Why Big Batteries Can’t Cure Wind & Solar’s Hopeless Intermittency

Politicos and the MSM are wedded to the myth that mega-batteries are all we need to overcome the chaotic delivery of wind and solar. The addition of which, we are told, is both imminent and cost-free.

No country on earth has been able to crack the cost-effective grid-scale storage electricity. The laws of physics are something that can’t be overcome by wishing and hoping.

But the simple explanation arises by pure arithmetic; the volume of storage required to deal with bursts of dead calm weather and that regular occurrence, known as sunset, is off the charts astronomical.

One character who has had his finger on the pulse for more than a decade is engineer, Paul Miskelly.

Back in 2012, Paul had this to say about the prevalence of “wind droughts” where, for days on end, the total output from all the wind turbines connected to Australia’s Eastern Grid is a risible trickle of their total capacity (see above their output in May – courtesy Aneroid Energy).

“Wind Farms in Eastern Australia – Recent Lessons”
Energy & Environment Journal
Paul Miskelly

Abstract

Academic discussion continues as to whether a fleet of grid-connected wind farms, widely dispersed across a single grid network, can provide a reliable electricity supply.  One opinion is that wide geographical dispersion of wind farms provides sufficient smoothing of the intermittent and highly variable output of individual wind farms enabling the wind farm fleet to provide for base load demand.  In an examination of the 5-minute time-averaged wind farm operational data for 21 large wind farms connected to the eastern Australian grid – geographically the largest, most widely dispersed, single interconnected grid in the world (AER, [1]) – this paper challenges that opinion.  The findings also suggest that the connection of such a wind farm fleet, even one that is widely dispersed, poses significant security and reliability concerns to the eastern Australian grid. These findings have similar implications for the impact of wind farms on the security of electricity grids worldwide.

Conclusion

Engineers are required to do more than merely analyse and report on natural phenomena. They are required to create practical solutions to real world problems.  In so doing they must test and design systems ensuring that they have addressed the worst case scenarios. As a result, they may not concentrate merely on average values.  With these requirements firmly in mind, to the electrical engineer, a careful scrutiny of the available wind farm operational data shows that, on the eastern Australian grid, it is not possible for wind energy ever to displace dispatchable, reliable generation supplying the base load demand.  In this regard, an examination of the graphs comprising Figure 3 clearly indicates that the proposal by some Australian policymakers to replace major coal-fired power stations with a fleet of wind farms is not technically achievable.

Additionally, the analysis shows that further increased wind penetration, even if spread evenly across the eastern Australian grid, will result in an increasing contribution to grid instability, potentially making wind energy an increasing threat to grid operational security and reliability.  To continue a policy strategy to increase wind penetration across the eastern Australian grid, to seek to meet a target of some 20% installed capacity, as has already been achieved in South Australia, (with the presumption that wind may thereby meet 20% of base load requirements), has the potential to be a dangerous strategy.

To address the increased instability due to wind, a fleet of fast-acting OCGT generation plant may well be required to back up wind’s intermittency.  The use of a significantly greater proportion of this form of generation, rather than the more thermally-efficient CCGT, in the gas-fired generation plant mix may lead, seemingly paradoxically, to both higher gas consumption and higher GHG emissions from the resulting OCGT/CCGT generation mix than if wind generation was not included in the generation portfolio.

As the eastern Australian grid is:

  • the world’s most geographically dispersed single interconnected grid,
  • as the present wind farm fleet is dispersed across it at its widest portion in the east-west direction, that is, in the direction of the prevailing mesoscale atmospheric circulation,
  • and that this fleet also occupies a significant region in the north-south direction, these conclusions are significant for grids worldwide

Paul Miskelly

Here’s the link to the full paper: “Wind Farms in Eastern Australia – Recent Lessons”.

As we said above, the answer to the chaotic output of weather-dependent wind power and sunshine-dependent solar power is said to be large-scale battery storage.

Well, here are calculations recently made by Paul Miskelly (posted at Jo Nova) on the colossal volume of storage required to deal with a five-day wind (and sunset/solar) drought across the Eastern Grid (see above the wind farm locations on the Eastern Grid):

It’s fairly easy to determine ballpark figures. I’ll posit these here and allow “TonyfromOz” to fine-tune the numbers.

Batteries:

I’m presuming a 5-day wind drought in summer, during a prolonged real drought, so am using a required demand to be satisfied of, say, 30000 MW average throughout the 5-day period. Others may want to vary these assumptions.
The Geelong “Big Battery” has a capacity, according to its owner, of 450 MWh.
Number of Geelong “Big Battery” units required: 30,000 MW times 5 days times 24 hours divided by 450 MW/unit.
I get 8,000 Geelong “Big Batteries”.

You can readily find pictures of it to get some idea of its size, number of Tesla megapacks, etc.
Mr Bowen may need to be reminded that a battery is not a generator. Having squandered vast amounts of precious resources on these gadgets, they still require further squandering of resources to charge them. Incidentally, to reinforce the points made about energy density, or lack of it, in the article that Jo quotes here, it is sobering to be reminded that a 300 MW SMR nuclear plant can be expected to occupy the same space as just one of the many Tesla megapacks comprising the Geelong “Big Battery”.

Now, how many wind turbines are required to even begin to replace our coal- and gas-fired generation?

The peak demand at present – TonyfromOz, help me here – is some 35,000 MW.

The standard-capacity wind turbine is 3 MW, with a capacity factor of 30%.

So, 35,000 MW divided by 3 and multiplied by 100/30.

I get something of the order of 39000 wind turbines.

I gather that presently there is some 9000 MW of installed wind capacity.

That’s, say, 9,000 MW divided by 3 MW per unit, of 3000 wind turbines presently installed.

Again, TonyfromOz could fine-tune and correct my figures.

Perhaps that gives some idea of the scale of the task that Mr Bowen has set himself. There is lots that I haven’t included, such as the heroic amounts that will have to be spent on augmentation of the electricity transmission network, etc.

And we know that such a gigantic squandering of resources, the environmental impacts that will result, the vast additional amount of CO2 emissions that will result from the manufacture of all this junk, is all totally futile, completely and utterly pointless.

Apologies for sounding like a broken record. I hope the numbers, and the working, are of some use.
Regards,
Paul Miskelly

Ever helpful, TonyfromOz replied as follows:

Yeah, sorry Paul, I missed this. The older I get, the fewer the hours in the day!

There’s so many comments to look at here at Joanne’s site.

Like I indicated with this image here at this link, [see above] this is the one day in 2021 when all the indicators are as close as is possible to the year round average, and there are around eight of those indicators. It was such a long task.

As you can see that critical time of Peak Power consumption every day is at around 6PM, and what you see with this image is the average Peak for the year, and the average delivered by those four Renewables, (for want of a better word really) and as you can plainly see that gap is nigh on 20,000MW…… That’s just the average mind you, and while talking in averages is not absolute, it is indicative.

There are days in the year when that Peak is well up beyond 30,000MW, and that adds a further 4,000MW PLUS to the gap. And the big day in 2021 had a Peak over 35,000MW.

ALL of that is an ABSOLUTE to supply. It just MUST be supplied, every day.

You CANNOT cover that with wind and new Hydro won’t help either ….. LOOK at that gap!

The conjecture exercise is 20,000MW difference and then factor in that 30% Capacity Factor.

That’s 67,000MW of NEW wind plant Nameplate.

The current Nameplate is 9,854MW.

So, what is required here is the current TOTAL for every wind plant in the Country ….. MULTIPLIED BY SEVEN. And that’s just to cover the average, so add another current total or two to that to cover those really high days.

Now, you can do the academic exercise for the numbers like this, but that’s seven to ten times the current Nameplate (ALL of it replaced every 15 to 20 years)

That’s SIXTY wind plants the size of the current largest wind plant in the Country.

Where the hell are you going to put them? How long would it take to construct them? Where does the money come from?

And then there will be times, well, once a week going on past history, when no matter how many turbines there are, the wind falls away to nothing and instead of having 9,854MW Nameplate mostly stationary, there will be 30,000MW of wind Nameplate mainly stationary.

There’s not enough Batteries in a ‘thought bubble’ to even cover for all that.

I mean, I can do the maths, but where are they going to go?

Tony.

Big battery claims go up in smoke

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. luketwice says:

    Hi, in Northern Ireland we are beginning to see applicants using test methods as though they were recognized standards for safety, it sort of reminds me of the standards set for turbine noise. Please will you be on the look out for this in Australia and let me know if it is happening there too? Please be aware that as well as explosions and HF production, it has come to light that there is an even more fearful issue depending on the type of cathode etc. It is the production of Nickel compounds in inhalable powder form: nickel monoxide, nickel dioxide, nickel sulphide, trinickel disulphide, dinickel trioxide. Anyway, I ask that you consider the following text from our H&S authority on a planning application:

    HSENI has reviewed the document titled “Agents Response to HSENI “.
    HSENI recognises that certain battery technologies may reduce the risk of thermal runaway but they do not eliminate the risk of fire or explosion.
    HSENI advises the planning officer that UL 9540A is a test method and not a standard and to take a precautionary approach when considering the results of one test method.
    HSENI continues to advise the planning officer to consider the HSENI Technical Note regarding the risks from fire and explosion involving a single BESS container.
    Yours faithfully
    Notifications Team
    HSENI

    I can supply the planning reference to this if required.

  2. The amount of storage to provide firm power is boggling. I used three years of data from the California Independent System Operator to calculate 1000 watt hours per watt of average demand. Euan Mearns got 400 for UK. Norman Rodgers got 400 for Texas. Shaner et al used 36 years of geophysical data to estimate 400-800 for all of North America.

    Using the most optimistic result (a real engineer would never do that), looking in the Tesla catalogue for prices (before installation, to be politically optimistic), using the 1,700 GWe average that greens insist for the United States, and doing the really simple fourth-grade arithmetic, the conclusion is AT LEAST FOUR TIMES TOTAL USA GDP EVERY YEAR FOR BATTERIES ALONE!

  3. catweazle666 says:

    And then there’s this:

    Totaled Tesla goes up in flames three weeks after crash
    A pit and 4,500 gallons of water were needed to put it out
    https://www.theregister.com/2022/06/23/tesla_model_s_explodes_after/

    And that’s just a single car battery, not a container full of the horrid things.

  4. Craig Lucanus says:

    Is OCGT needed when running gas only without intermittent renewables? Can’t CCGT load follow sufficiently?

    • Take wind and solar off the grid and fast start speakers, OCGTs and diesel engines, have little role to play. These days, they are doing the heavy lifting, especially in places like SA. When gas was cheap and available CCGT made economic sense, but not now, they are designed to run constantly, like coal-fired plant, except the latter are far cheaper to run.

  5. Richard Savage says:

    Great article! I am from South Africa and boy are we having power stability problems, where I am up to 9 hours “load shedding” a day. Standard idiotic reaction “go renewable” one new solar boondoggle has planned nameplate capacity of 100mw and is situated about 750kms from where the power is actually needed. Additionally the plan is have 50mw of battery storage . What utter rubbish and this is touted as being a solution to our problems, and by the way a complete new transmission cable line has to erected and that’s at least 750km long!

  6. Peter Pronczak says:

    Turn up the aircon it’s too damn hot. Summer’s coming down under.

    Queen Elizabeth II as owner of British Commonwealth countries totalling the largest area on Earth (equal to Brazil, China, Russia, USA combined) sent her envoy Hans Joachim Schellnhuber to convince President Geo. H W Bush (1989-1993) that Global Warming as it was known then, was a greater threat than terrorism. When Schellnhuber returned to his Potsdam Institute in Germany, he was rewarded with a royal gong.
    When the ice on Greenland & Antarctica eventually melt it will signal the final end of the last Ice Age. It is also suspected from some evidence that Antarctica was once covered in forest.
    All of this means there have been many years that realistic life saving measures could have been taken to mitigate destruction instead of the opportunistic income stream directed to generally large scale otherwise useless RE.
    A beneficial owner of property is normally held responsible for the destruction of life & property that was reasonably foreseen, as was admitted all those years ago. That Europe is now burning was predictable from the scientific acknowledged belief in Global Warming supported by the UN & many thousands attending COP1 to COP26.

    Are the common two party political systems in use only pretending to represent the interests & welfare of the majority of citizens & life on Earth? Just as all wars are intended to consolidate wealth & the direction of who & what activity it rewards, & kill innocent lives. Much like the economic system in use being man-made & predictable in its functioning.

    Where, oh where doggone it, is an eternal natural stationary environment & who says so?

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