Storing Energy

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I’ve been reading some folks’ claims about how batteries are the key to a bright green renewable future. Of course, we wouldn’t need batteries if we didn’t try to depend on unreliable, intermittent sources like solar and wind, but let’s set that question aside for the moment.

A number of ways of storing energy exist that allow us to generate electricity as needed. Batteries, pumped water storage, compressed air, electro-mechanical flywheel systems, electro-chemical “flow batteries”, all are in use in various locations. And there are “intermittent flow” systems, which although they are not storage, allow for greater generation at certain times … including Niagara Falls, where the flow over the falls is reduced at night so more power can be generated when it’s not masquerading as a tourist attraction. Not storage … but pretty cool nonetheless …

Figure 1. Niagara Falls, minus the water.

Setting Niagara aside, I thought I’d look at how much energy storage exists in the world. Here’s a list of all of the world’s energy storage systems, by type.

Figure 2. Global energy storage systems, with capacity in terawatt-hours.

I love science because I am constantly surprised. In this case, the surprises are how much bigger pumped hydro storage is than all the others. The sum of all other systems is about a twentieth of the pumped hydro storage.

The next surprise was where lithium ion batteries, the Tesla Powerwall style of batteries, fall on the list … second from the bottom.

Being curious, I thought I’d look at just the US storage systems. Figure 3 shows that result.

Figure 3. As in Figure 2, but for US energy storage systems, with capacity in terawatt-hours.

The US pretty much mirrors the rest of the planet. Mainly pumped hydro, not much lithium ion batteries.

Now that looks all impressive … but is it really? So I thought I’d compare the electrical energy storage shown in the figures above with the amount of electricity consumed in one single day. I started by looking at the globe as a whole in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Global energy storage system compared to global daily electricity consumption.

Hmmm … doesn’t look at that impressive compared to even one measly day’s electricity usage. For example, all of the lithium ion “Tesla-style” batteries in service would only supply the global electricity demand for … wait for it … two-hundredths of one second.

And once again, I looked at the corresponding US data as well, as shown below in Figure 5.

Figure 5. As in Figure 4, but for US energy storage system compared to US daily electricity consumption.

Proponents of solar and wind power will be glad to know that lithium ion batteries can power the US for about 50% longer than the global average … which is to say, they hold about three-hundredths of one second’s storage for the US, rather than two-hundredths of a second for the world.

Now, looking at this, you’d be tempted to think, wow, we could do it all with pumped hydro energy storage. But pumped hydro has some huge disadvantages:

• To do it you need the proper geographical setup, with hills, a water source, and a place to dam up a valley to make a storage lake.

• Such sites exist, but they are few and far between. And a number of countries have no such sites.

• Often, such sites have roads, towns, or other immovable things of value located where the proposed storage lake would go.

• Even if there are no towns or roads in the proposed location, in California, as in many other locations, it’s basically impossible to put in any new dams, because feelings. The ever-so-green liberals, the ones insisting on intermittent energy sources that require backup, don’t want us to drown some worms and make some squirrels and cute bunnies move to the next valley over to create the backup they demand—that would be krool to nature.

• Good sites are often very far from where the power is needed. You can put a conventional power plant, or even a Tesla-style battery, next to a city where the power need exists … but you generally can’t do that with pumped hydro. So you end up with very large transmission costs and transmission losses.

• Pumped hydro is not all that efficient. You only get back about 70%-80% of the energy that you put in …

• The best sites are far too often already in use.

Subject to those constraints, pumped hydro storage is the best of our to-date bad choices. Some new ones will probably be created, but likely few and far between.

So that’s the current state of play in the world of storing energy to generate electricity. Short version? We are a long, long way from batteries or other storage systems being able to hold and deliver enough energy to do anything larger than balance out short-term fluctuations in energy supply versus demand.

My best to all,

w.

Post Scriptum: As always, in the spirit of avoiding misunderstandings, I ask everyone to quote the exact words that you are discussing. That way we can all be clear on exactly what and who you are responding to.

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Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 10:10 am

You forgot another key point about pumped hydro. The places where it might be useful are mostly the American southwest and west, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, etc. All of those states have something else in common, water rights are a very big deal because there isnt a lot of water and there is a large demand for water. I just dont see anyone selling their water rights for pumped hydro.

GoatGuy
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 10:24 am

Yep… Kansas is flat. No place for pumped Hydro. … oh, That, Too …

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 15, 2021 10:44 am

Flint Hills ….

😉

Last edited 1 month ago by Sweet Old Bob
Jim Gorman
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
June 15, 2021 2:03 pm

Flint Hills simply aren’t tall enough to make pressure. You would need a ton of low pressure water AND large turbine wheels to get a lot of power. Not enough water to do it.

taz1999
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 15, 2021 12:45 pm

people who think kansas is flat have never been to florida

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  taz1999
June 15, 2021 1:04 pm

people who think kansas is flat grew up in colorado

A Traveler
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 16, 2021 6:49 am

I had a layover in Wichita once.

Ambled out into the parking lot to stretch my legs, stood in the bed of a pick up, and I could see Colorado!

Duane
Reply to  taz1999
June 15, 2021 6:01 pm

Kansas IS flat – spoken as a Floridian who has been to Kansas many times.

ATheoK
Reply to  Duane
June 15, 2021 8:37 pm

Just as flat as the ocean is with a strong breeze to a fresh gale blowing.

Boone
Reply to  taz1999
June 15, 2021 10:18 pm

People from West Virginia think everywhere is flat.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 16, 2021 8:56 am

‘The Oologah Dam is located at 36°25′19″N 95°40′49″W and is an earth-fill embankment type. Its maximum height is 137 ft (42 m) above the river bed and the embankment is 4,000 ft (1,219 m) long.
There are many river dame 1/10th that height generating an appreciable amount of electricity. There are also a large number of pumped storage reservoirs generating electricity with less than height.

Oldseadog
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 10:32 am

Also you not only need to have a suitable place up the hill to construct the store lake, you need a big lake at the bottom of the hill to pump the water from.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Oldseadog
June 15, 2021 1:10 pm

In Western Massachusetts- there is a fine pumped storage facility. It pumps up the water from the Connecticut River. When built- there was a nuclear reactor nearby. The theory was that the excess energy from the reactor would pump up the water from the river at night. Of course the enviros managed to kill the reactor and now they’re trying to kill the pumped storage facility. Here in Mass. the enviros hate every form of energy- even wind and solar. Well, they like wind and solar in limited quantities- only where it won’t disturb anyone- but the state is tiny with over 6 million people so not many such places.

Steven Pfeiffer
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 15, 2021 2:50 pm

Joseph; Is that facility what they used to call “Bear Swamp” ?…as far as I know that is/was the only pumped storage facility in Massachusetts.

Reply to  Steven Pfeiffer
June 15, 2021 4:44 pm

That is First Light’s Northfield Mountain pumped storage facility. It is currently undergoing a very lengthy federal relicensing process so they can continue to pump water out of the Connecticut River. My forestry work on the 1,500 acres surrounding the reservoir was put on hold until they get a new license. The non-native insect pest the hemlock wooly adelgid has caused major decline in most of the hemlock trees which are a major component of the forest. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back up on the mountain next year to continue the forest improvement work. Pumped storage is by far the best way to store energy but works best with nuclear power. Unfortunately Vermont Yankee was shut even though it still had 18 years left on its license. 600 great jobs were lost with salaries averaging $100,000/year!

Joe E
Reply to  Mike Leonard
June 15, 2021 6:36 pm

As a ferc employee the situation with Northfield is basically true but most of the issue is the downstream erosion effects. Having said that, Northfield has many other attributes that make it a signing asset; provides spinning reserve, blackstart capability and grid stabilization. Renewables don’t have that and another reason why they are poor systems.

Joe E
Reply to  Joe E
June 15, 2021 6:36 pm

Sorry meant significant asset- auto correct error.

Reply to  Joe E
June 15, 2021 11:35 pm

I believe the erosion is minor. One of the other concerns for people who want to see Northfield shutdown is the effect it has on fish populations which I believe is also minor. The problem for fish are the dams. I think a new fish ladder is going in at Turners Falls. Some people are calling for Northfield to build a lower reservoir so it would be a closed loop system and they wouldn’t have to pump water out of the CT River. But that will never happen – the cost would be too great and try getting the permits to build anything these days. They will get relicensed but I hope the process doesn’t drag on for years.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Joe E
June 16, 2021 3:05 am

I should think the erosion issues could be solved- it’s not rocket science. I just read in the local paper that the local greenies are also trying to shut down several hydro power facilities on the CT River, including the Northfield pumped storage- most in VT and NH. The local greenies hate all fossil fuels, nuclear, biomass, hydro and any solar or wind that bothers anyone. But they demand that the state become net free ASAP.

https://www.recorder.com/my-turn-donlon-urffer-HydroRelicensing-40868020

beng135
Reply to  Joe E
June 16, 2021 7:17 am

Smith Mountain Lake pumped storage in southwest Virginia (Appalachian Power) serves the same purpose. Run water generating power during the day & switch around using power to pump water back up into the lake at night.

TRM
Reply to  Mike Leonard
June 16, 2021 2:45 pm

True about it fitting nicely with nuclear. Nuclear are best when steady state level is maintained so you’ll have extra at night. Kirk Sorenson was suggesting refill the aquifer at night but pumped hydro is a good way to use the extra. Aluminium processing is another. Night shift LOL.

oeman 50
Reply to  Steven Pfeiffer
June 16, 2021 10:03 am

Virginia’s Bath County Pumped Storage has a max capacity of 3,000 MW and 24,000 MWHrs of storage. It’s the largest in the US, if not the world.

Joe E
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 15, 2021 6:41 pm

Another issue with some pumped storage facilities is that they are not really designed to take advantage of storing energy from a renewable source via a transmission line. The Blenheim Gilboa facility in NY comes to mind in that regard.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 15, 2021 10:20 pm

And it is cold and it is dark. Not a likely place for solar.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
June 16, 2021 3:09 am

well, personally, I hope it gets warmer- maybe another 2-3 C!

solar “farms” are popping up like mushrooms in MA- big forest industry firms with thousands of acres of land are rushing to cash in on the bonanza, now claiming they’re doing it to save the planet- they should manage their forests to grow wood and provide habitat- not capture photons

Jeffery P
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 16, 2021 7:56 am

I can’t blame them for cashing in on the ‘craze. As long as voters keep subsidizing alternate energy, you can expect more companies will do this.

Do the business owners really care what business they are in?

A Traveler
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 16, 2021 6:53 am

Ever met one of those enviros who actually lives like they are trying to make the rest of us live?
Me neither.

I recall dear little Al Gore, bless his heart, claiming he was carbon neutral when he was flying his jet all around because he bought carbon offsets – whatever that is.

I wonder if it will wash off if you spill it on your shoe.

A Traveler

TonyG
Reply to  A Traveler
June 16, 2021 8:39 am

“Ever met one of those enviros who actually lives like they are trying to make the rest of us live?”

Not met, but I know of one: Ed Begley Jr.

But he’s the only one.

Reply to  Oldseadog
June 16, 2021 6:28 am

Good work Willis – I published this years ago:

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/07/29/google-and-the-adjustment-of-inconvenient-viewpoints-especially-climate/#comment-2416577

A pumped storage systems is the only practical super-battery. During off-peak times when grid electricity demand is low, water is pumped from a reservoir downstream of a hydro dam to the upstream reservoir, such that it can be used again to generate power.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinorwig_Power_Station

This is established technology, but it is rare to have a suitable site. For example, there are ZERO such sites in the Province of Alberta an area of 662,000 km2 – bigger than all of France, or [Germany + Italy] combined. {What WERE you idiots thinking when you started WW2?}

The problem is that most hydro dams only have a river downstream, and if you started pumping water from that river up-and-over-the-dam you would drain the river in minutes. You need a sizable lake downstream of the dam for pumped storage to be practical.

Last edited 1 month ago by ALLAN MACRAE
Rich Lentz
Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
June 16, 2021 9:16 am

Another problem(s) with pumped storage is that very few of those have a storage capacity large enough for more than one day! Primarily they are used as peak power plants – where the economics of the cost of pumping the water up is offset by the high price the power can be sold for or not paid to others when you do not have a PS facility. Note they may be the cheapest form or storing electricity but they are far from being the cheapest way of making electricity.

Also they are not suitable whatsoever for recreation or fishing.
I seriously doubt that anyone even Anti-Environmentalists would want one of these reservoirs near them.

Those looking for more info — > fttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pumped-storage_hydroelectric_power_stations

Reply to  Rich Lentz
June 16, 2021 10:06 am

Rich – there are many such problems.

I started writing about the abject failure of grid-connected wind and solar power generation in 2002.

Wind and solar power do NOT contribute significant economic electric power to the grid. Both fail due to intermittency and diffusivity – they vary too much and take up too much land.

These are proven facts, yet trillions of dollars have been wasted globally on this green energy fraud.
 
I posted the following , probably circa 2010, for our idiot politicians and the mainstream media:

“WIND POWER: IT DOESN’T JUST BLOW – IT SUCKS!”

“SOLAR POWER: STICK IT WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE!”

Apparently that is still too complicated for most media and politicians.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
June 16, 2021 5:17 pm

As a Nuclear Engineer with an Electrical background I have over almost 50 years experience in the Commercial Electrical Utility sector. The BIGEST problem I see is that the Renewable Energy Advocates are pushing “Distributed Generation.” That is the ultimate Nightmare of the electrical distribution system.
Present electrical distribution systems are designed like spider webs [not as pretty though]. The Major power plants are at the center and the users are on one of the radius lines or radius connectors. The radius connectors are needed for reliability to get power when a radius line goes down. There will be a few lower capacity generator’s scattered around in a sort of node like pattern like you see on telecommunication, Internet, WAN or LAN diagrams. Each of these generators will be feeding a substation.
Each of the substations are PROTECTING the ENTIRE Spider Web. they are designed for protecting the flow of electricity from the main baseload source OUTWARDS to the customers. Critical in their design are Reverse Current Trips. A RCT will trip a breaker when the electricity is heading toward the center of the web rather than outward as it should be.
You may ask “What causes power to go toward the center, there is nothing out here to generate it? Ah, but there is. When there is an instantaneous loss of generating capability, every electric motor on the grid is still rotating. The rotating motors then become a generator and produce electricity. Thus the need to have a reverse current trip.
A RCT is also needed if there is a rapid almost instantaneous load applied near the center of the Spider Web. This would happen if/when a very large motor is started and the Utility Dispatcher is not aware of the starting of the large load. I know from personal experience that this causes havoc.
As a young Startup Engineer at the Nuclear power Plant I was responsible for testing the various motors. Two of the motors I had to test were the Main Feed Water Pump Motors. While testing these 10,000 HP motors I forgot to call the Dispatcher and inform him that I was going to start the motor. Needles to say the starting of this motor placed a very large, unexpected load on the local grid causing power to be drawn from any available source. This immediately activated the RCT feeding the substation feeding the plant. The lights went out over half of the county. I immediately headed for a phone and dialed the Dispatcher and informed him I forgot to tell him. It took months to get rid of the nickname the plant gave me.

Point of this story is that it is going to be near impossible to feed electricity from 50 – 100 Wind turbines and hundreds of rooftop solar panels and protect the grid. A Smart Grid will not work. You will need a Genius Grid of Einstein capabilities.

Reply to  Rich Lentz
June 17, 2021 8:14 pm

Thank you Rich – an excellent, informative post.

How is it that our idiot politicians don’t listen to experts like you?

I wrote years ago that one day we will have a huge grid failure due to their wind-and-solar nonsense, right in the middle of a very cold winter. The death toll will be significant.

Shawn Marshall
Reply to  Rich Lentz
June 18, 2021 4:17 am

Since I am blessed to live on beautiful Smith Mountain Lake I will – per your advice – tell all the fisherman and recreational boaters that they are not to utilize or enjoy this Jewel of The Blue Ridge. There will be a lot of disappointed people.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  Shawn Marshall
June 18, 2021 8:15 am

Have always loved the Blue Mountain area and wish I was living there. The Smith Mountain Lake/Leesville Lake PSF is probably one of the better designed lakes for reactional use. Smith Mountain Lake only has a 2 foot change in water level to achieve the desired stored energy capacity. Typically, PS lakes have a much higher water level change. Whereas Leesville Lake increases/decreases by thirteen (13) feet. Have not seen either lake, however, I seriously doubt that Leesville Like is an “Ideal” recreationally Lake. I lived near a storage lake in Up State NY. The river was not restricted to public access, but did have several warning sirens along the outlet river. These were use to inform people to get away from, out of, the river as they are discharging water. While Trout fishing with my boys, we just made it to my Jeep, with water above our ankles after hearing these sirens.

Last edited 1 month ago by usurbrain
oeman 50
Reply to  Oldseadog
June 16, 2021 9:49 am

Serious consideration has been given to get the height difference between the upper and lower reservoirs by using abandoned deep mines. I don’t work on designing those, but my opinion is they are less controlled environments than traditional reservoirs.

Insufficiently Sensitive
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 11:28 am

All of those states have something else in common, water rights are a very big deal because there isnt a lot of water 

So? Pumped hydro just uses the same lakeful over and over, wasting energy generated elsewhere on the inefficiency of the pumps and the hydraulic friction of the pipes. It’s not like pumped hydro disposes of millions of gallons per day .

Andrew Kerber
Reply to  Insufficiently Sensitive
June 15, 2021 11:45 am

Ever heard of evaporation?

Climate believer
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 12:29 pm

… and rainfall.

Andrew Kerber
Reply to  Climate believer
June 15, 2021 12:51 pm

Guess what, you lose a lot more by evaporation and absorption than you gain by rainfall. Since they wont be able to have any streams or rivers running into them. And, as noted above, no one is going to be selling their water rights to the windmills. Water rights are a big deal as soon as you get west of Missouri, or south of Oklahoma.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Kerber
Climate believer
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 2:19 pm

“Guess what, you lose a lot more by evaporation and absorption than you gain by rainfall.”

Guess what, I was just adding to what you said, not contradicting.

ATheoK
Reply to  Climate believer
June 15, 2021 8:47 pm

That’s about as sensible as installing a pool, then waiting for the rain to fill it. In an arid state, no less.

You really need to bone up on water rights. Once rain falls on a property, it is owned by the water rights owner of that property.

Or do you expect the pumped water system to purchase a hundred times the land for the reservoir so they can collect enough water to fill it?

A Traveler
Reply to  ATheoK
June 16, 2021 6:58 am

Once rain falls on a property, it is owned by the water rights owner of that property.”

Not necessarily as some jurisdictions will not allow a rain barrel or underground tank to capture what falls on your roof.

Called riparian rights.

Same goes with diverting the natural flow of rain.

But, gubmints can do what ever they want.

TonyG
Reply to  ATheoK
June 16, 2021 9:13 am

“Once rain falls on a property, it is owned by the water rights owner of that property.”

From what I’ve been told, not in Oregon or Colorado. You can be fined for installing a rain barrel under your downspout.

Fred Lotte
Reply to  Climate believer
June 15, 2021 8:21 pm

52 years ago I was the junior engineer in the startup crew for a pumped storage plant. We figured that every inch of rain gave us about 5MWH of free energy. Acording to NOAA, the average annual rainfall for that location gave us about 240MWH a year. It would also replace about 320MWH of pumping energy per year for a total of 560MWH, about 1-1/3 hours of full power output.

A typical windmill (2MW and .3 cf guessed) would have to ‘run’ about 400 hours to generate 240MWH.

The evaporation surface was increased by the upper reservoir surface area of approximately 3/4 sq mile IIRC. The water surface of the lower reservoir didn’t change when the plant was constructed so its evaporation didn’t change.

Last I heard, the plant is still in operation. The original total storage was figured to be 4200MWH. I don’t know what it is today since the pump/turbines were changed out about 30 years ago.

meab
Reply to  Insufficiently Sensitive
June 15, 2021 2:57 pm

This isn’t that hard. I thought that even a half-wit can figure it out, but apparently not. Create a second lake uphill to hold most of the contents of the downhill lake and you’ve just increased the amount of surface area for evaporation by a large factor. The total amount of water collected as rainfall doesn’t increase as the area of the upper lake is in the watershed of the lower lake anyway. Evaporation is a big problem, especially in dry, sunny climates, you know, where they put solar. You could have looked this up.

Jean Parisot
Reply to  meab
June 15, 2021 3:19 pm

Isn’t the solution lots of shiny ping pong balls?

ATheoK
Reply to  Jean Parisot
June 15, 2021 8:49 pm

Why? To increase evaporative surface?

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  ATheoK
June 15, 2021 10:10 pm

The floating balls dramatically reduce evaporation because the wind velocity at the surface is reduced to zero and the sun doesn’t hit the water much.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Insufficiently Sensitive
June 15, 2021 5:32 pm

In Western states where water is in short supply, they can’t afford to not have the water to use for a Hydo-Battery. They need it to drink, irrigate crops, water livestock, etc.
Only when there is a surplus (rare) can it be spared to use energy to pump it from a lower lake into some higher lake to turn a turbine to get less energy.
Better to build a fossil fuel or nuclear plant for power and store the water for what water is really needed for, life.

Fred Lotte
Reply to  Insufficiently Sensitive
June 15, 2021 7:40 pm

The purpose of pumped storage is to make energy from ‘cheap’ generation available when energy demand is present. Having lots of cheap or green energy available when there is no demand does no good. It allows the cheap or green energy to displace the ‘expensive’ or ‘dirty’ energy. In effect it increases the capacity factor of base load generation.

beng135
Reply to  Fred Lotte
June 16, 2021 7:22 am

Exactly. Pumped storage overall uses some power, but saves money by making the other generation more efficient.

Last edited 1 month ago by beng135
Duane
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 15, 2021 5:52 pm

Pumped storage does not consume water. Water rights are granted in terms of volumetric flow rates (cubic feet per second, or acre-ft per year), subject to availability and seniority. Pumped hydro therefore does not entail or require transfer of water rights. Pumped storage only affects the timing of water releases that are then consumed by entitled water rights owners.

PCman999
Reply to  Duane
June 15, 2021 9:01 pm

” Pumped storage only affects the timing of water releases that are then consumed by entitled water rights owners.” … but that is the point, water rights owners don’t want to be told that they have to wait for their water until it’s convenient for the utility to turn it into electricity. They don’t want to give up any of their water waiting while the resouvoir fills up.

BCBill
Reply to  PCman999
June 15, 2021 11:44 pm

Timing is everything with water availability. Our local reservoir is drained each summer to f ill U. S. reservoirs located downstream. Aside from all the other horrors associated with reservoirs like dust storms, biologically depleted waterways and the destruction of formerly beautiful and productive littoral zones, the much ballyhooed recreational opportunities of full reservoirs are of little appeal when your ass is freezing in December. . Water reservoirs are like windfarms, another example of the tyranny of the urban majority over the sparsely populated countryside. We could have built ten natural gas power plants in BC with ten times the capacity and 1/10th the environmental footprint of the Site C dam but the urban wieners are all about virtue signalling and not really too concerned about destroying anything in the countryside as long as that destruction doesn’t affect their shopping opportunities

Last edited 1 month ago by BCBill
ChhDi
Reply to  BCBill
June 16, 2021 4:01 am

Right On!

Earthling2
Reply to  BCBill
June 16, 2021 9:59 am

Site C will be $16 Billion for a 1104 MW installed capacity, that has a plant factor of 54%, and a measly head of 150 feet. So 575 MW annual average output for what will be $20 Billion when the Treaty 8 court case is resolved, and accounting for escalating inflation since won’t be completed until 2026 now.

Probably the most costly hydroelectric infrastructure ever built on the planet, that will flood a fair bit of Class 1 farmland and requires new bridges and all kinds of extra expenses. Could have built a 1 GW nat gas plant closer to where the electricity is required for $2 Billion that ran at a 85% capacity factor. This was criminal what happened with Site C.

And this after mothballing the refurbished 1 GW Nat gas Burrard Generating Station which is near Vancouver, and shuttered in 2016 after extensive upgrades. Which they used to justify having to build Site C in the first place. Doesn’t get much stupider than this.

A Traveler
Reply to  Andrew Kerber
June 16, 2021 6:45 am

Also consider how much evaporation there is per Acre.
All that you pumped up there did not come tumbling down.

If you do not have a back up source of power, you will be shutting down the pumps when the plant has to be refueled or a maintenance outage is needed.

And what are you going to use as energy to pump the water up?

Best bet is nuclear, so why not just build a lot of nuclear plants to begin with?

An additional savings to ditching storage, pumped or otherwise, is the loss associated with every step in the process.

I encourage the reader to seek out Ben Franklins little essay on the Striking Sun Dial.

https://www.drjkoch.org/Misc/Franklin.pdf P 34

It was of great cost but little benefit.

A Traveler

TonyL
June 15, 2021 10:33 am

Willis makes the point clear, pumped hydro dominates. I was surprised at just how dominant it is. Then we are shown the paltry contribution from Li batteries. Yet these Li batteries are routinely touted as the super cure for all our problems and woes.

Now the curious question.
Is there enough Lithium on the planet to make batteries which would match the current pumped hydro capacity?

Curiouser and curiouser!, Cried Alice.

Rhee
Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2021 10:44 am

how many decades would it require to make enough batteries, even assuming the raw materials to be easily available?

MarkW
Reply to  Rhee
June 15, 2021 12:12 pm

After 10 to 15 years, a substantial fraction of your manufacturing has to go to replacing the batteries that have worn out.

meab
Reply to  Rhee
June 15, 2021 3:08 pm

PragerU has a video that claims that the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada would need 500 years to produce enough batteries to be able to back up the US grid for one day. Of course, the Gigafactory would have to shift over to replacing burnt-out and degraded batteries in about 20 years so it would actually NEVER be able to do that. Think maybe Biden and his care-givers have a clue? … well you know the thing.

Kevin
Reply to  meab
June 15, 2021 4:37 pm

Is the Nevada Gigafactory ANY closer to being powered directly by renewables and not by carbon offset accounting gimmicks (which won’t be available once we really transition to a renewable utopia)? And forget about the Buffalo NY Gigafactory.

DrEd
Reply to  meab
June 15, 2021 5:56 pm

You can’t fix stupid. Or those math-challenged Dem idiots.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2021 10:49 am

Short answer, no. Easier question: how about just for EVs? Short answer, still no.

Vuk
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 15, 2021 12:46 pm

My neighbour who works for Norwegian hydrogen development company said for battery powered vehicles “It’s a false start, hydrogen fuel cell are the solution in my mind. Just need a very large green energy source to power the equipment to break the hydrogen out of water. The process is a 80% energy loss.”

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
Earthling2
Reply to  Vuk
June 15, 2021 1:07 pm

I just heard that again this AM on the Bloomberg business channel no less. After they admit that the EV with the Li-On battery has the same ‘carbon’ footprint of a similar sized ICE vehicle for its life history from resources to recycling. Yet they fail too mention that just the electricity electrolysis method roundtrip is only 60% efficient and even less if calculating the losses inherent in solar/wind. And then the losses on the fool cell car, and that makes it even less efficient for the initial energy input.

History will tell, but I doubt the hydrogen fuel cell will dominate in the future. Maybe a smallish gasoline fuel cell, to work in tandem with a fuel efficient Atkinson cycle Hybrid might make sense, if they can be produced cheaply enough. I just priced out a 400 watt propane fuel this Am, which also provides 1800 watts thermal heat, and they want $30,000 for a 400 watt fool cell.

MarkW
Reply to  Earthling2
June 15, 2021 3:43 pm

Fool cell?
Was that intentional?

Earthling2
Reply to  MarkW
June 15, 2021 4:51 pm

That’s what Elon Musk calls them…he must think they are a threat to Li-On. A cheap natural gas fuel cell high make sense for a home, especially if it could make full use of the waste heat for home heating and A/C plus refrigeration. No battery required.

Duane
Reply to  Earthling2
June 15, 2021 6:10 pm

There is virtually no “waste heat” from a fuel cell.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Duane
June 15, 2021 7:25 pm

Not true. See essay Hydrogen Hype,in ebook Blowing Smoke. For several different types, the thermal efficiencies are referenced.

Reply to  Duane
June 15, 2021 10:19 pm

Unfortunately waste heat is the reason we dont already use ‘fool cells’.
They get very hot deliveribg high power

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Earthling2
June 15, 2021 10:14 pm

Super capacitors eliminate the need for batteries at all. And they can be charged in seconds, and millions of times to boot. The coming thing is ceramic supercaps, about 1/25th of the weight and a fraction of the cost of a comparable Li-Ion per stored KWH.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
June 16, 2021 6:19 am

“Super capacitors”

Otherwise known as “bombs”. Catastrophic failure of one of these would be, well, catastrophic. If you had this in your garage, you could kiss a good part of your house goodbye. You’d need to put it in an explosives storage magazine with earth-berm walls and a blow-off roof.

Fraizer
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
June 16, 2021 8:15 am

“Super capacitors eliminate…”
See my comment about catastrophic failure modes.

Duane
Reply to  Earthling2
June 15, 2021 6:09 pm

Nope – you’re completely wrong. Bad data

Earthling2
Reply to  Duane
June 15, 2021 7:55 pm

Well then, tell me then why bad my data is bad and why I am completely wrong? BTW…Fuel cells can operate at higher efficiencies than combustion engines, and can convert the chemical energy in the fuel to electrical energy with efficiencies of up to 60%. Where do you think the other 40% losses go, especially when there ain’t a whole lot of moving parts in a fuel cell, not that it matters as it all winds up as heat?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Vuk
June 15, 2021 6:08 pm

Consider also, if hydrogen fuel cells are used, the cars will always be dripping water on to the pavement. In the Summer, that will contribute to slick roadways and increased humidity and heat index. In Winter, it will replace all the amusement park/carnival bumper-car rides as people try to drive on ice. Invest in road salt!

Duane
Reply to  Vuk
June 15, 2021 6:08 pm

You have it exactly backwards. The electrical energy input to electrical energy output via hydrolysis is 80% efficient, or only a 20% loss end to end. That is vastly more efficient than internal combustion engines that are indeed only about 20% efficient end to end at the wheels.

Earthling2
Reply to  Duane
June 15, 2021 8:31 pm

Apples to oranges. First you give a high efficiency for electrolysis at 80% end to end. Your words…whatever end to end means as if it means at the wheels as per your next sentence. And then you say an ICE engine is only 20% efficient end to end at the wheels. My brand new RAV4 Prime 2.5 ICE Atkinson engine in a hybrid is 41% efficient on the engine and wind up recovering some of that energy in the hybrid ‘braking’ when stopping or going down a hill. Probably approaching the practical limits of ICE efficiency with energy recovery from regenerative braking. Everything has losses, which usually shows up as heat.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Earthling2
June 15, 2021 10:16 pm

Don’t put the hydrogen into an ICE. Waste of energy. Use a fuel cell to generate electricity directly. It doesn’t have to be used for transportation. Your RAV would be ~50% efficient if you had supercaps instead of batteries.

Earthling2
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
June 15, 2021 10:52 pm

My RAV4 Prime 2.5L ICE burns gasoline, not hydrogen, although Toyota does make a hydrogen fuel cell car now. Will be interesting to see how that sells. The ceramic super capacitor sounds very interesting. Perhaps that will be a breakthrough, if it can deliver major amps continuously for hours such as the Li-On currently does. The Star Trek phaser must have been a super capacitor powered by a nuclear pellet. I can see it some day…in a couple hundred years.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2021 12:12 pm

Li is very much more abundant than what one surmises from existing ops and their resources. Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec all have large and small significant hard rock resources and big potential for more.

20yrs ago there were 5 or 6 very long time producers in the world for the relatively small chemical/ceramic demand. When the electric car hype came along, inside of a few years, there were 400 serious projects scattered over 5 continents (exploration geologists, particularly Canadian and Australian are a remarkable lot!).

The world’s largest are not yet in production. Manono and Kitolo in former Katanga, Congo have multi-billion tonnes of high grade lithium ore. The surface was mined for tin (Sn) for 50yrs and the lithium was discarded in tailings that comprises a few hundred million tonnes – the piles are a 10 km range of hills that are the region’s topographic highs.

Nevertheless, Tony, your thoughts seem on target when you consider competition for lithium from 100s of millions of E-cars envisioned.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 15, 2021 12:18 pm

Re the tailings, a Canadian company that holds them is evaluating large scale processing of them at the present time.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 15, 2021 6:13 pm

Similarly, the US has reserves in waste rock and in-place in New England and the Black Hills of SD, to mention just a couple. The question is, how is it beneficiated? Is there a flotation reagent that can separate the lithium silicates and phosphates from quartz and feldspar?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 16, 2021 9:30 am

Clyde, an ingenious gravity tech known as dense media separation (DMS) can make
a concentrate of spodumene comprised of 75% spodumene. The dense media is a mix of water and ferrosilicon and there are a couple of different mechanical types, but basically quartz and feldspar float in the liquid and spodumene sinks. Moreover this can be done with coarse feed up to an inch 2.5mm and minimum, 0.5mm. The screened undersize can be concentrated by flotation using a fatty acid type collector.

Treatment costs in DMS are under a dollar a tonne. 50-60% recovery from ore into conc. is typical. Crushed ore with with very coarse spodumene is amenable to re-crushing of a rich “middling” to be repassed through the DMS to scalp off another 25%.

There seems no oversize limit. A DMS for ore sorting (a drewboy) can separate pegmatite from basaltic or amphibolitic contact rock up to 18″. DMS is also used for cleaning shale from coal

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 16, 2021 9:34 am

Thank you for the info.

Earthling2
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 15, 2021 12:53 pm

Bolivia and Argentina also have vast resources of Lithium salts. They could do very well for their countries if they manage that resource correctly. But their politics are sort of all mixed up with socialistic and corruption policies that may see that delayed.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Earthling2
June 16, 2021 9:48 am

The Bolivian one is the world’s largest Li-brine. It is problematical chemically (very high in Mg), and it receives more rain that dilutes it. One could pipeline it to the Altoplano of Chile for solar evaporation, probably to produce a double salt of Li-Mg choride that could be shipped to a dirt cheap source of limestone for further processing.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 15, 2021 7:04 pm

You’re missing the point: read again, “Hmmm … doesn’t look that impressive compared to even one measly day’s electricity usage. For example, all of the lithium ion “Tesla-style” batteries in service would only supply the global electricity demand for … wait for it … two-hundredths of one second.” (I didn’t verify the math, but on the face of it that sounds reasonable).

Do you envision utility level lithium battery storage someday being enough for a full one second of storage? What about a functional 6 hours of storage? You better hope not if you’re paying your own power bill.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 16, 2021 8:50 am

It has been estimated that there will be 2 billion cars around the world by 2050 and then there are all the LGV and HGV fleets.

John Tillman
Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2021 1:59 pm

Imagine the enormous fires in storage battery farms, impossible to put out.

But then how do you dispose of kilotons of lead-acid batteries, if not mega?

No Name Guy
Reply to  John Tillman
June 15, 2021 2:27 pm

You don’t “dispose” of lead acid batteries. You recycle them. Recover and refine the acid. Melt down the lead and recast it. There’s a reason the auto parts store charges a “core” charge if you don’t bring back the old battery – it’s worth money for the metal and acid therein.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  No Name Guy
June 15, 2021 4:21 pm

Happen to know the actual data on PbA. 96% recycled world wide. The 4% isn’t in the US, where the recycle number is over 99%.

Reply to  No Name Guy
June 15, 2021 10:22 pm

Yep. been there. ‘Dont park there’ ‘why not’ ‘that’s sulphuric acid dripping from that tower’

The lead wasnt melted down separately, it was simply added to the ore that was being smelted

Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2021 5:41 pm

The International Energy Agency calculated that the needs for “energy transition minerals” such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metal would rise by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700%, respectively, by 2040.
https://www.iea.org/reports/the-role-of-critical-minerals-in-clean-energy-transitions

ChhDi
Reply to  TonyL
June 16, 2021 4:05 am

Also, what about disposal and recycle of such batteries? What is the energy impact of that? Enormous! Also what about the fact that these batteries are tending to fail much more prematurely than expected, does any one factor that in? Just asking for a friend.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  TonyL
June 16, 2021 8:38 am

Lithium is not a rare metal and the UK, Portugal and Germany, for example, have areas with great potential for lithium sourcing from brines and hardrock sources. The problem is the amount of mining that would be necessary and the inevitable NIMBYism.

JohnC
June 15, 2021 10:41 am

“ Pumped hydro is not all that efficient. You only get back about 70%-80% of the energy that you put in …” that seems fairly efficient to me, but it is a long time since I did energy efficiency in physics !
As far as I am aware there’s one such system in Wales, I don’t think we have any in England and likewise for Scotland.

slp
Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 10:58 am

I believe there is pumped hydro at Loch Ness.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  slp
June 15, 2021 11:59 am

The UK has 5 major pumped storage facilities, as far as I’m aware. All in Scotland or Wales.

1. Dinorwig Power Station: 1,728MW2 Ben Cruachan Power Station: 440MW3. Ffestiniog Power Station: 360MW4. Foyers Power Station: 300MW5. Sloy Power Station: 160MW
In December 2020 the Scottish government approved the construction of the first new one in about 30 years.

The Coire Glas project, Initially approved for a 600MW scheme in December 2013, revised plans were submitted in April 2018 to the Scottish Government for an up-to-1500MW scheme. The changes were designed to maximize the potential of the site and help the UK in its transition to a net zero energy system by 2050.

Suitable locations in England would be in the Lake District, which would never be allowed on the grounds outlined by Willis, Northumbria where they’ve only just got over the building of the Keilder reservoir in 1982. South West England has the same problems as The Lake District.

Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 11:03 am

In Switzerland the have hydro storage, Austria… no idera.

Smart Rock
Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 11:06 am

There are 2 in Wales (Dinorwig & Ffestiniog) and 2 in Scotland (Cruachan and Foyers), with plans for at least a couple more.

Steve Taylor
Reply to  Smart Rock
June 15, 2021 11:47 am

Dinorwig is so amazing, both from a visual and engineering perspective, it has a great visitor centre and offers tours. It is powerful enough to reboot the whole UK grid. From a standstill it can generate full output in 75 seconds. Spun up ready to run, 16 seconds !

Mike Lowe
Reply to  Steve Taylor
June 15, 2021 1:01 pm

It’s a very long way from the centres of population where the demand exists. Line losses?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 15, 2021 2:32 pm

It’s a very long way from the centres of population where the demand exists. Line losses?

Nothing in the UK is very far from population centres.

In Australia, on the other hand, pretty much everything is.

Last edited 1 month ago by Zig Zag Wanderer
Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 16, 2021 4:16 am

All depends what you consider a long distance I suppose.

Can’t speak for the Welsh facilities but the Ben Cruachan and Coire Glas are a long way from London and not that close to Scottish population centres in the Central Lowlands. Sloy is about an hour’s drive from Glasgow.
Then see how much the Beauly – Denny connector cost to join wind generation to the grid, about a billion £

Steve Taylor
Reply to  Mike Lowe
June 15, 2021 2:54 pm

Not really. Its only 50 miles from Liverpool, 80 from Manchester, 100 from Birmingham.

PCman999
Reply to  Steve Taylor
June 15, 2021 11:19 pm

How can Dinorwig reboot the whole grid with less than 1.8GW? That’s like only 2 or 3 reactors. How long can it provide that before the water is too low?

Steve Taylor
Reply to  PCman999
June 16, 2021 7:56 am

Black start is a chain reaction. The grid frequency has to be held stable as other plant comes on line, then the new plant begins to take up the stabilising effects, and more come back.

I don’t have the numbers for how long a UK black start would take, but Dinorwig can dump full output for around 6 hours IIRC.

Phil Rae
Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 11:20 am

The Cruachan pumped storage hydro plant above Loch Awe in the Scottish highlands was one of the first in the world, built in the late 1950s and has been producing electricity since the early 1960s. It has a capacity of ~7GWh. But, as Willis points out, you can’t just build these things everywhere.

Drake
Reply to  Phil Rae
June 15, 2021 11:34 am

Storing water to return electricity.

Does it actually “produce” any energy? i.e., is the upper lake fed by streams to allow the system to actually produce electricity?

Is all the energy first placed into the pumped hydro system by electrical power from somewhere else?

Not a big deal, but climate crazies don’t know that batteries just store power first produced elsewhere.

Oldseadog
Reply to  Drake
June 15, 2021 12:01 pm

Drake,
You pump the water from the lower level to the higher level when there is a surplus of power, for instance during the night when you have a surplus of, for instance, nuclear power, and then reverse the flow when you need it during the day; the pumps then become generators. The upper level doesn’t need feeder rivers. So the answer to the question in your third sentence is yes.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Oldseadog
June 15, 2021 2:10 pm

The lake doesn’t need feeder creeks but the pumps do! After taking for farming ain’t much left.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Oldseadog
June 16, 2021 4:24 am

Loch Awe, the”feeder” for Cruachan is quite large. catchment 840 km2 (320 sq mi), length 41 km (25 mi), volume 1.2 km3 (0.29 cu mi) shore length 129 km (80 mi).

It’s also very scenic, the Pass of Brander is quite spectactular and the scene of an early victory for Robert Bruce (1308)

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Drake
June 15, 2021 6:21 pm

Pacific Gas & Electric has a station near Jackson, adjacent to the Mokelumne River. They have a storage reservoir above the river that is recharged from upstream, and then put the water back in the river, which quickly ends up in another reservoir on the river. Consequently, there is a section of the river that has abnormally low flows in the Summer, and a section for a few miles on the river that has rapid changes in speed and depth, and is unusually cold for that area. However, the crayfish seem to like it.

Last edited 1 month ago by Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Drake
June 15, 2021 10:26 pm

you need feeder streams to replenish evaporative losses – some pumped hydro are ordinary hydro where the upper reservoirs is also replensheed by pumping

PCman999
Reply to  Drake
June 15, 2021 11:26 pm

That’s the point, the pumped storage is storage not generation. The inconvenient and unreliable output from wind and solar is used to pump water into the upper resouvoir, ready to generate power when it’s actually needed. All the claims that wind and solar are inexpensive are bogus since expensive storage is needed to make a valid comparison with ready when you want it fossil or nuclear power.

old engineer
Reply to  Phil Rae
June 15, 2021 12:45 pm

Phil Rae –

I thought I remembered reading in an article of pumped storage in “Mechanical Engineering” (the magazine of the ASME) that pumped storage went back to the turn of the twentieth century. Here’s a quote from an ASCE online article:

  • “The first pumped-storage facility in the world was built in 1909 near Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Unlike the Rocky River plant, it used a pump to store water and a separate turbine to generate electricity. By the time of the Rocky River project [Milford, Conn. about 1930], more than 40 pumped-storage hydroelectric facilities had been built throughout Europe.”

See:

Rocky River Pumped Storage Hydraulic Plant | ASCE

Roy Martin
Reply to  old engineer
June 15, 2021 2:09 pm

Minor correction: The Rocky River project is in New Milford, CT. Milford, CT is on the coast…

My grandparents bought land near New Milford hoping it would become lakefront property when the project was completed. Their property did reach the lake – but it took a nice walk along a dirt road to get past the swampy part.

Good memories.

Joe E
Reply to  Roy Martin
June 15, 2021 6:57 pm

Nice facility at Rocky River, have inspected it many times over my career. It actually functions as a ‘seasonal pumped storage’ in that it pumps water up from the Housatonic in the spring to fill candlewood lake and then releases the water over the season until it reaches it low point in fall. The winter shows and spring rains also help to fill the lake as well.

Phil Rae
Reply to  old engineer
June 16, 2021 2:28 am

old engineer……..

Yes, there were numerous pumped storage facilities built in the early 20th century. Cruachan was one of the first using reversible pumps that also serve as generators. Sorry for not being clear on that.

Julian Flood
Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 11:38 am

Dinorwic, the Electric Mountain. You can see its output on Gridwatch Templar. It’s purpose is to cold start the Grid if there is a catastrophic failure.

If there was any sense in the UK constitution then the engineers who have managed to keep the Grid working in spite of the politicians would be in the House of Lords.

JF

Steve Taylor
Reply to  Julian Flood
June 15, 2021 1:00 pm

As a very very young engineer, I grew up in the NW of the UK, and the Manchester centre of the Institution of Electrical Engineers was full of the guys who specified it, designed and built it. I heard some great war stories. They had major issues with the design of the alternators, and had a couple of goes at it to make it work right. One engineer was tasked with laying a very expensive (then) fibre optic cable in the floor, only for a contractor to cut it into pieces a week later.

Many years later, my family were in Bangor, Wales with my eldest son for an archery event, and I was tasked with keeping little brother busy, so I took him to Dinorwig. At 6 years old, he was pretty interested in pressing the buttons in the visitor’s centre, and was well behaved during the tour of the plant. What blew his mind though was standing on the top of one of the turbines when a demand came in, and the system turned on. I think that’s when a career decision was made.

He graduated as a civil engineer last month 🙂 New Mexico Tech.

Philip
Reply to  Steve Taylor
June 15, 2021 4:23 pm

There are lots of fun stories about the UK grid, or more precisely, people working on it. I was told a story, which I have reason to believe is true, by one of my lecturers in Electrical Engineering (this was 50 years ago…). His story was as an apprentice, he worked on the installation of a new generator to expand capacity in an existing station. The day came to fire up the new machinery.

In those days, getting a new generator running at the right speed and in-phase with the grid was achieved by connecting bulbs between the generator output and the grid. the bulbs would get brighter the further out of phase, and go out when in phase.

When in phase, the generator was connected to the grid and that kept it locked in sync.

Done properly, there would be three bulbs, one for each phase. However, the chief engineer insisted only one was really required, because if one phase was in sync, the others had to be.

They spun up the generator, carefully adjusted the speed and phase and flipped the switch to close the huge contactors connecting the generator to the grid.

That was the point at which they discovered that two of the phases were reversed.

The generator was fixed in place by 6″ diameter bolts.
The bolts ripped out of the concrete base, and the generator left the generator shed via the roof.

Last edited 1 month ago by Philip
Steve Taylor
Reply to  Philip
June 16, 2021 7:59 am

I’ve heard similar stories. I was one of the last generation (no pun intended) of Electrical AND Electronic engineers from Leeds (1985) when we had the run of the motor laboratories and were taught all about synchronising machines – and with light bulbs too ! We were all expected to break sync too, with a couple of lab techs standing by the machine’s breakers, ready to catch it.

For those not in a state of reverie at this point, if a generator breaks sync with the grid, there is nothing stopping it accelerating uncontrollably, if its still being supplied with energy.

Last edited 1 month ago by Willis Eschenbach
Carl Ward
Reply to  Steve Taylor
June 19, 2021 12:42 pm

Congratulations to him from an old NMT graduate (Chemistry, 1970).

Craig from Oz
Reply to  David L. Hagen
June 15, 2021 8:29 pm

And how many of them are not culturally or environmentally significant?

Australia has the ABC and The Greens, remember and none of them are going to ever let science or engineering get in the way of a good cardboard sign and a screaming match.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 8:26 pm

The theory, as I understand it at least, is that during the day when demand is high you let the water flow and sell the power.

Then at night when demand and hence price of electricity is lower, you use the power to pump the water back up hill again.

With a good excel sheet you can do this and still make a profit, but in some ways it is the same concept as using flood lights on solar panels. If the running cost of the flood lights is less the the sell price of the solar, then you come out in front… but… not really the actual spirit of ‘renewable’ solar if we were all honest with each other.

Remember it only really works as long as the day/night price difference is in your favour. If for any reason everyone decided to Build Back Better(tm) by working from home at night and sitting in energy isolation during the day – or some other convoluted situation that exists only for the example – then the system would fall over.

Price. Drives a lot of things in the real world.

Reply to  Craig from Oz
June 15, 2021 10:50 pm

In the UK, Dinorwic and Ffestiniog were built at a time when we were expecting an all nuclear grid. Nuclear reactors make the most money when they are continuously generating, because the cost is all in the construction, not in the fuel.

Dinorwic saved a whole nuclear power station fron needing to be built, simply to cover the evening peak when everbody switched on the TV and settled down to watch ‘Coronation Street’

I mention this to show that short term storage is profitable and effective in the absence of any renewable energy. All thermal plant takes time to come on line and is slow to respond to large demand changes. [Pumped] hydro complements it really well.

As far as suitable sites go, although one prefers fresh water, enclosin e.g. a bay, loch, or a fjord, with a concrete wall, and pumping all the seawater out, is another possibility.

Unfortunately the efficiency goes down with the head, IIRC, so whilst the capacity would be there, the efficiency would not match mountain based hydro.

As with all things – like interconnectors – the market if left alone works out cost income ratios.

(I was always amused to discover that undersea interconnectors take money for transferring electricity both ways, at the same time.The operators take fees to transfer electricity in both directions, and only need to actually transfer the balance).

Given current or expanding populations, and a maintenance of current life styles, the future can be predicted quite accurately.

  1. Primary energy has to be nuclear.
  2. Some storage will still be needed – primarily hydro and pumped hydro
  3. Grids will be larger, and many connections will be DC instead of AC, to avoid phase losses.
  4. Just about every ‘Green’ technology of today will be a museum piece.
Reply to  JohnC
June 15, 2021 10:23 pm

Two in wales and at least two in scotland

Mike Smith
June 15, 2021 10:42 am

Thank you Willis for highlighting very nicely the scale of the storage problem.

Even if the Musk fans are right and Elon produces some amazing battery that hold tens times more energy, charges 10 times faster and can be made for one tenth of the cost, it won’t even make a dent in the problem when the sun ain’t shining and the wind ain’t blowing.

Would you care to compute the number of TWh currently stored in the seawater deuterium? 🙂

Rich Davis
Reply to  Mike Smith
June 15, 2021 2:43 pm

0.0 milliwatt-centuries if you’re referring to fusion power.

Reply to  Mike Smith
June 15, 2021 10:55 pm

Compute first the energy in the 4 billion tonnes of naturally radioactive seawater uranium.

Imagine the furore if we said ‘we are going to dump 4 bn tonnes of nuclear waste in the sea’.

The late Dr David Mackay, did asll tehse sums and the answers are on the website and in his book ‘without the hot air’.

Fossil fuel will last at best another couple of hundred years. Fission with breeders and fuel recycling, around 10,000

ResourceGuy
June 15, 2021 10:44 am

“We are a long, long way from batteries or other storage systems being able to hold and deliver enough energy to do anything larger than balance out short-term fluctuations in energy supply versus demand.”

I’m not clear what you mean by short-term fluctuations. Are you saying those were bad decisions to bid solar plus storage in the Phoenix area for the purpose of adding two hours of additional power after sundown? Shouldn’t the decision be based on marginal project cost benefit analysis and not macro issues?

Reply to  ResourceGuy
June 15, 2021 10:56 pm

Shouldn’t the decision be based on marginal project cost benefit analysis and not macro issues?

Absolutely. And if we did that there would be no solar panels or windmills at all.

Mr.
June 15, 2021 10:46 am

we wouldn’t need batteries if we didn’t try to depend on unreliable, intermittent sources like solar and wind

Although this observation is part of your first paragraph Willis, I reckon it is actually the bottom line on this whole matter.

Duncan MacKenzie
Reply to  Mr.
June 15, 2021 3:27 pm

The electricity could come from clean nuclear, and we’d still need batteries for our electric vehicles.

Don’t forget that gasoline powered cars put out of real air pollutants, not just CO2.

MarkW
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
June 15, 2021 3:48 pm

with modern cars it’s pretty much CO2 and water. What little “pollution” coming out of the combustion chamber is taken care of by the catalytic converter.

Reply to  MarkW
June 16, 2021 1:09 am

The two more imponderables are carbon particulates and nitrogen oxides.

Yes, even on petrol (gasoline) engines.

Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
June 16, 2021 1:08 am

Two responses to that:

  1. How much off grid power do you actually need?
  2. What is the most appropriate means of supplying it?

And if it is supplied by thermal combustion of sone sort, what pollutants will it produce and how best to control them?

Mass consumer and serious land freight transport originated in the 19th century, as steam trains, morphed into the internal compustion engine simply because coal first, and oil later, were available and cheap.
Pandemic lockdown has showed us how little of it we actually need.

Home working replaces commuting, town centre shopping is replaced by internet shopping and so on. Thus reducing the comsumer miles travelled hugely.

Obviously the need for off grid power cannot be eliminated completely, but it can be highly reduced.

And some of it can obviously be supplied by e.g. small nuclear reactors – a nuclear submarine is in the few MW class of power. You could stick a small reactor on a truck and plug into that.

Or you could look at how and why internal combustion engines pollute, and stop that at source, and then use fossil or synthetic hydrocarbon fuel in those.

The reality is that catalytic converters take care of all unburnt fuel and carbon monoxide, and indeed even burning oil residues. What is left is particulate carbons and nitrogen oxides. Filtering and or burning on hot catalytic converters takes care of particlates, and NOx production is solved by not allowing atmospheric nitrogen into the combustion process at all. Have a tank of liquid oxygen instead, or some other way of generating a pure oxygen feed to the combustion process. Or use a fuel cell instead of combustion.

The point is that we have options . Which ones turn out to be the way forward is something a free market should be the arbiter of. Remove all subsidy and let the market decide.

Reply to  Mr.
June 16, 2021 12:48 am

It is however not exactly true. Short term storage is cost effective at dealing with short term demand fluctuations. It is like the capacitors in a power supply. An audio amplifier doesn’t last long if you switch it off at the mains, but the capacitors do deal with the ripple – both on the demand in terms of sound peaks and on the supply in terms of the 50/60Hz fluctuations.

It would be impossible to have a grid that didnt have some short term energy storage… in the case of conventional power that’s spinning turbine and generator mass.

The more variable the demand/supply imbalance is, with any given suite of generation technology and consumer demand, the more storage you need. Or the more overcapacity of dispatchable supply you need. I used my gridwatch stats to calculate how many windmills we would need to cope with worst case demand in a becalmed high pressure winter UK and the answer was that not only did they cover the whole country and most of it’s national seas, but the wholesale cost of electricity would rise from the 5p it is today with thermal power to around £10 per unit!

At that sort of insanity any storage you can get at any price would be cost effective!

So whilst the need for storage increases with the intermittency of the supply, it does not disappear when renewables do. There is still the intermittency of the load, to be catered for.

Hydro and pumped storage represent very good storage that is efficient and accessible in under a minute. At times less than that we rely on spinning turbine kinetic energy.

The point about batteries that they are not telling you, is that we need them with renewable energy to replace the sub-second functionality of spinning turbines. Everybody thinks they are there to cover renewable intermittency, but with respect, grid engineers know perfectly well what people here seem to have just discovered – that batteries can’t cope with that level of storage. But they can cut in and support a sudden loss of a generator for a few minutes and prevent grid collapse.

Back in the day UK grid engineers were told to produce the lowest cost reliable grid that they could. It was mainly coal, then it was going to be nuclear, but the rise in interest rates scuppered that and it became gas. Pumped storage was added because it saved money.

Today they are told to produce a renewable grid. Not even a ‘zero carbon’ grid, but a renewable one. By political corruption, the aims of carbon reduction were transliterated into the ‘solution’ of renewable energy. The European Union, bless its corrupt little cotton socks, formulated it’s ‘directives’ in terms of ‘Renewable Obligations’ and German windmill and solar panel manufacturers got massive cash handouts in subsidy as a result. Jobs were created, energy costs rose, but it was ‘all for a good cause’ so everyone was happy.

Anyway, the point is that engineers are not looking to produce a lowest cost grid, or a reliable grid, or even a net zero grid, they are tasked with stabilizing a monstrous Heath Robinson combination of renewable sources, many completely out of control (domestic solar) as a political fait accompli.

And batteries are not just needful, they are a necessity, to provide short term stability to compensate for the loss of spinning mass on the grid. In that Willis is correct, renewable energy makes batteries not just nice to have, but have to have, but not for the reasons of long term storage. No one has solved that one yet, or even come close. Engineers know we are walking over the edge of a cliff, but what can they do? To protest is to lose your job.

That is why I suspect that there is a subtle shift away from ‘renewable‘ towards ‘net zero‘. That opens the door to nuclear, which is of course – and was identified as such decades ago – the only viable low carbon emission primary energy generator we have available.

Nuclear won’t obviate the need for short to medium storage, but it will remove the need for sub second storage and for multi-day or seasonal storage.

Anyway, the engineers view of storage is a lot more nunaced that the average ArtStudent™’s view. To wit, storage comes in 4 categories that fulfil different needs

  1. Sub second storage. This has to deal typically with fault conditions in a generator trips off line or a grid element shorts out. It must keep the grid frequency up and supply energy instantanously. In a thermal generator, this is the kinetic energy in the rotating mass of the turbines and generators. On a renewable grid it has to be batteries and electronic inverters.
  2. Sub minute storage. Once the kinetic energy of the generators sags or the batteries are flattened, you need something that can come on line fast. And have enough capacity to keep the whole grid afloat till auxiliary generation can be connected. Currently hydro – pumped or otherwise – is the only real candidate for this.
  3. Sub hour reserves. It takes on average an hour or two to ramp up a thermal power station that is already hot, or to start and bring up to full output a gas turbine set from cold. In a conventional grid, we need the hydro to be able to cope with a demand overload for at least that long. In a fully renewable grid however there are no sub hour reserves.
  4. Long term reserves. In the case of – say – overall winter demand, there is a need for extra generating capacity to be brought on line. Old inefficient thermal plant and indeed new inefficient plant can be made ready to be generate and be online if there is an expected cold weather snap. In a fully renewable grid there are no long term reserves.

And this is the dilemma facing engineers trying to build a ‘renewable’ grid: Existing hydro coped to an extent with case 2, but not case 1. Batteries are being thrown at the grid to cope with case 1.

As far as case 3 goes – sufficent reserves of something to come on line in less than a couple of hours and last at least a day – without large scale hydro you are ‘foxtrotted’ . This is where pools of molten salt and hydrogen tanks (I’d rather live inside the exclusion zone at Chernobyl than next to a county-day’s worth of hydrogen) are being touted as ‘the answer’.

There is currently no viable ‘renewable’ solution to case 4 whatsoever. Apart from building twice as many windmills as are needed in summer, to have enough in winter.

A massively expensive exercise.

Note how all of these problems disappear with a nuclear/hydro grid.

Sub second response storage is there in the spinning turbines and generators.
Sub minute is catered for with hydro and pumped storage. All this has to do is cope with peak demand for an hour or two.
Although it’s not ideal sub hour response can be achieved by running (some of) the nuclear power stations below full capacity most of the time. Slew rates of around 10% of rated capacity per hour are achievable in a typical reactor, in complete safety and without any adverse effects. Also the technology that Bill Gates is looking at of using molten metal as the primary coolant allows heat banks of e.g. molten salt to be maintained that could act as temporary sources of energy in this sort of time range.
Long term reserves are simply piles of plutonium and uranium rods in or near reactors that are currently off – necessary maintenance and refuelling scheduled for summer, all sets up and running for the winter.

Once you take the holistic costs of renewables into account, the nuclear solution is simply a no-brainer.

And if you haven’t got any hydro locally, you probably will find that the cheapest solution is an extension cable plugged into someone who has….

I think a non fossil fuelled future is not ‘desirable from a climate change view’ but inevitable from a dwindling resource point of view. I thinbk its is a shame that greed corruption and political cowardice have prevented the problem from being faced squarely and the options looked at rationally – instead we have what we in Britain call a ‘right buggers muddle’ of renewable solutions that dont actually work financed out of public money with oriofits going into a few well placed politically connected pockets.

Rant mode off, and returning to the original point, we need storage of some sort, whatever. It’s just that with ‘renewables’ we need enormous quantities of as yet undreamed of storage

4432155.jpg
Mr.
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2021 10:11 am

great post.
Thank you.

markl
June 15, 2021 10:47 am

In California these days any pumped storage water would be more valuable for consumption, industry, and irrigation than producing energy.

Curious George
Reply to  markl
June 15, 2021 11:14 am

That assumes that the storage consumes water, instead of just pumping it around all the time.

Earthling2
Reply to  Curious George
June 15, 2021 11:38 am

Evaporation losses…all that water in the lower pond or the water you pump uphill…some evaporates, so double loss. Over long periods of time, it all adds up. Ok, maybe that balances out with some rain inflow, but maybe not in a desert setting. Electricity storage and the efficiency of such costs more than just creating it and using it real time.

Ken Irwin
Reply to  markl
June 15, 2021 11:14 am

The thing to do would be to find some near coastal mountain ranges – preferably in arid / desert / low population areas with no water (we need potable water for more pressing needs).
You dam up the dry valleys and fill them with sea-water.
You pump seawater up and down.
No problems with cycling the entire volume on a daily basis – something you would not be able (or allowed) to do with fresh water.
You would also as a consequence change the surrounding area’s ecosystem due to evaporation creating its own system (maybe).

Can’t see the eco-loons signing off on that solution.

Shanghai Dan
Reply to  Ken Irwin
June 15, 2021 11:51 am

What I’d love to see happen here in California, is to build 10 more Diablo Canyon nuclear plants, and we’d have 100% reliable energy for 100% of our electricity needs.

Then we can use what deployed solar/wind we do currently have (and any excess from the nukes) to desalinate water and fill up our reservoirs.

THAT would be the best solution overall.

Eric Elsam
Reply to  Shanghai Dan
June 15, 2021 12:32 pm

Oh, no!! The China Syndrome!!

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Shanghai Dan
June 15, 2021 5:06 pm

100 years from now that’s what will happen, because there is no alternative, certainly not worth less than nothing wind, solar, battery storage.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
June 16, 2021 1:17 am

I think the timescale is shorter than that.

People persist in their follies until the widespread consequences of them are obvious even to ArtStudents™

People warned that at some stage the globalised society was vulnerable to a global pandemic. We got off lightly this time, so far.

California or some other equally right-on ecoloon state/country will in the end have a major grid collpase that will inform the average dimwit that renewable energy has its limitations, and some politician will then start a nuclear power bandwagon within a decade.

Engineers know this. Work is ongoing to have a rapidly deployable solution of mass produced small modular reactors ready for when it does, while the political rhetoric is being subtly moved from ‘renewables’ to ‘net zero’ …

Steve Z
Reply to  Ken Irwin
June 15, 2021 12:06 pm

In Ken Irwin’s pumped-seawater system, wind turbines on top of the mountains could possibly provide energy to run the pumps, then a hydro-electric turbine could be used to generate electricity when the wind isn’t blowing. Such a system wouldn’t be hurt by drought, since the ocean will never run out of water. Such a system could possibly work in California, which has a long coastal mountain range.

However, the “eco-loons” might have a problem with salt water flowing down what used to be a fresh-water river, possibly killing some freshwater fish. The pumps would also need good filters to keep out seaweed and other critters from the ocean.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Steve Z
June 15, 2021 5:08 pm

“eco-loons” might have a problem, might?

Steve Taylor
Reply to  Ken Irwin
June 15, 2021 1:01 pm

There was a wild plan in the 1940’s to dam off the Med from the Atlantic, and exploit the level change there would be there.

Also refilling the Dead Sea.

I think Willy Ley wrote a book on both ideas

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Taylor
Jim Gorman
Reply to  Ken Irwin
June 15, 2021 2:12 pm

Grand Canyon?

MarkW
Reply to  Ken Irwin
June 15, 2021 3:50 pm

Build enough of those and you can do your part to counter rising sea levels.

Sal Minella
June 15, 2021 10:49 am

You forgot the amount of energy stored in coal and oil.

Right-Handed Shark
June 15, 2021 10:54 am

But, but.. griff promised us grid scale batteries.. he pwomised.. 🙁

Last edited 1 month ago by Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
June 16, 2021 1:18 am

Gwiff is a twonk.

John Endicott
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 17, 2021 9:36 am

I would have chosen a different word that starts with “tw” ;).

TonyG
Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
June 16, 2021 10:39 am

RHS the solution is simple – Congress just needs to legislate that there must be grid-scale batteries by 2025, and it’s a done deal! It’s just the laws of physics that’s the problem, right? Congress writes and amends laws, so that should do it!

Rud Istvan
June 15, 2021 10:57 am

While it is true pumped hydro ‘stores’ electricity as water potential energy, it isn’t used for the sort of storage renewables need. It is used for peak load shifting on a daily basis. The pumping takes place at night with low grid loads, then the generation takes place during daytime peak loads. The generation can run full out 24/7, and the grid avoids peaker generating capacity in places like TVA and Michigan (Luddington).

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 15, 2021 5:11 pm

Those are facts and fail the PC test so they are irrelevant in current discourse.

mike
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 15, 2021 5:36 pm

That is correct and in the case of the Swiss facility they were/are paid to take surplus French nuclear generated power overnight.

Speed
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 16, 2021 3:14 am

A wind farm of sorts has been built near the Ludington (one “d”) pumped storage project. Originally it was designed to store energy from nuclear plants so they could run 24/7.

The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is a hydroelectric plant and reservoir in Ludington, Michigan. It was built between 1969 and 1973 at a cost of $315 million and is owned jointly by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy and operated by Consumers Energy. At the time of its construction, it was the largest pumped storage hydroelectric facility in the world.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludington_Pumped_Storage_Power_Plant

Fun fact that few people know …

Nuclear power is a significant source of electrical power in Michigan, producing roughly one-quarter of the state’s supply. The three active nuclear power plants supply Michigan with about 30% of its electricity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_stations_in_Michigan

Rob_Dawg
June 15, 2021 10:58 am

Willis you say;

“• Pumped hydro is not all that efficient. You only get back about 70%-80% of the energy that you put in …”

Why is that inefficient? Lots of primary energy cycles are in that range and remember, those pumps run to load balance excess capacity that would otherwise go to waste.

Kevin
Reply to  Rob_Dawg
June 15, 2021 4:49 pm

Because you’ve already had deductions made based on the inefficiencies in generating the electricity to run the pumps.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Kevin
June 15, 2021 6:50 pm

A gentle correction. PHS efficiency is just electricity in, electricity out. Doesn’t include the generating efficiency of the originating electricity. And the PHS average depends on ‘head’ plus age, but realy is about 75%.

Steven Pfeiffer
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 15, 2021 7:38 pm

I never understood how the efficiency even gets close to 75% “round trip”.

To move the water uphill: Electric Motor Eff. of 95% and Pump Mechanical Eff. of 76% yields net (.95 x .76) = 72% on the uphill side.

On the output side: Water Turbine Eff. of 80%, Generator Eff. of 95% yields net (.95 x .8) = 76% on the output side.

Combining the two yields (.72 x .76) = 55%.

I was not certain of the efficiency of a water turbine but it would have to be pretty close to 100% to really boost the overall number.

Reply to  Steven Pfeiffer
June 16, 2021 1:35 am

I think the same turbines are used in both directions and their efficiency is indeed very high. 90% is standard. 95% is achievable. I am not sure what pumping efficiences are, but I believe >80% is possible. One thing to remember is that within practical limits, the electrical losses through electric motors and generators can be reduced by simply making them bigger. Or under running them. but then you run into fixed losses of e.g. bearing friction. Neverthless if size weight and cost are not such important factors, you can make an electric motor or generator easily 95% efficient.

If we have the motor and generator efficiencies at 95%, the turbine at 90% and the pump at 90% then overall efficiency is 73%..

Steven Pfeiffer
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2021 6:40 am

Thanks for the reply. I was going by the efficiency of larger HVAC circulating pumps for hot/chilled water – they seem to top out at a mechanical efficiency of 76%.

Larger “off the shelf” electric motors of course are 95 to 96 % efficient.

I had no idea that water turbines were in the 90% range., but that would make the overall efficiency pretty high.

Rob_Dawg
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 16, 2021 1:51 pm

Thank you Rud. I didn’t reply for fear of starting a flame.

As I mentioned, the electricity in is otherwise wasted energy. Grid surplus.

My “education” was the Northfield Mountain project above Turners Falls, MA that I got to tour when it was first opened in the early 70s. In those days it was supposed that the surplus energy wasn’t just grid excess but would come from the Yankee Nuclear projects that were going to provide all of New England with electricity too cheap to meter.

dk_
June 15, 2021 11:03 am

It is really much harder (although not impossible) for pumped hydroelectric to catch fire, compared to lithium. But there are other advantages in that you just have to pump it back up again to recharge. You also don’t need perfectly clean water, and keeping it upstream gives you more chances to scrub nasty stuff out of it.

starzmom
June 15, 2021 11:10 am

About 35 years ago, I worked on the planning of a pumped hydro storage facility to be sited in New Jersey. The lower reservoir would be an old iron mine with additional excavation. The upper reservoir would have been created out of an old mine pond/lake. The project, as I recall, was largely shelved when the finances weren’t what they needed to be. But it was a very interesting concept, and I think had some promise.

Joe E
Reply to  starzmom
June 15, 2021 7:08 pm

True, it got licensed too by ferc but for some reason it could not be made financially feasible. How that happens in the NY/NJ market is hard to understand.

Rpercifield
June 15, 2021 11:13 am

I like to explode liberal heads with scale issues.
Take a small 1MW wind turbine and attempt to back it up with 100kWh Tesla batteries. Ignoring losses it would take 10 to back it up for one hour. If you want the ability to cover a 100 hour time span like what happened in Texas, it would take 100h X 10 Batteries per hour or 1,000. If the wind farm has 100 turbines that total is now 100,000 100kWh batteries. To my understanding this would require at least 1/3 of the entire production of Tesla batteries over a years time to one small wind farm. How many wind farms are there in the US? The total number of turbines is 67,000 and on average for back of the envelope calculations, 4 days of backup for each would be 1,000 X 67,000= 67,000,000 batteries. This is not possible with the systems and materials available today or in the near future.

These lefties and watermelon green Marxists suffer from both magical and low resolution thinking.

Joe Born
Reply to  Rpercifield
June 15, 2021 11:54 am

Awhile back I used Texas data to estimate battery back-up.

It seemed expensive: https://naptownnumbers.substack.com/p/battery-grid-backup

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Rpercifield
June 15, 2021 5:17 pm

Those numbers will run off liberals like water off a duck. They are racist and insensitive to environmental justice; besides Exxon knew and 97% of scientists agree.

Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2021 11:38 am

I have read of another potential energy scheme that is apparently being researched somewhere in Europe—what I call the rock & hole. A very large weight is suspended in a very large and deep hole in the ground. Energy is stored by using excess electricity to raise the weight in the hole, and is retrieved by allowing the weight to move down while turning a turbine. Have no idea about any numbers that are proposed.

Oldseadog
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2021 12:11 pm

Yep, a company in Edinburgh, well Leith in fact, is trying to make this work. They are considering using old coal pits.

MarkW
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2021 12:23 pm

Compare the weight of a really big rock, to the weight of all the water in even a small lake.

Most rocks are denser than water, but not by a lot. So the total potential energy available for a rock and hole scheme is a tiny, tiny fraction of what would be available from a pumped storage facility.

Reply to  MarkW
June 16, 2021 1:36 am

Most rock is about 3 x denser than water

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  MarkW
June 16, 2021 6:07 am

So although it eliminates the need for water and a reservoir, lots and lots of rocks and holes would be needed.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2021 5:47 pm

Another idea involving weight – an inclined railroad track and cars loaded with rocks. Winched up the slope with ‘excess’ power, and allowed to roll down the hill to generate power when needed.

It was a newspaper report about three years ago, in Arizona as I recall – no mention of efficiency given in the article. It does sound cheaper and less ‘messy’ than some of the other ideas.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 16, 2021 6:24 pm

G’day Willis,

 “A … 100-car train …” … ” … requiring maybe 2,000 ft (600 m) of track …”

You’ve had more to do with railroads than I have. A 100 car consist would be how long? Was that length considered when you used “2,000 feet of track”, or is that figure just travel distance. Yup, real world…..

Just wondering…..

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 17, 2021 5:17 pm

Thanks Willis,

I wondered about that length of track. Laying well over a mile of track to generate a MWH of power – would require considerable government subsidy in practice.

Freighted With Memories – Have read, which is why I brought it up. Still waiting for the book – in your ‘spare time’ of course. Meantime, keep up the good work.

gbaikie
June 15, 2021 11:50 am

How about level Mt Wilson, wall it off. Add some ceiling to it {put the telescope or whatever on the ceiling. Since it’s higher elevation each cubic meter of water gives a lot energy {though you put energy in to it by pumping water up there. They already do this, but they tend to be small.

Fraizer
June 15, 2021 12:00 pm

Assuming that potential for pumped storage is about tapped out and that either mechanical or battery storage would have to be the way forward, I would add another wrinkle:

Catastrophic failure modes need to be accounted for. 25 GWh of storage is roughly equivalent to a Hiroshima bomb.

That’s 1000x the largest flywheel-type storage being envisioned, but would only be about 1 days backup for a large power station. But even at 25 MWh that’s still ~21.5 tons of TNT.

MarkW
Reply to  Fraizer
June 15, 2021 12:26 pm

The big problem with flywheels, is that when they fail, ALL of the energy stored in them will be released in just a tiny fraction of a second.

Reply to  MarkW
June 16, 2021 1:40 am

That is the big problem with MOST forms of energy storage. The better forms of storage can’t release it that quickly (a pile of coal) or need something really complex that could never occur naturally (an atomic bomb) to do it in that time scale

Coal and uranium remain the safest form of practical energy storage I can think of.

MarkW
June 15, 2021 12:10 pm

Willis, two questions.
What is electro-chemical, at first I thought it would be batteries, but then I saw that Li-Ion and lead-carbon were also on the list.
Second, you mention Musk’s power walls, does Li-Ion also include EV batteries?

Rud Istvan
Reply to  MarkW
June 15, 2021 2:34 pm

Not WE, but a simple answer. Electrochemical Grid batteries are either molten sodium sulfur, or flow batteries such as based on vanadium redox. Both illustrated with their various problems exposed in essay California Dreaming in ebook Blowing Smoke.

Editor
June 15, 2021 12:25 pm

Thanks for the post, Willis.

Also, you wrote, “I love science because I am constantly surprised. In this case, the surprises are how much bigger pumped hydro storage is than all the others. The sum of all other systems is about a twentieth of the pumped hydro storage.”

I’m not only surprised; I’m amazed.

Regards,
Bob

Vuk
June 15, 2021 12:26 pm

Germans are having lot of fun ‘On the busses’
06 June 2021
https://newsrnd.com/life/2021-06-06-hanover–million-damage-in-a-fire-in-the-depot-for-electric-buses.Bke5b3xqcO.html

01 April 2021
https://www.tellerreport.com/news/2021-04-01-major-fire-in-düsseldorf–40-buses-destroyed.SyWG57JXHO.html
No mention if Dusseldorf busses were electric or normal fuel powered.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Vuk
June 15, 2021 2:45 pm

Most buses would have diesel engines. Diesel doesn’t ignite without pretty extreme temperatures, so they were likely electric.

Ed MacAulay
Reply to  Vuk
June 16, 2021 3:11 pm

Another linked article states:

A total of eight electric buses, eight articulated buses and 22 other buses were destroyed in the fire – including ten new vehicles that had recently started operating, as the Rheinbahn, the local transport company affected, had announced.

https://www.tellerreport.com/news/2021-04-06-38-buses-burned-in-depot–cause-of-technical-defect.SyAwAjFHO.html

Earthling2
June 15, 2021 12:27 pm

Electricity storage is expensive and not that efficient, although pumped hydro is probably as good as it gets, if you take the time of the infrastructure into account, since it should last 100 years or longer with maintenance. How long is a Li-On battery going to last? And why do we need those resources for stationary storage? A vanadium redox battery should scale up better, longer and cheaper than a Li-On battery that is best used for mobile applications.

Storage of electricity is expensive and should only be used for off grid applications, or at best, a load levelling scheme for a grid to balance frequency for a matter of minutes before other generating assets can be put on-line to stabilize voltage and frequency. Just like a big capacitor bank. As far as I can see, there will never be economical grid scale electricity storage, and we are going down the wrong road if we try and store very expensive solar and wind production, even to flatten the duck curve. And then if the Sun don’t shine, and the wind don’t blow, well then it really sucks.

Last edited 1 month ago by Earthling2
Kevin
Reply to  Earthling2
June 15, 2021 4:52 pm

It’s like putting a Casio watch in a Rolex box.

Art
June 15, 2021 12:30 pm

To have pumped energy storage (or any other kind) you have to first massively ramp up generating capacity beyond daily requirements. Where will all that excess generation come from? More wind and solar?

Reply to  Art
June 16, 2021 1:44 am

Not really. The peak to mean ratio of demand in annualised terms is only about 2:1

In daily terms is only about 1.5:1

Have a look

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Art
June 16, 2021 5:16 am

The problem is turn around time when discharged. If you don’t have sufficient excess capacity to quickly recharge, you will encounter situations where you are without sufficient backup power. You basically reach the point where you need to duplicate your renewable generation so you can insure your backup is ready to go asap.

Roger
June 15, 2021 12:31 pm

Systems sometimes fail, they just do. When energy containment systems fail they usually fail very dramatically. Think of what almost happened to the Oroville dam.

Whatever system (battery, pump storage, air pressure, etc.) needs to store huge amounts of energy. Think of it in mega joules. The storage medium doesn’t matter. The huge quantity of energy does.

A few years ago I ran the numbers for California (from their own website). Storing 1 hour of average electric usage is the equivalent of 2 Hiroshima bombs!!!

Am I missing something here? This seems to me to be a huge problem. We argue about storage efficiency and cost. What about the probably it will explode!! We just had an article about German electric buses burning. Multiply that by a million then put it in someone’s backyard.

Ed Fix
Reply to  Roger
June 15, 2021 1:58 pm

The more energy you stuff into a given space, the more inherently dangerous it becomes. One small failure can cascade into a major catastrophe.

If a lithium ion cell discharges too far, it starts to grow metalic whiskers internally. Those whiskers can eventually short the electrodes, and the cell burns. If it’s packed into a huge battery, one shorted cell can ignite the whole battery, and any surrounding batteries, and BOOM, Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.

I don’t want any of Elon Musk’s grid storage batteries anywhere me. We’ve seen his approach to developing rockets.

MarkW
Reply to  Ed Fix
June 15, 2021 3:58 pm

For safety, grid scale batteries are either going to be stored with a substantial distance between them, or there is going to have to be some mechanism to mechanically separate the batteries in the event of a fire.
In either case, cost of construction skyrockets.

Since the batteries have to be kept in a fairly narrow range when being charged or discharged, they are going to have to be kept indoors where the temperature can be controlled.

Last edited 1 month ago by MarkW
Kevin
Reply to  Ed Fix
June 15, 2021 4:54 pm

One exception to what you are saying is a nuclear fuel pellet. It’s really a battery that puts out more energy than was put into it and can be renewed numerous times through reprocessing.

Reply to  Kevin
June 16, 2021 1:46 am

Well it’s not a secondary source of energy, so it can’t be used to store energy from the grid.

Reproicessed or not…

Climate believer
June 15, 2021 12:53 pm

Another good detailed article here about electricity and energy storage from the World Nuclear Association.
https://world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/electricity-and-energy-storage.aspx

Pumped Hydro does have some disadvantages, but nothings perfect, however one major advantage I think worth emphasising is there longevity. Here in France we have dams that first started producing electricity in the 1930’s, the pumped hydro part was added in the eighties… and it’s still going strong.

I can’t see Musks batteries lasting that long.

Jake J
June 15, 2021 1:00 pm

I look at all of this purely in terms of engineering and cost.

So, a few years ago, I had a new house built. I looked at a wide range of HVAC and electricity approaches. I will focus here on solar panels and batteries. Our rate is $21/mo flat + 9.63 cents/kWh, which works out to an all-in price of about 10.5 cents. Panels would have run for about 14 cents, so I didn’t bite.

I also looked at battery storage. This is a less straightforward matter than you might imagine. The big decision: Storage for daily use when the panels aren’t producing, or enough to go fully off grid, which in my region would have entailed storage between seasons.

Given our rates, I saw no point in daily storage and took only a brief look. For “off grid,” the cost of enough storage would have been $600,000. And Tesla’s “power wall” batteries are warranted for only 10 years while the panels have a 25-year warranty, making the storage cost $1.5 million — more than the new house, 20 acres, new outbuildings, and extensive landscaping. Not only that, but both the panels and the batteries degrade in use, and even a brand new battery loses 4% of the energy as it’s being discharged.

At the utility level, the numbers would obviously be much bigger, but the implications for battery storage are stark.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Jake J
June 16, 2021 6:12 am

Polar latitudes are a problem for off-grid PV, but it is successfully used to power installations such as remote instrumentation sites. But the total energy demands are way less than a residence.

Jake J
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 17, 2021 12:18 pm

There are certainly good applications for PV solar and batteries, but not for residential “off grid.” The numbers don’t work.

David Holliday
June 15, 2021 1:06 pm

You know what else is a form of energy storage? Fossil fuels! Amazingly enough, we have whole systems in place for extracting and converting those energy stores into usable form. Decades of experience mitigating the issues with those stores. To use them we don’t have to litter the landscape with wind turbines that destroy birds, bugs and bats. We don’t have to mine vast quantities of rare earth’s, copper and other resources. We don’t have to rely on the wind to blow and sun to shine. We don’t have to create an increasingly complex stack of unproven technologies to pretend we won’t have another Texas disaster. Amazing. Who’d of thunk.

Mike Lowe
Reply to  David Holliday
June 15, 2021 1:22 pm

All we would then have to do is invest a tiny fraction of that wasted on wind and solar, to ascertain the truth about the undesirables in the flue gases and deal with them. A relatively simple task in comparison, if only the politicians and activists would stay out of it!

astonerii
June 15, 2021 1:25 pm

My informed estimate is that if we go with wind or solar you have to start by overbuilding supply by at least 5 times needed by nameplate. So if you need a gigawatt of power on average peak, you need to build 5 gigawatts of supply.

You then need to build at least 5 days supply of storage.

I am not sure the world has the infrastructure available to supply the needed materials to build all that in wind and solar. And certainly not in battery backup. No where near enough known lithium.

Steven Pfeiffer
Reply to  astonerii
June 15, 2021 7:46 pm

I agree – I have done some calculations for solar PV here in Massachusetts, and by my calc it is a factor of six.

However, that is only for long term average conditions of solar radiation that takes cloud cover into account.

I have not modeled it further yet, but my guess is that a small increase in the length of time that the sky is overcast or nearly overcast as compared to long term average will maybe double or triple that number.

Reply to  astonerii
June 16, 2021 1:50 am

You must live in California. Here in the UK solar output collapes in the fall and is virtually nonexistent for the whole winter.

The capacity factor is 10% – that is the average annual output is 10% of what a bright summer midday will produce. In winter you might as well not have the panels at all. So you need aroun 6 months of storage, for solar.

Wind is a bit better.

Peta of Newark
June 15, 2021 1:28 pm

Random trivia I recall from ‘places’

In the pumped storage, energy loss comes from 2 main sources.
1) The turbulence created as the water goes through the pumps and turbines and all that splashing and gurgling as it leaves and re-enters the lakes’
Turbulence in water was how Joule related energy (that of a falling weight) to temperature rise in a known sample of water – hence how the unit of Energy came to be so-named
2) A;lso that the water on its descent and re-ascent requires to be ‘accelerated’ – where it goes from standstill in the lake to x metres per second in the pipes.
It is that Force = Mass times Acceleration that is wasted energy.
In the trivial case, if you could move the water from one lake to the other without accelerating it, you’d improve efficiency no end.

T’was a figure that came from the Aswan Dam and why a UK firm of consultants, who were initially approached to design the project, turned it down flat.
On 2 counts:
1) It would destroy the very fertile farmland, of 7,000 years and counting by damning up the silt other goodness hat actually maintained said fertility.
The Blue Nile brings minerals from Ethiopia and the White Nile bring organics from Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda,
A perfect mix. We could all learn a lesson or two from that.

But also the project was turned down because the UK consultants calculated that 33% of all the water that flowed into the lake behind the dam would simply be lost to evaporation.
So not only was the fertile land of the Nile Delta being trashed, so was 33% of the water it needed to grow stuff.

Ah, The Goode Olde Dayes – when folks actually had principles AND upheld them.
Alas no more
Any comment, Messrs Mann, Gore, Hansen, Biden, Obama, Johnson Schmitt, all of NASA, U of EAnglia, Uni Exeter, UK Met Office…..?

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 15, 2021 1:46 pm

Forgot….

Lithium batterries can actually last quite a long time, IF you don’t overcharge or over discharge them

The classic Lithium Cell is nomiinally 3.7 Volts but will safely charge up to 4.2 Volts
Then, you can still get iuseful grunt out of them down to about 2.7 Volts.
They wont last very long at that, 500 cycles tops.

But if you contain your enthusiasm by not charging them higher than 4.05 and not sucking then down below 3.3, you’ll get 10,000 cycles

THAT was the principle of how Elon gave Tesla drivers a bit of extra grunt to get out of Florida when Hurricane Wot-his-Name came through – whenever it was recently. ish
He told the onboard battery manger to allow that little bit deeper discharge, was it about 40 miles worth?

There are no free lunches. Without knowing the exact charge & discharges allowed in Teslas, that stunt potentially took years off the life of the ‘updated’ batterries

Batteries really are ‘living things’ and just like elephants##, they don’t forget if you mistreat them. Treat them as living creatures and they will return the sentiment, possibly 1000’s of times over

## All animals are like that, not just elephants 🙂

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 15, 2021 2:44 pm

Data. we own a 2007 Ford hybrid Escape AWD. Uses NiMH battery cells. Trick is, the charge is floated between about 45% and 55%. Never more (engine kicks off) never less (engine kicks on). After 14 years and about 90 k miles, still going strong. There were NYC Escape hybrid taxies with 350k miles after 4 years, also with no battery problems.

The problem with EVs is you top the battery off and then drain it way down. And fast charging makes the battery life problem much worse, something Musk does not tell you about his superchargers.

PCman999
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 16, 2021 8:41 am

Is the usage band really that tight? I know it’s best to store NiMHs at only 40%, but it seems like you’re not getting the full potential of savings if you are only allowed to use 10% of the battery. It would be interesting if anyone driving a lithium battery hybrid cloud respond with their battery charge-discharge levels.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 16, 2021 1:54 am

2) A;lso that the water on its descent and re-ascent requires to be ‘accelerated’ – where it goes from standstill in the lake to x metres per second in the pipes.

It is that Force = Mass times Acceleration that is wasted energy.

Er no, that is energy moved from potential to kinetic energy
You get that back when you slow the water down again at the bottom

Well most of it, anyway. 🙂

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2021 10:05 am

As heat?

Tom
June 15, 2021 1:36 pm

Willis- How about including the energy stored in biomass in the mix. Stockpiled biomass (not of the fossil kind) could provide dispatchable power. What would that look like?

John Tillman
Reply to  Tom
June 15, 2021 2:00 pm

The best way to store solar energy is in photosynthetic organisms, such as trees. More plant food in the air improves this process.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Tillman
PCman999
Reply to  John Tillman
June 16, 2021 8:53 am

Yes, definitely, burn the really old trees stored in the ground as oil and coal, and let the trees grow for future generations. I wouldn’t mind paying a small carbon tax knowing it went to good ideas like tree planting, city greening projects, artificial coral reefs construction, etc., but not flushed down the toilet of general government accounts or subsidizing rich people’s ev cars or solar incomes.

Reply to  Tom
June 16, 2021 2:05 am

I refer you to the late Dr Mackays ‘without the hot air’ website and book.

I am sure that climatet change fanatics will know how much energy falls on the earths surface as sunlight.

On average you can recover about 100W/sq meter of solar panel

A wind turbine averages out at 1-2W/sq meter of land area used

POWER PER UNIT AREA wind farm

(speed 6 m/s)2 W/m2

I think biomass is between 0.1 and 1W/sq meter.

If we grow in Britain energy crops such as willow, miscanthus, or poplar

(which have an average power of 0.5 W per square metre of land), then

shove them in a 40%-efficient power station, the resulting power per unit

area is 0.2 W/m2

As with all these things, the ArtStudent™ approach of ‘I cant do sums, but surely…‘ belies the truth.

The appalling fact is that David Mackay is beloved by Greens, because they think – well believe – they dont do ‘thinking’ – that he was showing how to make renewable energy work. Whereas when you read it carefully, he is proving that it never will.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2021 9:42 am

Quite right. They just read the title ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’ and never bother to read the book itself.

PCman999
Reply to  Tom
June 16, 2021 8:47 am

What about the pollution from that? Fossil fuels, even coal, are cleaner burning that wood or other biomass, and you don’t have the hidden fossil fuel energy used to harvest and transport the trees, etc. to the plant. It’s fine using biomass if it’s just waste with no other use and you need to get rid of it anyway, but actually growing trees specifically to cut them down after a few years and the animals have all settled in doesn’t make economic or environmental sense, imho.

Juglans Nigra
Reply to  PCman999
June 16, 2021 10:56 pm

The other advantages of trees is that they are not just fuel. They can be used to make houses, paper, sometimes even have fruit to eat each year. Some even look pretty, hold hillsides together, shade the sidewalk.
For the cost of an acorn, and the area of land to let it store the sunshine; there comes a resource of many options. Today the heat / electricity may be most valuable, but tomorrow it may be the paper; Next day it might be just the place to dispose of (recycle) sewage waste………and wood smoke can be scrubbed. The technology is able to be used from homestead scale to industrial scale.
Best time to plant a tree was fifty years ago, next best time is tomorrow. Yes it is an expensive set-aside of good productive land, but there are savings from mining pollution to disposing of faded-out photoelectric arrays.
Just saying, I thank God for designing the trees.

GoatGuy
June 15, 2021 1:47 pm

Thing is, pumped hydro has a HUGE base of pre-existing technology (and scale) to back it. Humungous water pumps at surprisingly high electrical-to-head-pressure efficiency have been around since the 1960s. We use them to move water all over parched California. And to fill salt-water dams, for the pumped hydro-near-the-coast.

More definitely could be done, for sure.  

Thing is though, there are a couple of electromechanical outliers that might make sense – mostly centripetal rotary storage.  It is rather amazing what modest-house-sized rotors made from carbon fiber, kevlar and titanium can store. Ought to be engineered at the University-top-priority level, to make the green world vision … basically possible. 

The other are compressed-air in spent (competent) mines and kind of the same at the ocean coasts: ginormous submerged cellular air bags. Not giant single bags… they represent disasters waiting-to-happen.  More fractal: tens of thousands of much smaller bags, hooked together like cells, in rather oversized synthetic netting arrangements. Perhaps almost impermeable, so not continuously attacked by local biota. 

500 m depth has an energy capacity of over 4.5 kWh per (original!) m³ of air. Most of that compressional.  Smaller cellular ‘bags’ also dissipates heat-of-compression, yielding a more adiabatic energy equation, again being nearly optimal given the surrounding conditions.  

just saying… 

MarkW
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 15, 2021 4:09 pm

The problem with rotary storage is that you either have to bury it under tons of concrete, or site them many miles away from any habitation.
When they fail, they explode. All of that rotational energy is turned to heat in a matter of milliseconds.

Letting the heat of compression dissipate is a loss of efficiency.

Earthling2
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 15, 2021 4:17 pm

Hydrostor is doing some projects with submerged air bag A-CAES (Advanced Compressed Energy Storage) in open water, and have refined that to underground caverns filled with water, using old mining pits and/or shafts. They are building a 200 MW project in NSW, Australia that will deliver 1,600 MWh for 8 hours. I tried (in vain) to find out from their website what the round trip efficiency is. Nowhere to be found, but using some calculations from what they say to compress and uncompress (retrieving the adiabatic heating) it seems they think they have a 77% efficiency. I really doubt that, but maybe they counting the lost heat they claim to recover. While this tech would work practically anywhere, my gut sense is that it isn’t efficient for the cost. Plus it is subsidized heavily, so probably not really economic.

Maybe this one deserves its own main post, like that scheme to lift up heavy bricks with a crane (and drop them when electricity is required) that was here last year. I think that one was busted as inefficient too.

https://www.hydrostor.ca/technology/

John Dawson
Reply to  Earthling2
June 16, 2021 3:45 am

I assume you mean a 1600MWh storage system that will deliver 200MW for 8 hours?

Earthling2
Reply to  John Dawson
June 16, 2021 10:35 am

Yes. From their website about the Broken Hill A-CAES project. But crickets for end to end efficiencies.

“The Broken Hill Project is a 200 MW utility-scale Advanced-Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility that is being jointly developed by Hydrostor and Energy Estate. The Project will be located at a local decommissioned mine and is designed to provide up to 8 hours of electricity discharge at a time (i.e. up to 1,600 MWh). The Project is the first large-scale, long-duration energy storage project in Australia to be selected as a preferred solution in the first stage of a regulatory transmission planning process by a major utility. The feasibility-stage development work for the Project is supported with funding from the NSW government’s Emerging Energy Program. The Project will provide critical back-up generation to ensure reliability of the electricity supply to the Broken Hill community and will solve significant congestion issues being experienced by existing renewable projects in the region. The Broken Hill A-CAES project will allow the region to sustainably unlock the full economic potential of its traditional and renewable natural resources and our goals include working with existing and new resource companies to provide them with a low cost sustainable energy solution.”

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 16, 2021 10:13 am

The other are compressed-air in spent (competent) mines …

I wonder how long they would remain competent with constant cycling of the pressure.

Thomas Gasloli
June 15, 2021 1:51 pm

It is always good to begin the week with a laugh, and Figure 4 & 5 were hilarious! Thanks.

June 15, 2021 1:59 pm

I am surprised by the low numbers for pumped storage, but I guess it depends on the definition.

Because, in addition to these pumped storage, there are all the storage in pure hydroelectric reservoirs without pumping facilities. However, it is quite common that large facilities also have some pumping capacity.

A good example of such a facility is Blasjo, Norways biggest Hydroelectric reservoir, which alone has a capacity of 7.8 TWh.

See: https://www.statkraft.com/newsroom/news-and-stories/archive/2013/statkraft-five-largest-batteries/

/Jan

Reply to  Jan Kjetil Andersen
June 16, 2021 2:10 am

Yes. also look at the Hoover dam.

In reality hydro represents storage without the pump, and in places like france sweden new zealand and switzerland, you can have rain limited hydro that is viably augmented by renewable energy – or preferably nuclear power.
Even in the UK scottish hydro of the non pumped persuasion is a handy source of energy that is hoarded until energy prices are really high, and then used to make up the shortfall.

Hydro and biomass are the only ‘renewable’ sources of stored energy.

Duncan MacKenzie
June 15, 2021 2:06 pm

The US pretty much mirrors the rest of the planet. 

While the US is a bit less than 20% of hydro in the world, and something like a quarter of lithium-ion storage, it looks to be around 90% of electro-mechanical storage?!

What would those be, huge flywheels? Where are they used?

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Duncan MacKenzie
June 15, 2021 2:48 pm

They are farms of small, very fast spinning flywheels. Usually underground for safety. And they are only used for voltage (frequency) stabilization on grid fringes.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 16, 2021 2:13 am

I had assumed that was the natural storarge inherent in the rotating mass of conventional power stations.

These days spinning reserve doesn’t just mean power stations on and connected to the grid ready to have the steam valves opened, it also means power stations on and connected to the grid ready to use their rotaional energy to support it.

I dont know what ‘grid fringes’ means, either.

Tom H
June 15, 2021 2:12 pm

Willis,

Would 5 million new EV’s each year with bi-directional chargers and 70kwh battery storage change the equation after a few years?

Tom

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
June 15, 2021 2:12 pm

So wouldn’t it be cheaper than lithium batteries to make a couple of giant metal plates (I mean huge) and turn the Atlantic into giant battery. What could possibly go wrong? It’s about as believable as powering the modern world with non-existent fantasy battery breakthroughs.

(Do you really need sarc?)

Fed up
June 15, 2021 2:17 pm

Very interesting read. I’m still in awe at the sheer stupidity of our leaders still heading down their blind path of useless “renewables” that are not the answer. Now the same blindness for the EV and battery push but it’s ludicrous as no one stopped to think of the actual grid itself and how will they ever support their brainless ideas? Many countries have severely dated grids the cost will be enormous to bring them up to par and will still need fossil fuel in every aspect of their green dream. It’s just insane.
And the name renewables in itself is a total oxymoron title for such energy that sure does have a short life timeline like wind and solar and batteries that are not easily recycled and mostly end up buried and worse for the land then before. And to those that preach bio is a true renewable if you think having to use trees then replant them, wait a century to reuse is the way to go well …..

Reply to  Fed up
June 16, 2021 2:17 am

I’m still in awe at the sheer stupidity of our leaders still heading down their blind path of useless “renewables” that are not the answer

I am far more in awe of the greed and corruption that our leaders display in promoting unworkable solutions to nonexistent problems, whose only result is in transfer of money from hoi polloi to the elite.

They will get away with it as long as you let them.

The facts have all been out there for decades. It is not possible that they are not known.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Fed up
June 16, 2021 11:58 am

I’ve mentioned that before too. Just think of the massive work to be done to upgrade local utility distribution equipment. Substations, local power lines, house transformers, home breaker panels, etc.

dodgy geezer
June 15, 2021 2:19 pm

There is NO safe way to store energy. All stored energy is a bomb waiting to go off.

The storage systems we use at the moment are mainly coal, oil and gas. These can, and do, explode, but we know how to handle them. Big batteries, or big dams, are more dangerous.

Curious George
Reply to  dodgy geezer
June 15, 2021 2:38 pm

I assume that by “safe” you mean “foolproof”. Nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Reply to  dodgy geezer
June 16, 2021 2:18 am

uranium and plutonium are way safer than even coal

Last edited 1 month ago by Leo Smith
Robber
June 15, 2021 2:40 pm

Australia has about 7 GW of hydro electricity generation capacity (total electricity demand 24 GW) of which hydro delivers on average about 7% or about 1.7 GW. Of course most of those dams were built 50-60 years ago before the greenies stepped in. There is abouut 1 GW of pumped hydro in that mix with pumps used overnight to pump the water back into the high storage.
Currently there is a major pumped storage initiative known as Snowy2.0
https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/generation/the-snowy-scheme/
Snowy 2.0 will provide an additional 2 GW of dispatchable, on-demand generating capacity in 2025, with approximately 350 GWhr of large-scale storage, so about 1 weeks storage. Reported cost is $4.6 billion but there are suggestions of cost overruns.

Mr.
Reply to  Robber
June 15, 2021 4:15 pm

Only suggestions of cost overruns?
I would have expected nothing less than guarantees of cost overruns.

Is the Wivenhoe Dam in SE Qld included in your 1GW pumped hydro capacity?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wivenhoe_Power_Station

Alec Rawls
June 15, 2021 2:40 pm

Mini-nukes in every county, all disconnected from each other except when backup supply is needed. Batteries are for flashlights.

Michael S. Kelly
June 15, 2021 2:45 pm

One of the nascent storage technologies is via liquid air. I thought about this back in the early 1970s, and bounced it off of a neighbor who was an engineer and inventor. He became quite interested in it, but we moved away before he could ever give me a definitive opinion. (I subsequently got two engineering degrees, myself.)

It strikes me that this could have a synergistic effect in conjunction with wind turbines, making both a dispatchable source of energy. Instead of using the wind turbine to generate electricity, use it to directly (mechanically) drive an air compressor, and feed a tank farm connected to multiple wind turbines. The liquefaction process doesn’t take much power after the initial compression to ~1,100 psi, all of which subsequent power could be provided by an expansion engine using a portion of the compressed air. The liquid air could be transported either by truck, train, or pipeline.

The energy storage density of liquid air is dependent on how it is used, and here is where there is a lot of room for creativity. I lived in Southern California for 28 years, in the “Inland Empire.” Air conditioning is a must in that area, and it takes a lot of energy. My highest electric bill of all time was $1,200, back in the early 2000s, virtually all of it due to air conditioning power requirements. If wind-produced liquid air was used simply to absorb heat in place of conventional air-conditioning, in that market it would make sense. The heat absorbed could be run through a Stirling cycle engine in the process, and provide energy for the home. Whether the capital cost is worthwhile is TBD.

A few companies are promoting this technology, which has more growth potential than pumped hydro, since it requires only insulated storage tanks.

Is it efficient? Well, that again depends on how it’s used. But substituting air compressors for huge generators certainly saves the resources consumed by todays wind turbines, and that by itself may make it economically efficient – the only measure by which energy schemes should be judged.

Last edited 1 month ago by Michael S. Kelly
Michael in Dublin
June 15, 2021 2:55 pm

For the converted what Willis has written here makes sense and is backed up by real data. However, the unconverted alarmist does not even want to sit down and quietly examine and thoughtfully discuss this presentation. Instead they resort to personal attacks on the bearer of good or bad news that contradicts their narrative and its echo from the media.

June 15, 2021 2:55 pm

Interesting post. It strike me that if a conventional hydro plant is locate on a river/reservoir where the daily and/or annual influx of water is not sufficient to run the turbines at full blast 100% of the time, then that facility can effectively be used for energy storage: let it accumulate water when you don’t need the electricity, open the turbine gates when you do need it. This kind of hydro facility would pair well with intermittent sources such as wind/solar.

What I don’t know is what % of the installed US hydro capacity is water-limited vs how much is turbine-capacity-limited.

Reply to  David Foster
June 16, 2021 2:22 am

100% correct, and at least for the USA and certainly for the UK the answer is 100% of it is water limited, apart from possibly the niagara type installations.

And you are right that it couples veryt nicely to renewables.

It couples even MORE nicely to nuclear.

France and Switzerland with almost 100% hydro/nuclear are the two lowest emitting countries in Europe. ‘Renewable’ Germany is the highest.

Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2021 5:55 pm

Found an interesting & relevant piece:

“In recent years, with all of the interconnections between utilities, and the wholesale trading that goes on, some smart companies have bought a bunch of old hydro plants and replaced the generators with much larger ones. These companies can now store water behind their dams for much of the day, simply by not using the water for generation, and not spilling it. This happens when market prices are low, but when the wholesale price spikes during peak periods, they can generate an entire days worth of energy in a few hours, and they make very good money in doing just that. This type of operation appears to have a low capacity factor, as the generators only run when the prices are high. The key is that an operator can choose when that is needed, and is not forced to wait for wind or sunny weather.”

https://energywithouthotair.ca/2019/01/03/hydro-and-wind-capacity-factors/

Average capacity factor for US hydro is only about 41%, which reinforces the point that generation capacity exceeds average water flow.

Earthling2
Reply to  David Foster
June 16, 2021 10:36 pm

That is getting more impossible now due to creek/river ramping rates, turning the water on full blast for part of the day, and then turning it down or off. Of course this happens all the time with the big dams, at peaking in the morning and prime time, but they always have some base load releasing water. With smaller dams, the fishery gets stranded in pools at low flows after having surplus water, not to mention water temperature changes. Everything getting more complicated… can’t operate like we used to.

June 15, 2021 2:57 pm

Willis asked me to post this here.
Here it is.

https://wp.me/pTN8Y-6um

alastair gray
June 15, 2021 3:04 pm

Funny character that Elon Musk. Like a Robert Heinlein space explorer freebooting capitalist he will go to the stars and damn the nay- sayers. Mucho grande cojones!
He also flogs dodgy batteries and seems completely aware of the concept of energy density . How many tonnes of battery do you need to make a tonne of steel? We are not talking Shipstones here and Elon’s super AA’s catch fire too. I

f you can not pack more kilowatts per kilogram than good old fossil fuel or even better nuclear then you are toast and Elons starships had better rely on nuclear or fossil fuel or ” The stars will not be for us”

Energy density, Storage Capacity , How many Terawatt hours do we need ? Concepts completely beyond the pea brain mentality of our green new dealer sqacking monkeys.

Unless the game plan is ” all you little people will freeze in the dark and starve. But you will be happy.
Please tell me I AM PARANOIC. But am I paranoiac enough

Kevin
Reply to  alastair gray
June 15, 2021 5:02 pm

For some reason Musk does not like nuclear. It does not appear in any of his plans for martian colonies.

In my opinion, his martian colonization project is really a cover for developing Starship/SuperHeavy launching/recovering defense payloads or geoengineering devices into orbit. Kind of like Howard Hughes did with the Glomar Explorer to recover the sunken Soviet sub.

Jean Parisot
June 15, 2021 3:17 pm

No RTGs!

Earthling2
Reply to  Jean Parisot
June 15, 2021 3:53 pm

What could go wrong with 25 pounds of P238 in everyone’s basement? Plus it would heat the house for a really long time from all the excess ‘heat’.

Reply to  Earthling2
June 16, 2021 2:28 am

What could go wrong with 25 pounds of P238 in everyone’s basement?

Almost nothing.

Even if it was in a mini reactor that supplied really hot steam to drive a small turbine.

the smaller the reactor, the less efficient it is, but also the less active cooling it needs, Under 250MW or so, once shut down by either moving the lumps of fissle material apart or dumpng neuton absorbers in between, the decay heat can be handled by passive air or water cooling

In the UK in winter, my space heating energy requirements are way higher than my electricity requirements. I’d take the plutonium without the generator!

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2021 8:13 pm

238Pu isn’t fissile, it just has a short half-life (87.7 years) and thus produces a lot of power per unit mass via radioactive decay. By “a lot,” I mean on the order of 570 W/kg. So the 25 pounds mentioned would translate to 6,463 W thermal. That’s enough to be useful, though not too much to dissipate when not in use. By the end of its decay, it would have produced 7 GW-hr of heat energy, the equivalent of 877 tonnes of coal.

“But what about the nuclear waste?” would object the “Greens.” Um, the end of 238Pu’s decay chain is 206Pb – lead 206, a stable isotope. No nuclear waste, bud.

Kevin kilty
June 15, 2021 4:03 pm

Xcel’s storage site in Colorado has 1,000 feet of relief from high to low reservoirs. There aren’t many places that have even that much relief anywhere, let alone near grid sources and loads.

Jake J
Reply to  Kevin kilty
June 17, 2021 12:23 pm

I live in the Columbia River Gorge, whose dams and wind turbines are integral to the grid. They’re planning a pumped storage project, which is technically feasible: relief and proximity to the grid. But, as usual, no cost data provided.

Greg61
June 15, 2021 4:21 pm

Niagara Falls has a large pumped hydro system on the Canadian side. By design it was to be filled at night during low demand and used in the day to meet peak. Last I heard it was mothballed even though practically free due to forced legislated use of very expensive solar and wind in Ontario.

Reply to  Greg61
June 15, 2021 9:49 pm

There are large pumped storage reservoirs on *both* the US and Canadian sides of the Niagara rivers. As Willis said, there are few suitable sites to build lumped-storage available AND developable in the US.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Adam_Beck_Hydroelectric_Generating_Stations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Moses_Niagara_Power_Plant#Lewiston_Pump-Generating_Plant

June 15, 2021 4:59 pm

Thanks for an excellent article Willis. It was full of surprises and startling comparisons. I notice that you omitted Unicorn Fart Storage from the lists of storage systems.

Gunga Din
June 15, 2021 5:18 pm

“I’ve been reading some folks’ claims about how batteries are the key to a bright green renewable future.”

Grid-scale batteries.
The wonder the world is still awaiting.

They got their political windmills.
They’re not reliable.
They got their political solar panels.
They’re not reliable.

They both need fossil fuel or nuclear backup to keep us torch-bearing peasants from “storming their Green Castle in the air”.

joel
June 15, 2021 5:23 pm

Tesla is building the biggest ever li battery storage facility for PGE in California. It will supply a huge 730 MWh over a four hour period. These people are just too stupid to talk to.

https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/07/29/pge-teams-up-with-tesla-to-build-a-giant-battery-s.aspx

Jake J
Reply to  joel
June 17, 2021 12:19 pm

Note the lack of cost data.

joel
June 15, 2021 5:26 pm

Pumped hydro will never be more that a small contributor. There is a huge shortage of suitable locations.

Earthling2
Reply to  joel
June 15, 2021 10:11 pm

Yes, the problem is that when you have that mountainous terrain that is required, you usually also have a lot of precipitation with conventional hydro, which is already dispatchable base load with its huge reservoirs. All the good sites for pumped hydro such as Norway, BC, Himalaya and everywhere else, is that they already have fairly good hydrology and good large hydro and storage sites with relatively high head.

British Columbia for example, has hundreds of excellent pumped hydro sites, but why bother when your primary electricity generation is already large and small hydro. As it is already, some of these jurisdictions such as Wa and Oregon have to spill surplus water to take wind and solar at freshet, which has a higher priority on the grid. They have to release water from