How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy’s full potential

Cell Press

The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity. But how far must energy storage costs fall? In a study published August 7 in the journal Joule, MIT researchers answer this question. They quantify cost targets for storage technologies to enable solar and wind energy with storage to reach competitiveness with other on-demand energy sources. They also examine what kinds of batteries and other technologies might reach these targets.

“One of the core sources of uncertainty in the debate about how much renewable energy can contribute to the deep decarbonization of electricity is the question of how much energy storage can be improved” says senior author Jessika Trancik, an associate professor of energy studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Different assumptions about the cost of energy storage underlie significant disagreements between a number of assessments, but little was known about what costs would actually be competitive and how these costs compare to the storage technologies currently being developed. So, we decided to address this issue head on.”

“Quantifying cost targets for energy storage required a new piece of insight,” Trancik says, ‘about how patterns of the renewable energy supply, and fluctuations in this supply, compare to electricity demand profiles. Large but infrequent solar and wind shortage events are critical in determining how much storage is needed for renewables to reliably meet demand, and it’s important to understand the characteristics of these events.”

In the paper, Trancik and her colleagues estimated the costs of using storage together with wind and solar energy to supply various output profiles reliably over twenty years. They then estimated cost targets for energy storage that would enable plants to reach cost-competitiveness with traditional electricity sources. They also evaluated current and future energy storage technologies against the estimated cost target.

The researchers’ model optimizes storage costs by using whatever combination of storage and solar and wind gives the lowest electricity cost. This often means oversizing solar and wind capacity relative to an intended output, to decrease the amount of storage needed.

The analysis also explored the characteristics that distinguish various storage options. Some technologies are more suited to inexpensively storing large quantities of energies but outputting it slowly, at lower power, while others can cost-effectively store smaller amounts that can be quickly discharged at high power. So the model needed to capture these differences, Trancik says.

The research found that technologies with energy storage capacity costs below $20/kWh could enable cost-competitive baseload power that is available all of the time over a twenty-year period, though this target varies with the target output profile and location. They found that electricity costs respond more to costs of storage energy capacity than power capacity.

The research showed that “it’s critical to reduce the costs of the materials and manufacturing that contribute to the cost of the storage energy capacity,” Trancik says. “The numerical target we estimate, which varies with location, could mean a 90 percent drop in storage costs relative to today’s technologies. It’s a large drop but some technologies do tend to improve a lot, as we’ve seen in the case of solar panels, for example.”

“However, and importantly, there is another factor that could raise this target considerably and allow more expensive technologies to cost-competitively store renewable energy, which is to use supplemental technologies for a small percent of the time,” Trancik says. Allowing the renewable energy system to fail to meet demand for just five percent of the hours over a twenty year period can halve the cost of renewable electricity, the researchers report.

“The trick there is to figure out how to supply electricity for the remaining 5% hours. That’s where we need to focus our efforts. This could potentially be accomplished with supplemental generation technologies, or perhaps demand-side management,” Trancik says. Expanding the electricity transmission grid could also help mitigate renewable energy supply fluctuations, she says.

The team is exploring options for low-cost and low-carbon supplemental technologies. They are also working to model how certain research directions and economies of scale can help drive down the costs of battery technologies.

###

This work was supported by the MIT Portugal Program and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Joule, Trancik et al.: “Storage requirements for shaping renewable energy toward grid decarbonization” https://www.cell.com/joule/fulltext/S2542-4351(19)30300-9

Joule (@Joule_CP), published monthly by Cell Press, is a new home for outstanding and insightful research, analysis, and ideas addressing the need for more sustainable energy. A sister journal to Cell, Joule spans all scales of energy research, from fundamental laboratory research into energy conversion and storage to impactful analysis at the global level. Visit http://www.cell.com/joule. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com. k

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122 thoughts on “How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy’s full potential

  1. “The numerical target we estimate, which varies with location, could mean a 90 percent drop in storage costs relative to today’s technologies.“
    Therefore solar and wind are not today competitive with on-demand energy sources.

    • I love how they assume that since solar power panels have allegedly fallen in price, therefore batteries will also fall in price.

      • The reduction they envision for storage would require batteries to more or less follow Moore’s Law, which they don’t and never will.

  2. Gee, only a 90% cost reduction. With load shedding. What a plan for shipping industrial production overseas! Socialism at its best.

    Free markets give people what they want, while socialism allocates shortages. Or, as the Castro’s and the Chavez’ say, Socialismo O Murete! Guess who gets the murete.

    • Nothing in the real world of business is ever all or nothing. 100% PV vs 100% coal is silly strawman proposition.

      Much of the power generation infrastructure in use throughout the world is already divided between base power generation and peak power generation. Many powerplants only generate electricity during the peak demand periods. It is somewhat difficult to start up and shut down then start up thermal power plants for this purpose, since they don’t start up or shut down with the simple flip of a switch.

      In areas with substantial hydropower generation, the hydro power turbines often are used only for peak power generation, because they do rather easily accommodate startups and shutdowns with the simple flip of a switch. PV does likewise.

      So then the question becomes, what are the peak power demand times during the daily cycle? Well that answer has been known for many decades – the daytime hours always represent peak average power demand. The daytime is when most businesses operate, so commercial demand peaks in the daylight hours. Most people can tolerate lower temperatures at night during cold months, when they are in bed covered with blankets, than they prefer during daylight hours. Air condition loads in the warm months are obviously way higher in the daylight hours than during night.

      PV obviously only works when sunlight is available. So PV makes a great deal of sense for daytime peak power supply.

      Similarly, low less radically, wind turbines tend to generate more power in daylight than night time due to typical wind patters. So to the extent that wind turbines are intermittent generators – much less than PV – they also match up well.

      So in the real world, utilities with lots of renewable are able to closely match peak power demands with peak power generation by renewables. And that of course eliminates the need for storage at all.

      This is not an “either/or” choice. It is all of the above, to the extent that it makes economic sense.

      Ideology plays absolutely zero role in this. It’s business, guy, it’s just business.

      • It may be business, but where I live the wind increases during the afternoon, often highest near the end of the day. What about heat lag and seasonal differences? You can buy claimed wind energy produced electricity so someone should be able to produce the different numbers. It’s a joke around here.

      • Fast start cc gas plants can be at full output in less than an hour.

        Texas regularly has higher wind output overnight than during the day.

      • “Duane August 9, 2019 at 5:47 am

        So in the real world, utilities with lots of renewable are able to closely match peak power demands with peak power generation by renewables. And that of course eliminates the need for storage at all.

        This is not an “either/or” choice. It is all of the above, to the extent that it makes economic sense.

        Ideology plays absolutely zero role in this. It’s business, guy, it’s just business.

        Another false strawman song and dance by duane:
        The only reason electric grids can meet peak power demands is because they have hydro, nuclear, fossil fuel generating systems feeding the grid.
        Ask Alcoa about renewable grids meeting peak power demands. As of Jan, 1, 2019, Alcoa is still losing money dealing with the damaged smelter caused by loss of power in 2016.

        If it’s just business, immediately cancel all subsidies towards renewables.

        • All energy gets subsidized. The Feds subsidize oil and gas, always have.

          Who do you think built most of the major hydropower dams and powerplants – nearly all of it the Feds, who created an entire bureau of reclamation just to do that? All done with taxpayer funding, not merel subsidy but Fed taxpayers literally paid the whole capltal costs of all those damns and powerplants, to be recovered through cheap subsidized power rates.

          It’s not ideology – get your head out of your ideological hindquarters, It’s about business, dollars, and making good common sense business decisions.

          • The claim that oil and gas are being subsidized has been thoroughly refuted.

            If it’s about dollars and sense, why are you so eager to have government force it on the rest of us?

          • Are you sure it’s subsidized? I thought it was a tax break. Ie reduction in profits. What renewables make a profit?. If they do, feel free to give tax break, but not subsidise losses.

          • Duane, you really should do a little research before opining on Federal hydropower development and rates for generated power. Initially, the rates were so high that investor-owned utilities would not buy Federal hydropower. It was left to the new rural power systems to buy the above-market electricity because they had no other alternatives.

            I have much more if you want to continue along this line.

          • Geoff Sherrington “If the oil depletion allowance is not a subsidy for the oil/gas industry, then the PTC is not a subsidy for the wind farms that get it.”

            Wrong. Clearly you have no understanding of taxation.

            Depletion is a recovery of costs as a deduction from income to better match cost and revenue. The taxpayer has to have spent cash to get the deduction. It is of no benefit if there is no income. Many taxpayers, such as oil majors are not allowed to use percentage depletion. It is also subject to the passive loss limitations and other tax shelter limitations.

            The PTC is a refundable credit given to the taxpayer regardless of income. It is a check written by the government to the taxpayer. Even if income has been zeroed out by costs, the taxpayer gets it.

            Depletion is a reduction of the income of the taxpayer. It is the taxpayer who writes the checks. Huge difference.

          • Sherrington said “If the oil depletion allowance is not a subsidy for the oil/gas industry, then the PTC is not a subsidy for the wind farms that get it.”

            THAT IS THE BIGGEST LIE OF GREENIES. The oil depletion allowance comes off the taxable income of the fossil fuel companies. All mineral companies get to do this because fossil fuels and any minerals are not a renewable. The PTC is a direct cash subsidy unlike a tax deduction. Take off the cash subsidies of renewables and they die tomorrow. Every jurisdiction that has put in solar and /or wind have doubled or tripled their cost of electricity. For what reason? To try to lower CO2 emissions. What a farce.

          • The oil and gas Depletion Allowance is the same thing as Capital Depreciation, but applies to the costs associated with the identification and acquiring the mineral resources to be produced.

            Cost depletion is a straight forward “what did it cost vs how much of it did you produce this year.” Just like depreciation of a factory.

            Percentage Depletion, a certain percentage of revenue from production is chiefly for small land holders who owned land for decades and have low acquisition costs. But if they didn’t get Percentage Depletion, they would just sell their mineral rights to a business that would be able to take Cost Depletion on a much larger cost of acquisition.

      • Peak sun is just around noon.
        Peak power demand is more like 5pm. So your initial assumption is toast. Which pretty much shreds every assumption built on it.

        During the winter, peak energy demands are at night.
        Another assumption down the drains.

      • nc comment about “Duck Curve” is spot on. Peak summer loads tend to happen about 7pm when the sun is going to bed, and peak winter loads tend to be about 6 am before the sun is waking up. And solar tends to ramp opposite to demand, rising when it is falling. Wind tends to peak at night and trough at noon, which is opposite the macro power demand curve. Both of these present worst-case scenarios for power grids that need to strictly control supply to exactly manage stochastic demand on a second-by-second basis. Just today the UK is learning how foolish it is to intentionally destabilize a national grid with intermittent power, with 1,000,000 people in London and its suburbs in the dark due to a sudden drop in #wind power from their huge offshore Hornsea wind turbine farm.

      • Using PV and wind for peak load is suicide. Yes, peak is usually during daylight when PV and wind “tend” to be available. But there are often times when at those times it is cloudy/rainy and/or calm. If a utility had banked on PV and wind to meet the peak and the conditions were such that they didn’t generate enough then brownouts or blackouts will occur at PEAK demand, perfect recipe for a cascade failure of the grid. While if you had CC for your peak demand the weather conditions wouldn’t matter and your peak sources would (essentially) always be available.

    • So many pundits don’t seem to know the difference between cost and price and value. The value of uncontrollable, unreliable, intermittent energy to a power grid is much lower than stable, reliable, controllable energy. The cost of making wind turbines and solar panels has dropped since the 1980s, but nothing like Moore’s Law, and these costs have plateaued in recent years. The wholesale price of solar and wind power has fallen dramatically in the past 5 years, but this is due to saturation of their market and supply of eager developers exceeding demand of interested customers. Residential, commercial, and industrial customers interested in hosting wind and solar farms are drying up, and hypocritical environmentalist NIMBYism blocking “green” energy projects has surged. Despite continuing direct subsidies and tax breaks and state RPS mandates, wind and solar have had to discount their power purchase agreement pricing tremendously to get their necessary 30+ year off-take contracts, destroying much of their value to investors. So in short, the falling prices of solar and wind are just the market catching on to their true value. Price is already below cost, and new installs will go to zero when the ITC and PTC subsidies end.

  3. “Demand-side management”: in other words, rotating blackouts. Not going to go over well with the millennials, who expect to be able to use their tech gadgets anytime they want.

    • They forget to tell them that part in the universities. They are all deluded into thinking they are saving the planet not knowing it means living in the dark without access to Netflix and you tube. Try snap-chatting with a dead smartphone. They will find out the hard way why Samsung has developed power sharing phones.

    • I think you need to look at what demand management is on a modern grid: there are multiple types of installation using electrical power which need to run for a large part, but not all of the time -refrigeration systems, commercial aircon are prime examples. Demand management companies pay commercial enterprises for control of those installations and shut them down in co-ordination at times of peak demand without harming the company operations/systems effects, reducing electricity demand.

      This saves GW at peak times in the UK and nobody even notices it is happening: firms who are using electricity get paid for participation

  4. They say that ” technologies with energy storage capacity costs below $20/kWh COULD enable cost-competitive baseload power”. They do NOT say that there are such technologies at such costs available now. No doubt the greenies will misinterpret it and claim it does.

    They say “it’s critical to reduce the costs of the materials and manufacturing that contribute to the cost of the storage energy capacity”. Well, knock me over with a feather. How come no one thought of this before.

    When they say “The numerical target we estimate, which varies with location, could mean a 90 percent drop in storage costs relative to today’s technologies.”, are they in fact saying that is how much costs need to drop by to be competitive? It would seem so but it’s hard to discern this admission through the turgid prose.

    Just where is the “new piece of insight” they claim? And to think somebody got paid for this. And it’s from MIT no less. Good grief.

    • Yes. It took another genius Professor to tell us what is already well known to the readers of this blog.

      What I don’t see is any historical discussion of the technical difficulties of just waving a wand to make it all happen. Quite apart from obvious theoretical limits, smarter people than this Professor have been trying for decades to reduce energy storage costs, with not much to show for it.

      Yet they still talk/write as if it is going to happen rather than an honest assessment that it probably never will.

    • MIT is where the Magnesium and Lead Antimony batteries were invented. There technically *is* a storage solution that can be brought down to $20/kWh at scale.

  5. a 90 percent drop in storage costs relative to today’s technologies.

    Very much so. But I note that a 90% drop in cost is a proxy for a 90% drop in the energy consumed for the production of said technology.
    Reminds me so much of –
    A few threads ago, there was a dust up about wind turbine bearings. One side comment was that with better materials, the problem would go away. I thought, perhaps the material “Unobtanium”.

    Years back, the limit to jet engine power and efficiency was the temperature at which the turbine could work at and still retain strength. The development of better materials since WWII and better designs have kept jet engine performance on an incremental improvement ramp for decades. For sure, the designers, in the early years could speculate on the wondrous engines they could build with Unobtanium.

    So here we are, after decades of development and refinement, and all the proponents can come up with is a breakthrough saving 90%, based on Unobtanium.

    • Yes, well what would you expect from a EurekAlert! press release? Respectful of the CAGW religion’s pieties, thoroughly disconnected from reality.

    • TonyL

      This issue with the bearings is complex and has perhaps unnoticed consequences. Siemens was having so much trouble with the bearings that they were bankrupting the section if they didn’t get out of the wind turbine business – that is how I read the report. The bearings were failing after about 7 years, Obviously replacing them costs a fortune. There was literally no money in it for the manufacturer if they had to repair all. They issued a statement after about 18 months saying the matter had been resolved but not how.

      Consider: If the cost of actually operating the system reflected the losses Siemens had, the cost per delivered KWH was higher that it first appeared. But that didn’t happen. The additional (real) costs were hidden and borne by Siemens. Still are.

      So when it comes to “storage” the total system cost of hidden subsidies, visible subsidies, tech investment tax credits for R&D, the unrecovered investment of first movers and the remarkable requirement that distributors take 100% of power offered from renewable sources, whether it is needed or not, all these create an apparently lower cost that reality dictates.

      • All true. Good points.
        We still have the big one. Windmill power is too expensive. Windmill power + battery is even more expensive.
        Proponents say that the utilization is better. That may be true, but the cost is higher.
        You can do anything if you do not care what it costs. And that is where “renewables” are today.
        Big Deal.

    • They don’t need better materials, they need to use much larger, heavier bearings that aren’t running in the upper quartile of their load/durability range. They also probably need to use smaller windmills on taller towers to gigantic, heavy bearings aren’t needed.

  6. They also examine what kinds of batteries and other technologies might reach these targets.

    What about “hydro batteries”?
    Even if you have to create artificial lakes, I would imagine that lakes, rivers and canals are is the cheaper and more beautiful solution to the non-problem.

    • Several are proposed in Australia. The estimated costs of pumped hydro are horrendous. 80% round trip efficiency quoted. And with our limited supply of water to start with, any water ‘leakage will hurt. It will look very Industrial.

      • you can use deep mined coal shafts, as in the Ruhr in Germany… or there is a proposal for Queensland using open cast mining pits…

        The UK has a very successful pumped storage unit in Wales

        • Griff

          Here is an interesting article on pumped storage including the new one in Wales scheduled for completion this year

          https://seneddresearch.blog/2018/03/29/what-potential-does-wales-hold-for-electricity-storage/

          However the photo that heads the report demonstrates the downside. Renewable power comes from installations that are often highly damaging to the landscape, as those travelling to upland Wales and Scotland in particular will increasingly see as regards the wind turbines.

          These stride across formerly majestic countryside now made even less majestic by the addition of their twins of electric pylons to deliver power to where it is needed, sheep having a distressing tendency to graze grass on the hills rather than use electricity.

          tonyb

        • The Dinorwic pumped storage system in Wales has a capacity of about 9 GWh. The UK has other pumped storage at Cruachan, Ffestiniog are best known. Total is less than 3GW about 5-10% of demand on a normal day. The provide about 4000GWh annually. This isn’t really anything other than managing spikes in demand at the end of sporting events and soap operas. Further expansion of hydro of any sort is limited by suitable locations being in National Parks, SSSI or being in remote rugged locations.

          So it is useful but that usefulness is not going to dig you out of a hole.

        • Yes Griff. Dinorwic North Wales. Very successful for quick peak loads.

          Cost £425 million in 1974 around £4.5 Billion today. Storage 9.1 Gwhrs. Can supply about a 1800 Mw load for 7 hours. 75% efficient.
          We would probably need about 30 of these plus back up if the wind stopped blowing for a a few days -: and we are a bit short on mountains.
          Further: When they all ran out of omph they would need recharging and place a huge demand on the grid once the wind did decide to blow.

      • Sure you can. Just build a 30 story condo with a free roof-top swimming pool…the size of Lake Mead.

  7. As only surplus power is used to charge the batteries it does matter a rats what the cost of battery storage is until they have enough renewables to provide the demand.

    • “it’s critical to reduce the costs of the materials and manufacturing that contribute to the cost of the storage energy capacity,”
      If renewables are allowed to provide more of the demand, the cost of everything using energy during mining, manufacture, transport, and installation goes up, including cost of energy storage. The cost of renewables and energy storage will most likely spiral upward together while the standard of living for the majority will move downward without justifiable environmental benefit. Breakthroughs in storage technology along with a reduction in environmental footprint are necessary if renewables are ever to be viable. It’s political science without objective cost-benefit analysis.

  8. Hi.
    90 % reduction of cost of energy storage, .. and with out any help from fossil fuels, anywhere in the supply chain, all the way from mining to the scrapyard?
    Really an uphill battle I think.

    HB

  9. Disclaimer : this thread is an undeclared advertising for “Joule (@Joule_CP)”

    proclaiming “outstanding and insightful research, analysis, and ideas addressing the need for more sustainable energy”.
    _______________________________________________________

    With the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this breaches the CAP code for non-broadcast advertisements because it was not clear that it was an advert.

  10. “it’s critical to reduce the costs of the materials and manufacturing that contribute to the cost of the storage energy capacity,”

    Blimey, what degree did she major in The Bleeding Obvious”?

    Probably got a first!

  11. “So, we decided to address this issue head on.”

    …Instead of pretending that magic wands will create fantasy technologies that will make all the problems go away. Well, I have to credit the Authors with thinking inside the box for a while.

    The idea that wind and solar (which is what they really mean) will power the nation is attractive if it is in the form of an Issac Azimov novel. It is not fi the form is the subsidy of huge installations and the dismantling of the reliable portion of the power generation system.

    As the “renewables” market starts to form a significant % of the total generation capacity, and the problems come close to really bothering the customers, this much more practical approach to dealing with the intermittency issue is welcomed.

    I have a lot of confidence in the liquid metal battery developed at MIT, because it has huge storage capacity and can already be run on a neighbourhood scale. A reasonable footprint can store many MHW of electrical power. The thyristors needed to manage the input and outputs (plus the possibility of using 350 VDC instead of 120 VAC) makes a bog difference to the viability.

    For those not watching, the Dutch have been working hard on the management of 350 VDC in a small industrial area that is off-grid in terms of AC – an experiment at scale – to see if it works well. There are significant efficiency gains to be had and the electronics already exist to do it. Papers on the topic can be found online at the Domestic Use of Energy conferences website, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town), where the Dutch work was presented as the Keynote a couple of years ago. They are also available in an IEEE Journal.

    In 2018 there was a presentation on the management of voltage and current from a discharging capacitor which has been a problem to date. A proposed innovative circuit seems to have that under control. Very interesting work.

  12. 1) Some journalist dropped a decimal point. $0.20/kWh sounds more reasonable.
    A system that can store enough power for 12 hours at $20/MWh would be implemented as fast as the needed metals can be ripped out of the ground. They could be charged at night by nukes and do peak shaving during the day.
    If it costs 20-150 $/kWh, it is cheaper to use galley slaves on rowing machines, each producing 250 Watts. (something useful to do for the 1% of the US male population in prison?)
    2) Calm winter days often last 2-4 % of the year (1-2 weeks), until the next storm front passes by. If you need to pay for the construction of “other sources” that can take the base-load 5% of the time, why not use those sources 100% of the time?

    • $20/kWh is in the paper… As is this…

      We find that allowing for periods of unmet demand relative to the desired output shape during infrequent but significant resource shortages can substantially reduce the costs of supplying electricity in baseload, intermediate, bipeaker, and peaker output shapes.

      100% “unmet demand” would actually make wind and solar free…😆

      I think $20/kWh is the cost of the battery. If it was only discharged once, it would be $20/kWh. The cost over the service life would be $20/kWh divided by the number of full charge-discharge cycles.

    • But what could go wrong if the power were to be out for a week during a -30C cold snap in Chicago after all fossil fuels have been banned? Such events only happen once in a lifetime (of the people unfortunate enough to freeze to death in them).

    • 1) Some journalist dropped a decimal point.

      My guess is that $20/KWh is intended to mean something like “the cost of storage capable of storing one KW hour of energy.”. For example: For some reason I don’t recall, there is a NIMH vacuum cleaner battery sitting on the shelf above my computer. It says it’s capacity is 2100 mAh and voltage is 10.8V. As I recall, it cost about $20. So, its storage cost per KWh is around $20/(2.1*10.8/1000) = $881. Maybe we need to cut that a bit before we propose a bank of these things to buffer intermittent renewable power.

      • MIT has now explained in detail that renewable storage does not and will not work because it’s not economically feasible. Perfect time to end this fools errand.

      • Sounds Good!
        Right up until you place your down payment. All of this wonderful unicorns and rainbows is only if you believe the company sales pitch.
        Solyndra comes to mind.
        Just a few days ago, WUWT ran a story about a town taking down their windmills. Two units, $457,000, lifespan 20 years. Actual cost ballooned to $800,000 and after 4 years both units were broken and beyond repair. This is a big jump for a little company, I would do a “wait and see”.

      • Those storage costs are an overhead on top of the cost of generating the electricity in the first place. So if the storage cost is $S /kWh, and the battery is good for C cycles, and the wholesale cost of electricity fed into the storage system in the first place is $W /MWh, then the use of the storage system increases the final cost of electricity by (S*10/C)/W %,
        which is quite small for any reasonable values of S, C and W.

      • You also have to figure the round trip losses and the cost of power to charge it.

        Grid scale batteries are not really for storage, but rather for load balancing in the very short term on the grid. Much of their income is made from charging for providing that service, rather than any arbitrage between the cost of charging up and the price received for energy sent out. Speed of response is part of the attraction.

    • ? They depreciated the up-front investment over 20 years ?

      So if we just can find a manufacturer to produce batteries that last 20 years, 7500 cycles, for that price, we can go to 100% unreliables without blackouts.
      To be fair. A gas plant that only produces 5% of the time, is also not cheap.

  13. Talking of demand side management, say I’m an ancient granny in my underheated house and it’s a calm cold night and I catch sight of my SMART METER which is showing a horrendous rise in £ per kwh, I switch off everything and am found next morning?

  14. People continue to take ammonia as an energy currency seriously. link There is a continuing stream of pilot plants. example What I haven’t heard yet is an announcement that a pilot plant has been a roaring success and they’re going to full commercial production.

  15. Allowing the renewable energy system to fail to meet demand for just five percent of the hours …“.
    They have just blown their whole argument out of the water (and their following sentences demonstrate that they have no answer. Renewable energy needs an equal capacity of back-up. Back-up comes at 100% capital cost regardless of how little you use it..
    So the simple answer to their question – How far must energy costs fall? – is that they can never fall far enough to be truly economic.

    You can get to a less simple answer by asking at what level are black-outs / brown-outs acceptable. To answer that question, ask the industries that use power. They would surely say that (a) their regular power supply would have to be much cheaper than power supplied reliably to their competitors, (b) they would need advance warning of outages, and (c) they would install their own diesel (eg.) backup.

    With renewables, there is no way around the need for back-up.

    PS. I hear that the Australian energy minister, Angus Taylor, has restarted the nuclear energy debate. Now that is a step forward.
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/12/angus-taylor-wont-rule-out-reversing-nuclear-energy-ban-if-business-case-stacks-up

    • Yup. If only they would stop breathing for 5% of the time then the rest of industrial civilization could get on with the important things in life, free from people who only ever expect other’s to make sacrifices.

  16. If these “experts” did not incorporate the results of a recent study on the abysmal lifespan reductions of wind turbine, in which the cost of power essentially doubles, then this analysis is totally invalid. Also, the enormous land requirements of the wind farms makes them unacceptable
    to any society.
    Battery costs have comes down over the past 10 years significantly, but further reductions of li ion battery prices have been rather small over the past two years and there can be no more reductions due to mass production – Tesla and Mercedes are building and operating battery gigafactories which are almost totally automated, but the cost savings are minimal.
    5% outages are absurd. Also, these cost estimates make assumptions that are arbitrary – solar and wind power can die over large areas when hurricanes or tropical storms exist. Solar/wind power can die off for days or even weeks.
    Any study of future energy systems which does not concentrate on small modular molten salt nuclear reactors, which can function both as baseload generators as well as peak load generators and can produce power at a levelized cost of 4 cents per kWhr and require a tiny environmental footprint and can be located anywhere, with no need for bodies of water for cooling, with zero danger to the public cannot be presented as a rational evaluation of future energy systems.

    • It’s pretty obvious the figures they give are for propaganda purposes and not serious engineering or accounting.

      I’ve been thinking about a small solar PV system for a long time and paying close attention to prices. Given the wholesale price of PV panels, I don’t see how they could possibly get the price of grid scale PV systems down to the prices cited by the renewable energy advocates.

      • I have been wanting to install some solar as well, but the math is just no where close to actually saving money yet.
        In southwest Florida, one can expect to save about $100/month on average from a 5000 watt array of panels. At best.
        If they do not save a person money, what is the point?

  17. Pure navel gazing.
    5 per cent times 24 is 72 minutes per day when there is no power, on average. The abstract doesn’t give the 95 percent limits of this average.
    This journal sounds corrupt and will be used to plant propaganda into the peer reviewed literature which will then be used as evidence by the judicial system to mandate solar and wind.

    • Yes, and those 72 minutes will be the time when you most need the electricity.

      I could cope with that and it would just cost me a little money for the required equipment. Similarly, my buddy the mechanical engineer can easily cope with his super complicated heat pump system. Our neighbors, on the other hand, not so much …

  18. “The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity”
    And why would we care, or want to do that?

  19. Even though he was a devout Greeney, Prof MacKay, the former UK government scientist, concluded we could never have decarbonisation without nuclear power. His calculations suggested the maximum penetration of renewables would be 50%. (Assuming that ALL energy was to be decarbonised, including space heating). There is simply not enough land-space and continental-shelf in Europe to do so.

    And regard backup supplies, his answer was to flood every glen in Scotland, for use as pumped storage systems. But you can imagine the outcry if anyone dared to do that….! (We would need 10 days of backup supplies, or 12,000 gWhr. At present, the UK has 10 gWhr of backup, at Dinorwig – so we have a ways to go…)

    Please read: Renewable Energy Without the Hot Air.
    Downloadable as a .pdf
    https://www.withouthotair.com

    It is very good – apart from the Greenwash, and the multiple units he used, which obstructs direct comparisons.

    Ralph

    • I think David Mackay’s estimate of the storage needed only looked at the pattern for a normal year. When I looked at this using 30 years of data, I concluded you would need over 30TWh of storage to cover for a run of poor years and worst case scenarios. You could reduce that by gross over-investment in capacity (maybe as much as a factor of 5) and very high levels of curtailment, but that of course substantially increases the cost of generation even if it saves on storage. You eventually reach a point where further overcapacity becomes extremely expensive because you can do nothing about windless days and dark winters, while most of the marginal output is curtailed.

  20. “Allowing the renewable energy system to fail to meet demand for just five percent of the hours over a twenty year period can halve the cost of renewable electricity, the researchers report.” ?
    …5% ? ROTFLMAO !

  21. Pure solar takes a lot of backup in winter with cloudy days, low Sun angles and short days. Throw in a polar high that sets up shop for a few days and drops temperatures and you need a whole lot of backup. All this has to be calculated for worst case, and the worse case is you may need to supply electricity out of storage for most of each day for days.

    Winter Arctic outbreaks can be life threatening and heat pumps are pretty worthless at very low temperatures. Now introduce all the demand from the electric vehicles that are supposed to replace the ICE ones and battery storage just isn’t going to work.

    The only ultimate solution is E=MC2. There is ample energy splitting or fusing atoms. The footprint is small and the distribution system is in place. Put our efforts there.

    • Yes. For pure heating purposes, the backup should just be heat (woodstoves, fossil fuels burned right in the house). The electric grid using renewables will never be appropriate for this.

  22. California recalled a governor for being involved in setting up a system that performed better than the “load shedding” percentage envisioned under this plan. Of course, failure to remove the whole crew responsible led to just blaming Enron for exploiting an inherently flawed system set up by the politicians who had no idea of how to run a utility system.
    They were very good at deflecting responsibility, despite their lack of ability to organize power systems. So the same group of “experts” are still in place in Calizuela.

  23. “It’s critical to reduce the costs of the materials and manufacturing that contribute to the cost of the storage energy capacity.”

    I love the convoluted writing in the article. It’s very amusing. For example, the above quote should be written: Batteries need to be cheaper.

  24. In Georgia (USA), we currently pay $0.15/KWh for electricity that is generated by a combo of gas, coal, nuclear, and hydro (including all taxes & recovery fees). Even with 90% projected reductions in current costs (in today’s dollars) for so-called renewable technologies (which assumes that the rare materials in them with be available in the quantities needed for mass deployment, and their costs are in line with those 90% cost-reduction projections), those reduced costs would still be measured in whole dollars per KWh – still about an order of magnitude greater that today.

    As Andrew W above asks regarding the aim of this wealth-destructive fantasy being decarbonization, why would we want to do that?

  25. A novel way to increase the inherent low capacity factor of PV, CSP in the winter months is being looked at-

    https://twitter.com/solar_chase/status/1144161292061741058

    “a very high DC:AC ratio to generate shoulder-time electricity while curtailing at peak.”

    I just paid my 2019 annual true up bill with PG&E so naturally I wondered if these projects are based on Enron type accounting and the ability to get a fast 30% tax credit and dump the contracts…..

    Are the extra costs to make sure light switches work going to role up under generation, distribution, transmission, reliability or just what…..

  26. Fingers crossed it’s not another Solyndra: https://eestorcorp.com/about/

    Here’s a company that asks for investment. They claim to have developed a surface modified Composition Modified Barium Titanate (CMBT) that blends well with a variety of polymer matrices, resulting in ultra-high energy density polymer capacitors. They have appointed Mr. Jing Peng as their new Chief Financial Officer.

    Proviso: https://eestorcorp.com/2019/07/17/eestor-appoints-new-chief-financial-officer/

    “Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, contained in this press release including, but not limited to (i) generally, or the “About EEStor” paragraph which essentially describes the Corporation’s outlook and objectives, constitute ”forward-looking information” or ”forward-looking statements” within the meaning of certain securities laws, and are based on expectations, estimates and projections as of the time of this press release. Forward looking statements are necessarily based upon a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable by the Corporation as of the time of such statements, are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies. These estimates and assumptions may prove to be incorrect.

  27. This is one of those ‘the sky is blue’ and ‘yes, boys and girls are different’ stories. Its been known for decades that in order for solar and wind to be feasible modes of generating large scale electricity, a breakthrough in storage (ie, batteries) is required. Its old news.

    • The paper makes it clear that a breakthrough in storage simply won’t be enough. Stretching it as far as they consider reasonable/possible/whatever, they still say that power will be absent for 5% of the time. As Joel points out above, that’s a rather mind-blowing 72 minutes per day. There’s also a diminishing return: each increment in battery capacity reduces the potential deficit by less percentage points than the previous increment.

      The salient point is that no matter what quantity of renewables is installed, it can seriously underperform for an indefinite period. Coal and nuclear facilities can keep their on-site stockpile topped up. Gas facilities only have to keep their supply line going. But when a renewables facility’s battery runs out, the facility just stops.

  28. It seems like they must have made a lot if assumptions about the demand in their demand side management concepts which have gone unstated. Reducing demand only buys you a little time in a growing economy and growing population. In my mind, the peak in peak-time power consumption would naturally increase relative to the non-peak hours as growth takes place (i.e., is ‘peakiness’ constant over market size?). And is there any consideration for the conversion to electrically powered transportation being proposed by many? That could shift peaks, in addition to adding considerably to overall demand.

    Next, at what point in the demand curve would the reduction of 5% take place? It would be easy to assume it would be when people needed power the least, at non-peak times. I suspect though, for that plan to work, it would require the cut-back to be when people need power the most; at peak times. That is a prime consideration.

    Finally, consider this: there was a mystery writer in the US, Mary Roberts Rinehart (the closest author the US has to Agatha Christie), whose settings took place in the early 1900s, contemporary times for her. They are fascinating from the respect of describing what life was like at the time. For instance the electricity was cut off every night, and turned on the next morning. This was the norm at the time, but some power at any time was better than previous. They used candles, oil lamps, fireplaces, etc. during those hours. People adapt. If you cut power to people one hour a day, they will find other ways to get power. The two most obvious ways is to have their own rechargeable batteries, or small generators (running of fossil fuels). So either power consumption is shifted to a different time, or the dreaded CO2 is released into the air.

    So in the big picture, just what have they accomplished?

  29. This article is fine as far as it goes . . . but it doesn’t go nearly far enough to be useful.

    The elephant-in-the-room-that-nobody-talks-about, unmentioned in this article, is the massive amount of waste heat that will be generated by the inherent inefficiency of widespread electrical energy storage.

    Global electricity use in 2018 was about 23,000 TWh (https://yearbook.enerdata.net/electricity/electricity-domestic-consumption-data.html ).

    Let’s assume we desire to back up just 10% of that with electrical battery storage, fully recognizing there are some other very limited energy storage options such as pumped hydro. Then let’s further assume that the round-trip efficiency (i.e., AC net output versus AC/DC net input) is a generous 85% at commercial scale. We are then looking at (23,000 TWh)*(.1)*(.15) = 345 TWh of waste heat being dumped into the environment. That is roughly equivalent to the total energy output of 30 of the world’s largest nuclear power plants (1300 MW output capacity each) operating at peak power 24/7/365 being dumped directly into the global environment as waste heat.

    So, if in the course of achieving much cheaper electrical battery storage (the main point of the above article), the attendant technology has a lower round-trip storage efficiency, say 70% instead of 85%, the amount of waste heat dumped into the environment would DOUBLE for the above scenario.

    Now, didn’t I hear somewhere there was a concern about global warming?

    • You missed the first law of thermodynamics. All the energy generated by solar panels or wind turbines was removed from the system. If not harvested, it would have all become heat. So these are carbon neutral and energy neutral. Compare them to nuclear or FF generation where all of the output eventually becomes heat. I’m not saying anything about financials.

      • “All the energy generated by solar panels or wind turbines was removed from the system.”

        You missed my point, as well as the second law of thermodynamics, often referred to as the Law of Entropy, which basically says that ANY energy conversion process (cycle) within a control volume will always require more total energy INPUT than will result as total usable energy output. So, your statement “All the energy generated by solar panels or wind turbines was removed from the system”, while correct, totally bypasses the fact that it takes even more energy than that to restore that “removed energy” back into a usable form, such as the equivalent of the original sunlight. One simple point: the energy required to fabricate solar PV panels and wind turbines and battery storage is not part of the energy generated by those solar panels or wind turbines that was “removed from the system.

        “If not harvested, it would have all become heat.” Really?

        You overlooked photosynthesis and energy storage as biomass. Moreover, you missed the fact that the solar spectrum reflectivity of PV panels is LOWER than that of grass, forests, farmland, rural areas, water and fresh snow (ref: https://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/solar-panels-near-airports-glare-issue/ ). Thus, solar panels actually increase net heat input to Earth compared to that which would otherwise have “become heat”via absorption of sunlight that is not reflected at Earth’s surface.

        Bottom line: in reality, there is no such thing as “energy neutral” per the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  30. What too many people fail to understand is something I found earlier on WUWT. There is no Moore’s Law for battery technology. Some expect that there will be some enormous technological breakthrough that will magically make this all work. That’s highly unlikely. Improvements will be made, but they’ll be relatively small and incremental.

  31. What they didn’t consider is that to “decarbonize” in a meaningful way, we will also have to transform the transportation sector, which is one of the biggest users of carbon-rich fuels. Practically, most of this will be in the form of replacing cars and trucks with pure EVs (as opposed to hybrids). All those batteries will need to be recharged every day, and for some, multiple times a day. This increases future electric demand by significant amounts, and only exacerbates the problems of renewable electricity generation. The necessary increases in the size of the grid alone represents a gigantic effort, let alone reducing the cost of grid-sized storage technology by 90% and then producing massive quantities of it. And all of that industrial output will have to powered, at least initially, by existing power sources, a.k.a fossil fuels. This all seems like the fanciful dreaming in the 50’s and 60’s about the flying cars we’d all have by 2000.

  32. This alleged research is just more computer playtime wishing for fantasy solutions:

    “The researchers’ model optimizes storage costs by using whatever combination of storage and solar and wind gives the lowest electricity cost. This often means oversizing solar and wind capacity relative to an intended output, to decrease the amount of storage needed.”

    Nothing is mentioned about system backup by hydro, nuclear or fossil fuels having to run at the same time.

    They oversized the renewable energy machines while ignoring the energy losses:
    A) Converting DC to AC at a somewhat decent frequency and amperage. (Actually they require the backup generators to smooth out the AC into usable somewhat nondestructive energy.

    B) Batteries exist because they desired them to exist. Size, location, rare earths, energy losses converting to AC and additional energy losses storing energy in the battery are not dealt with. Nor is the energy losses when the energy is withdrawn mentioned.

    C) Technology is assumed to have leapt forward with generating and especially battery technology much advanced over current reality.

    D) Time to store energy versus time it takes to run down the energy levels is not investigated. My home batteries charging require much more time than draining the batteries.

    In other words, their models assume advanced technology is available and cheap to boot, subsidies are not discussed, leveled costs are usable instead of actual costs. Costs of materials, handling, mining, smelting, refining, construction, delivery, installation are not applicable.
    S/
    The world is wonderful and these things are right and beautiful and oh so natural.
    Mines are not real.
    Smelters do not exist.
    Industrial requirements for energy rigidly held to specific very high quality electricity voltage, frequency and amperage are just business excesses and can be ignored.
    Fertilizing the local land with bird and bat carcasses is a bonus.
    /S

  33. I can’t believe I am going to defend green technology, but I feel I need to point out the obvious…

    You do not need to replace base-load power with wind or solar to reduce use of fossil fuels, just supplement it. I will assume nuclear is used for the primary base load in the future.

    So energy storage for wind or solar must be sufficient to withstand a near worse case scenario for loss of the natural energy source (wind or sunlight). You must be able to charge the storage while providing a useful amount of electricity, and the storage must be able to provide that same amount of power for a number of hours equal to the near worse case. This means there must be a large storage capacity. (I am assuming the need for a fossil fuel backup is removed in the future).

    Once way of providing backup would be in reserving hydro-power for near worse-cases. If there is a ongoing drought…well, then you are screwed. You could also reserve some percent of nuclear power, but I don’t see how this is ever cost effective – just use that instead of the wind or solar.

    So now the cost. The energy generation + the energy storage + the energy backup would all have to be near the same costs as provided today by using coal and gas. This simply is not going to happen given the cheap costs of gas. The only scenario I see where (except under special circumstances like a desert) where wind or solar can ever compete is one in which fossil fuel prices double or triple.

    Thinking you can get the costs of batteries down by 90% just doesn’t seem realistic. Maybe by 50%. The costs of wind and solar are quickly being discovered to be higher then estimated, and without subsidies, they just cannot compete (except in special circumstances). If you can get both batteries and wind or solar down to 50%, then we can start thinking about their expansion – until then we should just stop deploying them until they are actually market ready.

    • Recall what happened to the price of materials back in the building boom?
      Attempting to build enough wind and solar capacity and replace everything with electric that currently uses FF directly, and doing this all over the world (because doing it in one place or another will not change a thing) would dwarf that demand.
      I have never seen anything to suggest mining machines and transports and everything else required to produce the amounts of everything that would be needed, including a whole new upgraded grid, is in any way possible.
      And even these authors state that the cost of batteries seems to have hit a wall.
      There will be no huge breakthrough that makes batteries significantly more power dense than what is possible now.
      And they do not last, despite being crazy expensive.
      Enough power walls to store power for a day, would cost far more than the house it was powering.

  34. “The research found that technologies with energy storage capacity costs below $20/kWh could enable cost-competitive baseload power that is available all of the time over a twenty-year period”

    Tesla’s famous South Australian battery is good for 129 MWh and cost $96 million. That is $744 per kWh

    We only need to cut costs by 97 % boys!

  35. Storage will have to provide power for the YEARS required to build real generation plants after wind/solar prove inadequate.

  36. The UK has just suffered one of its worst power outages for years.

    It looks like the grid was taking plenty of power from wind farms as it is pretty windy. Then suddenly a couple of these farms tripped out, probably because it was too windy. The grid could not bring enough base power online quickly enough and it crashed parts of the grid.

    Those eco loons who ended up being trapped on trains or left stranded at stations or without power at home, might be given some food for thought.

    It is far more difficult to maintain the grid when you have a fair proportion of renewable sources feeding it. The bigger the proportion the bigger the problem.

    • Inevitably, the trend will be to decentralized power, with all its inefficiencies and greater pollution. People of means aren’t going to put up with all this.

      Get your Generac while you still can.

  37. This UK power cut has similarities with the South Australia one – high winds causing wind generated electricity to surge before being suddenly cut off when winds got too high.

    • From your link:

      “Today, MGX Renewables Inc. is expected to start trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) under the symbol MGXR.”

      Says all you need to know….

      Zinc-air batteries have been ready to go for about 50 years. GM planned to use them for EV’s back in the seventies.

  38. I would recommend reading the article:
    “Electricity storage as a matching tool between variable renewable energy and load”.
    Link below:
    https://ssrn.com/author=3534904

    ABSTRACT
    The transition to low carbon emitting solutions imposes new challenges to the power sector to accommodate a large penetration of intermittent renewables. It goes beyond the cheapest symmetrical reduction of fossil thermal generation that is being avoided. Storage is seen as the solution and also the option for batteries, but using a Discrete Fourier Transform and real hourly data it is shown that storage acts as an integral function, attenuating the “daily” and “weekly” harmonics of the charging / discharging function and leaving the “yearly” cycle as the main component to set the storage capacity needed. Export / import with neighbour systems shall be seen as a competitor with storage, but it poses mutual dependency and shared security issues. The renewable generation cost reduction in the “learning curve”, achieving a levelized cost below the variable cost of a CCGT is a milestone and it allows accepting a certain level of curtailment as an alternative to reduce the investment in storage. Batteries do not solve the long-term storage problem but today its use begins to be competitive in the “daily” cycle, replacing peaking gas plants and reinforcing the concept that the cost of storage can be seen as an equivalent thermal power plant. Better than assuming a fraction of renewable energy curtailment, it might be the development of Power-To-X solutions (hydrogen, synthetic gas, etc.) or even investing in nuclear power plants and limiting intermittent renewables penetration accordingly. Both solutions represent indirect electricity storage – fuel has a low storage cost – and it can solve the renewable surplus seasonal transfer problem, recovering synchronous generators for providing dispatchable flexibility, inertia to the system and serving as backup for periods with low renewable generation.

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