Claim: Let's put batteries on wind and solar farms

From Stanford University

Stanford scientists calculate the energy required to store wind and solar power on the grid

English: The , also known as the Green Mountai...

Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, West Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Renewable energy holds the promise of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But there are times when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers. Storing that surplus energy in batteries for later use seems like an obvious solution, but a new study from Stanford University suggests that might not always be the case.

“We looked at batteries and other promising technologies for storing solar and wind energy on the electrical grid,” said Charles Barnhart, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).

“Our primary goal was to calculate their overall energetic cost – that is, the total amount of fuel and electricity required to build and operate these storage technologies. We found that when you factor in the energetic costs, grid-scale batteries make sense for storing surplus solar energy, but not for wind.”

The study, which is supported by GCEP, is published in the online edition of the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Climate change and renewable energy

Most electricity in the United States is generated at power plants that run on coal and natural gas – fossil fuels that contribute significantly to global warming by emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide. Solar and wind power are emissions-free and renewable, but depend on sunlight or wind to operate.

“For the grid to function efficiently, power supply needs to match power demand at all times, but with renewables, that’s not always the case,” Barnhart said. “For example, wind farms sometimes produce too much electricity at night when demand is low. That excess energy has to be stored or used elsewhere. Otherwise it will be lost. However, the U.S. grid has very limited storage capacity.”

A wide variety of technologies are being developed to address the lack of grid-scale storage. The Stanford team looked at several emerging technologies, including five battery types – lead-acid, lithium-ion, sodium-sulfur, vanadium-redox and zinc-bromine.

In a previous study, Barnhart calculated the energetic cost of building and maintaining each of the five battery systems for grid-scale storage. Lead-acid batteries had the highest energetic cost, lithium-ion the lowest, he found.

“We calculated how much energy is used over the full lifecycle of the battery – from the mining of raw materials to the installation of the finished device,” Barnhart said. “Batteries with high energetic cost consume more fossil fuels and therefore release more carbon dioxide over their lifetime. If a battery’s energetic cost is too high, its overall contribution to global warming could negate the environmental benefits of the wind or solar farm it was supposed to support.”

For this study, he and his colleagues calculated the energetic cost of grid-scale photovoltaic solar cells and wind turbines.

“Both wind turbines and photovoltaics deliver more energy than it takes to build and maintain them,” said GCEP postdoctoral scholar Michael Dale, a co-author of the study. “However, our calculations showed that the overall energetic cost of wind turbines is much lower than conventional solar panels, which require lots of energy, primarily from fossil fuels, for processing silicon and fabricating other components.”

To store or curtail?

Next the scientists looked at the energetic cost of curtailment – the practice of shutting down solar panels and wind turbines to reduce the production of surplus electricity on the grid.

“Curtailment of renewable resources seems wasteful,” Barnhart said. “But grid operators routinely curtail wind turbines to avoid a sudden, unexpected surge of excess electricity that could overload transmission lines and cause blackouts. Curtailment rates in the U.S. will likely increase as renewable energy becomes more prevalent.”

Shutting down a clean source of electricity seems counterproductive, but is storing surplus energy in batteries a practical alternative?

To find out, the researchers compared the energetic cost of curtailing solar and wind power, versus the energetic cost of grid-scale storage. Their calculations were based on a formula known as “energy return on investment” – the amount of energy produced by a technology, divided by the amount of energy it takes to build and maintain it.

Using that formula, the researchers found that the amount of energy required to create a solar farm is comparable to the energy used to build each of the five battery technologies. “Using batteries to store solar power during periods of low demand would, therefore, be energetically favorable,” Dale said.

The results were quite different for wind farms. The scientists found that curtailing wind power reduces the energy return on investment by 10 percent. But storing surplus wind-generated electricity in batteries results in even greater reductions – from about 20 percent for lithium-ion batteries to more than 50 percent for lead-acid.

“Ideally, the energetic cost of curtailing a resource should at least equal the amount of energy it cost to store it,” Dale said. “That’s the case for photovoltaics, but for wind farms, the energetic cost of curtailment is much lower than it is for batteries. Therefore, it would actually be more energetically efficient to shut down a wind turbine than to store the surplus electricity it generates.”

He compared it to buying a safe. “You wouldn’t spend a $100 on a safe to store a $10 watch,” he said. “Likewise, it’s not sensible to build energetically expensive batteries for an energetically cheap resource like wind, but it does make sense for photovoltaic systems, which require lots of energy to produce.”

Increasing the cycle life of a battery would be the most effective way to improve its energetic performance, Barnhart added. Conventional lithium-ion batteries last about four years, or 6,000 charge-discharge cycles. Lead-acid batteries only last about 700 cycles. To efficiently store energy on the grid, batteries must endure 10,000 to 18,000 cycles, he said.

“Storing energy consumes energy, and curtailing energy wastes it,” Barnhart said. “In either case, the result is a reduction in the overall energy return on investment.”

Other options

In addition to batteries, the researchers considered other technologies for storing renewable energy, such as pumped hydroelectric storage, which uses surplus electricity to pump water to a reservoir behind a dam. Later, when demand for energy is high, the stored water is released through turbines in the dam to generate electricity.

“Pumped hydro is used in 99 percent of grid storage today, ” Barnhart said. “It works fantastically from an energetic perspective for both wind and solar. Its energy return on investment is 10 times better than conventional batteries. But there are geologic and environmental constraints on where pumped hydro can be deployed.”

Storage is not the only way to improve grid reliability. “Energy that would otherwise be lost during times of excess could be used to pump water for irrigation or to charge a fleet of electric vehicles, for example,” Dale said.

It’s important for society to be energy-smart about implementing new technologies, Barnhart added. “Policymakers and investors need to consider the energetic cost as well as the financial cost of new technologies,” he said. “If economics is the sole focus, then less expensive technologies that require significant amounts of energy for their manufacture, maintenance and replacement might win out – even if they ultimately increase greenhouse gas emissions and negate the long-term benefits of implementing wind and solar power.”

“Our goal is to understand what’s needed to build a scalable low-carbon energy system,” said co-author Sally Benson, the director of GCEP and a professor of energy resources engineering. “Energy return on investment is one of those metrics that sheds light on potential roadblocks. Hopefully this study will provide a performance target to guide future research on grid-scale energy storage.”

Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering in Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences, also co-authored the study.

###

This article was written by Mark Shwartz of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

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I calculated many times the cost of storing energy and with every new technologies and promises I saw, it was always 2×3 times minimum the cost per kw/h of the source. So let say you spend 25cents/kwh for wind, you will pay 50-75 cents/kwh for your storage cost. I would rather pay for nuclear at a fraction of the cost.

John from the EU

“contribute significantly to global warming by emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide. Solar and wind power are emissions-free and renewable”
Fail.

ITSTEAPOT

Perhaps other methods other than battery storage, I heard of this (Storing electricity with compressed air)http://robertkyriakides.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/storing-electricty-with-compressed-air/ perhaps an idea?

Pathway

By all means let’s put some large holes in the ground to dig up lead, zinc and other heavy metals to store electrons. Idiots.

ddpalmer

“Energy that would otherwise be lost during times of excess could be used to pump water for irrigation or to charge a fleet of electric vehicles, for example,” Dale said.
But if you are relying on that excess energy to power your pumps are charge your vehicles and there is no excess for two or three days then your fields don’t get irrigated and your vehicles stop running.
Now you could say that in those cases then use non-excess energy to run the pumps and charge the vehicles. But then you are making them normal loads on the system (as they actually already are) and they no longer exist as a source for the excess energy.
The only solutions for excess energy are storage or waste. Using it for something that you would do anyways is a zero sum game and accomplishes nothing.

Cam_S

Is it true that in California, hydro-electric power is NOT considered renewable energy?
[REPLY: Sadly, yes … because if they did, we’d already be meeting the renewable target. It’s criminal but true. -w.]

DGP

Any use of the word “renewable” when refering to energy is an automatic fail for any scientific paper. That’s not my rule, it’s Thermodynamics.

Sean

By using the criteria that storage had to be competitive with generation does that mean the least cost efficient power to produce is the most is the most cost effective to store? Also, as a chemist who knows a little bit about electrochemistry, it would be interesting to look at the scale of the battery backup being discussed along with their durability over the long hall. The Li batteries I know of can only take 500 cycles before they are substantially degraded. The pumped hydro seems to make the most sense to me and from a solar point of view, many areas that are deserts are that way because they are on the leeward side of a mountain range so topography should work in favor of this type of storage in those circumstances.

MIke (UK)

Many years ago I read that raising a weight was an almost perfect way to store energy, a bit like a grandfather clock. Might sound daft but surely some sort of clockwork mechanism might work without having to use costly batteries at all, these things are very tall.

Grey Lensman

Use the “surplus” electricity to convert water to browns gas. Store the browns gas. When extra electricity is required, burn the browns gas in direct gas turbine generators.
Simple

KNR

‘But there are times when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers. ‘
The real problem is the time they cannot , which are far more often . Indeed none of the renewable fan club can answer how much money or R&D would it take to overcome the reality caused intermittent nature of supply from this source .
Worse the major demand comes at the worst time for either of these sources, winter , low sun , not much wind , but lots of need.
Frankly these cannot meet demand without massive cuts in that demand , which is the real green agenda.

ddpalmer

@DGP “Any use of the word “renewable” when refering to energy is an automatic fail for any scientific paper.”
That brings up an interesting question I have never seen addressed. Both wind and solar obviously are removing energy from the normal cycle. What effect does this have.
Wind turbines most be causing a reduction in the energy of the wind and thus its velocity. True in small numbers turbines effect can be ignored, although even the builders of wind farms have to place the turbines so they don’t block each other. But what is the long term effect of large numbers of turbines changing wind patterns?
Solar panels absorb energy that would have been absorbed by the earth and buildings which would have then been re-radiated back to the sky. But if absorbed and converted to electricity it isn’t re-radiated, or at least isn’t immediately re-radiated. Wouldn’t a large number of solar farms cause an imbalance in the downwelling and upwelling solar radiation? Aren’t greenhouse gasses supposed to be bad because they cause just such an imbalance? What might be the effect on global temperatures if there are lots of solar farms in operation?

Friends:
The article says:

Charles Barnhart, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).

Our primary goal was to calculate their overall energetic cost – that is, the total amount of fuel and electricity required to build and operate these storage technologies. We found that when you factor in the energetic costs, grid-scale batteries make sense for storing surplus solar energy, but not for wind.

OK. Storeage works for solar but not for wind.
The article also reports

Using that formula, the researchers found that the amount of energy required to create a solar farm is comparable to the energy used to build each of the five battery technologies.

Using batteries to store solar power during periods of low demand would, therefore, be energetically favorable,

Dale said.

In other words, the energy required to build a solar farm is approximately doubled by use of the putative battery storeage.
And the article says

Storing energy consumes energy, and curtailing energy wastes it,

Barnhart said.

In either case, the result is a reduction in the overall energy return on investment.

Have these people never heard of money?!
Nobody cares about the “energy return on investment”.
Everybody cares if the monetary return on investment is decreased because their electricity bills go up.

Richard

Steve Crook

“Energy that would otherwise be lost during times of excess could be used to pump water for irrigation or to charge a fleet of electric vehicles, for example,”
But those electric vehicles have batteries in them, so what’s the difference? Surely all you’ve done is change the location of the battery?

DGP

I don’t accept the intial premise of this paper that ‘there are times when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers.” Also, I see no mention of the power lost in the conversion from AC to DC and back again (inverters).
Futhermore, if in fact solar and wind actually produced more than was needed, it would just be a simple matter of turning down the back up fossil or nuclear plant that are always required.

C.M. Carmichael

“However, the U.S. grid has very limited storage capacity.”
Where does the grid have any storage capacity?
Leaves are the only renewable solar panel that works, they capture solar energy and remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and they are biodegradable when their useful lifespan is over. Wood and other cellulose materials are the best batteries for solar energy, animals are also stored solar energy. Both are renewable and biodegradable, and are much cheaper, more efficient and require no toxic mining operations. As far as it goes all “fossil” fuels are stored solar energy, great for long term storage.

Eve

Fail-as soon as you read “fossil fuels that contribute to global warming”

I dont know why more people dont push the MIT/JET energy NANOR or E-Cat or LENR technology….
The 2 law works perfectly well if you draw the box around the whole universe…

Greg Goodman

why not use gravity storage.
One of the largest pumped lake storage systems was built in Scotland , not for wind or solar but for nuclear. Since to even pretend to be economically viable (without the hidden subsidies) NP needs to run pretty much flat out 24/7 for it full plant lifetime.
In order to us the off peak you either need something like gravity storage or 1970’s bonanza of cheap off-peak tariffs and thermal storage in the form hot bricks in everyone’s house aka storage heaters.
Those usually moaning about the inconsistency of solar etc ignore the fact that NP has a similar but opposite problem, that it HAS to run even when you don’t need it.
Apparently the turn around efficiency of pumped water storage is surprisingly good when done on a large scale.

C.M. Carmichael

All our forms of energy are solar based, where else could we get energy from? Wind, hydro, nuclear and hydrocarbons are all dependent on the sun at some stage. The only solar idea that doesn’t make any sense is photovoltaic, and that is the hole we dump the most money in.

Henry Galt

These people are so far behind the curve even crampons wont help them.
The global warming ’caused’ by mankind’s fossil fuel use is approaching zero. The rest of their guff is, well … guff.

Greg Goodman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruachan_Dam
“The station is capable of generating 440 MW of electricity. It can go from standby to full production in two minutes, thus it is used to deal with periods of peak demand on the grid. “

Chad B.

The best scalable pumped hydro I have read about involves using large pipes placed offshore. Water is pumped out into the ocean, and then allowed back in. Let’s also consider linking conventional hydro to other renewable in order to load balance (since hydro is almost an instant on). The full (non-conventional dam) back up need not be weeks, but probably ~2 days to balance a month or so of load. When the reserve drops to ~25% extra generation can be turned on to both power the grid and return the reserves to ~80-90%. These would not need to be quick peaking plants, but could take at least a day to turn on. Also coupling to some energy intensive controllably intermittent uses (desalination, smelting) could be a plus as well as long as those have a spin up/down time on the order of hours not days or weeks.
This might even allow fossils to move to an arena of almost exclusively base-load type operation at which they are the most efficient.
However, it would be a lot of moving parts and may not work.

Mike Smith

Oh goodie. Who’s up for starting a new green battery company with $500,000,000 in taxpayer loans to invest in this exciting new technology?
Al and his buddies are probably working on it right now.
It doesn’t matter if it works or not. The instigators will pay themselves handsome salaries and benefits. The taxpayer will get stiffed, again!

Richard111

I see this report as nothing more than another propaganda sermon against the demon CO2. Where is the proof that CO2 causes the climate to warm?

Ian W

Very first sentence Renewable energy holds the promise of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
But why would we want to reduce CO2 emissions that are now shown NOT to cause any dangerous changes in climate but CO2 emissions ARE shown to increase the ability of plants to cope with heat and drought stress leading to greening the deserts and better agricultural yields. All these low CO2 output technologies should be banned while there is hunger in the world.

Jim Cripwell

DGP you write “Futhermore, if in fact solar and wind actually produced more than was needed, it would just be a simple matter of turning down the back up fossil or nuclear plant that are always required.”
I dont think you realise the fundamental problem with wnd and solar, which the article does no mention. This is a very simplistic explanation. Power from wind is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity. Unless you are in a desert, solar power varies with the amount of cloud cover. Both these mean that the power from renewables is extremely variable. Power grids need to be stable. In the usual way, if renewables are more than 15% of the generating capacity, the grid becomes unstable. With things like hot fired natural gas generators, these can be used to stabilize the grid up to about 20% of renewables. So, in general, 80% + of the power in the grid must come from things like coal, gas, hydro, or nuclear. Which means that if you take all the power being generated by the renewables, at times of low demand, this becomes the factor that determines the minimum power you must generate.
So it is not “a simple matter of turning down the back up fossil or nuclear plant that are always required.”

rogerknights

MIke (UK) says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:22 am
Many years ago I read that raising a weight was an almost perfect way to store energy, a bit like a grandfather clock. Might sound daft but surely some sort of clockwork mechanism might work without having to use costly batteries at all, these things [wind turbines] are very tall.

Right—and the weight could be raised inside the pole. It could even rest below ground level, at the pole’s buried base.

Greg Goodman

Obviously, greenies won’t accept flooding a valley to make a reservoir either. But since they object to whatever is proposed even if it’s renewable and “low carbon” bio-degrable and the rest, what they think ceases to weigh one way or the other. It’s always Nein Danke.

The fundamental problem with this study, interesting and useful as it is, is that it is based on two unsupportable assumptions:
1) Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 in quantities which are solely responsible for changing the climate
2) That using Industrial Wind and Solar power reduces CO2 emissions by displacing fossil fuel consumption.
Since neither of these 2 assumptions are valid, the conclusions reached by this article must be considered very carefully before any credence can be given to them,
The main problem (other than the whole AGW thing) is that storage, even if feasible, cannot eliminate the need for conventional generation to back up the ‘unreliables’ when the wind doesn’t blow and/or the sun doesn’t shine. Wind power here in Ontario spends 47.5% of the time producing less than 15% of nameplate capacity. You lose power when storing it & releasing it, whether from batteries or pumped hydro. So instead of 15% average capacity you are only looking at 7% or less, which means more conventional generation to back them up…
This doesn’t even consider the huge variability of wind output which requires conventional generation to ‘smooth’ it out.
This is just more green Pixie dust and unicorn horns, similar to what you get out of a bull on spring pasture.
As for the effects of Wind turbines, regionally they have a similar effect as the global warming they are supposed to be saving us from, see the following references from a recent submission we made to the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry:
11- Impacts of wind farms on surface air temperatures, Somnath Baidya Roy,1 and Justin J. Traiteur, PNAS, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1000493107, 2010
12- Can large wind farms affect local meteorology?, S. Baidya Roy and S. W. Pacala, Journal of Geophysical Research, VOL. 109, D19101, doi:10.1029/2004JD004763, 2004
13- Baidya Roy, S., Simulating impacts of wind farms on local hydro meteorology. J. Wind Eng. Ind. Aerodyn. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.jweia.2010.12.013

Some earlier comments on the “super-battery concept.
Still not a fan of grid-connected wind power.
Regards, Allan
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/16/wind-power-plug-pulled-in-illinois/
Sabastian says: February 18, 2012 at 7:14 am
RE: Allan MacRae: If we ever develop a “super-battery”
The “Super battery” like fusion is a fanciful illusion. Batteries have been around for 150 years. Plot watts per pound and watts per dollar, and you will discover that the rate of technical progress is very slow. Because of huge demand for mobile devices (not including autos), the rate of progress has moved up recently. But extrapolation of the plot shows it will be many decades before an electric car has the range and price point of a gas vehicle.
___________
Sebastian, your comment seems inappropriate in tone and context, as if I were a big fan of wind power (I’m not) and had great hopes for a “super-battery” (I don’t).
Furthermore, you say: “But extrapolation of the plot shows it will be many decades before an electric car has the range and price point of a gas vehicle.”
Electric cars are now appearing in the marketplace, and they may succeed or fail, but there is no need for them to have the same range as a gas vehicle – most people seldom use the full range of their gasoline vehicles, instead using their cars almost exclusively for short daily commutes to and from work.
The key to using all these electric cars in a ‘super-battery” is that this application is essentially free (secondary use of the resource), which means that your economic argument about the high cost of batteries does not have much traction.
I still see great practical obstacles for the “super-battery” concept, and I use the term broadly, to include batteries, capacitors, recycled hydroelectric power, or whatever, and I doubt that a super-battery will become a practical reality in the next twenty years.
In conclusion:
Wind power is still an energy dog. I wrote this conclusion, with confidence, in newspaper articles in 2002 and 2003. A decade later, this energy dog still has fleas. Even if we overcome the fatal flaws of wind power’s highly intermittent power generation profile through the use of a “super-battery”, there is still the serious problem of bird and bat kill.
Grid-connected wind power is uneconomic and anti-environmental.
Let me repeat yet again, for those who missed it:
“Wind power – it doesn’t just blow – it sucks!”
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/14/wind-energy-subsidies-to-be-discussed-in-senate-todayopportunity-for-input/#comment-831871
I have studied this subject for decades and I agree with the above guest post by John Droz.
Any energy technology that requires life-of-project subsidies is fundamentally uneconomic and anti-environmental. To date, this includes corn ethanol, some biodiesel, and grid-connected wind and solar power.
Technological improvements could hypothetically improve some of these renewable energy schemes over time, but most are already technologically mature.
A super-battery, consisting of millions of electric cars plugged into the grid, could significantly improve the economics of wind and solar power.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/10/polar-sea-ice-changes-are-having-a-net-cooling-effect-on-the-climate/#comment-72001
[excerpt]
Storage of electricity is much easier said than done.
One interesting idea for electricity storage is a “super battery”, consisting of many plugged-in electric cars. This should be possible in a decade or two.
Wind power is supposed to work well in conjunction with (excess) hydro power, but I have not seen this clearly demonstrated.
I have studied this subject and in conclusion I am yet not a fan of wind power.
Regards, Allan

ConfusedPhoton

In the conditions of a UK winter, rechargeable batteries perform very poorly. That is why military (e.g. countermine) people use the more expensive non-rechargeacle batteries.

upcountrywater

Wind farms and solar farms, suck up 9,500 Sq Mi, of land area…A coal mine that produces more energy uses 85 Sq Mi. And they whine about pumped storage, reservoirs using up space ….
Of course compressed air in salt mines has been tried…Still being used…
There are only two working compressed-air facilities today, in Germany and the U.S. Essen-based RWE is developing its own technology and hopes to build a demonstration project in central Germany in 2016.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-08-27/ski-lifts-help-open-25-billion-market-for-storing-power-energy
The lifting weights idea. uses trains on a slope…

upcountrywater

Wind farms and solar farms, suck up 9,500 Sq Mi, of land area…A coal mine that produces more energy uses 85 Sq Mi. And they whine about pumped storage, reservoirs using up space ….
Of course compressed air in salt mines has been tried…Still being used…
There are only two working compressed-air facilities today, in Germany and the U.S. Essen-based RWE is developing its own technology and hopes to build a demonstration project in central Germany in 2016.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-08-27/ski-lifts-help-open-25-billion-market-for-storing-power-energy
The lifting weights idea. uses trains on a slope…

Stephen Richards

These people are not scientists. No scientist would put their name to such a large cowpat as this.

GailCombs

richardscourtney says: @ September 9, 2013 at 10:28 am
The article also reports

Using that formula, the researchers found that the amount of energy required to create a solar farm is comparable to the energy used to build each of the five battery technologies.
Using batteries to store solar power during periods of low demand would, therefore, be energetically favorable,

Dale said.

In other words, the energy required to build a solar farm is approximately doubled by use of the putative battery storeage.

Barnhart said.
In either case, the result is a reduction in the overall energy return on investment.

Have these people never heard of money?!
Nobody cares about the “energy return on investment”.
Everybody cares if the monetary return on investment is increased because their electricity bills go up.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Yes, You keep hearing

“Both wind turbines and photovoltaics deliver more energy than it takes to build and maintain them,” said GCEP postdoctoral scholar Michael Dale, a co-author of the study. “However, our calculations showed that the overall energetic cost of wind turbines is much lower than conventional solar panels, which require lots of energy, primarily from fossil fuels, for processing silicon and fabricating other components.”

However those calculations are always subject to lots of fudge factors.
Charles S. Opalek, PE, did the calculations for Windpower and then wrote the book WIND POWER FRAUD: WHY WIND WON’T WORK “Wind turbines have an embarrassingly low Energy Returned On Energy Invested value of 0.29. The manufacture, installation and operation of wind power facilities will consume more than 3 times the energy they will ever produce.”

Energy Return Ratio
…From an energy perspective, we must form a more complete picture of the technological picture. To date, we have only focused on operational energy but there can be extremely high embodied energy costs as well. Most technological solutions depend on advanced scientific materials that come out of research labs. There are currently 2 types of products that can provide technological solutions:
semiconductor (including nanotechnology)
biological/genetic solutions
Both of these have serious issues that need to be dealt with before they can be sustainably employed on a massive scale.
Semiconductors are notorious for the amount of energy required to produce them. The manufacturing process can take up to 400 steps, use highly toxic materials and a vast amount of energy. As we shall see below, one of the dirty secrets of Solar and Wind is the vast amounts of energy used to make them, use of exotic raw materials and toxic waste.
Embodied energy of semiconductors
Exotic raw materials – The Rare Earth Metals
Toxic ingredients and E-Waste

You know the sign that says, “It’s happy hour somewhere”? If you really want to make solar and wind power work, instead of storing it — expand where you transmit the power. I guarantee that it is peak energy demand SOMEWHERE on this planet, no matter what the demand is where you are. Of course, it may not be economically feasible to build a worldwide power grid.

Speed

How about springs? Or massive weights hanging from the windmills on steel cables — like a grandfather clock. Or an inclined track on the side of a mountain with railroad cars full of lead. Or they could sink huge tanks deep in the ocean, use excess electricity to pump them full of air (displacing the water) and when needed, allow them to rise to the surface pulling a cable connected to generators on the seabed. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Greg Goodman says:
September 9, 2013 at 10:40 am

Apparently the turn around efficiency of pumped water storage is surprisingly good when done on a large scale.

About 80%, depending on a lot a factors. Pumped hydro is by far the best developed of any grid-scale energy storage technology, but favorable locations are relatively rare. It’s only economical if natural terrain provides most of the containment walls for you.
Take Hoover Dam as an example. Lake Mead contains 35,200 km^3 of water with a surface area of 640 km^2. Yet the actual constructed dam is 221 meters high by 379 meters long — a tiny fraction of the total containment wall creating the reservoir.

Dave

Has anyone considered using excess electricity for electrolysis of water? This might come in handy once, or perhaps if hydrogen fuel cells become commonplace. A person could have a solar array at their house that would spend the day generating hydrogen while the user is at work. You could fill your car in the evening, andbe ready for the next day. This would eliminate the cost of batteries, mining zinc, lead and the environmental impacts associated with mining activities. Certainly there would be a need for safe storage of hydrogen, but I think that expense would be comparable to the cost of batteries.
Any thoughts?

The other Phil

Greg Goodman, I urge you to reread the article, it covered pumped hydro.
They note one challenge is location.

alcuin

This analysis puzzles me. The battery storage has a certain capital cost, whether used with windmills or solar panels. Their claim that battery storage would be economically beneficial for solar panels, but not windmills, seems to assume that the absence of the battery storage would be made up for by building more of the panels or mills, and that because panels, but not mills, are more expensive than batteries, battery backup is justified only for panels. By that analysis, if there were a completely free (i.e., no capital investment), but intermittent, source of energy that was available only at low-demand times, it would not be worthwhile investing in batteries to store it for use in high-demand times. It seems to me that they are not taking into account that the need for the energy storage is just that the vagaries of wind and periodic nature of solar preclude electric generation at some times, and neither would satisfy demand without either storage or alternative generation.

You’re all missing the real answer, which of course I came up with in seconds. All we need is a mainspring the size of Wyoming…why, hardly anyone lives there anyway…and then we wind it up using solar and wind power… 😉

Been There, Done That.
See: WUWT: Getting Energy From The Energy Store, June 29, 2013.
The key concept is that one safe storage of electrical energy is a ton of coal.
coal with 40% energy conversion = 2.68 KWH / kg coal to elec generation
Burn it when you need it. True, ou can only burn the ton once, but it is sooooo much cheaper than recharge facilities.
for 1.5 GW-day.
$90 Billion dollars of Li-ion batteries, or
$0.00045 Billion dollars of delivered coal.

From: Cost of Li-Ion vs Coal
Li-Ion cost (June 30, 2013)
Electrical energy “stored” in one coal unit train

chris y

This study has some glaring problems just based on the Stanford PR blurb.
First problem- “Lead-acid batteries only last about 700 cycles.”
Depends on what battery design, and the depth of the cycle.
Deep cycle AGM batteries typically give 3000 cycles at 30% depth of discharge.
Deep cycle flooded batteries typically give 4500 cycles at 30% depth of discharge.
Utility grade flooded batteries give 20 year design life and 1200 cycles at 80% depth of discharge.
Maximum number of cycles is usually specified as the point where the capacity of the battery has dropped to 80% or 70% of initial capacity.
Second problem- “Conventional lithium-ion batteries last about four years, or 6,000 charge-discharge cycles.”
Aside from the obvious question of why you would even consider a high Joule/kg battery for a stationary application where weight doesn’t matter, it depends on technology and depth of cycle, once again.
A top tier lithium ion battery lasts 2000 – 2500 cycles at 25% depth of discharge.
This is actually inferior to deep cycle lead acid batteries, both in cycles and lifetime expected. There are constant new research results with great promise, and lots of claims flying around on improved lithium ion designs. So, these numbers will improve.
A utility-scale battery storage facility will be a climate-controlled building complex (or underground?) with O&M procedures in place to maximize battery life and recycle everything.
A 20 year battery life with well over 4,000 (30%) cycles should be routine.

Navy Bob

“If economics is the sole focus, then less expensive technologies that require significant amounts of energy for their manufacture, maintenance and replacement might win out.…”
Quelle horreur – we might end up producing even cheaper electricity if we’re not careful.

The other Phil

One of the issues with wind and solar is that it directly generates DC, which has to be inverted to AC for use in the grid. (As a relevant aside, my solar grid was switched on for a test today, I have now saved the world 3 kwh so far.)
Rather than create DC, convert to AC, and feed the grid a highly variable supply of energy, necessitating curtailment and other measures, why not use the DC to power pumps and go direct to pumped hydro? Obviously dependent on location, but would solve a couple problems at once, the cost of the inverter, and the challenge of the variable rate.
See http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/refs/tide/WindPumpedStor.pdf for a related project in the Canary Islands

Dr. Harold Punnett

And nowhere is the CellCube mentioned at all??? Amazing that so many people are unaware of this existing technology that solves the energy storage problem. In production for 3 years now.