South Australia – a Renewable State?

Hallet wind farm, South Australia Credit: Ian Sutton from Collinsville and Oberon, Australia

Guest essay by Paul Miskelly and Tom Quirk

With $90 billion spent on batteries and 4,000 MW of more wind farms, South Australia could be a totally renewable state, at least for electricity.

South Australia along with one or two other states has been described by Al Gore as the canary in the coal mine for climate change and renewable energy. This interesting comparison was rewarded by South Australia putting the canary in the dark as there was no coal. But it would be interesting to see what the electricity supply of South Australia might be like with zero CO2 emissions as is the fond wish of many and even of learned societies.

There are many combinations of renewables that could be considered with wind, solar, biomass, pumped storage and various storage technologies. The following is the simplest, combining wind farms and batteries.

The starting point for this analysis is the dominance of wind power in South Australia. To expand this renewable source we must add battery storage as there are no present alternatives. The present 1575 MW of wind farms meets some 35% of demand and expanding this to give an average 100% of supply. We must store the surplus and use that when the wind falls away. The performance of the present demand and wind farms supply is sampled from AEMO data for 3 January to 31 March 2016.

So wind farm output is increased by 358% to 5644 MW, an additional 4069 MW of wind farms, so that the average over 3 months equals the average demand. This is presented in Figure 1 and shows periods of surplus and deficit of supply.


Figure 1: Variations of demand in South Australia for January to March 2016 and 358% increased wind farm supply. (Source AEMO)

The total surplus is equal to the total deficit and the detail is shown in Figure 2. There are periods for example 17 to 24 January 2016 where the average deficit is 750 MW for 168 hours, a total of 125,000 MWh. This is a measure of the energy storage that is needed from the surplus energy of the period 13 to 17 January. For the year 2016 the demand in South Australia was 14,400 GWh so the storage need is of the order of 1% of the demand for the year.


Figure 2: Variations of surplus and deficit from wind farm supply compared to demand for January to March 2016

The variations in storage needs are shown in Figure 3. The maximum storage need is defined as the value necessary to satisfy demand at all times. This is a value of 270 GWh (270,000 MWh) for the period analysed. This is 2% of the annual demand for electricity in South Australia.


Figure 3: Storage of surplus wind farm energy to match demand

The challenge is to identify storage technology for some 300 GWh of supply. The base case is to calculate the amount and cost of lead acid batteries to satisfy this need.

A very thorough summary of storage technologies is to be found in Sustainable Energy[1]. Figure 4 is a summary of the storage technology power and energy density capabilities. The range of batteries extends from lead acid to lithium-ion and beyond. For this analysis the energy densities are the mid range values for lead acid and lithium-ion.

On the bottom far right of the figure, the hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) show energy densities of a factor of ten greater than the batteries considered here.


Figure 4: Scatter plot of power and energy density for storage technologies from page 400 of reference 1.

So for the lead acid batteries adopting a value of 40 Wh/kg for 300 GWh of storage requires 7,500,000 tonnes of lead acid batteries. For higher energy density lithium-ion batteries have an energy density of 140 Wh/kg so only 2,100,000 tonnes would be needed.

But this could be realized at what cost? Estimates of lead acid battery costs are around $0.20 per Wh while lithium-ion batteries vary from $0.50 to $0.90 per Wh. The Power Wall 2 lithium-ion battery from Tesla[2] is A$8,000 for 14 kWh but this is a retail price of $0.57 per Wh. The wholesale bulk price could be as low as $0.30 per Wh with better performance than the lead acid battery in discharge rate and lifetime.

Willem Post has a detailed article on energy storage in Germany[3]. His base case is lead acid batteries with massive, bulk energy storage. The cost per Wh is $0.32.

So the battery storage is some $60 to $90 billion to store the surplus energy from 4,000 MW of new wind farms with substantial running costs due to battery lifetime and erratic discharges.

This analysis outlines the storage required to address wind’s inherent intermittency. It does not address the requirements, presently unaddressed by wind energy technology, of grid stability and control, which is the need for the provision of synchronous inertia to protect grid stability. Should the battery route be chosen to address this requirement, such provision may indeed require more battery storage.

Of course South Australia could close all the gas fueled power stations and build massive interconnectors to the other states and then blame them for CO2 emissions. Perhaps that is why the South Australian government talks of nationalizing the power stations/

[1] Sustainable Energy, Second Edition 2012 by J W Tester, E M Drake, M J Driscoll, M W Golay and W A Peters MIT Press




148 thoughts on “South Australia – a Renewable State?

  1. A simpler calculation: If you expect maximum 3.65 days without any wind power, you need a storage for 3.65 days. If you expect a week without wind power, you need a week’s worth of storage.

    • So long as you are able to recharge your batteries enough before the next deficit hits. Then you have to account for conversion and transmission losses, climate control for the batteries, an extra 15% since you cant discharge lead acid batteries completly, and a safety/maintenance fudge factor on top of that.

      • Standup, great points. The climate control for the batteries is not trivial, you lose the heat emitted by charging and discharging batteries twice. Once for the heat itself and 2nd to remove the heat from the storage volume. And many people think lead battery cells are no fuss, actually they are the opposite. I have worked with multiple banks of stand-by batteries. Each cell has to be periodically tested and individual cells have to be replaced.

      • How much of the generated electricity goes to charging the batteries vs. sent on to the consumer?

      • And the best lifetime of Li+ batteries is max charge of 80% of capacity, no discharge below 20%, an effective capacity of 60%. Factor that into the equation.
        And where will the batteries be housed? At the endpoints? At the power source? Add a factor for line losses?

    • Actually for most places it’s not that simple. The problem is not of day to day variations as green/pro-renewable would have you believe. In most locations there are enormous seasonal (especially with solar) and even year to year variations. You can look at Germany’s installed capacity vs generation year by year and even at that scale within the last 5 years it’s varied by as much as 21%. And that’s just 5 years. You don’t need days of storage, you need MONTHS of storage.

      • Correct. Anyone who wants to see what happened to German electricity in December 2016 should check it out here. One month of imports from neighboring countries with conventional power. The PV generated zero electricity. The wind-turbines 10% of their rating on average. Often, there was no solar and no wind.

        How can you recharge batteries when you cannot supply the regular demand?

        “Electricity production in Germany”

        German Renewable Energy is parasitical – and entirely dependent on screwing other countries. It is damaging their infrastructure.

        “The Czech Republic and Germany address energy issues”

      • Alfred (Melbourne) on March 15, 2017 at 6:54 pm

        What in the world are you telling us here, Alfred?

        In fact, these bar and pie charts would like quite a bit different, if the electricity suppliers would have done their job correctly, e.g. through extension in due time of the high voltage electricity net linking wind power and consumer centres. Fifteen years ago, they simply ignored renewables.

        Many german wind farms claimed especially in december 2016 about a grid curtailment rate reaching up to 50% of their production!

        Simply google for “Eisman”… and you learn what happens to you when you have to disconnect your mills off the net half the time:*

        Moreover, Germany has accumulated 10 years delay on the offshore sector. 13 installed GW were planned for 2020, but 6.5 will be.

        There would be no need for renewable energy if we were able to engineer fusion reactors avoiding huge waste production, e.g. that produced by breeding tritium out of lithium in blankets!

    • Curious George on March 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      … If you expect a week without wind power, you need a week’s worth of storage.

      Exactly. And for us here in Germany, this has consequences we are fully aware of.

      Namely that, since our country has a daily need for electrical power actually lying around 1.7 TWh, huge storage capacities will be needed by 2030 because we then want to clearly bypass 50% renewables in electricity production (over 30% right now).

      Otherwise we will keep bound to burning fossile fuel all the time: nuclear power is, due to its waste production, a blind-alley for countries inhabited by (average) over 200 persons/km². In Australia, USA, Russia, China, India, the situation is completely different.

      The discussion about battery based storage I really don’t understand unless the discussion keeps centered around private and very small trade/industry consumers.

      We are however speaking here about aluminium smelting works, trains, hundred thousands of electric motor cars, electricity based building heating, street lighting etc etc.

      Thus we need electricity storage in other dimensions, for example:

      This will mean huge investments, of about 200 US$ / KWh! That would be about 170 T$ per day of full storage for the 50% (what of course never will needed within the european energy grid), see

      You mean that’s a totally unrealistic expense?
      Well, feel free to compare it with the total cost for
      – the full decommissioning of 20 nuclear plants
      – the full treatment (vitrification, ultralong time storage at 500 m below ground) of all the nuclear waste generated during the last 35 years.

      UK has estimated that around 100 G€.

      • I think most can do the math, if led by the hand perhaps, but the perverse thing is that they do not want to, or see the need to.

      • Maybe these are the same people who believed Yuri Geller when he said that if you wished hard enough you could will a broken appliance back to life. No thermodynamics for them.

      • I could be wrong about this, but I think that, the “math” is hideously difficult and I suspect no one, no matter how clever, can do it and get satisfactory answers. The problem is that unless there as a combination of dispatchable power and sustainable conservation (e.g. shutdown smelters, change thermostat settings) that can cover an arbitrarily long period of reduced output from non-dispatchable power sources, you literally can not compute how much storage is needed.

        To paraphrase Keynes — the wind can not blow and the sun not shine for longer than any “battery” one cares to build can support the grid.

    • There is no mention of the $billions for basically tripling the and power installations, the huge land and infrastructure, the relatively short lifetimes of the wind turbines, the maintenance, the lack of high quality energy that such distributed systems cannot produce. And, much of the materials used in wind turbines are not unsustainable as they include rare elements and/or composites that cannot be recycled. Trying to send wind energy over 50 miles runs into energy losses that start to eat into usable energy, so I guess they will have to quadruple the turbine forms.

      Then, as was pointed out there is the huge expense of the batteries and their even shorter lifetimes. We now know that charging batteries near to their capacity causes an expansion of the battery materials and accelerated aging. The batteries would have to be climate controlled, which costs even more energy.

      Just the infrastructure and the thousands of miles of wires and switches would be nightmare.

      Bottom line is that wind power is the least green energy source on the planet, particularly if it is used to power a grid. At the end user’s site, wind power can serve to lighten the end user’s draw from the grid without the incredible infrastructure and ridiculous batteries. Right now the idiotic mixture of wind and solar in Germany is burning out their grid as the energy levels can fluctuate drastically from minute to minute, faster than the loads can be adjusted by the operators.

      • And, much of the materials used in wind turbines are not unsustainable

        Was the double negative intentional? You basically said the materials used are sustainable.

  2. South Australia has a population of about 1.7 million, (about the population of the Salt Lake valley). They need to invest about 100 billion in storage. Using a bit of liberal rounding that’s a trivial $60,000 per person. Using all of Australia as a benchmark, let’s say the per capita GDP is about $65,000.

    Ok, so I’m not sure where I exactly want to go with this, but the already the numbers should scare the crap out of anyone…

    • yeah, it’s that myth of “free electricity” except for the $1500 a year interest payments for each person, plus maintenance, plus, plus, plus … that makes electricity for a HH of 4 run from 7500-10000 bucks a year.

      But wait, it’s taxpayer dollars, so it really doesn’t cost anything!

    • Since the best you can hope for from these batteries is about a 10 year life, not only does it take $90B to build, but you will need to spend at least another $9B every year to replace worn out batteries.
      What was that about wind being free?

      • There are other battery options with different sets of advantages and problems.– Ni-Fe (Edison) cells for example last a long time but are not very efficient. Na-S are efficient, durable, and easily rebuilt. But the electrolyte is liquid Sodium. You might want to be elsewhere if the battery springs a leak. When you start talking about a battery bank for an entire Australian state, the price per kw/hr may be less than if you just buy a handful of batteries from Amazon. Anyway, I suspect the lead-acid is not the optimum technology for this application. But I also think that no matter what technology is used, the batteries are going to cost a bundle and come with significant ongoing maintenance costs.

  3. The consequences of purely just spending other peoples money – its just a number… When I see children drying of hunger in third world countries whilst we consider throwing billions at a fools folly – we know something is terribly wrong with our political representation; and people wonder how Trump got in…

    • Ecoguy, it’s instructive to note that SA has had a Labor government now since 2001 and a quote (from the local lying press of all sources) reminds us that voting in Australia is like pregnancy; everyone conveniently forgets the pain of Labor when it comes time to do it all again.
      I guess we’ve got the government (and the moribund economy that goes with it) that we deserve.

      • Actually, SA has an electoral Gerrymander that allows Labor to retain control with 48% of the vote or less. This has recently been corrected, despite the Labor government appealing the changes the courts, so the next election will be interesting. Alex

      • And they can thank Peter Lewis for that, the Liberal Independent who sided with the Labor party in 2002. He sure has left a legacy!

    • Famine and poverty is a problem inherent with the third world dictatorships. It cannot be fixed by simply throwing money at those countries, because a) the starving people won’t ever see most of it and b) it won’t solve the underlying issue so you’ll just have to keep throwing more and more.

    • It’s more instructive to compare this to the cost of hospitals. $90B is the cost to build 900 fully-equiped and staffed hospitals. Put it another way, just to pay for SA’s virtue signalling, it would have to close down every hospital in the state, and then some.

  4. Respectfully Anthony, you’ve overlooked the simplest solution to intermittent wind energy which is the one being implemented accidentally by the South Australian government; you simply shut down the economy (because energy costs are too high and there is no particularly compelling reason to do business in SA), relocate the industry somewhere unenlightened and thus reduce the local demand to near zero.
    Voters living in SA will then obviously move interstate en-masse to find work which becomes non-existant locally (I didn’t move from SA to Norway for the weather or the local beer), so even the domestic demand will fall to near zero and many of those will find off-grid solutions when they understand how bodgey the grid has become. If any of the remaining consumers complain, you can remind them that it’s all for the good of the planet and we’re setting a shining example to the world. Oh, and no doubt the government will also demand more subsidies from the Commonwealth on the grounds that SA is carrying the side when it comes to the fight against gullible warming, funds which can be urinated up against a wall on a flash looking hospital that never opens or rebuilding another footy stadium.
    Problem solved.

    • Unfortunately, what you get is more people living on ‘the dole’.
      I have inlaws there and the husband has been on disability since he was about 35. 2 of the 3 kids are on welfare, one even gets paid to take care of the girlfriend, who is on ‘disability’. As extra money is needed, work is then done under the table.
      No taboo, no guilt, and you get to live a quite pleasant life.
      Ultimately, however, you are like the battery – inefficiently living off the energy produced by others and then saying you are part of the solution.

      • This is why socialism always fails in the end.
        Too many people taking, and not enough people making.

    • If I lived in SA I would so go off grid. 2 – 5 kW of solar on the roof with MPPT charge controller, one or two half kW wind turbines, a 2 – 4 kW petrol generator with load-sensitive smart throttle for when the above is not cutting it and a 2000 Amp hr battery bank for charge storage. Sorted.

      • Except if you want to go to the pub, cinema or shopping centre, buy something that requires a lot of power to make [glass or ceramics for instance], power your communications systems and on it goes.

        An individual can go off grid but there are networks that depend on the grid….water supplies to cities, airports, hospitals etc

        I note that your individual response still depends on fossil-fuelled back up [as does South Australia and Jay Weatherill despite all the greeniness]

    • I left SA for Northern NY. I like being able to buy a house for under $100000, and I like being able to pay 11 cents per kWh for electricity, and 60 cents per litre for petrol!

  5. A ClaytonPower 400Ah Lithium-ion battery will store 617 kJ/kg
    = 617 KW-sec/kg
    = 0.171 KWH / kg of battery.
    or 7.1 KW-Day per TON of battery.

    We need 140,000,000 kg of 400Ah Lithium Batteries just to store 1 GW-day.
    That would be the mass of about TEN coal unit trains.

    1 coal unit train, filled from Black Thunder and delivered to St. Louis costs about $300,000.
    A lithium-ion battery bank big enough to store a GW-day would cost $60,000,000,000. [Note 1]
    From: June 30, 2013 “Getting Energy from the Energy Store”

    In this series of comments, I suggested that we think in units of GW-day for electrical grid scale energy storage. It has a unique advantage of being a VISIBLE unit. 1 GW-day boils down to the electrical energy provided by a 100 car coal unit train, which are quite common.

    It is also fun to think about how BIG this battery bank would be. Volumetrically, purely packed closest spacing, it would be the size of 14 coal unit trains filled with Li-ion batteries. Add space for wiring. Add A LOT of space for fire suppression and containment.

    Note 1: The $60 billion figure was derived with a 2013 Wikipedia price reference of $2.50/whr. Four years later, we can make a justifiable $0.30/whr for wholesale gigawatt scale battery banks. This drives the price of a GW-day Li-ion battery bank down to only $7,000,000,000. On the order of 20,000 times the price of the cheapest on-demand electrical energy storage on the planet — a ton of coal.

    Ok, you say. you can only use the coal ONCE. All too true. But you cannot use a Li-ion battery bank for ever either. It is still good for about 10,000 cycles — provided you don’t drain them totally. So, every 30 years or so, you must replace the entire bank.

    • And that’s only the up front costs. There will certainly be lingering, ongoing costs to keep something like this running. Batteries slowly deteriorate and cannot hold as much power over time, I have heard figures of 3-4% per year somewhere on the internet. Then there are the random failures of the batteries or chargers needing to be constantly monitored and replaced. And let’s not forget the cost to recycle all of those batteries.

      All of this cost on top of the original cost of the windmills and solar panels and suddenly modern nuclear is not looking so expensive :)

      What sort of toxic gas fumes would come from a fire in a battery bank this size? If a fire did happen, how long would the facility be offline and unable to help smooth out the grid? Basic business type questions don’t seem to get asked by the government officials.

      • Another unit conversion discussed before was this:
        1 Hiroshima = 60 TeraJoules (TJ).
        1 GW-Day is about 100 TJ. (Ergo, a single 100-ton coal car = 1 TJ of electricity at 40% conversion)
        Therefore a 1 GW-Day batter bank needs to store the round equivalent of 2 Hiroshima’s

        Now a mountain of coal in the back-40 of a coal fired powerplant has the potential energy of 2 Hiroshima’s for each GW-day stored. But without oxygen, nothing is going to happen to it. We have learned to handle coal fires.

        Not so with a battery bank. You short them out and the energy can escape quickly and without control. from a safety standpoint, it is the difference between a candle and a solid rocket motor.

        It get’s worse for the battery bank. While it might store 2 Hiroshima’s of ELECTRICAL energy, the vast bulk of the mass is COMBUSTABLE material to release several dozen Hiroshima’s of CHEMICAL energy in the ensuing inferno.

        You ask me, and it would make the McGuffin for a great disaster movie “coming soon to your neighborhood.”

      • Bit Wrong. LIIon in portable devices hit the 20% degradation wall in 3-4 years depending on use. (Battery is considered unreliable so dead at 80% of original capacity. Not because of capacity per se, but rising ISR so sharply falling voltage early discharge profile, and longer charging times, both thanks to SEI buildup.) That is >5%/yr. Look carefully at Musk Tesla battery warranties to see all the tricks employed. The way Chevy Volt gets an 8 year warranty is assuming the thing almost never gets fully discharged and car is not used every day. PbA is worse; see following comment.

      • Thanks, ristvan. I now understand why my Macbook’s battery was considered to need replaced 3 years after I bought it (thank goodness for AppleCare!). The guy told me it was at 70% and that I should go ahead and get it replaced. I am still not sure if that was normal or if I use my laptop more than the average person.

      • One solution to the issue of what happens after a fire is to not have one big battery facility, but a number of smaller ones.
        Of course that drives up total cost. But what the heck, it’s not like they are spending their own money.

  6. Jay Wetherill, the South Australian Premier, talks well and is articulate. I love the way he talks barely above a whisper when he is pushing a lie or saying something stupid. He is a consummate politician. A barometer that shows what is wrong with democracy, its distortion by self interest. The “how can I create a crisis” comes from Machiavelli 1-o-1. Create the crisis and offer a divisive solution and above all blame everyone else.

    The problem for SA is that it is broke, now claimant on the rest of Australia. As the oil runs out from the Cooper Basin, cash flows from royalties to the state are drying up. There is no replacement.

    SA is a resource rich state. It should be wealthy. However, nobody who has sense is going to invest there. Those that have are trying to leave or seek rent from the Federal Government. The risk from the professional political class is now too great to remove it from an operational spreadsheet of business plan. Politicians are simply too good at being celebrities and have abandoned any moral compass. Both major political parties now live in the gutter with main stream media, Gaia druids, banksters and union thugs. All pedal the drug of greed without personal effort or discipline. Populist minorities now control the outcomes, strangely thriving while making all around them poorer.

    True misery and poverty will be felt in South Australia before this can change. In a weird turn of events their only hope is Scott Pruitt. Hated by many, not politically correct, but can he withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement? If not, South Australia is collateral damage. It will remain poor for a generation.

    • Geoff. If you could just convince those of SA that are striving to make SA a utopia to just move to one like Venezuela then it would be a win win situation.

  7. Using lead acid for energy storage on a boat you aim to limit discharge to 50% to ensure a reasonable life before replacement. I think that doubles the numbers here although not for lithium ion.

    • Lithium-Ion batteries under heavy usage- high discharge rate, need to be limited and limited to ~ 3.1-3.2volts final votage, 90-95% capacity. Discharging to the commonly recommended 2.8 volts gets full capacity but going that low, especially if the battery is not at 25deg. C will cut the life cycle considerably. Running the battery below 9deg. C cuts the voltage(and power) along the whole discharge curve by ~0.2 volts- about 5% less capacity.

  8. The BraveNewClimate blog has published a ton of work on wind and solar in Australia from a power grid engineer’s perspective. Power grids fail spectacularly without stability. Getting wind to even 33% of grid supply is hugely difficult as wind adds instability. Mixing in solar at grid-scale adds more instability than just wind alone. Oh and in 2014 they recorded two stretches of five to six days in a row with wind at less than 20% capacity.

    They also looked closely at the mining of the precious metals required for batteries and magnets in wind turbines, which is not a pretty picture at all.

  9. I’ve seen this episode before on the Simpsons. Monorail, MONORAIL. All we need is the marching bands and trombones.

  10. I’m a great fan of lithium batteries, but this article highlights the problem. 270 Gw-hrs is about 7 times the projected annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, or 7 times the combined output of all other lithium ion battery manufacturers in the world (yes the Gigafactory would double global output if it were at full capacity today). Another way of looking at it is about 160 Kw-hr per SA resident: an electric bus battery for every man woman and child in the state.

    Not do-able at present on those numbers, although a far smaller unit of storage might provide some useful buffer, say to allow off-line capacity to be brought on line

  11. Here is a 2016 article on a liquid metal grid-scale battery.

    Sadoway therefore turned to a process he knew well: aluminum smelting. Aluminum smelting is a huge-scale, inexpensive process conducted inside electrochemical cells that operate reliably over long periods and produce metal at very low cost while consuming large amounts of electrical energy. Sadoway thought: “Could we run the smelter in reverse so it gives back its electricity?”

    Subsequent investigation led to the liquid metal battery.

    The liquid metal battery is still in research stage. It has the potential of high capacity at low bulk cost of components and high cycle rates. Liquid metal electrodes and liquid salt electrolyte that are density stratified. But it is for grid scale only as the batteries need to be kept stationary at 400-800 deg C depending upon metal and salts used. I can see co-gen possibilities to use waste heat from fossil fuel generators to reduce that burden.

    • A series of blackouts in South Australia have stoked fears of more widespread outages across the nation and raised questions as to why one of the world’s largest producers of coal and gas is struggling to keep the state’s lights on.

      People are asking the same question of Venezuela, too. Same answer for the most part.

  12. EPRI Journal, Aug.8, 2016

    ‘ISO: A Multifaceted Strategy To Integrate Solar in California’

    Re: Renewable integration at Cal-ISO

    Interview with Mark Rothleder, Cal-ISO

    Includes cloud movement forecasting.


    FERC Conference, June 1, 2016, Washington, D.C.

    Re: U.S. bulk power revive reliability concerns.

    Related PDF files: Right sidebar

    Presentations include:
    Hendrzak, PJM
    Rothleader, CAISO
    Bradley, Canadian Electricity Assn.
    Erickson, Alberta Electric System Operator/AESO

  13. Nice analysis. Overlooks some PbA details. Ordinary car starter PbA lasts 4-5 years and is ordinarily kept fully charged. As few as 4 deep discharges will kill it depending on age. In US winter, AAA makes a fortune off this fact. A deep discharge PbA has about a 200 discharge cycle life at 1C rate, less if higher than 1C. Golf cart owners know this ( where both the discharge and charge is less than 1 C rate) . Based on the grid supply/demand pattern in the post, that means about 1 deep discharge every 1.5 months, so ~8x/ year. But at much higher than a 1C rate when the supply crunch inevitably comes. Say 100 high rate cycles in that SA application. So the expensive deep cycle glass mat sealed PbA last maybe 12 years before replacement. So ~2x initial cost if the wind turbines last 20-25 years. NOT $60-90 billion, rather $120-$180 billion over life of wind turbines. Ruinous.

  14. Its what happens in that moment when a large anticyclone settles over Australia, the wind dies and batteries have to supply 80% of the states power

    • What happens if there is a short circuit, operator error, terror action or just a bad storm. With that much energy is it a huge very hot fire or can explosions be possible. I would think security for this would be a large concern. Also isn’t the vehicle Tesla battery back made up of thousands of 18650 size Li batteries all wired in series? The powerwall is said to be nickel-manganese-cobalt (Wikki) but link leads no where.

  15. I know damn well that lithium batteries don’t cost any $570per kWhr (or $900!!!). GM claims their batteries are running around $150 per kWhr and Tesla herself claimed that she is currently spending $190 per kWhr for the batteries in her cars, and thatincludes the entire system – cooling, etc). Tesla’s “Power wall” is a system, one that should never be used for an application like this one.

    • Arthur,
      The costs include the inverter/chargers which are nearly as expensive as the batteries themselves. I don’t know if the costs you quoted include the buildings to house them, the cooling systems, and fire suppression systems. Then there is the installation costs to connect it all to the grid and the management/monitoring equipment.

  16. The estimated $90B is likely to be twice that for the initial install, particularly if this is a government project. Tesla estimates $2000 for the foundation and wiring needs for their home unit, for example. Places will have to be found for the batteries, and if they are the Tesla PowerWall 2, there will be about twenty million of them (20e6 * 14e3 = 280e9). These units will require fencing and theft protection, and with 20 million of them, many will prove to be outliers in the manufacturing process, suggesting the need to plan for high tech firefighting facilities, close enough to the units to provide some hope of containing a fire should it occur. If the battery units are a thousand times larger, 14Mwh, then there will still be 20,000 of them, and the same issues will arise. This suggests that there will be continuing maintenance and custodial costs that will involve thousands of workers, most of whom will have little to do in between fires and other emergencies. If the fire problem proves to be significant (as it did in the initial roll out of the Boeing 787,) then it might be necessary to install the units in such a way that a fire in one unit would not threaten other units. This would greatly increase the installation costs.

    And as is suggested in the article, the batteries will require replacement in a decade or so, and this will become a steady expenditure of perhaps one tenth of the initial cost of the batteries, say $10B. And this presumes there will be no extravagant disposal costs, which is very optimistic given the nature of these batteries.

    The population of South Australia is 1.7 million. The use of batteries as examined in this article suggests that they will be endowed with a gift of about $170B to begin with (doubling the $90B,) and this will be followed by annual gifts of about $10B. That works out to about $100,000 per person initially, with $6000 every year there after. And this is just for the batteries. I wonder if they’d rather have the money?

    Ignorance is always costly. But it is particularly expensive when politicians have decided to exploit the situation.

  17. It seems SA is about to get an object lesson sooner than they imagined. Victoria, which has been propping up SA, is shuttering the Hazelwood plant at the end of this month. Hazelwood is an 8 unit plant. Apparently, one unit failed and was removed from service earlier this week, so they are down to 7 units already.
    So much for Victoria bailing out SA via the Heywood Connector. Which brings us to Heywood.

    Is the Heywood plant still scheduled for shutdown next month?

  18. There’s about 200,000 homes with roof top solar in S.A. Average household use is 5,570 KWH per year. Seeing that the first to suffer from blackouts is the household, wouldn’t it be better to install batteries to those 200,000 homes? so they can go of grid when required, leaving more power for industry. Privatising electricity market in Australia was suppose to bring prices down, But there doubled in all states in the last decade. South Australia needs a pat on the back for braking the monopoly big business has on the market , run by profits to shareholders. Australia needs a royal commission to look into the electricity market and see who are the biggest shareholders, there mite be a few politicians ducking for cover.

    • Yes. There is no need to spend $90B to get the Rolls Royce solution that guards against rare events immediately. A much smaller investment in batteries as you suggest above would give the grid the capability to manage daily peak loading more easily and give the grid additional stability.

    • Just because the politicians called it privatization, don’t assume it was.
      Secondly, the idea that turning anything over to the government can make it cheaper and more efficient has been disproven so many times that only the willfully ignorant still believe it.

  19. South Australia is certainly a Renewable State. South Australia is in dire need of a complete renewal of its politicians who are all in complete ignorance of power supply, Climate, agriculture and natural resources.,Batteries are renewable in the sense that they need renewing after 5-19 years. Wind Turbines are renewable in the sense that they are in need of rebuilding after 10-15 years. Industry in South Australia is renewable in the sense that it is moving to other States in search of reliable low-cost power.

  20. Obviously, this idea would only be feasible in a very small number of locations, but in those few locations, would it work? A reservoir at a higher level and one at a lower level. When you have an excess of wind energy, use it to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. When the wind is insufficient, allow water to flow back down to the lower reservoir through a hydro-electric plant. You’ll never get as much energy back as it took to pump the water up, but it seems storing it as kinetic energy is less expensive and much less polluting than manufacturing tons of batteries.

  21. You don’t need math, everyday common sense tells any sane person that batteries cannot and will not in the foreseeable future go anywhere near substituting for the power now imported from Victorian brown coal when the wind doesn’t blow.
    Wetherill is displaying the symptoms of a cult follower who faced with the failure of his beliefs cannot let go:
    … Niederhoffer and Kenner [When Prophesy Fails 1956] say: ‘when you have gone far out on a limb and so many people have followed you, and there is much “sunk cost,” as economists would say, it is difficult to admit you have been wrong’ … (Wiki).

    • Never you mind about reality.
      Lovely Elon said he can do it, so it must be OK.
      No one else can loose other people’s money better than Elon.
      But hasn’t he sucked a lot of people in so far?

  22. South Australia can’t afford $90B to put batteries into it’s unreliable generation system. And anyway, who believes the cost would be as low as that? Since it refuses to contemplate coal, can’t source enough gas to run a gas plant & really hasn’t a clue, we need a radical alternative.

    Without Hazlewood/Heywood, SA won’t have enough generating capacity to make up for common weather events, such as the entire state being windless. Any remaining power it can generate will need to be used for parasitic turning (keeping the windmill blades turning slowly so they don’t damage the bearings).

    My proposal is to cut the power on low-wind days. It has already been forced to do this on a small scale, but that was because Victorian coal was coming through the interconnector. In the future, power for most of the state will have to be shut off to preserve it for essential purposes such as keeping traffic lights working. But not for street lighting. Public safety issues are of no interest to the greens compared to their state-wide virtue signalling.

  23. The good news is that the calculations are being done. The enthusiasm of at least a few people will be diminished by even the ball park numbers.

    To borrow from Clint Eastwood, the question is whether their government feels lucky. Well do ya punk? Go ahead. Make my day.

  24. This is an interesting analysis, but definitely one describing a boundary condition ie. 100% battery/wind technology, therefore one that is quite unrealistic As the analysis shows, this is not any where near a condition that might be plausible today. Base load power is always a must and any reasonable analysis shows this to be the case. As the commenters have also noted lead acid is a poor choice in making such a renewable system workable.
    What is interesting is that in a much smaller percentage of total supply/demand scenario, say 15-20%, such a system might actually be workable and affordable as a way to capture wind power to substitute for a portion of fossil fuel energy production. I am not a huge fan of windpower…I think solar PV will be the largest portion of the AE contribution down the road.
    Interesting that Citi estimates that battery storage will increase by 97% over the next decade. Battery storage is still a major play in electricity management.

    • jj, too said:

      “This is an interesting analysis, but definitely one describing a boundary condition ie. 100% battery/wind technology,”

      I’d be very interested in an analysis of various scenarios in between all coal/gas on one side, and just batteries and wind on the other.

      For instance, what would happen if you install 4 times the wind power, a billion worth of batteries, and gas generators that now have time to ramp up because the batteries help keep the grid stable?

      How about if you only want to achieve 75% renewables?

      What happens if you start using gravity rail storage?

      I’d love to see modeling of exactly what could be achieved at what price for a certain reduction in carbon output. This scenario is going for 100%. Could 75% be achieved for a lot less than half the money talked about here with gas turbine backup?

      I’d really like to see a variety of scenarios compared.

  25. Some more news on how Germanys honeymoon with renewables is drawing to a close on the following link:
    It was sickening to listen to a Press Conference staged by Australia+ channel, where both Jay Weatherill(Bitterpill?) and Josh Frydenberg ‘inadvertently’ participated in a joint press conference. SA’s premier, (the former), displayed the mental acumen of a canary when he let forth his well rehearsed diatribe in favor of renewables and against the federal government. The whole problem could apparently be solved through the introduction of a carbon tax! I am surprised that the Greens have not snapped him up. He is a prime candidate for the progressive green left faction.

    • Premier Jay Weatherdill is upset that the people in Eastern Australia are trashing his state.
      Let’s give credit where it is due.
      He is the bloody idiot who has trashed his state – using funds provided by other states!

    • Germany continues to roll out renewables and is still aiming at its 2050 80% renewable electricity target.

      It reformed its payments system and continues to build new wind turbines, notably in th eBaltic.

      Any idea it is changing track is nonsense.

  26. The real number is bigger.

    Real power systems have reserve margins (generation capacity sitting idle or spinning and ready to increase output), are designed to function reasonably well through everything short of a blizzard or hurricane (this system would fall apart if it was just less than normally windy for a few weeks), require real inertia (pretty technical – look it up), amongst other things.

    Point being, there is no technical evidence that a wind and batteries power system would really work. Assigning a cost to it is misleading.

  27. Whoever wrote this does not understand mathematics.
    Fact – if you increase something by 100%, you double it. Increase it by 200% & you triple it.
    The key word here is INCREASE, as used in the article. Of course 5600 is 358% of 1500, but it is only an increase of 258%.
    Please get it right in future.

  28. Wind and solar are in effect a parisitic entity on the electricity grid , they can’t exist on their own and rely on other generated electricity to exist .

  29. Sorry, but the assumptions which are used to construct Figure 1 are crap.
    Have a look at Aneroid wind energy for SA and you will see that the average output is 23 to 25% of nameplate and that assumes ALL TURBINES ARE AVAILABLE (Ho Ho Ho).
    The other fact which jumps out from observations is that the variation in output is way in excess of that depicted in Figure 1.
    I do realise that I am making a serious mistake by using observation of things that actually happen rather than models.

  30. There are storage alternatives besides batteries. Pumped hydroelectric is in use in many places, but South Australia and not have many suitable locations. Energy can be stored as compressed air in underground salt caverns. A commercial scale facility is planned.

    • Let us know how that works out. A salt cavern full of hot (and probably corrosive) air at very high pressure? What could possibly go wrong? I’m also curious about the overall efficiency. I can’t imagine it being all that high, not compared to pumped hydro for instance.

  31. This article does not address how much solar is available and at what times in the day demand is high.
    Perhaps there are peaks of air con use during the afternoons? which solar would be a good match to.

    Nor does it mention solar CSP which is in use and planned to expand in SA
    e.g this pioneering installation

    The idea that batteries would be the sole supplier of power when wind not available is ludicrous.Grid batteries are better used at taking up the strain as wind power or solar (absolutely predictably) fall off.

    grid level batteries would be lithium ion – no one is installing lead acid for grid scale apps any more.

    A solar PV, solar CSP, domestic battery, grid battery, wind power set up looks quite different from what this article portrays.

      • so there is no solar or solar CSP resource to supplement wind in SA?

        and the demand is constant and there is no point at which substantial demand might not be provided by solar?

        Really I would like to see some argument of substance from you.

        you are like a small boy threatening to take your ball home.

      • “Really I would like to see some argument of substance from you.”

        We would be absolutely AMAZED if we ever saw any argument of substance from you. !

  32. Green engineering:

    1/. Take a technology that is very expensive and doesn’t work well.
    2/. Realise its is utterly deficient
    3/. Propose adding a further technology that is very expensive and doesn’t work very well.
    4/. Make sure someone else pays for it.
    5/. Strut around doing the ‘virtue signalling’ walk.

  33. This is a great article, but you miss one obvious point. If the cost of storage is so astronomical, a rational person would seek ways to mitigate it. Two obvious ones are:

    1) Overcapacity: overbuild wind turbines and therefore reduce the power deficit on low power days. That will reduce demand for storage, and might be cheaper.

    2) Reduce volatility by diversifying to other renewable sources, e.g. Solar. Because wind and solar deliveries will not be perfectly correlated, mixing supply will reduce volatility, and hence the need for storage.

    At the moment, though the post gives some helpful insights, it has some of the flavour of a strawman – “if you do these dumb things, look how much it would cost”. I think that makes your post quite easy for greens to dismiss. If you build on the above points, you could:

    A) identify an optimal mix of wind and solar to minimise volatility, assuming similar data to your wind data is available for solar.

    B) calculate the lowest cost mix of capacity (of the mix identified in A) and storage which would make renewables reliable.

    My gut feeling is that the minimum cost (per kWh) would still be astronomic, and at that point you would really have knocked the ball out of the park, so to speak. Such an analysis ought to be hard to ignore – though obviously greens will try!

    On a point of detail, I didn’t notice any mention of battery cycle life in the post. If a battery lasts 1000 cycles, a battery costing $250 per kWh has a minimum cost per kWh delivered of $0.25. If the cycle life is higher, the cost is lower, etc. At the moment I don’t think the cycle life of a power wall is very impressive. You might find that you need to spend the battery cost every few years, making it even more expensive.

    A final nit is that since wind depends on weather, which is seasonal, you really need to do your analysis over a period of at least one year to avoid obvious criticisms.

    • Oops. I always manage to forget that battery cycle life is number of cycles to some lower level of capacity, not zero. I don’t know exact numbers, I think maybe 80%. Adjust above accordingly.

    • If the wind is not blowing or is blowing too strong, it doesn’t matter how many windmills you have built because none of them will be generating power.

      • @David Dirkse I think a maximum wind condition does apply. They feather the blades, but they don’t produce power to the grid. Safety of the turbine governs in high wind situations.

  34. “South Australia, A renewable state.”

    Well, all they can hope is that they can RENEW it at some stage down the path.

    It is heading backwards at the rate of knots at the moment.

    WRONG DIRECTION, bozos !!!

  35. I am in the unfortunate situation where I have to listen to the ABC discussing this whole thing. The ABC is a left-wing broadcaster that has been pushing renewables for many years. The south australian premier, pushing batteries, and the australian prime minister, pushing expensive pumped storage, both pro – renewable, are trying to promote themselves respectively as some sort of saviour from the renewable debacle, and consequently are attempting to back stab each other as much as possible. Listening to the reporting makes my head spin. There is no sign of sanity anywhere.

      • And worrying how much faith you put in ‘some man on the web writing a blog’.

        you can check for other news stories and reports on something like a solar CSP plant.

        you have only the word of someone on a blog that the surface temp data is fixed, for example

      • “And worrying how much faith you put in ‘some man on the web writing a blog’.”

        Don’t concern yourself , griff..

        NO-ONE puts any faith at all in anything you write on any blog.

        You are nothing but a LAUGHING STOCK !!

    • “This seems to be a working Australian grid battery project.”


      It will last about 10 minutes !!!

      Really griff, your bizarre statements are getting to the stage of FARCE.

      It is as though everything you think you know is manifestly WRONG !!!

      Are you are far-left politician, or do you work for one ???

    • I’m quite comfortable accepting the stated benefits of such a grid battery project with a remote town like that Griff. Provided of course it stacks up without Gummint slushfunding and cost shifting onto thermal like the overwhelming experience with unreliables. In that regard the only electrons that should be permitted to be tendered to any communal grid are those the tenderer can reasonably guarantee 24/7 all year round and no more. If batteries are economic for that purpose then so be it and let them compete freely on the level playing field. You OK with that?

  36. It would be really good so see an article here looking at what the most cost effective methods for various levels of carbon emission reductions are, and figuring out how much they would cost.

    Why settle on “bring wind production up to match average energy usage and do the rest with batteries”?

    • In all likelihood, the MOST effective method is: Nothing. Build the most cost effective power plant for the purpose without regard to CO2. I do advise cleaning up any toxic, noxious, foul, etc. waste streams,

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