By Rud Istvan,
WUWT readers emailed Charles the Moderator concerning two flurries of renewable Fake News PR in the past week:
1. The breathlessly reported planned FPL addition of the world’s largest storage battery for Florida’s Manatee County solar farm.
2. The less reported Bloomberg New Energy report that batteries were now becoming competitive in some grid applications/locations thanks to steeply declining costs.
ctm asked me to take a crack at an article covering this Fake News. This guest post tackles these items in sequence (and they are related). The research was somewhat complex, so rather than provide numerous links, sufficient pointers are provided that will take any interested readers to the relevant underlying documents via simple Google searches. Else, just enjoy the deceptive saga.
Many news outlets (Ars Technica, Forbes, every MSM paper in Florida) reported on the Florida Power and Light (FPL) announcement last week about “the world’s largest solar powered battery system—4x the next largest” (at Hornsdale, South Australia). Paraphrasing for brevity, it will be built on the 40 acre site of soon to be demolished almost 50 year old twin oil/natural gas-steam generating units in Parish, Florida. It will have 409MW and be able to produce 900MWh of energy from FPL’s adjacent Manatee solar farm and another (of equal size) to be built nearby. It will provide clean, cost effective electricity.
NOTHING about this FPL summary is correct except the location.
Battery capacity is not specified in MW, rather in MWh. Cost is ~ MW. Hornsdale is 100MW and only 129MWh. So the Manatee battery is actually (900/129) seven times more capacity. Oops, an ignorant PR under brag.
It does not replace the old oil converted to gas fired steam generating units, unlike what FPL implied. As old and decrepit as they are, their current August peak capacity (all that matters in Florida) is still 1618MW. (This and following data are from FPL’s “10 Year Power Plant Site Plan 2018-2027”, submitted to FloridaPSC.com and running about 270 pages of (1) capacity, (2) demand, and (3) capacity addition rate planning. Parish’ present 1618MW is in Part 1.) Parish baseload generating capacity is being replaced concurrently by 1778MW of new CCGT at Lake Okeechobee.
It is not powered by solar. The nameplate capacity of the Manatee solar farm and the nearby one now under construction is 74.5MW each. Per Part 1 of the FPL 2018 Plan, the August peak solar capacity factor is 52%. Both solar farms can provide (unless/until a hurricane) (974.5*2*0.52) 77.5MW, just 19% (less in winter) of what the battery needs. The rest will come from FPL grid CCGT additions.
It is NOT cheap. FPL refuses to say what it will cost. (Hey, I really tried to find out.) BUT, there is a small pilot plant equivalent (10 MW) that was installed at FPL’s Babcock Ranch solar farm (also 74.5MW nameplate) in 2018. From the FPL supplied pictures (Babcock Ranch actual, Parish FPL conceptual), the batteries are the present utility industry grid standard, high temperature (350C) Sodium Sulfur, with individual 1 MW modules looking like 20 foot shipping containers stood on end. That 10 MW/40MWh cost $15 million (digging through FPL and local press at the time)–and like Parish will be–is used for peak load. (Note: this is about industry standard capacity cost for that type battery. I covered two PG&E sodium/sulfur grid installations from 2010 and 2014, with illustrations, in essay California Dreaming in ebook Blowing Smoke.) So the Parish battery will cost ([409/10]*15) about $615 million capital dollars. By comparison, according to EIA Nov 2016, equivalent gas peaker turbine capacity would cost $450 million. (Remember this battery is 80% energized by grid generation burning natural gas, just like peaker turbines.) A bad economic deal for Floridians, if good for FPL green PR.
And finally, from the 2018 Plan part 3 rate considerations, we learn that this battery is being financed under SoBRA rate rules. Florida PSC says SoBRA guarantees FPL the full required revenue/cost recovery (plus return) via increased utility rates for ‘green’ solar, battery, and related activities. FPL’s claim that this is ‘clean and cost effective’ is only half correct. Maybe.
Bloomberg New Energy Forum
This ‘research’ unit of Bloomberg has been churning out rosy renewable projections for years. Following is their April Fools 2019 gem.
For starters, BloombergNEF believes the nonsense put out by the EIA concerning the levelized cost of renewable energy (LCOE, an annuitized version of net present value). In a guest post over at Judith Curry’s Climate Etc, Planning Engineer (very senior exec at one of the US’ largest electrical utilities) and I wrote a deconstruction of EIA’s 2015 onshore US wind LCOE titled ‘True Cost of Wind’. Easily found using the search tool on her site. We corrected all the EIA ‘cheats’, and used the Texas ERCOT grid (~10% wind penetration) for cost of backup and incremental transmission. Unlike the BloombergNEF figure of ~$95/MWh for 2015, the true cost of onshore wind is about $144/MWh. So you already know this new table is a renewable April Fools joke.
There are three recent reference points for grid battery storage compared to the chart’s purplish/pink battery line.
First is Tesla’s LiIon installation at Hornsdale, South Australia. That came on line November 2017 after the infamous renewables induced SA blackout of 2016. 129MWh cost about $50 million (Australian, as reported in Australia). The current exchange rate is $1Aus = $0.71US. So Hornsdale cost about $35.5 million US, or about (35500k/129) $275k per MWh. The LCOE would be higher, because the capital is up front and the ‘fuel savings’ are annuitized. Bloomberg is ‘only’ two plus orders of magnitude off. But Hornsdale was a rushed Elon Musk PR one off, so maybe not a fair comparison.
Second is the Tesla PowerWall v2. Excluding the power electronics (which do scale some), it presently costs $6700 for 13.5 KWh and benefits from mass production in the GigaFactory. That math works out to $496/MWh, again higher when annuitized into LCOE. BloombergNEF is ONLY off by 1.65x.
Finally we have a direct grid comparison using FPL’s 2018 Babcock Ranch, which was 10MW for 40 MWh, exactly the BloombergNEF 4 hour standard. $15 million is (15000k/40MWh) $375k/MWh—ONLY off by ONE order of magnitude. Order of magnitude errors are not forgivable. They are Fake News.
Thus demonstrating that renewable Fake News remains alive and ‘well’.
H/t to WUWT commenter RK and ctm for the inspiration to get going again.