Guest post by David Middleton
So-called renewable energy sources face many economic and thermodynamic hurdles; all of which are routinely ignored by the government officials who spend our tax dollars. One of the biggest hurdles is storage. The only way wind and solar could ever reliably provide base-load is through the deployment of economically sustainable storage systems. Battery packs are one of the favored “solutions.” Li-ion battery prices have “plunged”since 2010 from $1,000/kWh to just over $200/kWh. Bloomberg New Energy Finance is ecstatic about this.
Words fail me. Well, maybe not totally fail me. We currently pay about 10¢ per kWh for electricity. Our electric utility can afford to sell us electricity for 10¢/kWh largely due to the fact that natural gas-fired power plants generate electricity for about 6¢/kWh. The Energy Information Agency forecasts that solar PV power plants entering service in 2022 will be able to generate electricity for 8.5¢/kWh. This would make solar PV competitive with natural gas… Right? Nooooo. Natural gas combined cycle has an average capacity factor of 87%. Solar PV’s average capacity factor is 25%. So, you would have to deploy at least 3 MW of solar PV to offset 1 MW of natural gas. Then you would have to deploy a storage system to deliver electricity when “the Sun don’t shine.” At $200/kWh, solar PV with storage would run about $58/kWh to fully offset natural gas at $0.06/kWh…
Of course, the battery pack is rechargeable. However, even if the battery back survived 1,500 discharge cycles at full capacity, the lifetime storage cost would still be $0.13/kWh… A total cost of about $0.22/kWh. Since heat degrades Li-ion battery life, they aren’t likely to maintain full capacity very long in places where solar PV works best (deserts), particularly with the newly discovered Photovoltaic Heat Island (PVHI) effect.
BNEF’s celebration of $200/kWh battery packs was so ridiculous, that the editors of Real Clear Energy lampooned it.
It’s All About the Battery
October 12, 2016
The general public (defined as those who don’t read energy news because they think electricity lives somewhere inside their apartment wall) doesn’t know it yet, and probably never will, but batteries are one hot (no pun intended, Samsung) topic.
It should be no secret by now (even to the notoriously sluggish general public) that Samsung has been forced to completely kill its entire Galaxy 7 cell phone line because the built-in lithium-ion batteries kept exploding.
The wind and solar energy industries, for example, are essentially in a kind of holding mode until a battery is developed that can store their energy to be used in the fallow periods when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Until then they kind of limp along letting natural gas fill in for them at night, during storms and when they’re just feeling to weak to get to work.
The electric car industry is also waiting for better batteries. The problem with range (the number of miles one can drive without recharging) has hinged on the fact that EV car batteries are very heavy to begin with and putting in an even bigger battery to get greater range sort of defeats the environment-saving purpose.
None of this seems to phase Bloomberg’s notoriously aggressively environmentalist New Energy Finance think tank. (BNEF generates studies and articles which then get top billing in Bloomberg’s news publications.) BNEF is in a Hosana! Hosana! mood today because they’ve noticed that lithium-ion costs are going down.
Cheap li-ion batteries will spawn more electric cars which will spawn more self-driving cars which will be paired with more Uber type softwares which will take us to….the green ideal, the self-driving taxi.
Taxis, geddit? Emphatically not individually-owned cars. The family car is just so inefficient and wasteful and space-hogging and just plain selfish.