Trying To See If California’s Energy Plans Add Up


Francis Menton

A couple of weeks ago (July 29) I had a post titled “A Little Arithmetic: The Cost Of A Solar-Powered Grid Without Fossil Fuel Back-up.” In that post I did some simple calculations based on California’s current electricity usage and output from its existing solar generating facilities to figure out how much they would need in the way of solar panels and batteries to get through a low-output stretch in the winter without any fossil fuel assistance. Since for solar energy the “low-output stretch” is essentially everything from September 21 to March 21, I calculated that they would need roughly something in the range of 54,000 GWH of grid-scale battery storage, which at current prices would run around $10 trillion — assuming that someone could in the meantime invent the grid-scale batteries for this purpose that could store thousands of GWHs of energy for as much as a full year until needed.

In another recent post on the same subject — “California’s Zero Carbon Plans: Can Anybody Here Do Basic Arithmetic?” May 11, 2021 — I did a similar calculation with somewhat different assumptions (this time bringing both wind and solar into the mix), and came up with a rough figure for the cost of the needed additional storage of about $6.7 trillion. As huge as those cost figures may be, neither the May 11 nor the July 29 calculations accounted for the yet additional costs associated with loss of power during storage periods that would be up to a full year in length. Also, neither calculation took into account any margin that would be advisable in case of a year of unusually low sun and/or wind.

Now a reader from California writes to say that he has shown my July 29 post to some business associates who are in the process of developing one of the huge battery complexes that California is just starting to build. The reader reports the response of his battery-developing colleagues as being, in summary, “his arithmetic is correct”; however, “his assessment doesn’t address all the tools in the toolbox.” For supposedly a more full understanding, the battery-developers provide me with a link to the March 15, 2021 Report of several California agencies charged with meeting California’s 2045 zero carbon target, the Report being titled “Achieving 100 Percent Clean Electricity in California: An Initial Assessment.”

Does the California multi-agency Report provide any reason to believe that the California bureaucrats have a good idea as to how to get to a zero-emissions electrical grid? The answer is no. Let me first note that my May 11 post already linked to and discussed that same Report. After studying that document, here was my conclusion, along with my invitation to readers:

The [Report shows] that the California regulators have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Perhaps I am wrong. I invite all readers to check me and see if I am missing something.

Nobody responded with anything that I was missing. The basic “conclusion” of the California regulators’ Report, if you want to call it that, can be found on page 1:

Initial findings suggest that the goals of SB 100 [100% zero carbon electricity by 2045] are achievable, though opportunities remain to reduce overall system costs. This report presents various scenarios to meet the 100 percent clean electricity target with existing technologies, as well as alternative scenarios that explore additional factors. All these scenarios require additional analysis. The preliminary findings are intended to inform state planning and are not intended as a comprehensive nor prescriptive roadmap to 2045. As discussed in Chapter 4, future work will delve deeper into critical topics such as system reliability and land use and further address energy equity and workforce needs.

(Emphasis added.). An awful lot of hedging in that, isn’t there? They essentially admit that they haven’t yet looked much into “system reliability”,” which seems to me like the most important aspect of the whole endeavor. Here’s an elaboration on that from page 97 of the Report:

While there is a resource adequacy constraint in the model (a 15 percent planning reserve margin), a full resource adequacy analysis is necessary to determine whether the portfolios produced meet other established reliability planning standards.

Suppose you were tasked with figuring out how to design an electrical grid for California that will have “resource adequacy” without any reliance on fossil fuel resources and principally using intermittent wind and solar generation backed up by batteries. I submit to you that you would quickly realize that there is one fundamental, overriding question that must be the focus of your efforts. That question is: How much grid-scale battery storage — measured in gigawatt hours (GWH) — do we need to get us through the winter, and how much will that cost?

This is the fundamental, overriding question because easily-available weather data would tell you that the sun is low all winter, and the wind also has long periods of calm in the winter. Therefore, if you build sufficient solar and wind generation facilities to produce the same number of GWHs that California consumes in a year, you will have excess in much of the spring through fall, but deficits from some time in the fall all the way through the winter until some time the following spring. To design a grid to survive a year, you need a precise quantification of this seasonality, in order to assess exactly how many GWHs of storage you will need. This is not a difficult calculation. It requires only basic arithmetic, and can be done with a calculator (although a spreadsheet program can help make a detailed calculation quickly). A guy named Roger Andrews, writing at a site called Energy Matters, made just such a calculation back in 2018. I discussed that calculation extensively and linked to it in a post back in November 2018. Andrews was a retired guy and an amateur (he has since died). I am not saying that Andrews’s calculation was perfect, but at least he addressed the relevant question.

Any way you do this calculation, it is going to show you that you need tens of thousands of GWHs of storage. At current prices, the cost is going to be in the multi-trillions, even if you could come up with batteries that could store such huge amounts of power for as much as a year without significant loss.

And here’s the thing I find incredible: the California regulators’ March Report never addresses this question.

Instead, the Report addresses a very different question, which is how much storage will be needed as measured in gigawatts (GW). GW is not a measure of how much energy is stored, but rather is a measure of how fast stored energy can be discharged from batteries to supply the grid. This is also a relevant consideration. However, it is not at all the principal cost driver.

Here is the table from the Report setting forth resources that the bureaucrats have determined are needed to be added to the grid to reach 100% zero carbon power by 2045:

Cal energy charg.jpg

Note that the additional storage resources are given with a measure of GW rather than GWH. Has anybody even troubled to calculate how many GWH of storage may be needed? You won’t find that here.

Further on at page 97 of the Report we find a chart of what passes for the bureaucrats’ analysis of what they call “resource adequacy” of the zero carbon scenarios. Here’s that one:

Cal resource adequacy chart.jpg

Once again, storage adequacy is measure only by GW, not GWH. In other words, the assumption is that there is essentially an infinite amount of energy in storage, and the only relevant system constraint is whether the energy can be withdrawn quickly enough to keep all the lights on at peak demand when no other resources are working.

Beginning at page 106, there is a section called “Emerging Technologies and Innovation.” Here is an (almost unbelievable) excerpt:

Energy storage technologies — including batteries, pumped hydro, hydrogen, and other emerging technologies — are expected to play a significant role in helping balance the grid as the state implements SB 100. Storage can help bridge the gap between variable renewable generation and grid energy demands (a role played in large part by natural gas plants today) and provide ancillary services and capacity rapidly to support system stability and reliability. Nearly all newly procured storage by the California utilities, as required by AB 2514, has been four-hour lithium-ion batteries . . . . One key area of innovation is in long-duration storage technologies. While there are 4.5 GW of pumped hydro energy storage in California, new longer-duration energy storage systems (for example, 100 or more hours of energy storage) are in the development phase and may be deployed within the next decade with the right market signals.

(Emphasis added.). Storage technologies for “100 hours or more” are “in the development phase”? Do they have no idea that to make their system work they are going to need storage for tens of thousands of GWH that lasts for as long as a full year, that is, 8760 hours?

I hope I am missing something here, but I don’t think so. If I am, can some reader kindly point it out?

But if I am not missing something, then we are left to ponder whether all these expert bureaucrats in California are either (1) completely unaware of the fundamental and overriding question that is far and away the most important cost driver of this project that they are undertaking, or (2) are very aware of the fundamental question, but intentionally not mentioning it and concealing it from the politicians and the public?

Read the full article here.

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August 13, 2021 2:24 am

That what you get for letting ArtStudents™ run things.

Bryan A
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 13, 2021 5:48 am

I hope I am missing something here, but I don’t think so. If I am, can some reader kindly point it out?

You are missing one thing…
Over the last decade, Californians have experienced numerous “Curtailments” (AKA Flex Your Power Days) so are in the process of being groomed to accept a low grade unreliable energy supply as the “Future State” of energy within the state.

Dave Yaussy
Reply to  Bryan A
August 13, 2021 6:33 am

I think this is right. My original belief was that people would never stand for such curtailments, but now I think they are being conditioned to accept intermittent energy supply as a small sacrifice to avoid climate catastrophe.

Reply to  Bryan A
August 13, 2021 7:11 am

You nailed it Bryan! And the same thing will soon be here in Michigan.

Last edited 1 year ago by joe x
Frank from NoVA
Reply to  joe
August 13, 2021 10:12 am

This could be just the utility purchasing the relatively low-cost energy blocks it needs to meet its forecasted requirements, while allowing it to recover the higher cost of serving abnormally high, and presumably discretionary, load. In general, this would result in lower rates than having the utility pay a premium for “full requirements” around-the-clock energy supply that may or may not be required. In any event, the utility can’t do anything without getting permission from its regulatory commission.

Reply to  Bryan A
August 13, 2021 12:29 pm

Like the story of trapping wild pigs. Build the fence one piece at a time so they get used to it, until the gate is closed and they’re stuck.

Reply to  Bryan A
August 16, 2021 9:48 am

Yeah, kinda the same here in the mid-Appalachian Mnt power company service-areas — we now get a list of how well my household does compared to other similar size houses. This is just the beginning — getting a “foot in the door” to eventually setting usage price-penalties or even limits. And I was a power-plant engineer…..

Last edited 1 year ago by beng135
August 13, 2021 2:29 am

I think the head-in-sand approach has been taken by everyone everywhere. I cannot understand why such an obvious requirement gets brushed aside in planning. Perhaps they think emerging storage technologies are going to come to their rescue, but there is really no reason to think that as far as I can see.

Reply to  Tom
August 13, 2021 4:26 pm

Because the powers that be are not interested in solving the (manufactured) problem, they merely wish to exploit the (manufactured) crisis?

August 13, 2021 2:45 am

Most “Green” plans are full of human hot air to fight natural warming, so bound to fail.
It is going to be Natural survival of the fittest, so China, India, Russia. The 5 CIA aye, aye’s and their poodle the EU are digging their own graves.

Richard Page
August 13, 2021 2:46 am

I looked at battery production figures for the european gigafactories – total production falls short by at least 25% of even a modest projected demand. The opinion amongst those rushing headlong to set these factories up is that new ideas or emergent technologies will save the day. How? They don’t know but they are secure in that pie in the sky delusion. Climate enthusiasts haven’t moved their version of climate science on since the 70’s but, somehow, they’ll produce breakthrough’s in battery technology! Same thing with this – the blind faith that they have in ‘the Science’ has created overspill – they have the same blind faith that ‘the Science’ will deliver a miracle when the faithful need it.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Richard Page
August 13, 2021 7:54 am

The Search for the Magic Battery continues…

Peter White
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 13, 2021 10:18 am

Popular Mechanics magazine, which at least as far back as the mid 1960s was telling us that flying automobiles would be for sale within the next few years, told us in 2019 that iron batteries would soon solve the electricity storage problem. I’m not holding my breath. But does anyone know if this is more than just the usual Popular Mechanics nonsense?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Peter White
August 13, 2021 11:49 am
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 13, 2021 2:21 pm

What, the ones that don’t burst into flames?

August 13, 2021 2:48 am

I prepared a report based on actual time run data from one of Australia’s inland solar farms to power the Australian NEM. Average demand is 23MW.

I determined the lowest cost option the time for 100% Solar/Battery grid required 240GW of solar and 750GWh battery.

The report can be found here:

Californian grid is about 50% higher demand than Australia. so Need around 360GW of solar panels and 1125GWh battery.

It would always be beneficial to optimise the solar arrays for winter collection. That can reduce solar panel requirement by around 40% compared with energy maximised arrays.

Reply to  RickWill
August 13, 2021 5:36 am

I still wonder where they’re going to find the water to clean the dust off all those panels every few months.

Curious George
Reply to  Spetzer86
August 13, 2021 7:52 am

I saw a wheeled contraption with huge rotating brushes at a solar farm.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Curious George
August 13, 2021 9:54 am

Oh, that’s the device they use to gather taxpayer subsidies.

Reply to  Curious George
August 13, 2021 2:46 pm

In order to get rid of the dust, they are going to scratch up the panels.
Not that much of an improvement.

Reply to  Spetzer86
August 13, 2021 8:22 am

But what do you do about glass that’s been sandblasted in a desert sandstorm?

Reply to  Spetzer86
August 13, 2021 8:42 pm

Published testing at a large solar facility found something like 30% reduction/month in output due to dust. That would obviously depend strongly on how dusty the location is.

Curious George
Reply to  RickWill
August 13, 2021 7:54 am

“It would always be beneficial to optimise the solar arrays for winter collection. That can reduce solar panel requirement by around 40% compared with energy maximised arrays.”
Please explain.

John H
Reply to  Curious George
August 13, 2021 10:36 am

I do this with my array as I do not export so no need for the excess in summer if the panels were optimised for full year, the angle you set them to is the ideal for Winter ie nearly vertical so the low sun gives the best power for the few short hours its up in Winter. You can change the angle in spring and autumn if needed but that just increases the excess in summer. I buy my panels 2nd hand self installed so its not registered so I get nothing for exporting surplus. My £600 array will be paid for in 5 years, not the 25 years if I paid full price for panels and installation.

Barnes Moore
Reply to  John H
August 14, 2021 5:04 am

The next question is – how many solar panels and batteries would you need to provide sufficient energy to maintain your current life style year round if you wanted to disconnect from the grid and how much would that cost? Not trying to be confrontational, actually looking for an answer from someone who has obviously worked to make solar work most efficiently.

Reply to  Barnes Moore
August 14, 2021 3:37 pm

I always chuckle at people who are off grid or want to go off grid. How does one go off grid if everything needed to go off grid was made on grid? So never really off grid, still tethered.

Barnes Moore
Reply to  nickc
August 15, 2021 6:58 am

Agreed. But, not poking fun at John since he made no claim to wanting to be off-grid. I am just looking for someone to fully quantify what it would take. My sense is that it would effectively be impossible, not just for the reason you mention, but the land area needed for all the solar panels that would be needed to both supply sufficient energy to power appliances, etc. in addition to keeping the batteries charged in the winter months. Then, try scaling it for the grid.

Reply to  RickWill
August 13, 2021 4:19 pm

You appear to be saying that Australia needs about 2 days of battery backup. That seems to be a little optimistic. And also seems to have a willingness that the grid from time to time will collapse.

Reply to  RickWill
August 13, 2021 8:37 pm

So 240GW = 240,000MW with a cost of 240000 * 1400000 = $ 336,000,000,000 then 1125GWh = 1,125,000 MWh with a cost of 1,125,000 * 1000000 = $ 1,125,000,000,000 10% ROI, 10% to pay it back and 5% maintenance. Income per year = $281,250,000,000 divided among 10 million households = $ 28,125 per household per year. I don’t know about you, but my electricity bill isn’t $ 28,125 per year. A more realistic back of a week puts the yearly electricity bill at $100k per year. Median household income across the world of $ 9733 and a most people would accept this may be a technical possibility but it is an economic impossibility.

Reply to  Chris
August 13, 2021 8:38 pm

I didnt bother to add the cost of the panels themselves. It is clearly impossible.

August 13, 2021 2:53 am

“a zero-emissions electrical grid”

There is only one way to get to zero.

Shut everything down and turn everything off.

Greens could help further by renouncing breathing.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  fretslider
August 13, 2021 4:52 am

And then you would have 19th century levels of air pollution from fires for cooking and heating each home and building. This pollution will be at the level some cities in China currently experience, where you can’t see down the street.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
August 13, 2021 7:46 am

Basic false assumption is that communist countries and the 3rd world would do the same …. they don’t suffer from the developed democratic nation guilt syndrome. The only question in play at the moment is how stupid are developed democratic nations.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  LdB
August 13, 2021 1:21 pm

The stupid quotient is is steadily increasing now as the effects of teachers’ union forced public school dumb-downs, and now CRT, set-in further into each new tranche of children who will be tomorrow’s adults.

August 13, 2021 3:11 am

You don’t understand the way California bureaucrats operate. They love setting aspirational goals and writing into them regulations. Then they create incentives, taxes and penalties to achieve those goals. If the aspiration energy generation can’t be met, the taxes and penalties kick in. The regulators generate revenue from energy at a rate similar to vices (cigarettes, alcohol and pot) or luxury goods. If you think they don’t operate this way look at the low carbon fuel standard.
Stop thinking of net zero as energy policy, it’s really a tool in the toolbox to create revenue.

Kit P
Reply to  Sean
August 13, 2021 3:51 am

And the best part, who do people blame when the price of electricity does up?

It is the ‘greedy’ power company.

Reply to  Kit P
August 13, 2021 10:02 am

Much like road fuel in the UK. Taxed at 200% but the sheeple blame ‘greedy oil cos.’….

Richard Page
Reply to  Sean
August 13, 2021 6:34 am

Presumably the revenue is there to buy electricity from other states when the inevitable shortfall happens. I guess they haven’t seen the cliff edge approaching where Californians either can’t or won’t be bled dry any further.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Page
Reply to  Richard Page
August 13, 2021 8:31 am

And magically the zero-co2 state of Nevada will increase its output tenfold to supply both its residents and California’s.

Reply to  Sean
August 13, 2021 4:04 pm

Bingo! Exactly like Obama’s unachievable 55 mpg standard for cars and light trucks. When the standard isn’t met penalties (taxes) will kick in thus generating massive amounts of revenue. Trump relaxed this dishonest regulation but now Biden is proposing to reinstate it.

August 13, 2021 3:27 am

Two interesting facts proving that what ever is done to reduce CO2, the climate doesn’t care:

comment image

NLCs persist:
Generally speaking, August is not a good month for noctilucent clouds (NLCs). The silvery clouds, made of frosted meteor smoke, begin to melt away as the mesosphere warms up in late summer. This August, however, the clouds are still being seen. Nadja Maletzki spotted them on Aug. 12th over Zürich, Switzerland:
The significance of this picture is not that NLCs exist in August. They often do. Rather, it is the latitude of the display: +47 N. The clouds are usually retreating toward the Arctic Circle by mid-August, not showing up in the middle of Europe.
All summer long, NLCs have been descending farther south than they are “supposed to.” At one point in June they were sighted near the Mediterranean coast of Spain, almost setting an all-time record. Forget about August. Will this be the year that NLCs are seen in September? Stay tuned.
as per August 13.

Last edited 1 year ago by Krishna Gans
Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 13, 2021 5:28 am

Wheat fields stop growing in still air because they deplete CO2.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 13, 2021 7:30 am

That’s an interesting thought but a hard topic to search. Any publications?

Joao Martins
Reply to  BCBill
August 13, 2021 12:16 pm

As a starter, you can see and check its literature references.

Joao Martins
Reply to  Joao Martins
August 13, 2021 12:43 pm


I have commented Chaswarnertoo’s observation, please check. Inside plastic houses there is not enough renewall of air, mixing is inefective (unless fans are installed): if the wind outside in week, or if there are obstacles, it just crosses the house from one window to the one on the opposite side without making whirls. Depletion of CO2 during the day due to photosynthesis is a very common observation in flower and horticultural greenhouses and there are procedures established long ago to enrich the atmosphere inside them with CO2 (one of the most “barbaric” and poluting is burning old tires and straw).

In a field of cereal, when the plants reach some density, the same happens: there is no renovation of the air between the plants.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 13, 2021 7:48 am

So there is an argument to install lots of electric fans and burn more fossil fuel 🙂

Joao Martins
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 13, 2021 8:20 am

Thank you!

Very well observed! Very good example to show to young agronomists!

I have seen it in tomato plants growing under plastic houses with high “windows”: they grow very slowly until they reach the “window” level. But they grow very fast if you provide enough aeration through the walls near the ground.

Food production depends on a multitude of little facts like this!

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 13, 2021 2:59 pm

Fortunately wheat is mostly growing outside of greenhouses. And there is often an air exchange by convection found in the microclimate near ground.

Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 14, 2021 5:08 am

We grow a lot of wheat in Kansas, and the air has been quite still as of late. The wheat is in but the soybeans are not. I assume the correlation holds across crops.

Last edited 1 year ago by starzmom
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 13, 2021 4:26 pm

Imagine if CO2 was 500 or 600! The whole world would bloom!

Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 13, 2021 3:22 pm

Actualised link:

Ron Long
August 13, 2021 3:30 am

Decomission nuclear and coal powered energy plants, stop new gas fired energy plants, depend on a false narrative about renewables: driving faster down a dead-end street. Nobody can talk the California voters into anything reasonable, so let them get used to rolling blackouts, then California will try the Joe Biden trick (asking OPEC to increase production), beg others for help.

Coach Springer
Reply to  Ron Long
August 13, 2021 9:06 am

When they beg others for help – that’ll take a while because they’ll take it from other states as long as they can: No repentance by the citizens of California, no relief!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Ron Long
August 13, 2021 12:55 pm

Well, there’s a chance that Republican Larry Elder could win the race for governor of California. The polls are looking good for him. The only thing he has to overcome is the massive cheating the California Democrats do.

If Larry Elder won, then the nuclear powerplants and remaining fossil fuel plants would get an extension to their lives, and he would probably build more.

Elder would be an excellent choice. Californians need to escape from the Socialist prison they are currently in. Electing Larry Elder would start cracks in the socialist wall.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 13, 2021 1:25 pm

Diablo Canyon is probably too far down the path to get an extension before it has to shutdown. Re-certification/re-licensing from the NRC needs to start about 4-5 years before a nuclear reactor unit has to shut down as its license expires.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joel O’Bryan
Larry P
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 13, 2021 5:46 pm

Even if Larry were to win he would still be faced with the problem that both the house and senate the Democrats have veto proof majorities. Larry would have to hold on for a few months and hope he can get that number down.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 13, 2021 8:54 pm

Anyone in politics (or out) who tries to operates too far outside the narrative get stomped on by both sides

willem post
August 13, 2021 3:39 am

“I calculated that they would need roughly something in the range of 54,000 GWH of grid-scale battery storage, which at current prices would run around $10 trillion — assuming that someone could in the meantime invent the grid-scale batteries for this purpose that could store thousands of GWHs of energy for as much as a full year until needed.”

These grid-scale battery systems, spread throughout the state, are site-specific, custom-designed, utility-grade systems which are much more expensive per kWh delivered, than mass-produced battery packs for TESLA EVs.

At present, such systems are about 500/kWh, delivered as AC to the grid.
54 TWh would cost 27 trillion

Remember, any electricity passing from a high voltage line, through the battery, to the high voltage line, has an A-to-Z loss of at least 20%.

Remember, the battery must not be discharged below 20%, and not be charged above 80%, if a 15-y life is to be achieved.

Remember, batteries age at least 1 to 1.5%/y

That means your 54 TWh likely is too low for battery capacity

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  willem post
August 13, 2021 5:17 am

And also means you’ll need to spend that 27 TRILLION Dollars every 15 years to keep the mind-numbingly stupid “battery backup” to the mind-numbingly stupid wind and solar “power” working.

So of their 2.6 Trillion annual economy (2016 figure), 1.8 Trillion will be squandered just replacing batteries. When 69% of your state’s GDP is spent just to keep your grid operable, just how are other necessities going to be “funded?” And you can bet that, once you’ve adopted such a stupid energy policy, your economy (GDP) will start shrinking as business flees to places where the power stays on and costs a fraction of what yours does. You can also bet the cost of such “batteries” will escalate over time as the “rare Earth metals” needed for their manufacture become increasingly scarce (IF they can even build enough to start, at the same time the colossal stupidity of “banning internal combustion engines” is the next “climate saving” policy they will attempt to shove down people’s throats).

Oh, and wait! There’s more. Those wind mills and solar panels will also be up for replacement about every 15 years. What did those cost again? A trillion here, a trillion there, a bankrupt state with a wasteland of dead birds, bats and migrating insects, and no electricity seems to be California’s future. How long do you figure before government buildings are all surrounded by crowds with burning torches?

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 13, 2021 8:56 pm

Read about European society after the fall of Rome,

Kit P
August 13, 2021 3:58 am

The decreasing capacity factor of wind and solar has to be taken into account. By 2045, the CF for existing wind and solar will = 0.

That is a huge amount of junk lying around.

At some point wind and solar will break faster than in can be built.

August 13, 2021 4:01 am

If you only design for the average, then you will be failing half the time.

August 13, 2021 4:21 am

The US grid is highly interdependent regionally so California, while one of the largest power consumers does not operate by itself. The National Renewable Energy Lab completed a study in 2017 identifying total US power requirements for electrifying the US economy with the transportation sector accounting for the largest segment. The study estimated future total national power requirements by 2050 as 6,300-6,800 TWh annually and excluded requirements for some large construction equipment, trucks and buses.

The EIA’s 2021 estimated US power supply by 2050 is projected to be 5,500 TWhr annually with solar providing 47% of the power supply.

US power consumption in 2020 was 4,000 TWhr.,0,1&fuel=vtvv&geo=g&sec=g&linechart=ELEC.GEN.ALL-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.COW-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.NG-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.NUC-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.HYC-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.WND-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.TSN-US-99.A&columnchart=ELEC.GEN.ALL-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.COW-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.NG-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.NUC-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.HYC-US-99.A~ELEC.GEN.WND-US-99.A&map=ELEC.GEN.ALL-US-99.A&freq=A&ctype=linechart&ltype=pin&rtype=s&maptype=0&rse=0&pin=

This all assumes that the US grid does not collapse before then on which there are a variety of views.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Keith
August 13, 2021 5:31 am

If there is anything that will virtually guarantee the US grid will collapse it is [insert significant percentage] of worse-than-useless “wind and solar” + shoving worse-than-useless battery powered cars down people’s throats.

Reply to  Keith
August 13, 2021 7:55 am

The sun doesn’t shine at night and often not available in Winter when the real demand is. The problem with lots of these sort of studies by non-engineers and the usual green lunatic groups is they just ignore that. You can’t talk about annual averages unless your talking about storing capacity for the entire year and you can’t talk about renewables in neighbour States because in winter they will be in the same situation.

So if you want a real world discussion take the worst week in Winter for the entire country and explain how you are going to power everything. If you can’t do that you are just dribbling rubbish. So now re-read your links and apply that problem to them.

Last edited 1 year ago by LdB
Reply to  LdB
August 13, 2021 10:53 am


I agree. This is a slow moving train wreck.

I put the numbers out there to reinforce the mismatch of power demand and power supply over an aging grid that runs out of power somewhere in the next 20 years. We are then hobbled with taxes and penalties because we failed to meet special interest agenda-driven targets. I live in the third world State of Vermont with 4-6 hours of sunlight on the dozen days where we actually have sun December through February. One of my neighbors struggles with off-grid solar power and runs a generator constantly. It gets cold up here, -20 to -30F is tough on ICE engines. Battery vehicles – “are you kidding me?”

russell robles-thome
August 13, 2021 4:41 am

Capacity can substitute for storage. If the minimum power of a variable source is X and the requirement is Y, install capacity (Y/X) times what you actually need. The minimum power of a combined solar and wind system with 4 hour storage is probably zero. With 24 hour storage definitely not, and a 100 hours might be reasonable.

Reply to  russell robles-thome
August 13, 2021 4:36 pm

It would also help to have a high capacity intercontinental grid. The time and usage variation over the whole continental would help smear out the troughs and peaks.

But most importantly for the unlucky political victims in California is that power can be imported from intelligent and logical places that generate power from hydro, coal, gas and nuclear.

mark from the midwest
August 13, 2021 5:02 am

I wonder what happens when a grid scale battery and an earthquake are at odds with each other. Does the earthquake win 8 out of 10 times? If someone has the answer give me a heads up.

Reply to  mark from the midwest
August 13, 2021 6:16 am

I can’t imagine that batteries would be any more sensitive to earthquakes than power plants are. Don’t nuclear plants automatically shut down whenever they are hit with an earthquake over a certain magnitude?

oeman 50
Reply to  MarkW
August 13, 2021 9:37 am

Most do not. Most have seismometers and procedures guide the operators in what to do based on the magnitude and duration of the earthquake. But nuclear plants have design basis earthquakes (DBEs) in their design criteria. I have not heard of that for batteries. It looks to me they are just containered in, interconnected, and off they go.

August 13, 2021 5:09 am

I have been following ammonia energy technology for some time. Ammonia can be produced using renewable energy and it can be used in fuel cells and combustion engines. The technology to store large amounts of ammonia is relatively (compared to batteries or hydrogen) cheap.

The marine shipping industry has many projects devoted to making ammonia a viable fuel for ocean going ships. example

If large scale energy storage is going to happen at all, I would bet a friendly coffee that it will involve ammonia, not batteries.

1 – Ammonia is very poisonous. There could be disasters that make Bhopal look like peanuts.
2 – Renewables plus ammonia storage will still probably be economy wreckingly expensive.
3 – No energy technology I have followed in the last thirty years has succeeded.

Curious George
Reply to  commieBob
August 13, 2021 8:00 am

3 – you probably mean an energy storage technology. While I am not crazy about solar and wind, as energy technologies they succeeded.

Reply to  Curious George
August 13, 2021 10:36 am

Solar has applications where the payback is measured in months or maybe weeks. Parking receipt dispensers are a prime example. Compared with the cost of connecting to the grid, a small pv panel is a no-brainer.

Similarly, wind power for aerating a pond or pumping water can often be an easy choice if there’s no grid power nearby.

That said, I regard those as mature technologies and haven’t been following their development.

oeman 50
Reply to  commieBob
August 13, 2021 9:38 am

Ammonia has the unfortunate property of producing NOX when it is oxidized for power. That is tightly controlled, especially in California.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  James Snook
August 13, 2021 1:33 pm

Windmill farms have doldrums in their futures.

Nations should not make their economies subject to doldrums.

August 13, 2021 5:41 am

I believe the “emergent technology” the crackpots in charge are counting on is depopulation. They’ll make it happen in a sort of self fulfilling prophecy way.

bill Johnston
August 13, 2021 5:57 am

This is all shaping up to become one gigantic OOPSIE. Not for the current promoters of course. They will be long gone. And the people holding the bag will shake their heads and say it is not their fault. OOPSIE!

August 13, 2021 6:04 am

Really, nobody is planning to get through the winter just using grid storage.

This is attempting to prove something that isn’t going to happen is not going to work…

Reply to  griff
August 13, 2021 6:20 am

You didn’t read the article again griffie poo.
The batteries are to make up for the fact that there is so much less wind and solar power available during the winter.

Nobody was ever planning on running on battery only during the winter. If that was the plan they would be building 100’s of TeraWh worth of battery storage, not just gigaWh.

Reply to  griff
August 13, 2021 6:22 am

“…nobody is planning to get through the winter just using grid storage.”
Yes, where I live, I’m planning on having to pay the new higher $30/tonne carbon tax on my natural gas consumption.

Reply to  griff
August 13, 2021 8:09 am

Really, nobody is planning to get through the winter just using grid storage.

Yeah, that’s kind of the point of the article. They’re not planning for what they need to. As the charts show there will be essentially no new nuclear, geothermal or hydro power, which leaves wind and solar. So you either build $10-20 trillion in excess solar and wind capacity by blanketing the entire state with the monstrosities, or you build $10-20 trillion in battery storage. And every 15 0r 20 years you replace all that with another $20 trillion worth.
And of course PG&E has committed to burying at least 10,000 miles of transmission lines over the same time frame.
The term Magical Thinking doesn’t begin to cover this fantasy.
The CEO geeks in Silicon Valley are going to be the only people who can afford to pay their utility bills. And once that bubble pops they’ll have to leave too. I’d say the last person leaving the state ought to turn off the lights but I imagine they’ll be using candles by then anyway..

Reply to  BrianB
August 13, 2021 3:21 pm

Blanketing the entire state still wouldn’t be enough. The entire state is dark at the same time, plus during the winter winds drop for the entire state as well. At night, there simply is not enough wind generation, even at the best of times, to power the entire state. Even during the day, because of the shortened amount of daylight, plus the usual clouds and such, the amount of power from the solar panels is also way down. On many days, there’s not any excess power available to recharge the batteries, so they need to have power left over in them from the summer.

August 13, 2021 7:37 am

1) Engineers get paid pretty well in the private sector in CA. There is a serious shortage. Government jobs are left to believers and incompetents. You get what you pay for.

2) Long duration storage competes with interstate transmission and gas. Gas is the cheapest, transmission is second, storage is a distant third.

If we’re going to build a 100% RE system without gas (or biogas, or gas plants running on biofuels or synthetic fuels), that system will rely on imported energy from the rest of the western US through long transmission lines. If we can’t build those lines, we’ll probably install every diesel generator we can find at the last minute to keep the lights on at any price. Only if all of that fails and there is a substantial improvement in batteries will we use long duration storage.

Ronald Stein
August 13, 2021 7:44 am

California continues to focus on intermittent electricity from breezes and sunshine while simultaneously shuttering natural gas and nuclear power plants that have been providing continuous uninterruptible electricity. Results are extreme costs, painful reductions in living standards for all but the richest, national weakness, societal instability, and the eventual failure of the decarbonization effort. 

August 13, 2021 7:46 am

Most comments allude to the fact that the planners don’t know what they are doing. They know exactly what they are doing. The error of the comments lies in who they think the real planners are …… and it’s not the environmentalists

Reply to  markl
August 13, 2021 2:23 pm

Of course. They are using energy policy to fuel inflation to pay for their spendthrift deficit spending just like they did in the 1970’s. Too bad for people who worked hard and saved for the future. But then, you are all chumps anyway because you still think government owes you a living. People get the government they deserve.

Carlo, Monte
August 13, 2021 7:52 am

WTH is “energy equity”? Sounds like Critical Rock Theory will be applied to determine which race(s) get locked out.

Yes, reliability is a huge issue.

What happens when the huge Li-ion batteries hit 10% of full charge? The smart meter off switches are opened.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 13, 2021 8:04 am

It’s a left wetdream construct that basically goes every person born inherits their percentage of the worlds resources. So the act of being born entitles one to their fair share of everything on the planet. Unfortunately for the lefties the world isn’t a fair place and we are a world of sovereign nations and we don’t give a toss what they think and we will defend what is ours.

Last edited 1 year ago by LdB
Reply to  LdB
August 13, 2021 12:24 pm

Because our ancestors built our countries for their children. Not others.

Reply to  LdB
August 13, 2021 3:24 pm

Remember AOC’s green new deal.
She was demanding a living wage for everyone, even for those who could not, or would not work.

Phillip Bratby
August 13, 2021 8:41 am

None of these bureaucrats knows the difference between power and energy. It is just the same in the UK.

oeman 50
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
August 13, 2021 9:43 am

Good one, Phillip. It is one of my pet peeves that every article I see about a new energy storage project talks in terms of capacity, not energy. I think they are trying to hide how little duration the storage has. Oh good, 100 MW of storage! Except it runs out before midnight in the winter.

Jim Whelan
August 13, 2021 9:52 am

Does the California multi-agency Report provide any reason to believe that the California bureaucrats have a good idea as to how to get to a zero-emissions electrical grid? The answer is no.

I have never seen any reason to believe that any government agency (especially one in California) has any idea of how to do anything.

Reply to  Jim Whelan
August 13, 2021 2:30 pm

They know how to raise taxes while providing fewer services and ensuring huge pension benefits for putting checkmarks on pieces of paper their entire careers.

Kevin kilty
August 13, 2021 9:53 am

Generally, after having already commented at the Mnhattan Contrarian site I don’t weigh in on repostings. Yet, the belief in magical batteries, or whatever these magical storage systems are, demands endless commentary.

I bet the lithium battery, in addition to all other environmental issues it presents, likely requires about 70 to 100 kg of CO2 emissions per kWhr of battery produced. Then will cause more CO2 emissions if dispossed by burial, or even more than the original 70-100 kg if recycled.

August 13, 2021 10:10 am

Do they still allow whole-house generators in CA? I think I might invest in Generac…

Tom Abbott
Reply to  TonyG
August 13, 2021 1:40 pm

After the February coldsnap that took down the Texas electric grid, a lot of people are looking at Generac.

J Mac
August 13, 2021 11:02 am

What a farce!

August 13, 2021 1:11 pm

Your calculations are eye-opening using current electricity requirements. Now add the additional electricity needed to replace all of the gas and diesel fuel they’ll need to displace with their 100% EV plan. Every gallon of gas/diesel is equal to 35 or so kwh roughly. Not to pile on, but…..

August 13, 2021 5:50 pm

Relying on “emerging technologies” to make decisions and changes now is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute while Googling how to make it down safely…madness.

Rich Lentz
August 13, 2021 6:19 pm

The MORONS Truly believe that a 500 MW battery can replace a 500 MW Coal power plant Or a 500 MW Gas power plant. Further they believe that a 2GW Battery can replace a 2GW Nuclear Power Plant e.g. Diablo Canyon. They completely IGNORE that Diablo Canyon averages 16,165 GWh DELIVERED each and every year.

Barnes Moore
August 14, 2021 4:56 am

“GW is not a measure of how much energy is stored, but rather is a measure of how fast stored energy can be discharged from batteries to supply the grid”. THANK YOU for that simple explanation. In reading who knows how many posts that reference GW vs. GWh, that is the simplest and clearest explanation I have seen, and for someone of my limited understanding of a lot of things, that is very helpful.

August 14, 2021 9:12 am

An additional cost completely ignored in all of these calculations is opportunity cost. Everyone on this board, as a tiny subset of the global warming universe, has spent hours and hours reading, learning, responding, puzzling over the true economic costs of wind and solar. If we decided to stick with the power sources and infrastructure we have, we would have much more time and money to solve other problems, cure cancer, heart disease, whatever.

Time, money, effort spent on x is not available for y, and problem or innovation y may have a much better rate of return than x. What if this solar/wind farm idiocy did not exist? What other problems or innovations might you spend your money, time, and intellectual capital on that would make a positive impact on our standard of living and quality of life?

We are in the process of doing something monumentally stupid. We are replacing an existing, paid for system of low cost reliable energy with a new system that will cost tens of trillions, with higher costs per kw on the order of 3x to 5x, with much reduced reliability, and after spending all of this money and the pain and agony, we will end up with what we already have. We flip the switch and the light comes on today. In 2030, we flip the switch and the light may or may not come on, and the cost will be much higher.

To put it another way, we are guaranteeing that we as a nation will be poorer with a lower standard of living in 2030 compared to today.

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