “you are set” is the illusion, so if people could look back at that marketing department lofty promise much like looking back at week 3 to 104 of the medical political marketing scam of rebranded common cold to re-evaluate the promises that are never in writing, the marketing pitch that conned almost everyone stating 2 weeks to slow the spread of dangerous unicorns “for your health” and apply that lesson to wind we’d start noticing things like the obvious sales pitch of “fossil free” energy unicorns flying us everywhere and powering our homes being merely illusions as fossils of lithium or zinc will be disrupted in mining for minerals for batteries thus NEVER EVER leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

  7. More “Fix It’s” (1) are needed it seems.

    Curtailment levels is a metric one can use to track how well the “solutions” to managing oversupply of RE are going (2).

    1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batteries_Not_Included
    2) https://www.caiso.com/informed/Pages/ManagingOversupply.aspx#dailyCurtailment

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