Battery Storage – An Infinitesimally Small Part of Electrical Power

 Guest essay by Steve Goreham

Large-scale storage of electricity is the latest proposed solution to boost the deployment of renewables. Renewable energy advocates, businesses, and state governments plan to use batteries to store electricity to solve the problem of intermittent wind and solar output. But large-scale storage is only an insignificant part of the electrical power industry and doomed to remain so for decades to come.

Last month, Senator Susan Collins of Maine introduced a bi-partisan bill named “The Better Energy Storage Technology Act,” proposing to spend $300 million to promote the development of battery solutions for electrical power. Collins stated, “Next-generation energy storage devices will help enhance the efficiency and reliability of our electric grid, reduce energy costs, and promote the adoption of renewable resources.”

Arizona, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon adopted statutes or goals to develop storage systems for grid power, with New York committing to most ambitious target in the nation. In January, as part of his mandate for “100 percent clean power by 2040,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a target to deploy 3,000 megawatts (MW) of storage by 2030.

Today, 29 states have renewable portfolio standards laws, requiring utilities to purchase increasing amounts of renewable energy. But the electricity output from wind and solar systems is intermittent. On average, wind output is between 25% and 35% of rated output. Solar output is even less, delivering an average of about 15% to 20% percent of rated output.

Mandating the addition of wind and solar to power systems is like forcing a one-car family to buy a second car that runs only 30% of the time. The family can’t replace the original car with the new intermittent car, but must then maintain two cars.

Renewable advocates now propose electricity storage to solve the intermittency problem and to help renewable energy replace traditional coal, natural gas, and nuclear generators. When wind and solar output is high, excess electricity would be stored in batteries and then delivered when renewable output is low, to try to replace traditional power plants that generate electricity around the clock.

Headlines laud the growth of battery installations for grid storage, growing 80% last year and up 400% from 2014. But the amount of US electricity stored by batteries today is less than miniscule.

Pumped storage, not batteries, provides about 97% of grid power storage in the United States today. Pumped storage uses electricity to pump water into an elevated reservoir to be used to drive a turbine when electricity is needed. But less than one in every 100,000 watts of US electricity comes from pumped storage.

In 2018, US power plants generated 4.2 million GW-hours of electrical power. Pumped storage capacity totaled about 23 GW-hrs. Battery storage provided only about 1 GW-hr of capacity. Less than one-millionth of our electricity is stored in grid-scale batteries.

Electricity storage is expensive. Pumped storage is the least costly form of grid storage at about $2,000 per kilowatt, but requires areas where an elevated reservoir can be used. Battery storage costs about $2,500 per kilowatt for discharge duration of two hours or more. Batteries are more expensive than onshore wind energy, which has an installed market price of under $1,000 per kilowatt. But a key factor in the effectiveness of storage is the length of time that the system can deliver stored electricity.

In the case of New York State, plans call for the installation of 9,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2035 and 3,000 MW of battery storage by 2030. The wind system will likely cost in excess of $9 billion, and the battery system will likely cost about $7.5 billion. But this planned battery deployment is wholly inadequate to remove the wind intermittency.

If the wind system has an average output of 33% of its rated output, then the planned 3,000 MW of battery storage would only be able to deliver the average wind output for about two hours. To replace output for a full day when the wind isn’t blowing, 36,000 MW of storage would be needed at a cost of $90 billion, or about ten times as much as the wind system itself. Since several days without wind in most locations is common, even a day of battery backup is inadequate.

In addition, the 10-15 year lifetime of grid-scale batteries is no bargain. Wind and solar systems are rated for 20-25 years of service life. Traditional coal, natural gas, and nuclear systems last for 35 years or more.

Storage of electricity should be regarded as foolish by anyone in the manufacturing industry. For decades, major companies pursued just-in-time manufacturing, “lot size one,” Kanban, lean manufacturing, and other programs designed to eliminate finished goods inventory to reduce costs. Electricity is delivered immediately upon generation, the ultimate zero-finished-goods-inventory product. But many organizations now clamor for electricity storage to try to fix the intermittency weakness of renewables.

Today, battery grid storage capacity is less than one millionth of national electricity output. Practical battery storage adds a cost factor of at least ten to the cost of the partner renewable system. It will be decades before battery storage plays a significant role in large-scale power systems, if ever.

Originally published in Energy Central. Republished here at the request of the author

Steve Goreham is a speaker on the environment, business, and public policy and author of the book Outside the Green Box: Rethinking Sustainable Development.

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June 29, 2019 2:11 pm

And, of course, when that storage power is needed an used, how are those batteries going to be recharged? Please use the proper terms – MW is megawatts, a level of power. MWhrs is the actual AMOUNT of power. Nuclear power plants typically last over 60 years and recent studies of wind turbines were shocked to see that large turbines have short lifespans – about half what was promised, which almost doubles the cost predicted.

Curious George
Reply to  ColMosby
June 29, 2019 3:18 pm

Politicians measure energy storage in megawatts – California is an undisputed leader. Don’t expect any knowledge of physics from elected Democrats.

Reply to  ColMosby
June 29, 2019 3:30 pm

“MWhrs is the actual AMOUNT of power.”

Megawatt-hours (typically abbreviated MWh) is actually the amount of energy. Energy is power times time. Or power is energy per unit time, depending on how one looks at the situation.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Mark Bahner
June 29, 2019 5:00 pm

which is why this gem from Gov Cuomo is non-sensical:
“New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a target to deploy 3,000 megawatts (MW) of storage by 2030.”

Which is verbatim from page 315 of Cuomo’s idiotic list of “everything is a priority”:
“Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030”

That Cuomo “Justice Agenda” is fracking joke. Anyone who reads it will quickly realize it is just a pandering list of everything under the Sun for every special interest group and activist, with no regard for costs, impacts to people’s lives. Dumb doesn’t even come close to describing it.

So when you turn your messaging over to Liberal Arts majors who are simply “SJWarriors” with Yobs and college loans to pay back. They have zero clue about science and engineering concepts (they skipped those courses in college), much less any detailed knowledge of anything STEM relevant, so Cuomo gets junk stuff like “3000 megawatts of of energy storage.” Not that he has any more STEM background to know he is being feed pseudoscience schist by SJWs. The people with real science and engineering educations and training have real jobs, not the stupid SJW Yobbers that Democrat-Socialists are now employing on their staffs.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 10:18 am

which is why this gem from Gov Cuomo is non-sensical:
“New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a target to deploy 3,000 megawatts (MW) of storage by 2030.”

It’s not nonsensical. It’s just not complete. Discussion of utility battery projects should include both the power transfer capacity and the energy storage capacity.

This Wikipedia article does a decent job when it’s describing the various battery storage projects around the world, e.g.:

Tesla installed a grid storage facility for the Southern California Edison with a capacity of 80 MWh at a power of 20 MW between September 2016 and December 2016.


In Ontario, Canada, a battery storage with 53 MWh capacity and 13 MW of power is (sic :-)) established by the end of 2016.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
June 30, 2019 1:42 pm

Iow, at best 3 minutes of power. Good investment.

Reply to  ColMosby
June 29, 2019 10:33 pm

Storage can be confusing. Of course in the critical application discussed here, backing up intermittent renewables, the quantity of energy stored is the key parameter because it’s really what limits usefulness. However the rate at which that energy can be released is a power specification, also important in the storage business and often quoted. Hence the confusion.

June 30, 2019 10:37 pm

Dinorweg pumped storage in Snowdonia (electric mountain) is described as a ‘power station’ in Wiki. I despair.

Reply to  ColMosby
June 30, 2019 1:27 am

Half what the idiots buying them were led to suggest would be the lifetime. If however, like me, you’d gone to Denmark to speak to people who maintained the early windmills (note the terminology), then there was no doubt the lifetime was going to be a lot shorter than the gullible fools buying them were being told.

old white guy
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
June 30, 2019 4:47 am

I look forward to the industrial activity required to make batteries big enough and efficient enough to do what the dreamers think they will do. I also look forward to the tearing out of hair and the rending of clothes when it comes time to dispose of those batteries, as well as the amount of metals needed and fossil fuel required.

Reply to  old white guy
June 30, 2019 8:13 am

And the very environmentally unfriendly by-products in the battery manufacturing process.

Gerry, England
Reply to  old white guy
July 1, 2019 5:53 am

Ah but when the ‘next generation’ of batteries comes along it will all be different so says the senator. If pushed I bet she could not give any detail of what this ‘next generation’ will be and when, and will flannel saying ‘just that, well, you know, it will be’. Pure fantasy. The UK energy suicide programme has a mythical efficiency improvement that nobody knows the details of that will reduce our demand. Mind you the huge price increases will probably reduce demand as people can no longer afford it.

Reply to  ColMosby
June 30, 2019 10:06 am

On average, wind output is between 25% and 35% of rated output. Solar output is even less, delivering an average of about 15% to 20% percent of rated output.

These are easy facts to check, so there’s no excuse to get them wrong. The average capacity factor for utility-scale wind in 2018 was 37.4% and utility-scale photovoltaics was 26.1%:

If the wind system has an average output of 33% of its rated output,…

If the offshore wind power systems have capacity factors of 33%, the manufacturers will be probably be sued into bankruptcy. NY can expect that capacity factors for offshore wind in the Great Lakes will be between 40 and 55 percent…see Figure 13 of this document:

P.S. None of these comments should be taken to infer that I think NY state’s targets regarding offshore wind and utility battery storage are a good idea.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
June 30, 2019 1:39 pm

Can you show an actual example of an offshore wind farm that has reached 40-55% capacity?

Reply to  tty
June 30, 2019 7:45 pm

Can you show an actual example of an offshore wind farm that has reached 40-55% capacity?

Here’s a table with Danish wind farms with latest-12-months and lifetime capacity factors. Look at the values for the three largest wind farms, starting with the largest. Here are their 12-month and lifetime capacity factors (presented in that order):

Anholt 1 –> 47.8% –> 49%
Horns Rev II –> 47.6% –> 48%
Nysted (Rødsand) II –> 40.6% –> 43.5%

And here’s a table for UK offshore wind farms. There are some wussie numbers here for some of the big facilities, but there is:

Dudgeon –> 45.2% –> 49.3%
Westermost Rough (I love these names!) –> 47.9% –> 46.1%

I think there is some offshore farm somewhere in the North Sea area that cracked 65% for the first three months of operation.

Needless to say, 25-35% is woefully out of touch for a modern wind farm…offshore, or even onshore.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
June 30, 2019 7:47 pm
Reply to  Mark Bahner
July 1, 2019 1:26 am

I strongly recommend readers to follow Bahn’s first link in order to see a first-class case of cherry-picking.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
July 1, 2019 8:55 am

“I strongly recommend readers to follow Bahn’s first link in order to see a first-class case of cherry-picking.”

It’s not “cherry-picking” to select only the largest (and newest) projects. New York state is not going to install the small offshore turbines of 10+ years ago. In fact, NY state is likely to install technologies like what was installed at the Walney Extension project (which isn’t even listed yet on the UK table, because it’s even newer than Walney II).

The fact that you even asked the question in the first place:

Can you show an actual example of an offshore wind farm that has reached 40-55% capacity?

…makes it clear you know nothing about modern wind technology in the first place.

And the fact that you then protested as “cherry-picking” when I pointed to the three largest projects listed in Denmark, which all have lifetime capacity factors in the the 40-55% range, shows that you dishonestly change the goal post when confronted by clear evidence of your ignorance.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
July 1, 2019 9:11 am

I strongly recommend readers to follow Bahn’s first link in order to see a first-class case of cherry-picking.

You asked for “an actual example of an offshore wind farm that has reached 40-55% capacity” (emphasis added). I provided you with a table and pointed out the three largest wind farms all had lifetime capacity factors of 40-55 percent.

What I did not point out was that the average lifetime capacity factor for all the Danish offshore windfarms in the table is listed as 41.7 percent. So don’t accuse me of “cherry-picking” simply because you apparently can’t read.

Reply to  tty
June 30, 2019 8:44 pm

Some more data. Go to Figure 8 of this publication:

The text above Figure 8 explains:

Analysis of the UK’s fleet of offshore wind farms suggests a positive outlook for growth in capacity factors. Figure 8 groups capacity factors by technology, in this case rotor diameter. The graph does not represent projects in date order, but does consider averages over the last 5 years, with each solid shape representing the capacity factor achieved by a wind farm. This shows that capacity factors for wind turbines with a rotor diameter of 120m + are averaging almost 44%, whereas the technology planned for deployment on sites that are under construction suggests an estimate of just under 48%.

I’m interested in the UK’s Walney Extension project (that’s the project after Walney 1 and Walney 2). My guess is that the capacity factor for the Walney Extension will be close to 50 percent in the first full year of operation.

P.S. It was the Hywind Scotland windfarm–the world’s first floating offshore farm–that had a capacity factor of approximately 65 percent in the first 3 months of operation:

Reply to  tty
June 30, 2019 9:27 pm

Given GE’s history in NY, maybe NY will be installing these babies:

GE Haliade X –> Size: 12 MW, advertised capacity factor…63%!

William Astley
Reply to  ColMosby
June 30, 2019 10:22 am

… the cost of wind power is more than double the cost predicted… as the initial cost does not include:

1. The cost for new power lines to remote wind places, transformers, and switching equipment and power line upgrades to carry the intermittent wind power to where it can be used when local power sources are turned off.

2. The total average wind turbine capacity number drops as the first wind turbines are installed in the best windy places where land is available and there is no local opposition. Germany has installed 28,000 turbines and their average wind turbine capacity number is below 20% (17%).

It is ridiculous that power line costs, power line right away (big cost, difficult to get because of local opposition), power line upgrades, transformers, switching equipment is not included as part of the wind power estimate.

What good is a wind turbine if is it not connected to a power line

Tom Halla
June 29, 2019 2:13 pm

Mr Gorham, I think you used MW rather than MWh, which would be appropriate for rating battery capacity.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 29, 2019 4:32 pm

Mr Goreham is correct, for any energy source you need to know both. MW is the level of power, and it must be adequate for right now. MWh is the amount of energy, which is measured by the amount you need right now times how long you need it. A you have a battery of insufficient capacity, the amount needed right now exceeds what the battery can deliver you have immediate brownouts until the safeties open and you go to blackout. If you have sufficient capacity the battery delivers power until the unreliable comes back online or until the battery is dead, whichever comes first. If the battery is dead before the unreliable comes back online you go to blackout. With a reliable energy source you need only specify its capacity and assume it will continue to deliver the power you need until you turn it off. With batteries you need to know both how much power it can deliver and how long you can deliver it.

One thing Mr. Goreham has left out is the round trip penalty. No energy storage device (except a fossil fuel storage) will deliver the whole of the energy you put into, there will always be some additional energy loss just for putting it into the battery and taking it back out. And you also have standby losses… when you charge a rechargeable and set it aside, the energy available out of it gradually declines until there’s nothing left. Add both of those together and I’m guessing 80% efficiency. That means the 10x the cost he mentioned turns into 12.5 times the cost added to a renewable system, and unreliables already cost 10x that of a standard system.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
June 29, 2019 5:27 pm

Battery capacity is meaningless with just watts. Super-capacitors can deliver that today, but only for a second or so to allow switching without voltage drops on the grid; basically a grid-level momentary UPS systems to account for sudden changes.

Meaningful grid storage would be at least 5000 MW-hr. Basically over 3 day period (72 hours) no wind and little sun, such a system could provide 500 megawatts sustained output to the grid before it dropped off for re-charging. Then of course, recharging it isn’t free either, and has to be planned for. And if re-charging it with fossil fuel generation sources, then you gone nowhere in terms of emissions while vastly increasing costs and unreliability.
But those are “details” the Democrats don’t want the public to understand, and that the electric consumer’s bills will skyrocket under these schemes. That money goes to the things the GreenSlime is now heavily invested in.

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
June 29, 2019 7:08 pm

Nice explanation

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
June 30, 2019 2:08 pm

80% is often givan as round-trip efficiency. This requires better than 90% efficiency in both charging and discharging (there is always some loss in AC/DC and DC/AC conversion, and through self-discharging of the battery, plus auxiliary power needed to keep the battery installation in operation).

90% is quite achievable if charging and discharging is done slowly. Losses increase dramatically with fast charging/discharging (loss is proportional to the square of the current) and efficiency can then be as low as 50% (plus power for active cooling of the battery, otherwise battery life will be very short)

June 29, 2019 2:27 pm

All of these states with ‘renewable energy’ mandates are going to look real foolish once the scientific truth is allowed to prevail. They’ll be paying off the debt from this foolishness for decades to come reducing their competitiveness for attracting business and the jobs it creates.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
June 29, 2019 3:20 pm

… look real green, but are they? Green is a good source of clean, renewable green-backs. Smart, even if people don’t remain hopelessly green.

Reply to  n.n
June 29, 2019 9:36 pm

Green is nothing but evil cloaked by good intentions.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
June 29, 2019 5:58 pm

Unfortunately it won’t be the states paying for this nonsense, it will tax payers and rate payers.

Reply to  MarkW
June 29, 2019 6:28 pm

And the jobs will go to China, India, and other Asian countries where they will use coal to provide the energy for those jobs. Net result? CO2 emissions increase.

Note: I care about the jobs, and as for global warming? It sounds like a good idea.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
June 30, 2019 9:42 am

…..And most of the dufuses who are making these commitments will have either retired or will have been voted out of office and will have moved on with the rest of their lives. No penalties and likely no regrets.

Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 2:49 pm

I find it interesting that these Renewables zealots are always talking about the “next generation” of batteries. In other words, they want us to rely on something which has not yet been sufficiently developed to solve their problems. Many of them also rely on a “breakthrough development” in battery technology, and expect the community to commit to massive sums of expenditure on windmills in the mere hope that this will happen. How old is battery development been happening – is it centuries? – so the likelihood of any startling new development is miniscule. I’d rather not take a chance on that, thanks!

Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 3:24 pm

Sure, let sjust use cold fusion then. Its already running, right.

Reply to  Cube
June 30, 2019 12:59 am

Cube June 29, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Sure, let sjust(sic) use cold fusion then. Its already running, right.

No it isn’t. There is not now, and never will be, “cold fusion”. It is a fraud just as surely as Shawyer’s emdrive and the Keely motor. Rossi should have been jailed for his “thermo-electric generator” fraud against the US taxpayers.

Gunga Din
Reply to  acementhead
June 30, 2019 11:47 am

There will be cold fusion if we continue down the renewable green dream path.
It will be achieved in winter when the cold fuses people to their furniture.

Reply to  Gunga Din
June 30, 2019 3:03 pm

Just build your house following the Passive House Standard. 90% less Energy required to keep warm.

Reply to  acementhead
June 30, 2019 2:29 pm

I agree that cold fusion doesn’t exist now, but I would actually rate it as marginally more likely than batteries with a power density similar to gasoline. The latter is absolutely impossible unless everything we know about chemistry and atomic structure is wrong. Cold fusion is marginally less inpossible. It is certainly more possible that there is some way to get around the colulomb barrier than that we will find some new unknown element.

Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 3:41 pm

Storing energy is dangerous business and as the energy density increases with next generation batteries, it gets even more dangerous. Catastrophic failure is assured as deployment is scaled up. The 3000 MWh NY wants to add to their grid stores the explosive power of over 5 million pounds of dynamite. NIMBY on that one …

Reply to  co2isnotevil
June 29, 2019 7:15 pm


… Or about 2.5 KT (KiloTons). About the size of a small tactical Nuclear Warhead.
NIMBY for sure…

Reply to  Rotor
June 30, 2019 6:24 am

Or fires. This happened last week in Arizona, cause not yet determined.

Reply to  Rotor
June 30, 2019 2:36 pm

With batteries the worst that can (=will) happen is massive fires that are essentially impossible to put out and that generate toxic smoke. NIMBY, yes.

With flywheels and capacitors big bangs are definitely possible. NIMBY, emphatically yes.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
June 30, 2019 6:17 pm

“NIMBY on that one …”
This exaggerates the danger, but batteries don’t need a lot of attention, and there is no reason to put them an anyone’s BY. Here is a picture of the SA Jamestown battery. Here is a picture of the new one on the Yorke Peninsula. It’s a long way to the neighbours.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 7:50 pm

Just a few Watt hours in a vape pen can explode catastrophically. Imagine what a GWh can do.

It’s not that I’m exaggerating the risk, it’s that those pushing the Green agenda ignore real risk while obsessing about imaginary risk.

BTW, you still have not answered my question. How can the planet tell the difference so that the next W/m^2 from the Sun can be so much more powerful ( about 3X) at warming the surface than the average W/m^2?

That the next W/m^2 is 3X more powerful than the average W/m^2 is a prediction of the nominal ECS. The scientific method demands that we test these predictions. What test doesn’t falsify the nominal ECS? If every W/m^2 was as powerful as the next one is claimed to be, the surface temperature would be close to the boiling point of water.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
July 1, 2019 10:08 pm


Back to my question.

We can trivially connect the dots between the 1 W/m^2 per W/m^2 of forcing characteristic of a black body and the 1.62 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing characteristic of the Earth by considering it a non ideal black body, or gray body, whose non unit emissivity is 0.62. I’m sure you’ve seen my plot demonstrating the measured relationship between the monthly average surface temperature (Y-axis) and monthly average emissions at TOA (X-axis), where the green line is the prediction of a gray body whose temperature is that of the surface, whose emissivity is 0.62 and whose emissions are that of the planet. The small dots are monthly averages and the larger dots are the average across 3 decades of satellite data. This relationship is undeniable and the underlying data even came from GISS.

The IPCC presumes an ECS requiring a sensitivity factor of about o.8C per W/m^2 which is equivalent to 4.4 W/m^2 of incremental surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing and well above the theoretical and measured average of 1.62 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing.

You must necessarily become a skeptic unless you can explain how the planet can distinguish the next W/m^2 of forcing from the 240 W/m^2 from the Sun, so that the next one can increase surface emissions by 4.4 W/m^2 rather than 1.62 W/m^2 like all the others. This is the difference between 3C +/- 1.5C for the forcing said to arise from doubling CO2 and 1.1C +/- 0.1C whose upper bound is below the IPCC’s stated lower bound.

It can’t be feedback, as feedback can’t tell one Joule from any other either, thus the same feedback must operate on each W/m^2.

How can you explain this in a way that’s consistent with your position? What’s so special about the next W/m^2?

If each of the 240 W/m^2 from the Sun contributed 4.4 W/m^2 to the surface emissions, the equivalent average surface temperature would be close to the boiling point of water. The surface is definitely not boiling making this test an undeniable falsification based on a failed prediction of the nominal ECS presumed by the IPCC.

What makes this so hard to understand? I really want to know.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 2, 2019 1:47 am

The problem with applying SB as you are doing is that you don’t have a single temperature. The SB formula supposes a surface at a uniform temperature. If you had a layer of radiating gas over a surface, all at the same temperature, SB would still work, even though outward radiation comes from various levels. But if the gas is at varying temperature, then you can’t use SB any more. You have to go to radiative transfer equations.

That is the case with the Earth. Outward radiation originates from regions varying widely in temperature. You can’t just simplify down to a surface and apply SB. OK, that’s what people do in deriving the 255K Snowball Earth. But they recognise that you can’t take that too far.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 2, 2019 9:26 am


If the Earth had no atmosphere, radiation exiting to space would still be originating from regions of the surface at different temperatures, yet the steady state average for each point on the surface will still be 1 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of local forcing received from the Sun. In this case, the average planet emissions are also 1 W/m^2 per W/m^2 of forcing independent of the local temperatures/emissions. It’s perfectly valid to geometrically average emissions because Joules are Joules making superposition applicable to W/m^2, but not temperature, although superposition does apply to T^4 . One of the most significant errors in climate science is assuming superposition is valid for T ((W/m^2)^0.25), rather than T^4 (W/m^2).

The EQUIVALENT steady state average emissions temperature of the planet is the same as the EQUIVALENT temperature of the energy arriving from the Sun, independent of the spectral characteristics of either or the properties of the atmosphere between the surface in direct thermal equilibrium with the Sun and space. The fact that it’s not the same everywhere is why only an EQUIVALENT energy based model has any relationship to the reality of the systems bulk behavior, i.e. its sensitivity to change, per the IPCC’s definition of the ECS as a bulk property of radiant forcing.

Look at my plot more carefully. Each dot represents a 2.5 degree slice of latitude whose temperature varies from pole to pole, yet the average behavior of the columns of atmosphere above the pixels in each slice exhibits a remarkably constant attenuation allowing about 62% of those surface emissions to eventually escape into space, independent of the surface temperature and its corresponding emissions.

The kinetic temperature of the gases in the atmosphere, i.e. a temperature manifested by collisions, is irrelevant to the radiation leaving the planet, the radiant balance or the ECS. Collisions can only exchange energy with the surface and not with space.

The only energy originating from gas molecules that can leave the planet are the photons emitted by energized GHG molecules as they transition to a lower state. This is largely independent of the kinetic temperature of those molecules and is a first order function of the absorbable flux originating from the surface (or clouds). Collisions lack the energy to cause a transition to a higher state, but have enough to result in the finite probability of inducing the emission of a photon as it causes a transition to a lower state. This is often conflated with ‘thermalization’ which only occurs when an energized GHG molecule condenses upon or is dissolved within a droplet of cloud water. Otherwise, transitions to a lower state always occur coincident with the emission of a photon, although small amounts of energy can be converted in equal amounts to and from the much lower energy rotational states.

Radiant energy is absorbed and emitted by the water in clouds, but relative to the bulk behavior, the lengths of time over which averages are calculated and the tight coupling to surface waters by the hydro cycle. the absorption and emission by the water in clouds can be considered a proxy for the absorption and emission of photons by the oceans.

The complex interaction of clouds seems to converge the climate system to an equivalent bulk emissivity of about 0.62. Under clear skies, the equivalent emissivity of the planet relative to surface emissions is significantly higher while when clouds are present, it’s significantly lower and the average 2/3 of the planet covered by clouds establishes the average EQUIVALENT emissivity at about 0.62. That this is 1/golden_ratio may be a coincidence, although I have also developed some interesting reasoning explaining how this ratio may be an immutable requirement as the attractor of the chaos driving the system to a steady state solution.

Your previous comment doesn’t invalidate the question I asked, which still demands an answer.

John Minich
Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 4:01 pm

Mike Lowe: My archeology is weak, but I think I have read of remnants of clay pot “batteries” a thousand years old, maybe using vinegar or some other weak acid. Use unknown. I agree with the sentiment “We’ll have it next week.”—- “Oh yeah ?”.

Don K
Reply to  John Minich
June 29, 2019 5:44 pm

I imagine you’re talking about the “Baghdad Battery”. It’s an odd object — probably 1500 to 2300 years old that might have been a Copper-Iron cell using a weak acid (vinegar or lemon juice) electrolyte. It’s not clear that it was actually a battery cell and, if it was, what it could have been useful for. see

Reply to  Don K
June 30, 2019 1:41 am

There are theories that electroplating was discovered and used long before the “official” Italian discovery of it about 200 years ago.

No reliable artifacts have been found, though. That could be (again, theory) because governments that issued precious metal coinage suppressed the technique whenever it popped up.

R Shearer
Reply to  Writing Observer
June 30, 2019 5:50 pm

Could be the Dendera light bulb or vibrator.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 5:08 pm

Reliance on the “next generation” of batteries is part of the belief system that sustains the true believers. It was articulated again by David Suzuki last week on (yet another!!) CBC radio program about climate change. I listened for half a minute, which was as long as I could take it.

To power a whole city/country while the wind doesn’t blow is several “next generations” away.

Reply to  Smart Rock
June 30, 2019 3:20 pm

A renewable electricity grid does not work with wind alone. Solar (local and big utility plants), wind, biomass, hydro pumped storage and other storage work together as an integrated system fulfilling the demand. That this is possible was shown in german projects a long time ago – over the period of a whole year.

Demand Management is another lever. Defer usage to when renewables are producing. Heat hot water when the sun is shining, not at night. This complements the Duck Curve perfectly (Google it).

Oh, and don’t forget Energy Efficiency that leads to a much lower demand – or the renewable grid gets expensive. EE is the best bang for our buck. It pays for itself – most of the time over five years or faster in my experience.

It’s possible with a little bit of imagination.

Reply to  Diemo
July 1, 2019 1:44 am

“That this is possible was shown in german projects a long time ago – over the period of a whole year.”

A WHOLE YEAR! Fantastic. Could you please provide a reference?

On the other hand I do know of several similar attempts that were dismal failures: the Spanish el Hierro project or the Swedish Simris project for example. The latter is still ongoing and actually works at the moment, it being high summer and strong winds (a rare combination by the way):

Reply to  Diemo
July 1, 2019 9:22 am

You forget to mention that the fact that German grid is far from being completely renewable. You also ignore the fact that the German grid is also connected to the rest of the European grid, which keeps it stable.

Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 5:59 pm

Not developed????
Heck, they haven’t even been invented yet.

Tom Halla
Reply to  MarkW
June 29, 2019 6:04 pm

Running a grid with battery backup would require batteries with the performance of Robert Heinlein’s “Shipstones”, which remain fiction.

Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 6:38 pm

Remember the A123 battery flop? Obama wasted I forget how many hundreds of millions of dollars on this debacle.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 29, 2019 7:32 pm

The battery was invented by Volta around 1800.

The basic problem is that all batteries are bound by their chemistry. The chemistry determines the voltage, the number of electrons that are available, and the rate at which they will flow. Battery chemistry is all inorganic chemistry. Inorganic chemistry is a mature science. There is no reason to believe that there is an untried combination of elements will produce more energy per mole than the ones we know about. Any improvements in batteries will be incremental and very unlikely to change the economics of battery use very much.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
June 30, 2019 1:43 am

The basic problem with batteries is that they are a chemical reaction on a surface that requires both sides of the equation. So, 2D storage.

In contrast, petroleum is a three dimensional energy source where the “other half” of the equation (Oxygen) is freely available (except in space) and doesn’t need to be transported around.

If I were wanting to store energy from wind – what I’d do is use the power to run a conversion process to convert coal to petrol (which was done in S.Africa during the trade embargoes). But the problem for that is:

1) It’s old technology so academics hate it as there’s no research funding
2) It’s costly technology
3) It’s costly technology where the added cost is very easy to measure and that makes it look totally moronic.

Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 30, 2019 1:36 am

The people pushing these “solutions” are by and large those who get research grant to research these “solutions” (which never are).

Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 30, 2019 2:21 pm

There will never be any “breakthrough” in battery technology.

Why not? Because the theoretical limit is well known. Batteries store electricity chemically, and it is easy to calculate what the best possible battery is, since we know the electron structure of all elements. The best possible is a lithium-air (or rather lithium-oxygen) battery. There will never, ever be anything better, and the best is not nearly as good as fossil fuels.

Incidentally several other forms of storage are not quite so limited, we might for example find much better materials for flywheels or capacitors, or some material that is superconducting at high temperature and high current density. I don’t say that we will, but there doesn’t seem to be any natural laws that absolutely prevent it.

matthew dalby
June 29, 2019 2:49 pm

It isn’t just a case of needing to store enough electricity for several windless days. If domestic heating is to be decarbonised then one of the options is heat pumps. In Northern regions this would lead to massive increases in electricity demand in winter (when solar power produces little if any electricity) so months rather than days worth of storage capacity would be required. This seems to be something that is conveniently overlooked by proponents of renewable energy.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  matthew dalby
June 29, 2019 5:55 pm

and then there’s also to be millions of personal EV’s being plugged in to the grid en mass every night.
It’s why places like NY and Cal are headed for disaster with technology dumb Governors like Cuomo and Newsome.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  matthew dalby
June 29, 2019 6:15 pm

additionally, heat pumps are only efficient/effective down to ~30 degree Fahrenheit differential, then additional resistive heating has to be applied to produce reasonable inside temps of 68 F. When outside temp is 35 F or less, which is a very large p% of the time in the northern states in winter, then electrical resistive heating will skyrocket electrical demand.

This is the reason Cuomo is blocking natural gas pipeline expansions into lower New York state.
It will gradually push out natural gas, make the people and businesses ever more dependent on ever more expensive electricity. Electricity that by political mandate must come from wind turbines, wind turbines that the GreenSlime has invested in, political mandates that the GreenSlime paid for by buying off the Democrats, and then the billions of dollars just flow like confetti at a ticker tape parade into Tom Styer’s and the Rockfeller’s pockets. And it has nothing at all to do with climate change, other than that being the scam to dupe an ignorant public to its fleecing.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 6:52 am

I am glad you mention heat pumps. I have been pilloried on this site several times by even mentioning heat pumps. We have a group here who simply state, ex catherdra-like, a dogma about heat pumps running on electricity and not being cost competitive with natural gas, and so on, and won’t think a bit more deeply about they are saying.

If one uses the earth beneath the structure to maintain a relatively constant temperature, a “geothermal” heat pump in the common language, then one can overcome the problem of the COP declining with lower air temperatures. In effect we are moving heat from places and times where there is too much to places and times we need it. The theoretical COP for a heat pump between 260K and 310K is about 6. At such a COP one supplies only one unit of electrical work to withdraw 5 units of heat from a cold reservoir at 260K (and any reasonable location has soil always above such temperature) and transfers all 6 units of heat energy to the place needing heat. Even considering one is burning coal to make the electricity to run the heat pump, there are times and places where a heat pump makes sense from both economic and efficiency standpoints. One can even use it to simultaneously supply heat for domestic hot water and air conditioning for the house.

One problem is that a geothermal heat pump is difficult to install after initial construction, leaving most retrofits to be an air source heat pump. Even so, if the alternative is electric baseboard heating, then even a poor heat pump looks like magic. The other problem is that HVAC contractors are almost universally ignorant about heat pumps. In two homes where I have asked a contractor to configure the AC so it can act as a heat pump, their first question is “what’s that?” Then the last problem is scheduling the use of a heat pump to take best advantage of it. The best heat pumps available have a seasonal rating efficiency of about 13, which translates to a COP of 3.6; but this is entirely a matter of factoring in that people tend to use the heat pump inefficiently.

I have been around this block several times with installing heat pumps in homes from Washington state to Wyoming. Even using air as the reservoir makes sense during the spring and fall, but getting the installation done right, and programming thermostats to use two sources of heating effectively is way beyond the ability of contractors, and common thermostats.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 1, 2019 1:54 am

I am a fan of heat pumps, having used one for nearly 20 years to heat my home (heat pumps came in early in Sweden).

It works well if you have a good supply of ground water, and not too many neighbours plugged into the same reservoir. It can be used for sole-source heating down to about 5-10 F (at least in my case). Below that extra direct electrical heating is needed. Air-based heat pumps perform significantly worse since the heat capacity of air is so low.

And yes, it requires considerably more electrical power than heating with fossil fuel, but less than direct electrical heating (in Sweden typically about half as much for water-based systems).

So yes, changing over from gas heating to heat pumps in the US will require a massive increase in electrical generation, particularly during winter of course.

Reply to  matthew dalby
June 30, 2019 3:24 pm

Housing has to become way more efficient, that’s a necessary fact. In the best case 90% more efficient than existing dwellings, like the Passive House Standard.

Reply to  Diemo
July 1, 2019 1:41 am

We are now being advised to open windows to prevent build up of indoor pollutants. Don’t know what that does to your Passivhaus!

Reply to  Diemo
July 1, 2019 1:59 am

Passive Houses require efficient forced ventilation. We have tried it without in Sweden. The result is known as “sjuka hus” (“sick buildings”)

June 29, 2019 2:53 pm

No problem, there are already huge stores of the raw materials required for electricity generation.

Reply to  Vuk
June 29, 2019 3:12 pm

Yes, Coal!

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Vuk
June 29, 2019 7:55 pm

Yes, Thorium!

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 1:42 am

Yes, yes!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  John
June 30, 2019 5:53 am

Thorium still needs to be enriched with a neutron to be fissile. And that is not going to happen.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
June 30, 2019 5:31 pm

Then how is it that thorium research reactors have worked just fine? Thorium is not self-fissioning like uranium. It does require a neutron source to fission. U235 can be used in the mix to start the fission process. The thorium reaction generates a small amount of U233 to help continue the reaction. It doesn’t take a lot of either the U235 or U233 to generate the neutrons needed to continue the thorium fission reaction.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Patrick MJD
June 30, 2019 7:51 pm

Research reactors are one thing, commercial, grid sized reactors are something else altogether. That’s why there aren’t any

On the outer Barcoo
Reply to  Vuk
June 30, 2019 7:47 am

So-called “spent” uranium fuel just sitting on concrete pads around the US

June 29, 2019 3:02 pm

Money would be better spent researching fusion energy. Can’t see battery ever being usefully for this

Reply to  Jamie
June 29, 2019 5:00 pm

Will useful fusion come before the miracle battery?

I was just checking on when the current ETA for fusion is.
Wikipedia says 2050 (ref 217) … about 30 years.

John Holden, a fusion advocate, says in Scientific American:

“Fusion is not going to generate a kilowatt-hour before 2050, in my judgment, but—
[Q]Hasn’t fusion been 30 years away for the past 30 years?
It’s actually worse than that. I started working on fusion in 1966. I did my master’s thesis at M.I.T. in plasma physics, and at that time people thought we’d have fusion by 1980. It was only 14 years away. By 1980 it was 20 years away. By 2000 it was 35 years away.”

Reply to  Toto
June 29, 2019 5:51 pm

Will useful fusion come before the miracle battery?

That’s a trick question. The probability that either will happen by the time we run out of fossil fuels is about zero.

Every once in a while, I check out the past month’s internet pages on ammonia fuel. Ammonia at least is cheap to store in big tanks. It can fuel large diesel engines. link link We’ve been able to make ammonia from electricity and water for more than a century.

Reply to  commieBob
June 30, 2019 1:49 am

So no research grants for academics!

The key to understanding this scam, is that old reliable technology (hydro/pump-storage) is never mentioned by the advocates of change, who are almost always pushing something that benefits themselves by huge research grants into NEW and UNRELIABLE technology.

Rhys Jaggar
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
June 30, 2019 2:32 am

Academic research is supposed to be blue sky thinking.

You want to test reliable old technology, find conservative companies to test it. You know: firms selling boring old stuff that works.

Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
June 30, 2019 5:33 am

Pumped hydro has worked well for over a century. It actually saves a lot of money. The trouble is that it relies on favorable geography. In most places it isn’t viable.

Reply to  Toto
June 30, 2019 3:07 pm

ITER is planning to produce 500mw for periods of 20 minutes by 2050 or something.
Looks way more expensive than fission, or even solar/wind.

June 29, 2019 3:02 pm

Whilst pumped storage seems to be a means to utilise a fluctuating supply of power from wind or solar installations, does it really achieve anything positive? As gas is part of the electricity generation mix I wonder if it would be more efficient and cost effective to instead to regulate the gas generators to accommodate the fluctuating renewable supply thus conserving the gas in the ground storage and avoiding the inefficiencies of pumping water uphill only to release again. Has the cost effectiveness analysis of such an alternative ever been carried out?

Reply to  kalsel3294
June 29, 2019 5:07 pm

Current spot price for gas is $10/GJ. This translates to a fuel cost of $120/MWh for electric output from an OCGT. Unconstrained wind energy costs about half this so it is an economic gas fuel substitute if gas cost is the current spot price. In the case of the USA, Henry Hub price is only $2.4/GJ so wind is not an economic substitute for utilities paying this price.

The current spot price for thermal coal is $82/T. This translates to a fuel cost of $13/MWh for a modern coal plant. So wind is not an economic substitute for coal or nuclear, which has even lower fuel cost than coal.

So the economics depends on the fuel mix and the cost of each fuel. Once the wind capacity is at a level that it impinges on coal generation then it will be adding to overall supply cost.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  RickWill
June 29, 2019 7:52 pm

The fact that the modern Wind Turbine industry and generation-production output would collapse overnight if the federal subsidies and tax credits were withdrawn is clear evidence many of the costs of wind and solar are currently being hidden. Hidden by artificial market manipulation by the government.

Some other significant, currently hidden renewable energy costs include tear-down and replacement for wind turbines that are NOT lasting as long as advertised. Amortized depreciated capital asset value is already SOP on the tax forms, its just when that day comes and it has to be replaced, who’s gonna pay for it? The salt-water marine environment is the by far the toughest and the renewable advocates are not being honest about off-shore wind life-cycle costs including replacement. But as with most things from the Democratic Party, honesty about costs is not welcome.

To contrast that with the nuclear industry or the conventional power industry, many large-scale plants can and do operate well past their initial design lifetimes with planned re-fits that are not part of some government subsidy scheme.

Reply to  RickWill
June 30, 2019 1:55 am

What people fail to understand is that most of the cost of wind is the cost of raw material, transport etc, and either directly (through energy use) or indirectly (through materials), that cost is in turn is controlled by the price of energy.

So, if a country were daft enough to move from reliable cheap sources like coal, the wind, then although the current price of wind is higher – as soon as you have to start making windmills using expensive energy from wind … the cost of wind is a LOT HIGHER. And that in turn then further increases the cost of energy which makes the cost of wind a LOT LOT HIGHER. Not only that, but the cost of all raw materials, foods, etc, all increase in cost and … well … it becomes the economics of the lunatic asylum.

Reply to  kalsel3294
July 1, 2019 2:09 am

Direct cycle gas turbines work well for matching fluctuating wind/solar, but have low efficiency. Combined cycle gas has high efficiency (up to 60+ %) but can’t be ramped up or down rapidly. Running them as direct cycle gets even worse efficiency than turbines specifically designed for direct-cycle operation.

June 29, 2019 3:03 pm

Pumped storage (and maybe batteries) can play a role in the very short-term, perhaps over days. There will always be about 20% loss of energy for storing, so we should also keep in mind that electricity storage means more primary electricity has to be produced.

But, to get through the winter with secure electricity supply requires energy storage on a scale determined by the increase in winter demand above the annual average. The only practical way to do this is to store energy as fuel (coal) and retain the ability to ramp-up these fuelled (coal fired) power stations when demand rises and reaches its seasonal peak.

Batteries would be hopelessly ineffective and expensive for this crucial element of securing power supply. It has to be coal.

June 29, 2019 3:22 pm

Imagine if the money being spent on these stupid ineffective renewable schemes was spent on something New Yorkers actually need, like helping poor people learn new economically useful skills, or more rehab places for drug addicts.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 29, 2019 8:21 pm

In other words, take it from one thing that works p;oorly and put into another thing that works poorly.
Is this what New Yorkers actually need?

June 29, 2019 3:26 pm

Renewables idealists desperately need to wake up from their childish dreams to the basics of engineering, … at least get some clue that there are basic engineering realities of which they have zero grasp.

Even I don’t know much about the basics, but I have a grasp that there ARE basics that I don’t know, which limit what wind and solar can do on a mass scale.


Reply to  Robert Kernodle
June 29, 2019 8:26 pm

What would you guess is the gross amount (of $) invested in ‘green energy’ (like unto the money invested in extremely overextended real estate schemes during the last housing bubble)?

I suggest that, not practicality or physics, is the driving force.

June 29, 2019 3:40 pm

To paraphrase, “there are liars, there are good liars, and then there are battery researchers. The big breakthrough was is always around the corner.” As someone who worked in the auto industry for over 36 years, I was always shocked to observe really smart engineers buy into the big breakthrough is around the corner sales pitch.

John Minich
Reply to  Mohatdebos
June 29, 2019 4:24 pm

Mohatdebos: Your comment on smart engineers buy into the big breakthrough reminded me of an article I read in a European train magazine in which the Austrian Railway was looking into state of the art systems for train control. One of the officials commented on going to a number of trade shows to see what was available. He commented (not quoting) that his perspective was that, after seeing some heavily promoted systems disappear in a year or so and some systems not performing as touted, his main concern was what would work well and reliably over the whole Austrian rail system.

Michael S. Kelly, LS BSA, Ret
Reply to  Mohatdebos
June 29, 2019 5:32 pm

Henry Ford was convinced by his good friend Thomas Edison that batteries for electric cars were “just around the corner.” Ford confidently predicted the imminent replacement of internal combustion engine power for cars by battery storage. He spent millions on Edison nickel-iron batteries, but they never achieved the energy density, efficiency, or life required for an electric car – even one with the limited performance corresponding to gasoline cars of the era. The Ford electric car quietly faded away.

There’s a fundamental reason batteries will never be capable of grid-level storage. All of them operate on an oxidation-reduction chemical reaction, which is by definition a chemical reaction in which one substance (the “oxidizer”) accepts electrons from the reducing agent (“fuel”). Actual oxygen need not be involved. In fact, one grid-scale battery uses the same element as both fuel and oxidizer: the vanadium cell uses vanadium in two different oxidation states.

In any event, storing energy in this manner is exactly like producing fuel AND the oxygen needed to burn it, stored in the same container. A coal-fired power plant has the lowest air/fuel ratio of all of the combustion-driven plants, between 9 and 11 weight units air per weight unit coal, and is about 41% efficient in converting the combustion energy into electric power. A battery may have an 80% charge/discharge efficiency, and hence would be able to store and deliver energy with half of the chemical mass of coal and air. That’s best case.

A 1 GWe power plant consumes 10,000 tons of coal per day, and consequently between 90,000 to 110,000 tons of air. To store a day’s output of 1 GW of “renewable” energy would required something on the order of 100,000 to 120,000 tons of chemicals (not counting the battery casing). If one desires a week’s worth of reserve, it’s 700,000 to 840,000 tons. The U.S. has about 1,000 GW of installed generating capacity, including all sources. Backing all of that up would require between 700 million and 840 million tons of chemicals, not counting the casings.

It will never happen.

Lois Johnson
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly, LS BSA, Ret
June 29, 2019 6:15 pm

I actually own one of Edison’s’ Ni-Fe batteries that were used at a mine for lights on mining hats. They are really cool looking. But I wouldn’t want for a car.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly, LS BSA, Ret
June 29, 2019 6:16 pm

Now THAT’s a wake-up call.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly, LS BSA, Ret
June 29, 2019 8:20 pm

Michael writes

To store a day’s output of 1 GW of “renewable” energy would required something on the order of 100,000 to 120,000 tons of chemicals (not counting the battery casing).

This is totally misleading. The coal is consumed every day whereas the batteries can be charged over and over again for thousands of uses. Terrible argument.

Batteries are not sources of energy, they’re there to smooth out the supply in the face of varying demand. They rely on energy supplies such as coal (or renewables) so its not an “either/or” proposition.

Reply to  TimTheToolMan
June 30, 2019 11:38 am

You write “The coal is consumed every day whereas the batteries can be charged over and over again for thousands of uses.”
Indeed so, but – as I understand it – every charging of those batteries needs energy [electricity] to be generated somewhere.
If the batteries are run down (discharged) to make up for unreliable power [solar, wind, etc.], then electricity must be generated for use by the consumer – and then more generated for the batteries, so they can be recharged.
Indeed, batteries are not sources of energy – as you say.
But if energy is wanted, it must come from somewhere.
And if it’s dark the solar plants will supply nothing.


R Shearer
Reply to  TimTheToolMan
June 30, 2019 5:59 pm

Toolman, Michael was perfectly correct in his ballpark estimate, which all goes back to the fundamental redox reaction. Nowhere did he say the battery’s components were consumed. He was simply estimating the chemical requirements for various capacities and times.

Reply to  R Shearer
July 1, 2019 12:20 am

R Shearer writes

He was simply estimating the chemical requirements for various capacities and times.

No he didn’t. He started off with the statement

There’s a fundamental reason batteries will never be capable of grid-level storage.

Which is, as I said, a terrible argument based on tonnages of materials.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly, LS BSA, Ret
July 1, 2019 2:36 am

As a matter of fact you don’t have to lug the oxidant around. It is quite feasible to build batteries that use air (=oxygen) as the oxidizer. The best theoretically possible battery is lithium-air, which is however technically very challenging, lithium metal in large quantities not being easy to handle to put it mildly.
An aluminium-air battery would be much simpler and also has good energy density, but is not rechargeable.

An odd side effect of using such batteries is that they are much heavier discharged (=oxidized) than when charged, since they suck the oxidizer literally out of the air. Not so good for vehicle applications.

HD Hoese
June 29, 2019 3:42 pm

Happened to run across this. Article in India Environmental Law publication on need for nuclear because of difficulties in renewable energy. Open Access, hard to navigate, but if I did it anybody can. Seemed to surprise the editor, but allowed it.

John Minich
June 29, 2019 3:45 pm

When it comes to pumped storage here in California, we have the terrain to make use of upper and lower dams, but our left wing democrat state government has and is prohibiting the building of more dams. It seems that dams hurt the “environment” by blocking free flowing streams and flooding habitat upstream of the dams. In addition, in Sacramento, the state capital, the legislature is working on passing a bill that would ban the use of natural gas for generating electricity, for heating businesses and homes and for cooking. The “idea” is for California to become a 100% electric state, or nearly so, but the “claim” (from what I understand) is 100%. First, new buildings and homes are to be all electric, then older ones are to be retrofitted. I think the bill will have no “grand father clause”. Since a number of areas in California, north, central, and south, often to always go over one hundred degrees in the summer, and the need for air conditioning, since we have already had brown-outs and black-outs for years, the future looks “interesting”. Will hospitals, emergency services, food storage places and so on be allowed to have stand by generators ? What about people living at home who need electrically powered medical equipment ? When I was living in Minnesota, I had a nasty case of heat exhaustion and don’t want to go through that again. So, what the (quotation marks) “environmentalists” are doing here makes me that much more nervous.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  John Minich
June 29, 2019 5:50 pm

“…in Sacramento, the state capital, the legislature is working on passing a bill that would ban the use of natural gas for generating electricity, for heating businesses and homes and for cooking. The “idea” is for California to become a 100% electric state, “

The Tom Steyer-led GreenSlime in Cal now owns and controls > 90% of those Sacramento Democrats, those that he doesn’t then the public unions do. They do his bidding. And if have a “Road to Damascus” moment of lucidity and they cross their campaign paymasters, they’ll get a funded primary challenger at their next re-election and be gone from their cushy jobs in Sacramento. It’s how most of them got there in the first place. All the reasonable folks got “primaried out” by the Democrats’ special interests.

But everything the Dems do in this regards, makes California more un-livable for a middle class, less business friendly, more expensive housing costs, upping outward migration from the state. A downward spiral from which it can’t recover, and when the next downturn comes, it will crash hard and fast. The time to get out is before that happens.
Cal has zero future now with its political structure that can’t be budged, just like Venezuela can’t shake its socialist Maduro, and NKorea can’t get rid of Kim dynasty of dictators. Cal’s democrats have now rigged the system too far in their favor, both in campaign and election laws, and with demographics of those dependent on state entitlement largess.

The outflow of people is now accelerating again for California. The privately funded aerospace industry is now building facilities in Texas, Virginia, and Florida. There is no future for those industries in an energy expensive state like Cal with its additional environmental regulations.
The only reason companies like Lockheed keep their government contract work in California now is because doing so ensures Cal’s big congressional delegation in the House will vote for systems built in state (like the Skunkworks in Palmdale) to build the US Air Force’s next stealth bomber.
Only the wealthiest of Cal’s retirees will stay in Cal in the coming years, and most of those will get 2nd homes in Nevada or Washington State (zero income tax states) and claim 185 days residency out of California to avoid the crushing high income taxes that are coming (yes, even higher than they are now. If you don’t think so, then you didn’t watch the Democrat’s debates last week).
Cal really is doomed to a coming sudden state-wide collapse at the next hard recession.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  John Minich
June 29, 2019 7:40 pm

I think that is a great idea. The people of California deserve it.

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

H.L. Mencken

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
June 30, 2019 12:22 am

Yes, bring it on!
The quicker it becomes “reduction as absurdum” the quicker it hopefully will bring people to their senses.

Reply to  StephenP
June 30, 2019 10:48 pm

You optimist, you.

June 29, 2019 3:50 pm

Using Lithium batteries of any type for electricity storage are surely going to be very expensive, especially when they have degraded performance over time with each discharge cycle. These types of batteries are best used for the lite weight mobility factor they were designed for. It would be better to use something like a stationary vanadium redox flow battery, which is better suited to high charge/discharge rates and long term discharge cycles that don’t affect performance over time.

We reviewed the Gravity battery here 6 months or so ago…which was a million cement blocks that were lifted with 6 cranes and stacked, holding their energy potential in gravity, for the trip down at a later time when required. Seems like a lot of effort making all the cement clocks for a minimal amount of electricity.

The compressed air bladder under water idea looks interesting, where surplus or cheap electricity makes high pressure air and filling air bladder bags under water up to 175 deep under the water surface. If I understand why under water, is that the water pressure allows the bladders to receive more energy potential for the same size due to the water pressure. When electricity is required, the compressed air is run backwards through the air compressor, diving the generator. It can be scaled for more volume of compressed air and heat storage. It is a synchronous spinning reserve electricity that maintains grid frequency, so is a better product than a giant inverter supplying the grid. for a link to the Toronto demonstration unit.

Reply to  Earthling2
June 29, 2019 6:06 pm

The biggest problem with underwater air bladders is that air heats up when it is compressed. This heat will quickly be dissipated to the water, losing a huge chunk of the energy that was used to compress the air in the first place. I’d be surprised if you could get more than 50% of the energy you put into this system back.

Randy Wester
Reply to  MarkW
June 29, 2019 7:41 pm

Yes, but they lose 100% of curtailed wind, hydro, solar, and nuclear power (my understandig is they more or less dump the heat to curtail, rather than fiddle with the reactor). And the expansion cycle could be used for cooling when needed, such as using the compressed air to drive refrigeration. And there are ways to store some of the heat of compression. But yeah 50% might be optomistic.

Reply to  MarkW
June 29, 2019 8:16 pm

The old compressed air projects in salt caverns are indeed only 50% efficient mainly because of the heat loss. The newer Hydrostor process captures the heat, stores it in insulated water tanks and reheats the air before use. So they get their efficiency up to 65%-70%, which isn’t great but if the whole process is relatively cheap and easy to build and the facility has a life span of 50-75 years with some maintenance and no power degradation, then it is a much better option than the expensive Li-Ion battery with a 10-15 year life span, and decreasing efficiency over time. The efficiency of Li-Ion also starts to take a big hit after 1000-2000 charge/discharge cycles, so maybe it’s long term efficiency winds up at 75%-80%, but the costs are so high that the raw materials for the Lion batteries become prohibitively expensive for such a short life span.

This article has a bit more information, including their new more advanced compressed air project lifting water with the bladder tech from one elevation to another very similar to pumped hydro. The engineering is interesting, although I think all batteries of every type come with such inefficiencies that they are not practical for all out grid storage. Maybe niche applications, like grid peak levelling every 6 hours to meet morning/evening grid surge. Charge during the day for evening demand, and charge during off peak night time for the morning demand. Then you can meet demand at full efficiency without throttling the generator up and down.

Reply to  Earthling2
June 30, 2019 9:13 am

Color me very, very skeptical regarding the claims of being able to capture, store and return the heat.
Heat transfer relies on a large difference in temperature.
To transfer the heat from the air to the storage water requires the storage water to not heat up much. However to transfer the heat back from the water to the air requires the water to be much hotter than the air.

Beyond that, insulation is problematic, the hotter the water, the more heat you are going to lose over time. Especially since it will be in deep water which is itself quite cold.

In other words, you are getting a small increase in efficiency in exchange for a huge increase in system costs.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Earthling2
June 29, 2019 7:34 pm

Just about any crazy engineering scheme is possible when you’re willing to spend OPM without limit without remorse or trade-off analysis. And it’s all geeky fun and engineering games until that cache of OPM runs out and viable market-based economics takes-over.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 8:29 am

Not “just about” but ANY crazy engineering scheme is possible until you actually try to build and use it.

Randy Wester
Reply to  Jim Whelan
June 30, 2019 9:40 am

Hmmmm. Well, the solar panels have the batteries in my electric car at 75%, I think we’ll have our robot driver take us into town for a little shopping, and let the extra power go to the grid while we’re out for the day, in case someone else wants it. Not impossible, not done using Other People’s Money. And probably inevitable, which is the only reason Government is trying to get to the front and pretend it’s their parade.

June 29, 2019 4:01 pm

More stranded assets, but this doesn’t seem to deter these geniuses. I would like to know if ristvan is going to eat a plate of crow when the first thermal plants go into service using the hydrino tech …

Reply to  _Jim
June 30, 2019 2:49 pm

Ristvan will be long gone before Hell freezes over, which is when “hydrino tech” will be producing power, so no he won’t be eating a plate of crow.

“Hydrinos” are every bit as much a fraud as ecat, emdrive, and Keeely motor.

Reply to  acementhead
June 30, 2019 5:31 pm

Ah – a bite …

Maybe you can explain the non-radiative “condition” we find the electron in in a normal atom? (PS: A so-called “charged particle” should “radiate” EM energy when in an orbit around a nucleus, and the electron does not. Can you explain why?)

Secondly, can you explain the “rest” (non-excited) state the electron finds itself in in a hydrogen atom?

Reply to  _Jim
June 30, 2019 5:56 pm

acementhead June 30, 2019 at 2:49 pm
Ristvan will be long gone before Hell freezes over, which is when “hydrino tech” will be producing power, so no he won’t be eating a plate of crow.

“Hydrinos” are every bit as much a fraud as ecat, emdrive, and Keeely motor.

I don’t think you’ve kept up with developments in any of these areas (save for Keeely, which I have no knowledge of and Rossi, who does not publish technical papers of his developments), and have become jaded (for whatever reason), and probably didn’t/don’t have the capacity to do a reasonable evaluation of a technical area outside your specialty (if you have one) to begin with. Along with ‘schooling’ that was perhaps adequate for the field and era in which you first worked, you may find yourself ill-equipped to make a reasoned judgement let alone an informed observation of the on-goings presently.

I took a good long, hard look over the course of a year at Mills work from late 2016-2017, and came to a different conclusion than your scornful review. Some of your summary judgement is no doubt based on the ill-informed and distorted evaluation by others, who did not take the opportunity to review Mills new experimental work (so prior evaluation by you and others would be quite outdated) including UV spectroscopy (which requires special setup) and experiments where reaction rates (and energy releases) approach usable, “utility-scale” levels.

You might be surprised to learn that “Radiation Reaction” is a thing, and presumably what the “EM Drive” is based on (but don’t quote me on this). Maybe you need some edification in this area too:

R Shearer
Reply to  _Jim
June 30, 2019 7:51 pm

Mills should have to share a cell with Rossi.

Eugene Wynsen
June 29, 2019 4:02 pm

Has anyone sent this article to Susan Collins and Bill DeBlasio?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Eugene Wynsen
June 29, 2019 8:08 pm

Bill DeBlasio was off yelling Che Guevera “Viva la victoria siempre!” chants in Miami after his debate.
“Until victory, always,” is its English translation. The Guevara slogan is on a memorial for the left-wing insurgent in Castro’s Havana Plaza de Revolución.
The man is menace to democracy. Really.

So do you really think the Comrade Mayor cares about reading an engineering reality check on Green Lunacy, a lunacy which is just a socialist-inspired scheme for more government power?

The only option for these people is to vote them out of office, and keep them out of political office. To expect them to change because someone manages to tell them a truth is insane.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 9:15 am

Apparently Beto spent the weekend in Mexico campaigning.

R Shearer
Reply to  MarkW
June 30, 2019 7:56 pm

Registering Dems.

Doug Ward
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 11:51 am

“Mandating the addition of wind and solar to power systems is like forcing a one-car family to buy a second car that runs only 30% of the time. The family can’t replace the original car with the new intermittent car, but must then maintain two cars.”

I believe it more accurate to say that the family must maintain two cars and always follow the 30 percenter in the original car, i.e. provide backup for the inevitable failure. Most efficient move would be to mothball the 2nd car permanently.

Reply to  Doug Ward
June 30, 2019 1:32 pm

It’s more like mandating that the family must buy a car that only runs 30% of the time, and then pretending that there is no cost for buying a second car that works when you need it.

Randy Wester
June 29, 2019 4:19 pm

True, batteries will likely never be enough to store truly massive amounts of energy. But there’s also a half-truth in the article regarding pumped hydro. Most hydro generation uses stored energy behind dams, so there is the potential for compensating for some solar and wind variability, without the efficiency loss of pumpung.

Reply to  Randy Wester
June 29, 2019 5:04 pm

The problem is capacity. Even if you dammed every river in the USA you would still come up short for the energy storage required.

Reply to  Randy Wester
June 30, 2019 2:50 pm

There is another problem. While it is possible to install additional turbines and generators to allow a hydro plant to produce more power (for a limited period), the effects of suddenly increasing river flow downstream many times over are likely to be nasty.

Also, while hydro power lose less efficiency running power up and down than fossil plants, there is a loss in efficiency and the lifetime of the plant is shortened. TANSTAAFL to cite RAH.

Reply to  tty
June 30, 2019 10:53 pm

Ramping up/down the river flows can be achieved with a smaller forebay dam downstream of the main dam where it is ponded temporarily and then the final regulator of the water flows downstream. Plus it can be an ideal catchment basin for pumped hydro, which is to have a small stored source of water to pump back up to the reservoir thereby utilizing the same generation equipment to act as the pump/motor. Of course, it is easier to design all this into the original project, instead of adding it later. Most dams don’t have such facilities, so when they peak power twice a day, then the river is a torrent for a few hours which isn’t ideal for the natural environment. The Lake Orville Dam is a great example of a large peaking dam with a forebay downstream release dam with pumped hydro as part of the main dam power generating equipment. And a fish hatchery.

Reply to  Earthling2
July 1, 2019 1:32 am

Sure, sure. And how many places can you find with two suitable dam sites close to each other and with a large height difference and a good catchment above the upper dam?

This is the basic problem with pumped hydro. It is by far the best form of electricity storage, but unfortunately with very limited scope for expansion.

June 29, 2019 4:39 pm

‘proposing to spend $300 million to promote the development of battery solutions for electrical power.

Cos no one has been spending anything on it.

‘battery solutions for electrical power’

I don’t even know what that means.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Gamecock
June 29, 2019 5:58 pm

It means there’s a special interest somewhere to give that $300 million of OPM, special interest “constituent” that returns the favor with campaign support later.
Just buying votes with OPM. Remember Solyndra?

June 29, 2019 5:14 pm

I recall reading hat Thomas Edison gave up on batteries. He decided that
it was a dead end thing, that they were useful for starting cars etc. with a
life over two to three years use at the most.

I don’t think much has really changed since then.


Gary Pearse
June 29, 2019 5:19 pm

Steve, your articles and talks countering this Dark Ages II are greatly appreciated. Regarding your math on the 90B for battery storage actually needs to be multiplied by the fact that you will need enormous extra fleets of windmills to provide adequate charge. And God help nearby communities should such a massive unit suffer an electrical short.

Mike Smith
June 29, 2019 5:29 pm

It will be interesting to see how the environmentalists feel about mining Lithium in California to make all of these batteries.

Reply to  Mike Smith
June 29, 2019 6:37 pm

Ya mean you have to mine lithium?

Wait til gangrene peace hears that.


Reply to  joe
July 1, 2019 2:23 am

Actually the best way to “mine” it is probably to pump it out of brine reservoirs under salt flats. But it still requires concentation and purification plants, so I guess it won’t be politically correct to extract it.

Randy Wester
Reply to  tty
July 1, 2019 2:50 am

The largest chemical grid battery in the world is a 300MW sodium-sulphur system in Japan. Takes up 14,000 sq meters, about the same as 1/4 mile of road. Cheap ingredients, doesn’t scale down past about a half a SeaCan to home or EV size, seems to beat Lithium for utility scale storage. Runs at high temp so cooling is no problem.

Reply to  Randy Wester
July 1, 2019 6:39 am

Here we go again….

The Buzen battery is actually 50 MW and 300 MWh.

Randy Wester
Reply to  tty
July 1, 2019 8:06 am

Yes, sorry 300 MWH of storage, designed primarily for load shifting solar onto the evening peak, so it’s part of the cost of delivering solar at time of use. My main point was that the thing seems to be not made of almost-un-obtanium and modular and scalable.

June 29, 2019 5:36 pm

Obviously we need to build a lot of pumped storage reservoirs. But, it’s a big country; we have mountains. What’s the problem?

Reply to  Tom
June 29, 2019 6:13 pm

Two problems:
1) there aren’t enough mountains
2) They aren’t in the right places

Tom Halla
Reply to  MarkW
June 29, 2019 6:15 pm

And the green blob will not let anyone build pumped storage, unless they lose considerable power, which would also remove the need for such systems.

Reply to  MarkW
July 1, 2019 2:43 am

3) They don’t have the right shape with two reservoir-sized hollows close together at different altitudes.
4) There isn’t enough water around.

There really isn’t that many suitable places for pumped storage.

Reply to  Tom
June 29, 2019 6:14 pm

3) Many places with mountains don’t have much water

June 29, 2019 5:37 pm

These solar leveling battery installations require air conditioning in Phoenix to keep them at 75 (today it is 110)
The batteries were shut down because they are not sure why they have been exploding “Investigators have not determined the cause of the explosion, and APS has shut down two other large batteries in Arizona until the investigation is complete. Officials made no public estimate of how long that might take.”

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alan
June 29, 2019 8:23 pm

The ultimate definition of a self-licking ice cream cone:
A battery storage “solution” what must use it’s internal energy storage to run the cooling systems so the solar PV panels can keep it charging during the daylight hours. When the sun sets, the PV’s stop producing charging current, the batteries charging heat goes away, the AC’s units can mostly shutdown, and everything is okay, until the sun rises 10 hours later and it all starts over.

Even NASA should blush with envy at such a scheme.

June 29, 2019 5:43 pm

“Batteries”….. the holey grail of so called ‘renewable energy’. The sad part is people are being led to believe that grid level electrical storage is available today.

June 29, 2019 5:50 pm

Another problem with batteries is manufacturing capacity.
With useful life of a battery limited to 10 to 15 years, you wind up replacing as much as 10% of your installed capacity every year(1). Long, long before you had managed to build enough capacity to supply even a few minutes of capacity for the country, replacement alone would consume all of current manufacturing capacity.

Basically, it’s impossible to build enough enough batteries, fast enough, to come anywhere close to supplying usable battery back up for a 100% renewable system.

(1) You can forget about building any batteries for electric toy cars.

Rud Istvan
June 29, 2019 6:29 pm

I wrote up the deceptive difference between battery MW and battery MWh in essay California Dreaming in ebook Blowing Smoke, published late 2014.

As the inventor on 4 issued very basic US patents (also issued Korea, Japan, Russia, EU) on advanced energy storage materials, I can also assure everyone at WUWT that not much has changed since. Cheap large scale battery storage is a scientific chimera, no different than the hydrogen solution deconstructed in essay Hydrogen Hype in the same ebook.

Batteries have three basic parameters (ignoring economics, only considering physchem): energy density, power density, and lifetime. You can never get more than 2 of the three simultaneously, thanks to the basics of the governing Nernst equation. Unfortunately, grid applications need all three simultaneously.

June 29, 2019 6:52 pm

Re. the mention of pumped storage, that means building dams, or creating
a lake at a high elevation, the same thing. But wait, the Greens do not
approve of building Dams, it might affect something up there. Anyway
it takes a lot of energy to pump water uphill so where does that come from.
I would suspect from Fossil energy as the renewable just don’t supply a
steady flow of energy. Its a catch 22 situation.


June 29, 2019 6:56 pm

Battery storage was never meant to make up for long windless periods. It is there to manage the transitions between different power types, and to give better frequency control. Here is an analysis of what the big South Australia battery has been achieving. It is actually really useful.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2019 7:19 pm

Correct. Useless for backup power. But that’s not what’s being sold to the people. And you know it.

Reply to  markl
June 29, 2019 8:33 pm

Mark writes

that’s not what’s being sold to the people

Most people by far dont understand the issues around grid stability. But most people can see that when they’re not home during the day, that their solar roof feeding their home battery can soak up unused energy to be used later that evening and save them money.

Reply to  TimTheToolMan
June 30, 2019 9:22 am

It does save them money, however the amount of money saved is much less than the cost of the system. Unless taxpayers are buying your system for you.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2019 7:50 pm

Hey Nick. Frequency control is not needed if you have big spinning generators. It comes with the inertial energy territory.
Now, if you have asynchronous wind or solar, you have lost grid inertia. So, there are two EE solutions:
1. Add a big bunch of ultra expensive short lived batteries, as SA chose. Nuts.
2. Add massive synchronous condensers (essentially unpowered generators of generator spinning mass) that can absorb reactive power (that AC suqre root of minus one wave phase sign thingy) and provide grid inertia.

Your problem is, sufficient (2) is like adding additional equivalent rotating generating capacity but without the associated driving power turbines. Not cheap, meaning renewables (forget direct cost subsidies) are NEVER grid cost competitive on a system grid basis because lacking grid inertia. As Australia continues to prove in the real world.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 29, 2019 8:30 pm

Rud writes

Hey Nick. Frequency control is not needed if you have big spinning generators. It comes with the inertial energy territory.

Yes but batteries are a better solution when you add renewables or indeed if the grid is varying. Otherwise you end up load shedding because batteries dont just hold up the supply when the underlying generation is insufficient, they soak up any excess.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 29, 2019 9:32 pm

“Frequency control is not needed if you have big spinning generators.”
Two different ways of achieving frequency control. Batteries have capital cost, and eventual replacement cost. Generators (with flywheels) powered by FF have capital cost, replacement cost, and fuel cost. Not to mention emissions.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 9:23 am

Wow, such sophistry.
Everything has costs, so costs don’t matter.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 10:30 am

Batteries do have fuel cost, are they charged by unicorn flagrance? If they are charge by solar which has a build is loss of 25%. Solar you never retrieve the energy it took to build it, you end generally end up 25% short. I strongly believe much the same is true for wind. You losses on batteries between the energy to charge them and what you get back out is about 10% and that get worst as they age. That plenty oblivious with my golf cart right now. Just the cost of batteries for my golf cart over their life time would buy enough gasoline to drive my pickup five thousand miles, the golf cart miles are nowhere near that. This just the cost of the batteries the cost of electric to charge them is not add in yet. Yes they are lead acid batteries, the reason they are is any other battery would make golf carts unaffordable, yet that what the greenies want to do to our electric cost.

Reply to  Mark Luhman
June 30, 2019 2:43 pm

Ten percent round-trip loss is unrealistic. It requires one-way efficiency well over 95% if you consider parasitic losses. Good luck finding a battery that manages that.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
July 1, 2019 6:45 am

One other difference. Spinning generators produce electricity, batteries consume it.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2019 9:01 pm

Useful in an engineering sense…. no one doubts that. And putting big capacitors in small scale UPS systems and power supplies is always a good idea (if you can afford it/justify it for the application) to help smooth-out nasty voltage spikes and freq changes.

The question is not whether it is helpful, the question is why do you NOW need it in the first place? When spinning reserve was always the better answer from stability and overall costs in the past?

If you think this entire “green” energy and batteries is about emissions of CO2, then the entire production to replacement life-cycle of the batteries and wind turbines must be considered. And when that is done properly, the batteries and the turbines themselves cancel out any emissions decrease and simply transfer the carbon accounting elsewhere. And the only thing delivered is higher costs at less reliability.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 30, 2019 12:44 pm

Have you omitted something from your summary?
“And the only thing delivered is higher costs at less reliability.”

Also delivered – otherwise the system will not be financed, even with Other Peoples’ Money – is cash for the friends [and relatives, perhaps] of the politicians.
OPM – in large amounts!


Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 9:20 am

In other words, if you want to build a renewable system you have to build:
1) Enough renewable power to run everything.
2) Enough fossil fuel power to everything.
3) Enough batteries to run everything long enough to fire up the fossil fuel power plants.

PS: Starting a fossil fuel plant from a cold start takes days. So despite what Nick claims, you are going to need enough battery storage to last for days.

PPS: The only way to avoid the need for huge batteries is to keep your fossil fuel plants hot, so that they can take over in a matter of minutes. The problem with keeping them hot is that they use almost as much fuel as they would had you been using them to generate power.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  MarkW
July 1, 2019 1:09 am

High-Availability (HA) isn’t feature of “renewables”.

Peter Fraser
June 29, 2019 8:33 pm

Mark W ‘with useful life of a battery limited to 10 to 15 years’ one must wonder what is required to recycle lithium batteries? Can the substances used in the batteries be easily recovered? What is the energy requirements to recycle? In the near future we will be deluged with old electric car batteries, let alone grid storage batteries. A recent post in WUWT calculated it takes 100 barrels of oil energy equivalent to manufacture one barrel of oil energy equivalent of battery storage. One should then add in the recycling energy. Has there been any attempt to do the sums on battery storage or is it all pipe dreams?

Reply to  Peter Fraser
July 1, 2019 1:38 pm
kristi silber
June 29, 2019 11:34 pm

” It will be decades before battery storage plays a significant role in large-scale power systems, if ever.”

Hmm, seems the author believes he can see into the future! So, the grid-capacity batteries that are in development now will prove to be flops? He ought to tell that to those who are working on them, save them some time.

“The wind system will likely cost in excess of $9 billion, and the battery system will likely cost about $7.5 billion.” How the heck does the author know how much the battery system would cost if it isn’t yet commercially available?

“Since several days without wind in most locations is common, even a day of battery backup is inadequate.”

Several days totally without wind off the coast of NY is common? Really? Well, if that’s the case, it’s a pretty dumb project, isn’t it? Presumably they would have thought of such things.

Reply to  kristi silber
June 30, 2019 12:38 am

” He ought to tell that to those who are working on them, save them some time.”
A pretty general caution for scoffers. The people involved in these developments can do this arithmetic. There is an interesting article here on the SA Musk battery. Seems it cost $90 million, but is rapidly paying for itself, just in the marketplace. In the conventional way, buying low and selling high. The commercial benefit of smoothing the short term market.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 2:19 am

Nick writes

Seems it cost $90 million, but is rapidly paying for itself, just in the marketplace. In the conventional way, buying low and selling high. The commercial benefit of smoothing the short term market.

It just goes to show the value of energy at peak demand. Your average Joe cant get past understanding the value in a battery that cant even last a day.

Don K
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 3:14 am

The Jamestown battery **IS** a good idea Nick. You pretty much need one or more for any sort of bursty electricity supply that doesn’t have sufficient turbines and motors in the load to smooth out the short term peaks and dips. That’d be large scale wind, solar, and probably waves. But not hydro, geothermal or tides. And the cost really should be included in the nominal cost of those “renewable” energy sources that need a whopping great battery. But it’s not because that’d be realistic and realism is NOT what green power advocates want.

OTOH, Musk’s battery is, as far as I can see, **NOT** really “paying for itself”. The appearance of doing so is an artifact of the bizarre “market-oriented” electricity control scheme used in South Australia — which appears to be similar to the one that Enron used to cause chaos in California two decades ago. I’m not an expert in that area and I could be wrong, but it appears to me that these “electricity markets” are a truly terrible idea that should appeal only to scam artists and slow learners.

Reply to  Don K
June 30, 2019 4:14 am

“The appearance of doing so is an artifact of the bizarre “market-oriented” electricity control scheme used in South Australia”
It’s actually the national market (except WA). SA is doing quite well out of it. Their battery makes money in scarcity, and SA is now a net exporter of power, based on renewables.

The market profits reflect the actual benefit the battery provides, in providing power when no-one else can.

Don K
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 8:55 am

Naw. The apparent profitability is windfall, not fundamental. With a grid “management” (is that the right word?) scheme that somehow creates spot prices in excess of $10,000 per mwhr, it’s hard not to make money if you have power to sell and a grid connection. It’s sort of like a pharma salesman inadvertently winding up in the middle of a cholera epidemic with a suitcase full of tetracycline.

I assume that sooner or later, you folks will tame your energy pricing problem.

That’s by contrast to the battery’s genuine utility in making up for the lack of “spinning reserve” in your renewable oriented electricity scheme.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 12:56 pm

“It’s sort of like a pharma salesman inadvertently winding up in the middle of a cholera epidemic with a suitcase full of tetracycline.”
Yes. But it reflects the fact that bringing tetracycline to a cholera epidemic is actually a good thing to do.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 2:05 pm

Nick, you really are a ‘clever’ idiot.
The prices in the national market reflect the absurd inefficiency of the grid’s costs. As Don K says, the battery only appears to make money because its currently trading those inefficiencies. Either the trading will eventually produce the right price signals to bring about the investment required to end those inefficiencies, or a ‘regulator’ will impose a new trading system.
Its economic life will be shortlived.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 3:10 pm

” the right price signals to bring about the investment required to end those inefficiencies, or a ‘regulator’ will impose a new trading system.”
The problem is intermittent scarcity of power. A regulator can’t fix that with trading rules. They do cap prices, but that just means that people in the spot market can’t get power at all, rather than getting it at excessive prices. The “investment required to end those inefficiencies” is the building of batteries, which can supply power on those timescales. Then indeed the profitability of the SA battery will be eroded, but only by competition from other batteries.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2019 9:27 am

As Nick well knows, when government is paying for research, it isn’t necessary for it ever to produce anything useful.

Reply to  kristi silber
June 30, 2019 9:27 am

One doesn’t have to be able to see into the future in order to run the numbers on the batteries available now and those under development.

Beyond that, as others have pointed out. The chemistry behind batteries is well known. The idea that there is a magical combination of chemicals that will create a new battery that is substantially better than the ones we currently have is wishful thinking.

Again with the sophistry.
The author says that there are many days that go without wind for days.
Kristi counters by saying that many days without wind is rare in one place.

Reply to  MarkW
July 1, 2019 2:18 am

“Kristi counters by saying that many days without wind is rare in one place.”

Not that rare. They are known as “stationary high pressure areas” and can last for a couple of weeks at a time and affect Europe-sized areas. They aren’t that common, but happen every few years and can happen both in summer and winter. An energy storage system must be sized to cope with them. Unfortunately they cause heat-waves in summer and cold waves in winter.

Reply to  tty
July 1, 2019 9:33 am

I didn’t say that Kristi’s counter was factual, I was just pointing out that it was illogical.

Gunga Din
Reply to  kristi silber
June 30, 2019 12:21 pm

kristi silber June 29, 2019 at 11:34 pm
” It will be decades before battery storage plays a significant role in large-scale power systems, if ever.”

Hmm, seems the author believes he can see into the future! So, the grid-capacity batteries that are in development now will prove to be flops? He ought to tell that to those who are working on them, save them some time.

And the green dreamers don’t believe they can see into the future?
We need what works in the mean time (ie NOW) to keep things running and people safe to keep running until something better comes along.
PS Let those working on them work on their own dime or the dimes of those who voluntarily chose to invest in them, not mine.
PS Soros, Steyer and others invest a lot into politics that are supposed to make the Green Dream come true. Why don’t they invest in the green stuff directly? Why don’t they “build the better mouse trap”?

June 30, 2019 12:07 am

But at present an incredibly useful power source, in 2 circumstances:

1) replaces spinning reserve. It responds much, much more quickly. The SA (weather caused!) power outage is now unlikely to reoccur because the local grid has battery support
2) it replaces peaking power plants… which are expensive to run

the long term backup power to grids is NOT going to be anything like 100% battery in any case… power to gas will likely be the UK and German solutions.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  griff
June 30, 2019 5:46 am

Apparently, that excess “battery” power is exported to other states in Australia now. I guess no-one lives in SA anymore.

Reply to  griff
June 30, 2019 5:54 am

Equally incredible power sources — unicorn farts, rainbows, and fairy dust…..

Reply to  griff
June 30, 2019 9:31 am

If batteries were cheaper than peaking power plants, power companies would be falling all over each other to build them.

Response time isn’t relevant. What matters is the ability to maintain frequency as the load varies. For that, batteries are inferior.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  MarkW
June 30, 2019 9:54 am

What matters is the ability to maintain frequency as the load varies??????

No MarkW, what matters is the ability to maintain voltage as the load varies.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 30, 2019 1:35 pm

Both need to be maintained, however we are talking about why spinning reserves are necessary.

June 30, 2019 12:27 am

How big are these batteries?
How big are the buildings to house them?
How long do they last?
How do we dispose of them safely?
What is there carbon footprint?
What is the actual cost, not the fairy tale cost?
Where are all the materials coming from and what is the environmental impact (or does this not matter for “the greater good”)?

Not going to happen, no matter how much money is wasted.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  MangoChutney
June 30, 2019 5:44 am

In South Australia they are all in the open. 100Mwh iirc.

Reply to  MangoChutney
July 1, 2019 9:20 am

How big are the batteries?
If they are stationary they can be huge, but not nearly as large as an aluminum smelter. Think big. Is it possible to reverse the process of making aluminum to store electricity? Some say it is possible but aluminum is the wrong stuff. More like magnesium and antimony alloyed in appropriate ways to lower melting points.

June 30, 2019 1:24 am

I spoke to a senior UK civil service about backup for wind over 15 years ago. He pointed out that there just wasn’t the sites for enough pump storage. Neither of us seriously mentioned batteries.

typically when I installed off grid renewable energy systems, i used to include about 1month of storage, 10 days was pushing it, 1 day would be insane.

The fact that storage is the last thing anyone is now thinking about, is I think, very clear proof that the sane people stopped being listened to about 15 years ago.

Rhys Jaggar
June 30, 2019 2:28 am

There is nothing wrong with storing energy, it just depends how you store it. Trees are a decades-to-centuries store, with intermittent downside risk of fire, wind or human destruction. Oil, gas and coal are energy stores of geological epoch timescales.

In nature, we eat fresh food in summers but grow storable crops for winter. Squirrels bury nuts as winter food stores. Bears simply gorge themselves in summer and sleep it off for five months in a snow hole. Storage is pragmatism, common sense.

It is not whether to store, it is how to store. Those that store winter vegetables know a lot about what works and what does not.

It is the same with energy. Finding the right modes of energy storage for different scenarios.

If one mode is rubbish then discard it.

But do not discard the concept of energy storage per se. It is a timeless feature of human life….

Coach Springer
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
June 30, 2019 5:27 am

Speaking of storage – oil, coal, gas, nuclear. It’s nature’s way.

Curious George
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
June 30, 2019 7:55 am

“It is not whether to store, it is how to store.” And WHY to store. We need this storage to accommodate intermittent generators. The price of storage must be added to the price of of energy so generated.

Patrick MJD
June 30, 2019 5:47 am
Beta Blocker
June 30, 2019 7:28 am

As far as I am aware, no truly realistic cost studies have been produced for highly ambitious wind and solar proposals which cover large, specifically-identified geographic areas such as Australia, studies which use commonly accepted methods for doing engineering-level cost and schedule estimating.

Nick Stokes, can I ask a favor of you? Can I ask you to seek a fully-funded study grant from the Australian government for designing an 80% renewable / 20% gas-fired electric grid for Australia to a level of engineering detail which supports a reasonably accurate cost and schedule estimate for completely eliminating coal from Australia’s energy mix by the year 2050?

The questions to be studied are these:

— What will it take in time and money to build and operate this fully integrated 80/20 grid system for the next fifty years?

— What particular cost trends in which particular technology areas will have the greatest impacts on the project’s total cost and schedule, both its capital costs and its total lifecycle costs?

— Using the study’s initial output as a basis for further analysis, what are the impacts of using a series of alternative baseline planning assumptions on the project’s total lifecycle costs?

The numbers and types of alternative planning assumptions might include the predicted costs and availability of renewable energy technologies, future changes in today’s grid reliability and performance requirements, future changes in today’s regulatory review processes, changes in current methods of project financing and capital formation, and the inclusion of alternative scenarios for the evolution through time of Australia’s overall socio-political and economic dynamic.

Here are the initial assumptions which are to support the study:

— Through legislation and agreement, Australia grants carte blanche authority to its Prime Minister and to its federal and state governments for overcoming any technical, financial, or regulatory obstacles which might get in the way of building and deploying this 80% renewable power grid.

— A list of grid reliability and performance requirements equivalent to what is now in force today is applied.

— The public and private lands needed for locating the solar arrays, the wind farms, the pumped hydro facilities, the battery storage facilities, and the gas-fired generation facilities are allocated and reserved through a process of eminent domain, with fair prices and rents paid to the land’s current owners. Other wind farms are located off Australia’s coasts wherever they are best placed to maximize wind capacity factors.

— A fast track environmental review process for all elements of the renewable energy grid system is applied so that regulatory oversight of energy facility siting, construction, and plant operations is minimized.

— The Australian Prime Minister and the governors of the Australian states are granted authority to modify or reverse any regulatory decision made at any level of federal, state, or local government if that decision might impede progress in siting, constructing, and operating the 80% renewables grid.

The feasibility design for the 80/20 grid includes specific engineering details for the particular solar arrays to be used and their proposed locations, the particular wind mills to be used and their proposed locations, the particular battery and pumped storage facilities and their locations, the particular gas-fired generation facilities, the routes and configurations of the power transmission corridors, and the configurations and locations of the power distribution and control facilities.

After the feasibility design for the 80/20 grid is complete, and it is available in enough level of detail to reliably identify what each major phase and sub-phase of the project will cost, and how long each phase and sub-phase will take, then the cost and schedule risks for the entire project as a whole are analyzed.

The project lifecycle cost and schedule risk analysis will determine what range of total costs can be expected and how long it will actually take before the 80% figure for Australia can finally be achieved, if it can’t be achieved by the target date of January 1st, 2050.

Thanks in advance.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Beta Blocker
June 30, 2019 8:06 am

Stokes is retired IIRC.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Patrick MJD
June 30, 2019 9:27 am

That’s what I understand. However, this proposed feasibility study is of such importance to Australia I’m sure Nick Stokes could be persuaded to come out of retirement to lead it.

One of Stoke’s first tasks as project manager would be to hire Mosher as the project’s data archiving and research process QA expert, and to hire Griff as the project’s public relations coordinator.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
June 30, 2019 9:21 am

“As far as I am aware, no truly realistic cost studies have been produced for highly ambitious wind and solar proposals which cover large, specifically-identified geographic areas such as Australia, studies which use commonly accepted methods for doing engineering-level cost and schedule estimating.”

Asking those questions is a very bad career move as you can see here moving your mouse over the June graph of current Australian wind energy output only to discover it varies from 1.9% to 63.1% of installed capacity and it’s entirely left to what you’re smoking as to the cost of storage to level that out at around 30% average over a year-
Not to worry something will turn up if you truly believe in science and technology as long as you dismiss economics as the dismal science. From each according to their ability and to each according to their ne.. ahh..perhaps we’ll forget the last part.

June 30, 2019 8:51 am

The largest pumped storage system in the USA is the Bath County Pumped Storage Station hydroelectric power plant, often described as the “largest battery in the world”, with a maximum generation capacity of 3,003 MW. However the total storage capacity is 24,000 MWh. Thus when you divide 24,000 by 3,000 you get 8 hours.
That’s right eight hours. Look at “Bath County Pumped Storage Station” on your favorite map app. The reservoir takes up a good chunk of land. The US only has about 20,000 MW total pumped storage capacity, and has not built any new ones in the last 30 years. Any environmentalist know why.

Math problem #1 Bath County Pumped Storage Station reservoir contains 8,000,000 cubic yards. How many yards will it take to provide the 750,000 people that Duke claims it supplies with power for a period of one week when the wind is not blowing for a week?
Math problem #2 determine how many acres will be needed for the battery storage system for one week of use providing 750,000 people for a week.

Paul Williams
June 30, 2019 9:12 am

Hydrogen is produced through electrolysis; it can be used in fuel cells in cars or underground salt caverns can store the fuel for power generation for the grid.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Paul Williams
June 30, 2019 7:41 pm

Man made underground salt caverns at 200 bar? And I certainly would not like to be anywhere near high volumes of 300 bar pressurised cylinders. Pure pie in the sky stuff that is.

Reply to  Paul Williams
July 1, 2019 2:10 pm

This has been studied in Sweden, where no salt deposits are available. Steel-lined rock caverns are known to work well for other gases, but there is some uncertainty with hydrogen, due to possible hydrogen embrittlement of the steel.

June 30, 2019 3:35 pm

Ristvan will be long gone before Hell freezes over, which is when “hydrino tech” will be producing power, so no he won’t be eating a plate of crow.

“Hydrinos” are every bit as much a fraud as ecat, emdrive, and Keeely motor.

Bernard Lodge
June 30, 2019 6:11 pm

So, boiling it down to a sound bite that can be understood by everybody … and repeated many times in presidential debates:

“The renewables technology simply does not work”

July 1, 2019 8:39 am

If we can produce molten aluminum on a massive scale using massive amounts of electricity, we also can store massive amounts of energy using liquid (molten) metals. Don Sadoway has worked it all out and has a wonderful presentation explaining it all. He’s not a kook inventor. He teaches materials chemistry in a very popular course at MIT. Check out his YouTube. This is not just theoretical. He’s producing practical cells that are about ready to be marketed.

This guy was on Colbert.

Reply to  HankHenry
July 1, 2019 9:36 am

Being on Colbert is evidence that his science is solid? Really?

Call back when he has actually produced something other than a fancy video.

BTW, just because something can be done isn’t proof that it is smart or economical to do it.

Reply to  MarkW
July 1, 2019 10:23 am

I agree with your sentiments, but I also encourage you to look at his argument. Colbert means nothing , but MIT on the other hand…

Reply to  HankHenry
July 1, 2019 1:57 pm

The electricity used to produce aluminium isn’t stored in the molten metal. It is mostly used to change aluminium oxide to aluminium, and the only way to get it out is to re-oxidize the metal. This can be done in an aluminium-air battery, which actually has quite high energy density, but, alas, can’t be re-charged. The aluminium has to be regenerated once again using massive amounts of electricity, and since there are large losses in this process, the round-trip efficiency is awful.

Incidentally the massive amounts of energy needed to make aluminium is the reason aluminium is one of the few things worth recycling.

Reply to  tty
July 1, 2019 6:06 pm

I don’t disagree at all. For Sadoway an aliminum smelter is just a starting point for thinking about about the problem. His scheme involves molten magnesium and antimony. His YouTube is worth taking a glance at.

July 1, 2019 5:32 pm

I’m confused by these numbers. Why is storage being listed in MW? Battery storage should be listed in MWh.
Also, if wind is 3000MW, then a day without wind should be 72,000 MWh.

July 1, 2019 5:54 pm

In fact, 3000 MW of battery storage is sufficient to replace wind energy of 9000 MW that runs at 33% capacity.
This is because they haven’t told you the size of the storage, just the system’s power.

John Pruit
July 7, 2019 12:57 am

I currently drive for Uber in Taos & Santa Fe, NM. Both cities host conferences, meetings and study groups on topics related to electricity generation, battery storage and the safety of the national electrical grid. I have transported numerous highly placed and highly experienced business and technical people who deal with these topics to and from the airports in both cities. Airport rides take longer than the average city fare, and hence give me time to ask questions.

One consistent response from all parties that I do not see reflected in the popular press or even in WUWT, is that “spinning horsepower”, ie fossil fuel powered generators, are and will be for the foreseeable future, the safety net that insures the integrity of the national electrical grid. At their best and most efficacious use, batteries are intended to level out the uneven power generated by rising and falling wind speeds and diurnal variations in sunlight, including variations in cloud cover, smoke, etc. The characteristics of battery supplied power cannot be relied upon to provide the instant massive power needed to maintain the integrity of the electrical grid in case of a major failure somewhere in the grid.

Every state has one or more Energy Balancing Authority (name may vary) who is (are) responsible for providing and maintaining the spinning horsepower that is instantly ava available to maintain the amperage, voltage and frequency of electrical power in the grid in case of a major failure somewhere in the system. In NM, this energy balancing responsibility lies with Public Service Company of New Mexico.

Not one of the dozen or so knowledgeable people I have transported believes that any renewable source will be able to provide this critical energy balancing function in the foreseeable future.

Why is this critical information never mentioned, even in the case of South Australia? Tesla’s batteries may have evened out power availability on most days, but they do not provide critical system backup.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a petroleum geologist with 48 years of experience split between office and wellsite. I consider my professional endeavors to have been focused on the intersection of climate change and plate tectonics, ie sedimentary rocks. I have been snowed on the every month of the year in New Mexico, and am aware that there have been periodic ice ages since the Precambrian. It strikes me as dishonest to describe wind and solar power as environmentally friendly only by ignoring the massive amounts of raw materials like cement, rare earth mineral, steel, etc required to produce industrial sale electric Enrgy from “green” sources. EVERY energy source produces noxious byproducts and side effects somewhere in it’s life cycle.

If we take Bucky Fuller’s admonition that “pollution” is really valuable resources being either in the wrong place or being improperly utilized, productive uses can ultimately be discovered for all the so-called pollutants. These productive uses will not be found, however, if the physical realities of ALL forms of electricity production continue to be ignored.

Randy Wester
Reply to  John Pruit
July 7, 2019 8:11 am

Hydro dams (renewable) also have spinning reserve capacity, they can increase generator torque quickly to meet demand.

Solar has no moving parts, so obvously any reserve has to be simulated using batteries, and batteries cost a fortune – it’s becoming cheaper to overbuild and then curtail overproduction. Musk explained the scale of batteries it would take occasionally but people seem to only hear the parts they like, and then there’s a lot of yelling and noise.

Some turbine generators can be physically decoupled from the generator and run as a ‘rotary synchronous capacitor’

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