My post on Friday highlighted the work of Ken Gregory, who has attempted to quantify the costs of fully electrifying the U.S. energy system using as sources only wind, solar, and batteries. My post got circulated among my excellent colleagues in the CO2 Coalition, two of whom then provided me with links to their own work on closely-related subjects.
The two pieces are: (1) “How Many km2 of Solar Panels in Spain and how much battery backup would it take to power Germany,” by Lars Schernikau and William Smith, posted January 30, 2021 (revised April 23, 2021) at SSRN; and (2) “On the Ability of Wind and Solar Electric Generation to Power Modern Civilization,” by Wallace Manheimer, published October 7, 2021 in the Journal of Energy Research and Reviews.
Both pieces consider various cost and engineering issues involved in trying to develop a fully solar/battery or wind/solar/battery system to power a modern economy; and both quickly conclude for many reasons that such a project is completely infeasible and will surely fail. And yet the U.S. and Europe are both marching forward to implement such plans, without any detailed feasibility studies or cost estimates, let alone even a small scale demonstration project to show that this can work.
Schernikau and Smith consider a case of trying to power just Germany using solar power generated in Spain (Spain having the best conditions in Europe for generating power from the sun). The conclusion:
It appears that solar’s low energy density, high raw material input and low energy-Return-On-energy-Invested (eROeI) as well as large storage requirements make today’s solar technology an environmentally and economically unviable choice to replace conventional power at large scale.
S&S mainly focus on the incredible material requirements that would need to be met for this solar/battery project. First, as to the solar panels:
To match Germany’s electricity demand (or over 15% of EU’s electricity demand) solely from solar photovoltaic panels located in Spain, about 7% of Spain would have to be covered with solar panels (~35.000 km2). . . . To keep the Solar Park functioning just for Germany, PV panels would need to be replaced every 15 years, translating to an annual silicon requirement for the panels reaching close to 10% of current global production capacity (~135% for one-time setup). The silver requirement for modern PV panels powering Germany would translate to 30% of the annual global silver production (~450% for one-time setup). For the EU, essentially the entire annual global silicon production and 3x the annual global silver production would be required for replacement only.
And then there is the question of the battery storage requirement. S&S do not do an hour-by-hour spreadsheet like Gregory to come up with the storage requirement, but rather assume a need for 14 days’ worth of storage based on the possibility of 14 consecutive cloudy days in Spain. (The hour-by-hour analysis done by Gregory and by Roger Andrews would suggest that due to seasonality of solar generation, 30 days of storage would be more realistic.). But even with the 14 day assumption, S&S get these startling results:
To produce sufficient storage capacity from batteries using today’s leading technology would require the full output of 900 Tesla Gigafactories working at full capacity for one year, not counting the replacement of batteries every 20 years. . . . A 14-day battery storage solution for Germany would exceed the 2020 global battery production by a factor of 4 to 5x. To produce the required batteries for Germany alone (or over 15% of EU’s electricity demand) would require mining, transportation and processing of 0,4-0,8 billion tons of raw materials every year (7 to 13 billion tons for one-time setup), and 6x more for Europe. . . . The 2020 global production of lithium, graphite anodes, cobalt or nickel would not nearly suffice by a multiple factor to produce the batteries for Germany alone.
Manheimer’s piece is more general in its discussion of the problems of intermittency and storage, but then focuses particularly on the problem of disposing of the vast wind and solar facilities at the ends of their useful lives:
Let us first consider solar panels. These panels last about 25 years, so the 250,000 tons we have to recycle this year is just a trickle compared to the deluge coming at us in 2050, when we will have had a total of 78 million tons to dispose of. These are not appropriate for landfills, as they contain hazardous and poison materials such as lead and cadmium, which can leech into the soil. However, recycling is expensive. The cost of the recycled materials is considerably more than the cost of the raw materials.
For wind turbines, the blades and the towers pose separate problems:
Since the blades are fiber glass and last only about 10 years, we have had considerable experience here. These blades are gigantic, and are very costly to ship and dispose of. . . . The difficulty of disposing of the blades pales in comparison with disposing of the towers, which last ~25 years. . . . [T]he Washington Times estimates that a [realistic] cost estimate is $500,000 [per turbine].
Go ahead and look through the plans being put forth today by the likes of California, New York, Germany or the UK, and see how they address any of these issues.
Don’t forget that the Wind Turbines and Solar Panels need to have twice the capacity if they are to charge up the storage batteries or whatever means of storing enough energy to offset the windless, cloudy and dark nights and days.
Gonna be a ginormous battery
Gonna take one helluva rabbit to tote it around.
ROFL. Comment winner!
One word – rubberbands. The green power winds up the rubberbands to store energy. At night, or when there is no sun or wind, the rubberbands are released and the stored energy powers our homes and cars.
It could happen.
Sixty years ago balsa wood planes with rubber bands that enabled them to fly short distances were a popular boy’s toy. I just cannot image this working with a Boeing 747-8. Perhaps if Terry Pratchett were still alive and writing he would have got it right.
Well obviously you would need 4 rubber bands for each plane
How much rubber would we need and where would we get it. /S
You could store as potential energy of a cubic meter of iron lifted 100 meters. About 8 MJ. A free fall would result in a couple of MW. Make it 1km high and it gets 10x. Then of course you’ll want to retrieve this energy in a sensible way without smashing anything, but I’ve heard sillier ideas.
Why not just build a dam at Gibraltar and use the Med for pumped storage – pump it down or generate hydro power when there is an excess or shortage of piddle power, respectively. /sarc
you mean for the last 10 days in most of Europe??
Grey skies and freezing fog + almost zero wind.
I went skiing, luckily the ski lifts are powered by nuclear.
If you want 14 days’ storage potential, you need much more than twice the existing capacity. To be sure, you will need 14x the capacity, although you could probably hope to get away with 7x or 10x, with a little risk.
I don’t know how frequently 14-day outages occur, but you only need your usage plus the reciprocal of the recurrence interval. Let’s say you get 8 good hours per day and have storage for the other 16. So that’s 3X system demand, assuming for ease of calculation that demand is absolutely constant. Let’s say you have an outage once per quarter and have 76 days to recover. So your battery capacity is 2/3 of your daily consumption plus 14 days, so the tail is clearly wagging the dog. Your generating capacity (nameplate) is 3X the daily usage, plus 1/76, since you have 76 days to recover the 14 days usage. You need 3.0132X your daily usage as nameplate capacity. All numbers as watt-hrs, not in watts.
There is good agreement here with my experience in the fire alarm industry. Fire alarms have to operate in standby for 24 hours and then in alarm for 5 or 15 minutes, depending on the type of system. Even though the alarm portion of the battery calculation has a much higher power draw, it’s the standby demand that requires the most storage capacity.
Now, there are a lot of simplifications here and any deviation is going to move the needle north of 3.0132X, but I don’t think it will get anywhere near 7X, let alone 14X
It akl depends on the risk you are willing to take. At 3x, you’ll roughly need a clear 5 days to fill the battery. If it’s unlikely that you will get 14 days lull within 5 days of another lull, you can risk it.
I’m quite dubious that it will never happen, although it may not happen often. People would then mention fossil reserves, but this calculation should eliminate that or it’s misleading. In practice, a mix of solar and wind would probably make that 3x more suitable, though.
So 3x existing daily generation capacity and 14x existing daily usage as storage. That might just get you as much as 1x fossil capacity with no storage. Maybe 20x the existing fossil plant costs?
Of course, all of this assumes that unreliables actually produce more electricity than they cost to produce, install, maintain and decommission. If they don’t, and at 20x the initial capacity they almost certainly won’t, it will never work anyway. Ooooops!
Look at the UK wind generation from April through to September last year to see the sort of scenario that can happen.
How many batteries and extra windmills would have been needed to provide a reliable electricity supply?
Answer below in my chart. About 38TWh of batteries that would have to have been charged already to 24TWh on 1 January, and 123GW of wind turbines.
With my off-grid system in Australia – 37S, I achieve 7% capacity factor on solar panels but I only have two days battery storage.
The minimum system cost depends on the relative cost of panels and battery. I expect the minimum cost system is to spend the same amount on the panels as the batteries. My system has flattened the battery 3 days in 11 years. All three times were in May.
If I set my panels up to maximise winter input then I may get away with 10% capacity factor on the panels. If they were tracking panels then 15% is possible
So overbuild in the range 7 to 15 times is what I have found with current relative price of battery and panels. I would feel very secure with 4 days of battery storage and I may be able to increase the panel capacity factor with that amount of storage.
Australia is a very much better case than the UK, and yet, the capacity factor is still terrible.
Probably double that. The land mass in the U.S. would take up a 1/4 of the country. The good thing is China is building more coal plants to be able to supply the energy required to produce millions of tons of their already crappy renewable energy sources. /sarc
Actually they need a lot more than that. I just posted the engineering math:
To reliable produce 1,000 MW of solar around the clock, with an occasional 5 cloudy days, takes at least 6,000 MW of capacity and 120,000 MWh of batteries, costing tens of billions of dollars.
Forget batteries. People have been working hard on batteries for a long time. All the low hanging fruit has been picked. The huge breakthrough it would take to make batteries viable for grid storage isn’t likely.
Quite a bit of work is going on to make ammonia a viable fuel, especially for ocean-going ships. The ammonia would be made using hydrogen produced in electrolyzers using renewable energy. So, what do we make of the following:
OK then … this giant mine wants to power all its operations using hydrogen generated by wind power.
Fortescue and the people behind it are unfamiliar to me. Maybe someone from Australia could clue me in.
There was a similar genius who was going to take Canada’s Nortel into the future by transforming its technology. I leave that to you as an exercise to figure out what happened.
Twiggy Forrest could be put in the same collective as Elon Musk. He has made his own considerable fortune with the occasional failure.
Iron ore is the modern gold. It costs not much to mine in Australia but commands a handsome margin. And it is now approaching 1bn tonne in export. Twiggy is behind Rio and BHP for ore production but he grew from nothing in 2000.
The planned weather dependent energy source is solar. The mine is on just about the sunniest place on Earth.
Annual average insolation is 6kWh/sq.m
Like Musk, Twiggy will garner considerable government sponsorship with the project. Solar alone stacks up as a diesel fuel replacement in these locations. It is just dumb to be running diesel electric trains and trucks in the location. Diesel costs about $2/litre but maybe $1.50/l without road tax.
The trains and trucks should have been electrified decades ago. All the coal trains in Queensland were electrified by the 1990s.
The place is a major gas hub as well so gas has been used for power generation in the region since the 1980s as well.
If there was no Net Zero incentive, the values of solar generation may stack up against the export price for gas. It definitely stacks up as a diesel replacement.
Net Zero is a godsend for miners. Miners will inherit the Earth providing politicians keep striving for the impossible – Net Zero from weather dependent generators.
Few people have done the ERoEI for WDGs and associated storage. The Net Zero objective using WDGs commits mankind to ever lower standard of living.
There is the ERoEI cliff. The minimum value of ERoEI for society to function is somewhere between 5 an 7. Below that, society collapses rather quickly.
If it doesn’t matter when you get your electricity, wind and solar might work. If it does matter (and it does) then you’re over the cliff.
For wind turbines, the blades and the towers pose separate problems:
No mention of the concrete bases, but I suppose they’ll be left In-situ. But after 30 years development of turbines will they be reusable?
I recall reading that where the spot is to be reverted, the top 3 or 4 feet of the concrete and steel will be removed and covered with native soil and vegetation.
If such has been done, maybe someone could provide a link.
How deep is the “native soil” supposed to be? If it’s only a couple of inches then it won’t support anything more substantial than grass.
The steel reinforced concrete base for 2 megawatt or more turbine weights about 1,500 tons. I don’t know how one would remove such a beast using battery-powered equipment, or how one would produce the materials needed to replace it using only electric power.
They’ll make great archeological curiosities a few millennium in the future.
Somewhat like the statues on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.
What WHERE liberal-arts-Major Dem/Progs thinking?
I do not understand the logic behind removal and dismantling of wind turbines . Surely if the sight was good enough when constructed why isn’t a “new” turbine mounted to the same base and spot again ?
There’s only so much land- as populations grow- there is more need for housing, industry, infrastructure- meanwhile, environmentalists keep wanting more land to lock up- if we cover so much land with wind and solar- the pressure on land will result in very rapid inflation on land values- that might cause some “wind companies” to dismantle them. This is all happening right now in Massachusetts. The average price for a home in the Boston area is now $750,000 according to Globe article a few days ago- and we’ve hardly begun to pave over the landscape which will be necessary now that we have a net zero law by ’50. Meanwhile, a lot of 3rd world people keep pouring into the state due to its generous benefits for poor people.
In rural Ontario, there were serious siting errors made. Turbines were sited too close to and in some case completely surrounding homes with arrays/clusters of turbines. Both audible noise and sub audible pulsations have residents reporting harm to health. Governments were not prepared to handle the situation and after five years are still not fulfilling their mandate to protect these residents.
When you wish upon a star…
Disney’s First Law: Wish and it will come true.
Greens will not, or cannot, do math.
…cannot, do math….leaving financial considerations well outside of their scope, and assessment of climate statistics in an entirely different galaxy…
As with flu bugs.
They simply don’t care, in their minds its this or death. But really you get both. Its like the slogans on walls in Cuba, “socialism or death”. Of course it is not a choice, one follows the other.
Any economic system envisioned and supported by a person like AOC automatically means death and or destruction for many.
“Everything looks simple to those with no knowledge”.
Pat, add another expression to your list:
“Everything is easy if all you do is tell someone else to do it.”
“And use someone else’s money.”
“Math is hard”
They can’t do math, physics, personal hygiene, etc.
What complainers. If you just go away and don’t peek, the elves will take care of everything overnight.
This poor CDN boy, hates to point out, Canada’s 2 latest Hydro Electric Dams, Muskrat Falls 824 MW (essentially completed) and Site C Dam 1100 MW (still building) will cost more than twice their initial budgets and required huge govt bailouts. However, Germans are probably better at cost control. But the math still doesn’t add up.
They even don’t know, what math is, only that it’s racist.
Other question, what will happen to Spanish people if their country is coverd with sun farms for Germay or even worse, for Europe ?
Pretty sure, for many of the activist promoters of green energy, this is a feature not a bug.
No energy available, no personal transportation? Aw, shucks, take your bike (oh, alright, some of hem probably think public transport can run without power, there probably are some who are just dumb, but most are not dumb). No way to power an aircraft at less than 10 times current costs? Aw, shucks, no travel for you, then. And so forth.
Should be lots of fun riding a bike in the snow.
Tried that… not fun… but the snow is softer than concrete.
That likely started as a congenital, birth defect
Their parents could do math either
It runs mostly in Dem/Prog families
Which means, they often end up as career-RE bureaucrats, screwing up the peace of mind and lives of hard working, over-taxed, over-regulated taxpayers, trying to survive the inane follies of GWSA, in a near-zero-growth Vermont economy.
An Englishman despairs
Several of the metals present in solar panels would prohibit a business from disposing of them in landfills. Silver, which is abundant and very exposed to the panel surface in a pure metallic state, would violate the USEPA’s RCRA solid waste disposal regulations if placed in a landfill. Silver leachate from exposure to water is toxic to plants and animals, and it is placed as one of 13 priority pollutant metals by the USEPA. Cadmium and Copper are also on that list.
The only way solar panels will be legal to put into landfills is if the greens look the other way, just as they do when it comes to windmill bird deaths.
If the panels are to be recycled, then they will have to be disassembled and melted down, which will further reduce their already poor net energy production, which I opine is already in the negative column.
Are there not salt caverns in Nevada where spent solar panels could be sequestered?
None of this matters. Not one single bit.
The only way this Green Madness will be prevented is for governments to lose the ability to print money.
When that day comes, a great deal of silliness will simply stop.
A realist like me suspects that about 1/3rd the way through the money will just run out and the perps will have long taken their money off the table and abscounded.
Some things just go on and on.
EX: California High-Speed Rail
The central bankers will simply fabricate more money using their computers. Debasing currency is very efficient now.
Already being done – see, e.g., bitcoin, etc.
“The only way this Green Madness will be prevented is for governments to lose the ability to print money.” Or they wake up and realize there is no climate problem.
Somewhat related are my rough calculations of how much battery capacity Texas wind records suggest would be needed to back up Texas wind turbines.
Did you add costs?
Anyone who has been involved in a large scale industrial project will know that years of engineering and planning (FEED studies) are done before any final investment decision (FID) is done. If approved, this is then followed by years of construction before the project is “online”. Electrification of the world is a project tens of thousands of times more difficult / more complex / more challenging than a standard industrial project. And yet the government. just thinks they can wave a magic wand and make it so, without any engineering / planning / economic studies. Hilarious if not so sad … and costly to the citizenry of the world.
You are so right. People are generally unaware of the amount of work that precedes a development that they think happened overnight. The amount of planning and engineering that will go into an overhaul of the electrical system is simply inconceivable.
Still, this very difficulty gives me hope. As people become aware of the huge cost involved in all of this – and it will be impossible to hide forever – they are going to start asking harder questions about why we are doing it. I believe those questions will answer themselves. (Maybe with a little help from WUWT.)
And be complete by 2035.
By then the coming ice age should be well under way.
“…the government. just thinks they can wave a magic wand and make it so, without any engineering / planning / economic studies…” I can tell you, zero of this has been done in Massachusetts, now on board with a net zero law.
But carbon dioxide doesn’t affect the weather anyway!!!
Had there been a feasibility study done, they would have learned that lithium batteries for a large permanent grid unit would not be necessary. Lithium’s lightweight is not a virtue in this case. Cheaper, more durable, multi valenced vanadium could do the job admirably.
Australia has the first one under development associated with a solar farm. The company already supplies domestic and farm units similar to Tesla’s wall units for charging up during the low cost overnight power demand.
What would be useful would be for a readable feasibility study to be funded by a think tank and distributed to government and opposition politicians, fed and state governors, news media. academia, etc.
Any half-brained feasibility study would conclude that the entire boondoggle is completely unnecessary anyway
Regardless, it is a job that should not be done
Not the first vanadium battery used in a grid. That was the one they originally installed on King Island in the Bass Strait, which suffered a major fire, and was replaced by lead acid.
Wasn’t the same type of flow battery installed at Flinders Island, then shortly after, removed and replaced with conventional batteries? TAS Hydro doesn’t seem keen to discuss this.
Sorry, as noted by it doesn’t add up, it was King Island. I note that flow batteries were offered for the SA battery but were rejected.
This is not about irrational solutions to imaginary problems. This is about bureaucrats realizing that if they dismantle the power grid, they can control who has power and who does not.
The children are already indoctrinated and lack critical thinking skills. They will resent the loss of their creature comforts, but since they’ve been trained to depend on the government, they will be easily controlled and will blame anyone but those responsible.
If we want to see our future in action, we have Venezuela as a shining example.
Sometimes prayer isn’t enough.
or maybe a logger in the firewood business- toasty warm- usually people who heat with wood have homes much warmer than when you have to burn oil or coal. I don’t have wood at this time but when I did I often had it 80 F on the coldest days- since the heat was mostly in 1 or 2 rooms, leaving the rest cold- and I often just wore shorts and tee shirt- nice to have such a warm house after I’d spend several hours outdoors working in frigid weather
Some three decades ago I had evidence that Texas Monthly did its homework and recently had read a couple of articles on subjects I knew very little about which seemed to hold to that. Never mind, as my wife suggests we now believe in the equivalent of ‘perpetual motion.’ This was a very biased and poorly researched hit piece on Texas politics and particularly on the oil and gas industry.
“Blaming renewables was, of course, a politically convenient lie. Yes, some wind farms in West and South Texas had frozen up—….The second paper, which appeared in Science, a prestigious peer-reviewed publication, explained that as the earth warms, conditions are occurring more frequently that enable a blast of Arctic air to push far into North America, even all the way down to Texas……Low-carbon grids are the future, and Texas has a multiyear head start.” Some longer than three decades ago we knew better than that.
As the earth warms we get more blasts of Arctic air – hmmm. Sounds to me like another excuse to blame cold air on “global warming”!
A 25 year life for solar panels is too generous.
I would like to see a plot of “life span” of solar panels with type and geography classifications.
Is this a “normal” distribution with some failing in a few months and others lasting 25 or 30 years.
An 18 acre solar “farm” with 14,000 panels behind my house- after a decade- already has significant failure- the workers replacing many of the panels blamed lightning- seems unlikely as the “farm” is surrounded by forest. I’d think that the trees would have gotten the lightning.
The ones near me are covered in snow 🤓
From vague recollections, but I believe the area protected by a tree is less than the height of the tree. That is, a 30 foot tall tree might only protect an area 20 to 30 feet from it’s base. I’m extremely surprised that they did not include lightning rods when they built that thing. Even if lightning didn’t damage the panels themselves, the electronics will always be vulnerable.
The problem is leaving those things in the sunlight, with as dark as they are, they get hot, and that heat shortens their expected lifespan. The solution is obvious, they need to move those things into the shade, then they might last 25 years.
It turns out that the definition of lifetime for PV modules depends on the POV of different people and applications. It can be 10%, 25%, 50%, or even zero. Manufactures’ warranties usually give a 25-year “lifetime”, but then the fine print can have rather confusing details about power degradation versus time.
A big problem with module warranties is they are much longer than the half-life of the typical manufacturer.
Folks have no illusions that the ultimate goal of the left is government control of energy. Once that is accomplished they will tell you how much you can use, how much you can travel, how warm you can keep your home in the Winter and cool in the Summer. They will monitor everything and the people will worship them for what they are willing to give them. The conglomerates will monopolize most of the energy, as small business is put out of business because of limited hours and limited resources. It’s coming, one small step at a time.
I doubt that anyone (except lunatics) really thinks or wants to completely convert to “renewables”.
It’s a left wing talking point and mantra and a way for the Liberals to spend money and control our lives.
You should read up on the Net Zero plan for the UK. They really do mean to take the grid to wind and solar, while at the same time doubling or tripling demand for electricity by converting everyone to heat pumps and EVs.
They are now admitting that to do this it will be necessary to install smart meters so that your heat pumps and EV chargers can be turned off when there is too much demand.
Unfortunately, lots of lunatics out there.
Any government project always costs about 8 to 12 times** the initial estimate and has a greater that 90% probability** of being botched and not meeting the original objective. There’s a greater than 60% chance** that the project won’t be completed at all.
And like the Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere” – late and over budget – there’s a good chance the project wasn’t needed at all.
** OK. I made those numbers up. Someone with government experience can tweak them to be a bit more accurate.
The art lies in descoping for success.
Set vague goals, deliver something (anything), claim it as a major achievement, pat yourself on the back and apply for a more prestigious role elsewhere.
If it performs worse than the previous system, that’s either unrealistic expectations on the part of the customer, or it’s Industry Best Practice[TM]
If it’s unmaintainable, that’s a BAU issue, and Operations should have planned for it and put proper processes and staffing in place.
Look at the cost of HS2 (High Speed Rail London to Birmingham, then on to Manchester and later Leeds) in UK.
At the time of the 2010 election projected cost was around £20bn. By 2012 this had risen to £32.6 bn and by Jan 2020 to £106bn. With costs still rising the Government cancelled the leg to Leeds in 2021.
Brilliant references and very fine piece. Yes, its completely insane. Its three insanities one after the other. The first is the hysterical alarm about modest levels of warming, probably mostly though not all to do with cyclical natural variation.
The second is the crazed idea that wind and solar can be used to generate electricity and eliminate conventional.
The third is the crazed idea that even if Europe and the US could do that, it would make any material difference to global emissions, given that its the rest of the world that is barrelling away as fast as it can go to raise its emissions.
We are going to be, globally, emitting 40-45 billion tons of CO2 a year in 2040 or so.
The choice is whether we want to be in that world with a bunch of wind turbines and solar panels and intermittent, high priced and rationed electricity.
Or whether we want to spend the money on doing something cost effective and doable to benefit our citizens in that world.
I don’t think that world is going to be so terrible. But if they do, stop advocating spending a fortune on things which will make no difference, and start spending on things that, given your scenarios, will actually help if they come true.
“To produce sufficient storage capacity from batteries using today’s leading technology would require the full output of 900 Tesla Gigafactories working at full capacity for one year, not counting the replacement of batteries every 20 years.”
Read the material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the materials involved, all of the materials. They are not meant for human consumption or inhalation. The MSDS for Lithium is 7 pages long.
Now do the homework to determine how much of these chemicals will become airborne in the manufacture and in the use of these batteries This would involve the science and thermodynamics on each of these chemicals. These chemicals are not only released by mining and in the manufacturing process. They are also released as ions in the way a battery operates in charging and discharging. Note how Lead is banned from use of soldering electronic components to the circuit board, as the lead is vaporized and inhaled by the person soldering the devices together. . This has the potential to put as much Lithium, Silver, Silicon, Aluminum, etc., etc. into the air as the CO2 they are trying to keep out.
I just watched a French YouTube video (in English): “Powerless Europe? Soaring prices expose EU’s energy dependence”
Because of what I’ve learned reading everything on WUWT that for the past few years I could see the weaknesses of the discussion’s panel- they bounced around green energy, nuclear, gas- all worried about Russia- worried about soaring prices- yet, none suggested get out the drills and shovels and dig up more fossil fuel. Does Europe actually have no fossil fuels in the ground? It would seem somewhere they could frack for gas, no? Of course none dared to suggest that maybe, just maybe, there is no climate catastrophe pending. If they can’t grasp that- there is no solution for Europe.
As a regular contributor to the Energy Matters site I became inspired by Roger Andrews’ approach and have conducted a number of studies of my own – including an article that was published there looking at the very small scale Thursday Island, which looked at the mix of wind and solar and storage and overproduction and dispatchable backup alternatives.
It does have the merit of being highly tractable, and even though the data resolution is low (daily for solar, monthly for wind), it is quite sufficient to show the problems in easily read charts. Incidentally, I have found in system after system that I have looked at, from small scale to large scale, going beyond about 60% renewables starts getting really hard in terms of needs for storage, spare transmission capacity, grid inertia, and rising cost of spillage of unusable output.
I have also done extensive work looking at the UK. Most recently, I looked at 2021 using hourly data for demand and wind output to see how much storage and how much capacity would have been required to make it the “Saudi Arabia of wind”, looking at the now fashionable hydrogen as one storage medium and “pumped hydro” as another: the latter is quite similar to battery storage technically, with similar round trip efficiency performance, although battery cost far exceeds pumped storage cost – providing you can find the sites for it. 2021 is a disaster year across Europe for renewables output, with capacity factors down very sharply. Any appraisal of a renewables future that doesn’t look at real world 2021 is a denial of reality. The results of the calculations are the following stock profiles. Over 50TWh of hydrogen storage would be needed to store a maximum of 31TWh of potential electricity, and it would take 154GW of wind capcity to provide the required energy to supply demand that averaged slightly over 32GW. With pumped storage you need less wind generating capacity (123GW) because there are fewer losses to cover, but peak redeliverable storage is higher at over 38TWh – or over 4,200 Dinorwig pumped storage sites. With battery grade lithium carbonate having soared from $6,000/tonne in late 2020 to over $51,000/tonne today the battery option looks utterly implausible.
You guys should also check out The Common Sense Skeptic on YouTube. They’re mostly devoted to pointing out Elon Musk’s manifold flaws, but they have a good video up on the Solar Megaproject.
There’s a few problems with unit confusion in a few places, but other than that it’s pretty solid.
I have also taken a look at much longer timespans, using the refactored weather data on hourly capacity factors for wind and solar from Staffel & Pfenniger (i.e. they take weather data on estimated wind speeds to estimate what capacity a wind turbine would have produced at) that covers over 35 years from 1980. The point here is that over longer time spans not only do you encounter years with very poor renewables output, which require that storage be full enough at the start of the year to survive the nadir later on, but also you have to fill up the storage beforehand. You will also encounter periods when the storage is full, and production is spilled/curtailed.
Further constraints come from the fact that it is simply not worth sizing grids and storage filling capacities to take advantage of rare larger surpluses. You can get a sense of that from looking at the duration curves of surpluses at different levels of wind capacity in this chart (which has mouseover data)
Another way of looking at things is to consider a wind + dispatchable grid, and see how curtailment grows initially quadratically, with marginal curtailment reaching well over 80%, implying a marginal cost of over 5 times the basic levelised cost of wind – and still you haven’t eliminated the dispatchable backup – yet this is far cheaper than a storage based solution. See this chart:
No one is discussing the economic rarity of the minerals needed to build solar panels and batteries. Though lithium can be found everywhere, little is found in economic grades.
Imagine putting solar panels on every home, office, business, rental, high rise, open field etc. in the US, Germany, the rest of the world. Imagine maintaining those solar panels and batteries needing replacing. If you want to fight climate change, you can’t have just a few countries embrace renewables; you require all of them. And all of them are going to be competing for the limited supply of renewable ores.
And when you do this, the price for these ores are going to soar. When all the economic grades of those ores required for renewables are exhausted, very little of the world will be using solar panels.
Renewables are a fools errand.
Except nobody is proposing that Spanish solar power Germany.
Germany will mostly power itself, helped by its connections to the Europe wide grid.
If you were going to power anything in N Europe via solar you’d put the panels in N Africa -and wouldn’t necessarily use solar PV. There is already a proposal to run a cable from B Africa to UK, for example and other plans to run cables to Spain and/or Italy.
Batteries are not the only means of storage and they certainly aren’t a ‘long term’ solution – they work fine for frequency response, peaker plant replacement, replacement of spinning reserve, but for hours of supply look to another solution.
Bear in mind that we aren’t starting to power Germany from scratch… it already has 42% of electricity already from renewables and considerable investment in insulation and EVs.
Griff, you do realise that electric vehicles increase demand for electricity, don’t you?
“Batteries are not the only means of storage and they certainly aren’t a ‘long term’ solution – they work fine for frequency response, peaker plant replacement, replacement of spinning reserve, but for hours of supply look to another solution.”
What other solution? Can you be specific?
Solar energy will bring 10 power 17 watts only on Earth directly for next billions of years . Can you find another source to compete it ? NO for sure , It doesn’t exist !!!