What Solution Do Renewable Energy Advocates Offer For The Problem Of Storage?

Francis Menton

Most comments at this site tend to have a perspective generally consistent with my own. But sometimes a post will attract comments from people with a very different point of view. That occurred on a post earlier this week titled “Two More Contributions On The impossibility Of Electrifying Everything Using Only Wind, Solar, And Batteries.”

That post and the one immediately preceding it (“Calculating The Full Costs Of Electrifying Everything Using Only Wind, Solar, And Batteries”) had both focused on a particular issue inherent in the project of replacing dispatchable carbon-based sources of energy (coal, oil, natural gas) with intermittent “renewables” (wind, solar). That issue is that, as the intermittent renewables come to provide a greater percentage of electrical generation and as dispatchable fossil fuels get phased out, there is an accelerating need for enormously expensive energy storage to provide the electricity at times when the renewables go quiet. The two posts linked to detailed studies written by four different authors, each of whom had provided a detailed description of their methodology. Two of the four authors even provided spreadsheets, so that a reader who believes the assumptions of the author are wrong can change those assumptions and derive a new cost estimate from the altered assumptions.

The import of all of these studies is that as renewables come to dominate the mix of electricity generation, and particularly as their share of generation goes above 50% and on towards 100%, and fossil fuel backup gets phased out, then the cost of necessary storage becomes far and away the dominant cost of the overall system. Therefore, any meaningful proposal to replace fossil fuel generation with renewables must grapple with this issue.

So what is the solution that the dissenting commenters offer for the problem of increasing need for expensive storage? They don’t offer any at all. Instead, they appear to think that the whole problem can be assumed away or ignored.

The dissenting commenters were three in number, and posted under the pseudonyms “Johnathan Galt,” “GKam,” and “reneawbleguy.” Galt and GKam each posted only one comment, but “reneawbleguy” posted over forty.

The gist of all these comments really comes down to the same thing, namely that the renewables are rapidly becoming cheaper than fossil fuels to generate electricity, if they are not so already, and therefore fossil fuels are a dying industry. Mixed in with this point is a good deal of snide and accusatory language, essentially asserting that anyone who may disagree as to the relative full cost of renewables must necessarily be both ignorant and politically motivated. (e.g., GKam: “More science nonsense from this group of political hacks. . . . Give it up You have already lost.”). Meanwhile, all three fail to deal in any real way with the storage problem inherent in expansion of generation from the renewables.

Here is “reneawbleguy” on the relative cost of fossil fuel electricity generation versus renewables:

Energy costs savings. RE will be cheaper that FF business as usual. 10.43 cents per kw-hr FF 7.81 cents per kw-hr RE. Dollars into our pockets is a clear difference favoring RE. Clear difference.
Money cost savings per person.

No source is cited, but I would agree that approximately these numbers can be found in some studies of relative costs of the renewables versus fossil fuels. But the studies that get these numbers it do so by ignoring the entire storage problem completely.

Similarly, from Galt:

[T]he only consideration to consumers is, was, and always will be “what is the delivered cost to me?” That is neatly quantified in Lazard’s excellent publication providing LCOE.

As I have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the Lazard numbers for “LCOE” (Levelized Cost of Energy) specifically omit any inherent costs of necessary storage. Since the cost of storage is the dominant cost of the all-renewable system, LCOE is the opposite of a “neat quantification” of comparative electricity generation costs, and rapidly becomes completely misleading as the percentage generated from renewables increases beyond 50%.

GKam is even less sophisticated, simply relying on his own personal experience with a home getting its power from rooftop solar panels:

My entire household and both electric cars are powered by the PV system on our roof, as “Galt” can tell you, and it gives us free power having paid back in three years.

GKam does not enlighten us as to how he gets his electricity at night, or overcast days in the winter, or whether he has purchased batteries sufficient to store up power from the summer for use during those long winter nights. If he lives in the United States, it is almost certain that he relies on his local grid — in other words, on fossil fuel backup, with perhaps some nuclear thrown in — for power during those times.

Of the three dissenting commenters, the only one who addresses the storage issue at all is Galt. He asserts, with great confidence, that new battery technologies are coming to make the storage problem go away:

At least two separate technologies, Ambri and Form Energy, will almost certainly have their first large factories up and running within 5 years. Both use common materials (antimony and calcium, iron), both are environmentally safe. Ambri’s battery is 100% recyclable, and in theory may last more than 100 years. Form Energy’s product is likewise 100% recyclable, should cost only 20% that of Lithium Ion, and although the lifespan is not yet advertised it has the potential for similar lifetime of use (simply a “reversible rusting” process).

So the proposal is that a government-mandated total transformation of the entire energy system of our economy should depend on one or another of two not-yet-invented-or demonstrated-at-scale technologies, which may or may not work, and the cost projections of which may be wildly off. Galt does not do any actual numerical calculations. But at a cost of “20% that of Lithium ion” the storage systems he is talking about would still imply a cost of around $100 trillion in Ken Gregory’s spreadsheet, some 5 times current U.S. GDP. Shouldn’t this be acknowledged as a problem? And how can you advocate use of Lazard’s “LCOE” numbers for relative costs of energy sources when those calculations omit a $100 trillion item applicable to wind and solar but not to fossil fuels?

So I say to these three commenters: it’s time to step up your game. Don’t just make unsupported assertions that wind and solar are cheaper. Give us a spreadsheet with a numerical demonstration of how much storage a fully wind/solar/storage electricity system for the U.S. will need, what technology will be used to provide it, and how much that will cost. Without that, you are just dealing in fantasy.

Full article here.

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billtoo
January 23, 2022 2:11 pm

critical theory applied to energy distribution. no solution required.

JAW3
Reply to  billtoo
January 24, 2022 5:43 am

We need some critical thinking!

Ed Reid
Reply to  JAW3
January 24, 2022 9:25 am

As we think critically about storage, we should also think critically about the extra generating capacity required to recharge storage after each use, as well as the extra generating capacity required to compensate for inefficiency.

Peter Barrett
Reply to  Ed Reid
January 24, 2022 1:31 pm

Plus the generating capacity required to extract the raw materials and manufacture the storage.
Then there is the problem of renewing the renewables, we are already seeing replacement of older panels and turbines, mans latest Ouroboros.

Alloytoo
Reply to  Ed Reid
January 25, 2022 7:31 pm

This question has been plaguing me as well. Seems to me you’re going to need at least twice the demand capacity to recharge the empty batteries while supplying ongoing demand.

Accountant in me says any quoted generation cost needs to be doubled BEFORE you add on storage costs.

Ed Reid
Reply to  Alloytoo
January 26, 2022 5:03 am

Doubling would appear to be sufficient if one day to recharge storage for each day spent consuming stored electricity is acceptable. For example, if 10 days were acceptable to recharge storage after an event like the recent UK “wind drought”. Faster recharge would require even more generating capacity.

https://www.therightinsight.org/Gas-Generation-Phaseout
https://www.therightinsight.org/Renewable-Transition

Gkam
Reply to  JAW3
February 1, 2022 11:01 am

No, we need more examples like mine, which gives me free power for household and transportation.

kzb
January 23, 2022 2:19 pm

Renewables enthusiasts will often say compressed air storage is the way to go. Much cheaper than batteries.
The downside seems to be it is only 70% efficient.
Concentrating solely on battery storage is not a good argument. They will always be able to say we are not proposing large scale battery storage, we are going to use compressed air, pumped water, or a heavy train going up and down a mountain. You need to address these as well.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 3:57 pm

If they want compressed air storage let them tell us how much they will need, how big it will be and what are the cost, safety and life cycle characteristics. The pumped water, etc solutions have already been shown to be only useful for a very small portion of our electricity needs as there are not mountains available everywhere to use for this purpose.

G Mawer
Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 4:11 pm

I always liked the idea of compressed air. Efficiency may not be that big of a deal considering it is nontoxic, no need to mine scarce and dangerous minerals or fire danger. Once the tanks are built and in there is no need for replacing as in cycled out battery packs,

Rud Istvan
Reply to  G Mawer
January 23, 2022 4:20 pm

The tanks are usually just depleted nat gas fields with a good seal cap. Aren’t many of those in most places. In Cali, a survey of about 120 identified about 4 IIRC. None built. The other two operating in the US are old ‘water mined’ (for salt) salt domes, most notably the one in Alabama. Not many of those geologic featuresaround either. Pigs don’t fly.

hiskorr
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 23, 2022 8:01 pm

I’m sure that those natives in PA who complain about “earthquakes” from fracking would love to have constantly high/low air pressure cycling in the caverns under their towns? Maybe not!

MarkW
Reply to  G Mawer
January 23, 2022 4:59 pm

Tanks still have an expected life span. Repeated pressurizing and depressurizing will cause stress cracks in the metal that will eventually cause the tank to fail, usually catastrophically.
Tanks still have an expected life span. Repeated pressurizing and depressurizing will cause stress cracks in the metal that will eventually cause the tank to fail, usually catastrophically.

There are also issues with heating and cooling causing metal parts to expand and contract, which over time stresses the pipes, tanks, and all connections.

Last edited 4 months ago by MarkW
kzb
Reply to  MarkW
January 23, 2022 6:36 pm

What about gas bottles, they seem to last a long time and they are pressured to 230 bar?

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 6:54 pm

How many times?
Gas bottles are usually seamless.
Gas bottles tend to be filled once, and then drained over many days to weeks. These tanks will be filled and drained several times a day.

To bed B
Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 11:56 pm

They need to be inspected every 10 years here in Aus. Too many old ones have failed, even though only filled a few times a year.

David Stone CEng
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 12:46 am

230 Bar gas cylinders are about an inch thick and very heavy. The energy to compress the gas is very large. Most bulk gas is stored as a liquid, simply because the container is otherwise hugely expensive. A cylinder of twice the volume needs to be about 1.5″ thick so a useful size for energy storage would be very thick indeed to withstand the hoop stress in the walls. For example, a submarine is exposed to similar pressure and although quite small is 9 -12 inches thick depending on the exact shape and weigh thousands of tonnes!

Doug Huffman(@doughuffman)
Reply to  David Stone CEng
January 24, 2022 3:16 am

230 bar is 8,000 feet of water column, so not a ‘submarine’ but a bathyscaphe. A submarine sees less than 1,000 feet of water and is a couple of inches thick.

Last edited 4 months ago by Doug Huffman
Peter Fraser
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 10:54 am

They must be pressure tested and inspected internally on a regular basis. Different countries have different regulations. Steel SCUBA bottles usually every two years because of the risk of seawater incursion. Inert gas cylinders usually ten years.

Fraizer
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 9:51 am

You can easily get 25 years out of a properly designed pressure vessel in cyclic service assuming 1 cycle per day. But these would be huge storage volumes even at relatively high pressure. You also need to consider the energy requirements and life cycle/ maintenance of the compressors.

Going to be prohibitively expensive; and you can forget about anything approaching 70% efficiency. Probably more like 20% if that.

With regard to old gas reservoirs, I don’t think you want to be introducing oxygen into a gas reservoir – depleted or not. Depleted does not mean empty.

kzb
Reply to  Fraizer
January 24, 2022 10:32 am

Look it up on Wikipedia. The whole cycle efficiency can be 70%, if the heat of compression is stored and used to re-heat the air on expansion.
It is said to be far cheaper than battery storage.
Renewables enthusiasts themselves say large scale battery storage for the grid is far too expensive. So when you lot keep on about batteries, it is just a strawman argument, because no-one is seriously proposing that in the first place.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 11:15 am

How are you going to store the heat? And why would you want to re-heat the air on expansion? Heated air just draws moisture and carries more water causing more corrosion in the piping carrying the air.

Max P
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 11:17 am

No thanks. Wikipedia is not a reliable source for information of that nature. Anyone can go in an edit the information to say, well, anything that suits their fantasy.

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 4:25 pm

How exactly do you intend to store the heat, any form of storage is going to radiate heat to the environment. You are introducing big costs for no benefit.
As to why we talk about batteries, where do you get the idea that nobody is proposing batteries. Batteries is all they are talking about. Just check with griff, he actually believes grid scale batteries already exist.
Compressed air is the kind of thing that someone who knows nothing about physics would think is a good idea.

kzb
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 5:31 pm

Compressed air storage already exists. It’s not a fantasy.

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 6:49 pm

A article in a no name paper with no details and lots of hyperventilating.

kzb
Reply to  G Mawer
January 23, 2022 6:35 pm

The 70% efficiency means a 43% increase in the electricity cost, even before considering the capital cost and running cost.

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 6:55 pm

I suspect that the 70% assumes that there is no loss in temperature from the pressurized air.

kzb
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 10:28 am

Yes I think so. The plan is to store the heat in rocks and use it to reheat the air on re-expansion.

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 4:29 pm

How do you intend to get more than a tiny percentage of the heat from the air to the rocks? How do you intend to keep the rocks hot while waiting for the air to be released. Since you can’t get the rocks to be higher in temperature than the air that is flowing over them, you still have the problem of trying to keep the air from losing heat.

You have added, cost, complexity and an impediment to smooth flow of the air, all for no measurable benefit.

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 25, 2022 7:53 am

One article in a no-name paper that reads more like an prospectus than an article.
It doesn’t take much to impress you.

MarkMcD
Reply to  G Mawer
January 23, 2022 7:57 pm

So, maybe 35% efficiency in converting solar to electricity, 70% effificency driving the pump to compress the air (I doubt it but figure was given above) then maybe 70% efficiency driving the turbine to convert it back to electricity…

1 kWh per m^2 = 0.35 at panel.
Line loss = 0.3 kWh delivered to pump (just a guess, OK?)
0.21 kWh to drive the pump
0.147 kWh to drive the turbine.

Yep, can’t see anything wrong with THAT scenario for efficient use of our $$$…

And that’s not even taking into account the children turned into slaves, the toxic effects on humans around the mines, the toxic processing plants, pollution involved in making panels, pumps, pipes and turbines or the costs of a similar list for the batteries required for storage when you’ve just used your air and the Sun doesn’t come out. (or keeping backup power on standby)

Then of course there are the costs involved in industry randomly stopping because power suddenly isn’t at spec or not there at all.

AndyHce
Reply to  MarkMcD
January 23, 2022 11:47 pm

worry about children? History has proven over and over, there is nothing cheaper than human lives.

kzb
Reply to  MarkMcD
January 24, 2022 10:27 am

No the whole cycle efficiency is given as about 70%. That includes both the compression and expansion phases.
I believe they aim to store the heat of compression in rocks, and use it to reheat the air on expansion.

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 4:30 pm

Claimed, not given. In reality, you will never get anywhere close to that.

Brin Jenkins
Reply to  G Mawer
January 24, 2022 3:52 am

Just the problems of unrecoverable heat losses and pressure drop on cooling. Condensation is always a problem causing corrosion of the tank and any oil combusting. In motor repair the drawbacks are well understood.

Giorgio
Reply to  Brin Jenkins
January 25, 2022 1:10 am

Not only that: AFAIK, also freezing on expansion is an issue, because you get ice formation that clogs the system

JAW3
Reply to  G Mawer
January 24, 2022 5:45 am

IMO, that solution could only work on a localized scale as in a tank in your basement and in your car. And then the factories are on their own!

G Mawer
Reply to  JAW3
January 24, 2022 1:23 pm

That was my thinking, an alternative to batteries in the homes. There are drawbacks to all forms of alternative energy systems, as well as fossil fuels. However it seems to me fossil fuel is the best we have. We should use it as long as we have it. As long as we have it maybe we should stop wasting it on foolish attempts to replace it——for now.

Dan
Reply to  G Mawer
January 24, 2022 8:56 am

Compressed air is about the most inefficient means of storing power imaginable. I say that from years of experience with it. Compressing air concentrates the heat in it, so the compressor and the tank and all the lines get hot, and lose that heat to the air around it. When that air is released to do work, its expansion cools it mightily, contracting it and reducing its pressure. The70% figure given in the post above is way too optimistic. Compressed air has its advantages for certain systems, but those advantages outweigh the losses. For pure energy storage on a large scale, it would be nearly useless.
I have a one-horsepower air compressor. It cannot keep up with a small 1/4″ die grinder. If I had a one-horsepower electric die grinder, it would be five times as powerful and would never have to wait for the compressor to catch up.

It’s that simple.

kzb
Reply to  Dan
January 24, 2022 10:45 am
ghl
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 1:54 pm

Pneumatic tools used to be used industrially, back in the era of cheap electricity as they where relatively light and reliable, without the hazard of 240V. Typical efficiency was of the order of 10%. Storing and moving heat would be a lossy and complex solution. Solar thermal storage has not yet been commercially successful. And expensive.

Drake
Reply to  kzb
January 26, 2022 12:35 pm

Written in 2017 by Lisa, and followed up by all of the implemented systems around the world.

Obviously a “proven” efficient solution to the problem of intermittency of unreliable generation systems.

Just in case/sarc!

John
Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 4:34 pm

but still way better than hydrogen which when the cycle is taken into account is only 30% at best
So go Victoria – export brown coal energy to Japan as liquid hydrogen on a purpose built ship that looks like it will transport only a few m3 at a go

Reply to  kzb
January 23, 2022 5:00 pm

Solar reliability comment

Except these technologies do not scale to the astronomical amounts of storage required. I just developed a very simple method to estimate the storage (and generation) needed to make solar reliable.
https://www.cfact.org/2022/01/19/unreliability-makes-solar-power-impossibly-expensive/

In a nutshell, to generate a measly 1,000 MW reliably around the clock requires at least 6,000 MW of solar generating capacity plus at least 120,000 MWh of storage. A better estimate is 10,500 MW of generating capacity plus 200,000 MW of storage.

PJM alone (most if the Mid Atlantic region) peaks around 150,000 MW, and that is before we electrify transport and gas heat. It simply cannot be done.

Mike Jonas(@egrey1)
Editor
Reply to  David Wojick
January 23, 2022 6:07 pm

OK, they install a lot of storage. Most of the time, wind and solar don’t fail too much, and the system works. But eventually there will be a longer failure of wind and solar, and the stored energy all gets used. At that point, there is no energy at all for anything. Total blackout. How long will the blackout last? – no-one knows because no-one knows when the wind and sun will resume.

NB. The ‘failure’ of wind and solar doesn’t have to be total failure, just an extended period of low production.

With fossil fuels and nuclear energy, all you have to do is ensure future supplies.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
January 23, 2022 8:03 pm

Solar fails every day at sun set.
Winds can fail for days at a time. Just ask Scotland.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Stephen Rasey
January 24, 2022 2:58 am

Yep often Dreich with Haar on the coast. The reek from the lum often rising vertically.

The pall of smoke over Edinburgh led to it being known as Auld Reekie. Although my memory of student days in Edinburgh is of wind which would have blown smoke elsewhere most days.

peter marsh
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
January 24, 2022 5:41 am

and lang may your lumb reek

Bill Toland
Reply to  Stephen Rasey
January 24, 2022 8:10 am

Solar farms have been built in Scotland with the benefit of gigantic subsidies. Their capacity utilisation in winter is just 1%. Scotland is one of the worst possible places in the entire world for solar power. 

http://euanmearns.com/solar-pv-potential-in-scotland/

Last edited 4 months ago by Bill Toland
Bill Toland
Reply to  Bill Toland
January 24, 2022 10:19 am

The comments in the link that I provided are amusing. They demonstrate the complete futility of solar power in Scotland.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
January 24, 2022 1:33 am

That is why I built ‘gridwatch’ – to answer that very question ( How long would the blackout last? ) with years of data.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2022 2:48 am

Thank you for that work and maintaining the data, it’s a fantastic resource

Reply to  David Wojick
January 24, 2022 1:31 am

When someone thinks that a MW is a unit of storage, I tend to disregard the rest of whatever point he thinks he is making

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2022 3:02 am

My 200,000 MW was a typo for MWh. But you will notice that battery projects are often reported in MW to make them look like generators. A 1,000 MW battery typically produces just 4,000 MWh of juice while a 1,000 MW generator can produce millions of MWh without stopping.

ex-KaliforniaKook
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 25, 2022 9:34 am

Then you should stay away from Form Energy battery web site. They talk about being able to operate 1MW to 3MW per acre. that’s on their web site, where typos shouldn’t exist – repeatedly.

I don’t disregard them, but I don’t know if they know what they’re talking about. It’s kind of like cold fusion; I’m drawn to news of it even if what I read appears preposterous.

kzb
Reply to  David Wojick
January 24, 2022 10:46 am

This compressed air storage system claims 70-80% efficiency:

https://newatlas.com/ricas-2020-aa-compressed-air-energy-storage/48661/

David Stone CEng
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 12:39 am

Compressed air is not a good way to store energy. The compression cycle is very inefficient because of thermodynics, compression makes air very hot, which is all energy “thrown away”. Containing the compressed air is very expensive, my 200 kg compressor tank holds about 0.5 kWhr of energy, and takes about 1 kWhr to get it into the tank. Amazing levels of ignorance from those who suggest such ideas.

Graemethecat
Reply to  David Stone CEng
January 24, 2022 4:07 am

I have often wondered if the heat of adiabatic compression could be harnessed by storing the hot air in an insulated pressure vessel instead of cooling it.

MarkW
Reply to  David Stone CEng
January 24, 2022 7:16 am

I’ve read that when scuba tanks are being pressurized, they are kept in a bath of water in order to help control the heat.

BrentC
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 7:59 am

In my 35 years of diving I’ve never seen this done. Tanks are filled on the docks or at the shops next to the compressors and racked when filled. In fact, I’ve waited for tanks to be filled and taken them directly from the compressor to a truck or boat.

jono1066
Reply to  BrentC
January 24, 2022 9:58 am

60 years ago when my father started diving I ( was 5 years old) the VW car engine as taken apart and rebuilt/converted into a compressor, the wire was unwound from the military air bottles and a manifold was made to suit. The compressors used to get as hot a hell, the bottles .. no, I still have 2 of his hand crafted demand valves , one of which did 125 foot off the Isle of Man, now thats scary !

Fraizer
Reply to  BrentC
January 24, 2022 10:02 am

No. The tanks are almost always submerged when filled. Even on a dive boat. Even a decent Hookah system has a heat exchanger to cool the air so that you don’t burn your lungs.

ex-KaliforniaKook
Reply to  BrentC
January 25, 2022 10:16 am

I’ve never seen SCUBA tanks filled anyway except in water for cooling. What country do you live in, Brent? It may be a safety regulation here in the US – or maybe just California..

TonyG
Reply to  ex-KaliforniaKook
January 25, 2022 12:30 pm

I just looked up info about filling SCUBA tanks, and most of what I saw showed filling them in water.

It’s quite interesting to me that firefighter SCBA tanks, almost exactly the same thing, are filled in steel enclosures without water while SCUBA is filled without the enclosure and with water.

I don’t suppose anyone knows the reason for this difference?

TonyG
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 10:18 am

When we refill our SCBA bottles, it’s done in a heavy steel enclosure. We try to pressurize them slowly, but often we let them cool some and top them off. No water involved.

Can’t speak to SCUBA, though.

kzb
Reply to  David Stone CEng
January 24, 2022 10:50 am

By storing the heat in rocks, this system claims 70-80% energy efficiency:

https://newatlas.com/ricas-2020-aa-compressed-air-energy-storage/48661/

MarkW
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 6:50 pm

This article reminds me a lot of Sid and his attempt to attract investors through press releases.

Last edited 4 months ago by MarkW
Keitho(@bat1heavy)
Editor
Reply to  David Stone CEng
January 25, 2022 3:21 am

They tend not to be engineers which is why they are easily deceived by the “ideas” people.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  kzb
January 24, 2022 8:47 pm

I once ran a wind tunnel test program in the Rockwell Trisonic Wind Tunnel, located in El Segundo, CA (dismantled in 2009). It can provide some data for you.

The TWT was a blow-down facility, which fed the tunnel from a set of low pressure, high volume tanks. There were 8 spherical tanks, about 37 feet in diameter, ganged to a single manifold which fed the tunnel. The tanks were pressurized by a pair of rotary compressors, each driven by a 5,000 HP Westinghouse electric motor. It took 8 MWe to drive the compressors, so they had to do it at night. The total tank volume was 214,000 ft^3, and the compressors delivered 40 lb/sec of air during the charge cycle. The tunnel stagnation temperature ran between 45 and 70 F, so the charge cycle was more isothermal than adiabatic. Oh, and the tank pressures were 10 atmospheres, on a par with shop air.

It was a big (7 ft cross-section) tunnel, and could run at subsonic, transonic, and supersonic (Mach 3.5 max) speeds. The high speed blows lasted only a few seconds (I don’t recall the numbers). But we could get scads of data with blows that long. The charge cycle took a while.

One could set up such a storage facility fed by a pair of 4 MW wind turbines. I, personally, would skip the wind-to-electricity-to-electric air compressor approach, and have the turbines directly drive the compressors. In fact, I’d skip the big nacelle on top of the wind tower, and put the power through a 90 deg gearbox to run a vertical shaft the the base, and have the compressor at the tower base.

With this approach, you would charge up the tanks and let them sit until needed. After that, the air would be fed directly from the compressors through a single air turbo-generator.

Food for thought…

Last edited 4 months ago by Michael S. Kelly
kzb
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
January 25, 2022 5:16 am

Yes I’ve thought of using mechanical compression as well. It would cut out the investment cost of the electricity generation stage. The big offshore turbines can produce 8MW, so they should provide about the same power as your wind tunnel compressors when wind speed is in the desired range.
If a large proportion of their output as electricity needs storing, as we’ve decided it does, it could well make economic sense to use the wind turbine to turn a compressor directly to compress air. The downside is that it will likely be inefficient unless the compression heat can be captured.

January 23, 2022 2:23 pm

Drill for oil and dig for coal. Next question.

AndyHce
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 23, 2022 11:49 pm

with pick and shovel?

AndyHce
Reply to  AndyHce
January 23, 2022 11:50 pm

let the children do it

Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2022 1:33 am

Let the Greens do it.

Derg
January 23, 2022 2:27 pm

In the upper midwest of the US we can go many days without meaningful sun and wind. Instead of wasting money on intermittent sources why not build more nuclear?

H.R.
Reply to  Derg
January 23, 2022 2:46 pm

Why not? It would solve the energy problem and Western economies would hum right along, that’s why not.

Can’t have that now, can we?

ih_fan
Reply to  H.R.
January 23, 2022 5:21 pm

With reliable nuclear power there won’t be a need to radically change our economy and our capitalist system. That’s the real problem with nuclear – it solves things in such a way that politicians with “D”s next to their name won’t be in control of everyone.

Keitho(@bat1heavy)
Editor
Reply to  Derg
January 25, 2022 3:27 am

That would obviate the need for rationing which would deny power and control from the ruling elite. Being in control of rationing is enormously powerful that is why we need more of everything and let the market reign.

ex-KaliforniaKook
Reply to  Derg
January 25, 2022 10:28 am

I live on top of a mountain ridge in Nevada. I was warned by neighbors to get a weather station that could handle high winds, as their stations quit reporting at 185 mph. Nor did they find any part of the station afterwards.

By contrast, my first winter here we had two 2-week periods when there was neither wind nor sun, and temps never rose above freezing. Very heavy cloud cover prevented us from even knowing where the sun was. Moderate snow cover (~6 inches). Awesome dendrites growing out the sides of icicles. Never seen that before.

I would not have had enough batteries to get through both periods, especially since they were only a week apart. So when we went solar, we backed it up with 25KW propane generator. Now we rest pretty easy.

Tom Halla
January 23, 2022 2:31 pm

Some ignorant people, especially politicians, act as if Moore’s Law would apply to batteries. Well, it is electrical,isn’t it? Batteries are already at a high percentage of theoretical performance, so the possible upside is quite limited.

RicDre
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 23, 2022 3:21 pm

A friend of mine recently made that Batteries / Moore’s law argument to me with respect to EVs. I told him that there is no way those two things are related and he immediately backed down. I think many people who say things like that expect that everyone will just nod their head and agree with them and are surprised when some one doesn’t agree with them.

Reply to  RicDre
January 24, 2022 1:39 am

As an engineer, I realise that huge numbesr of apparently intelligent and educated peole are in fact merely vast stores of recieved wisdom, and actually incapable of original thought.

Their education consists in learning the accepted answers, memorizing them and regurgitating them.

Their apparent intelligence so jealously guarded consists in having memorized more than the average bear.

If someone somewhere has done a LearnedStudy™ the last thing they would do is question it. What matters is what the people from whom they recieve their wisdom, all say.

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2022 7:00 am

Another Engineer agrees with you:

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

Thomas A. Edison

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 23, 2022 3:58 pm

Moore’s Law is not a law. It was an observation of how chip technology was progressing in it’s infancy. The “law” does not hold any more.

Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
January 24, 2022 1:44 am

Indeed it does not. computers mostly have stopped getting faster at processor level. They simply install more cores.

SSDS have made disk acccess as fasr as memory was 20 years ago, and networking speeds over optical fibre are now changing the dynamics of system architectures towards ‘cloud’ solutions.

But all technologies are covered by S shaped curves. At the beginning performance is limited by familiarity with the technology, in the end performance is limited by the sheer physics.

But you need a mind that is capable of comprehending more than a single Boolean concept at one time. ‘stuff always gets better’….

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 23, 2022 4:19 pm

Moore’s law applied to electronics.

Mac
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 23, 2022 4:38 pm

I think Moore’s Law applied to some people probably means doubling of Stupid periodically:))

TonyG
Reply to  Mac
January 24, 2022 10:22 am

Mac, I think it would be exponential at least in that application…

ih_fan
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 23, 2022 5:23 pm

Moore’s law applied to electronics.

No – it didn’t. It was an observation of the progress being made in semiconductors. Not the entire field of electronics, and certainly not with batteries.

MarkW
Reply to  ih_fan
January 23, 2022 6:58 pm

Moore’s law stated that the number of transistors that could be packed in a given area would double over a certain time period.
That’s electronics.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 8:49 am

More importantly, planar digital electronics. The “law” operated because the area required for a single transistor shrank as Si fabrication technology improved and transistor dimensions became smaller (increasing wafer size also helped). Yet a lot of people (including the IEEE Spectrum) still refer to it as some kind of fundamental physical law, like Ohm’s Law.

Reply to  ih_fan
January 23, 2022 7:20 pm

Transistors as etched into processing chips. i.e., until chips and processors reached plateaus of etch width and depth and the need for reliable operation.

Even so, chips and processors continue to increase in power today, just not at the heady levels of the original or revised Moore’s law.

“Moore’s law”
Moore extrapolated that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace. The insight, known as Moore’s Law, became the golden rule for the electronics industry”

Moore’s law continued into the second decade of the 21st century with the introduction of three-dimensional transistors that were tens of nanometres in size.”

Doubling transistors has zero applicability to batteries, just to any attached chips.

MarkW
Reply to  ATheoK
January 24, 2022 6:54 pm

They’ve got 3-d transistors working? I remember first reading about this research back in the 1980’s.

scott
January 23, 2022 2:36 pm

I have seen GKM posts on other websites, he also uses the GKM44 and GKAM44.He has a degree from San Francico State and lives in Califonia.so as you can see George is well known and is a frequent poster across the internet and has a tendency to let his ego write for him.
Here is one of his enteraining posts.
“My household uses about 17 kWh/day. At the end of the year, the PV system produces sufficient power for that household and one of our two electric cars. …….
Being a former engineer for a large power company and having earned a Master of Science in Energy and the Environment, I had PV panels installed four years ago, with my estimated payback of 15-17 years, . . the right thing for an eco-freak to do. Before they could be installed, we acquired a VW e-Golf electric car. The savings in gasoline alone took the solar system payback down to 3 1/2 years. So, we added a used Tesla Model S, P85, and that took the payback down to less than three years, which means we now get free power for household and transportation.” “We do not need to go to gas stations, we fuel up at home at night with cheap baseload power. During the daytime, the PV system turns our meter backwards powering the neighborhood with clean local power, which we trade for the stuff to be used that night”. so he doesn’t have a battery and he has a tendency to forget that the electric cars actual cost money and more important, cost more upfront then gas cars

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  scott
January 23, 2022 4:01 pm

So when the subsidies and price advantages go away his payback will be about 35 years? He was in early on a Ponzi scheme and when that scheme goes bust he will pay for it.

Last edited 4 months ago by Trying to Play Nice
Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
January 23, 2022 4:23 pm

California ia currently about to change the rules (move the goalposts). A monthly fee will be imposed, and the payment for electricity pumped back into the grid is to go way down. No figure out the payback period.

Plus, of course, he is using the grid’s baseload power at night.

RickWill
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
January 23, 2022 5:24 pm

he will pay for it.

Anyone using the same grid and not running rooftop have already paid for his system. Having recovered those costs, it becomes a simple exercise to assess the merit of installing a battery and overbuild the solar collection.

In Australia, this has happened on a huge scale with other states picking up the tab for South Australia’s intermittency through using the rest of the country as their big battery.
http://nemlog.com.au/graphs/co2e_sa_yesterday_today.png
The solid pink is the import from other states and the pink line at the bottom is the export to other states.

There is no benefit of scale with solar so it makes sense for everyone who can to produce their own electricity rather than using an interconnected grid.

Scott
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
January 23, 2022 8:08 pm

He claims that his house only uses 17 kWh a day (that includes power for 1 of his 2 cars) that works out to only 520 kWh per month.
The average household uses between 1,000 and 1,500 kWh per month.
He post all the time on real clear politics,

MarkW
Reply to  scott
January 23, 2022 4:09 pm

He also ignores the huge subsidies that CA provides for PV installation, as well as the fact that CA is paying him way more than his electricity is worth.
And we can’t forget the subsidies for those electric cars he is so proud of.
And there still is no storage in his set up. Also if more than a small fraction of people buy electric cars, those low cost night time electrons are also going away.

peter schell
Reply to  scott
January 23, 2022 4:16 pm

I was under the impression that many states were planning on modifying or doing away with purchasing roof top solar power for the same price the consumer pays for grid power. If they only get what the utility pays the base load supplier, at most. That payback period is going to get a lot longer.

John Hultquist
Reply to  peter schell
January 23, 2022 7:10 pm

 The Public Utility District that serves me in rural Kittitas County, Washington State has the following schedule for residential properties:

Facility Charge: $32.00 per month
Energy Delivered $0.09820 per kwh
Energy Received $0.03213 per kwh

The facility charge covers the District’s cost of doing business. Everyone pays this every month. Their electricity costs you 3 times what they pay you for yours.
Further, the home owner often gets a system via a contract and a loan from the installer. At 47° North Latitude, I think the contractor is the only one making money on these systems.

PDF link here: https://www.kittitaspud.com/139/Distributed-Generation

Mike McMillan
Reply to  John Hultquist
January 23, 2022 10:24 pm

The reason for the price disparity is that utilities pay wholesale prices for large chunks of juice while the customer pays retail for little dabs of it. Making utilities pay retail, as some states do, is an unjustified subsidy for the customer at the expense of the utility.

MarkMcD
Reply to  scott
January 23, 2022 5:17 pm

GKM seems to be mishandling the truth in extreme fashion.

17kWh per day for his home.
VW e-Golf – 32 kW/h battery
Tesla Model S, P85 – 85 kW/h battery

Best solar panels currently (AFAIK) come in at 350W pwe panel – he got his 4 years ago so MAYBE 300W per panel. If they are still producing that he’s got miracle panels.

Best solar equivalent hours for any region average at about 5 hours per day across the year.

So in 5 hours he has to produce 17kWh’s MINIMUM, or take from the grid. That’s at least 12 panels. And he doesn’t have storage so ANY shortfall comes from the grid.

He doesn’t get ANY cheap power for transportation because, as he tells us, he’s feeding the grid during the day, something I understand he has no choice about in Ca. because they don’t allow you to use your own solar power. (I may be wrong about this in Ca but it was something I read a year or so back when friends said solar wouldn’t really help them)

Let’s say he only uses half the battery in his 2 cars each day – he is dragging 58.5 kWh’s from the grid every day at a minimum and up to 75 kWh’s on days of no or little solar. And if HIS solar ain’t producing it’s a fair bet other makor sized solar plants aren’t producing either.

Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  MarkMcD
January 24, 2022 12:16 am

Most PV cell types drop around 10% of generating capacity in their first five years, with another 5% loss lower over the next few years. Output continues to slowly decline for several more years. So when figuring out the capacity needed for a PV install it should be no less than 15% bigger than the calculated need. Better to go for 20~25% bigger to provide a cushion against capacity degradation and additional loads added later on.

ex-KaliforniaKook
Reply to  MarkMcD
January 25, 2022 11:50 am

He may have a two bedroom apartment near the beach in So Cal. When I lived near the beach in Orange County, CA, I had no heat or AC. Just open or close the windows as required.

The second bedroom would be for his home office, so he seldom goes out except for groceries and social events – and rarely something else.

I could live like that when I was single. I didn’t even have a car. I’ve been married for 37 years now, and my energy usage is about 1,300 kWh/month average with no electric car. Not everyone can live on the beach – or wants to. Like me. I prefer my mountains!

meab
Reply to  scott
January 23, 2022 8:58 pm

GKM’s payback time estimate doesn’t add up. Not even close.

Electricity at California prices is worth about 20 cents / kW-hr so 17 kW-hr / day is worth $3.40 per day. If the payback (not counting maintenance) is ~16 years the initial cost of the solar array was about $15,000, assuming 4% interest. The average California price per watt for solar is about $3.50 so this system is about 4 kW. A 4 kW system can deliver 17 kW hrs in an average day (winter and summer averaged) in California so, so far so good.

Now let’s charge an EV with that 17 kW (leaving no power left to run the home). His (ridiculous) e-Golf EV can go 3.5 miles per kW-hr, so if GKM can drive about 60 miles per day in his EV. An e-Golf can go 125 miles on a charge, so that’s possible.

Instead of buying the e-Golf, he could have bought a new Prius for even less money. The Prius at 50 mpg would take 1.2 gallons of gas to go that same 60 miles. So GKM is saving 1.2 * $4.00 per gallon or $4.80 per day on his gasoline bill. That’s saving more money than if he used his solar to offset his home electricity use. So what’s the payback period when he saves $4.80 per day instead of $3.40 per day (not counting the difference in purchase price between the e-Golf and Prius)? 10 years (including interest). Not 3 1/2. 3 1/2 is a lie. If he drives less than 60 miles and uses the remainder of his power to offset his home use, the payback period would go up, this 10-year payback is the best it gets.

His claims about the Tesla further reducing the payback period is also a lie. First, the best it gets is if he already uses all the solar electricity to charge the e-Golf, the payback period can’t get any better. Since the Tesla cost him more money, the payback would get longer, not shorter.

GKM is a liar.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  scott
January 23, 2022 10:29 pm

So, we added a used Tesla Model S, P85 …”

So he will need a new battery for it, which will seriously impact his cost payback calculations.

Especially if he blows the car up instead.
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/12/26/tesla-nothing-says-customer-satisfaction-like-30kg-of-dynamite/

David Stone CEng
Reply to  scott
January 24, 2022 12:54 am

Unfortunately, this statement is completely untrue, deliberately deceptive. There is no attached storage, he is swapping some of his power when the sun shines for fossil fuel when it does not, The load peaking (which he is assisting with from his solar) has to come in majority from fossil fuel as the quantity required changes from second to second. His solar actually will tend to make this more difficult!

Gkam
Reply to  scott
February 1, 2022 10:46 am

I am GKAM. You poor folk are lost in your sea of ignorance. My Master of Science is from the University of San Francisco.
“we fuel up at home at night with cheap baseload power. During the daytime, the PV system turns our meter backwards powering the neighborhood with clean local power, which we trade for the stuff to be used that night” Did you not see the fact I am grid-connected for benefits to both?
Do you STILL have to go out to gas up, or get oil changes or transmission work or tune-ups or any engine maintenbance at all? And PAY for it?
Not me.
Let’s discuss this, Toots. I have information for all of you.

January 23, 2022 2:40 pm

Batteries are near their maximum density. That’s why they sometimes catch on fire. It’s density just about everywhere. Fossil fuels have it. Nuclear has more of it.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Ragnaar
January 23, 2022 4:28 pm

You mean energy density, either volumetric or gravimetric. Supercaps have 10x the power density of LiIon, but only 1/10 the energy density. So all ecars are LiIon, not supercap, powered. Some hybrids are about 1/3 supercaps, for start/stop and such. I have a number of issued US patents in that narrow field.

Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 24, 2022 12:29 am

I’m looking into a LiFePo4 upgrade for a 2nd Gen Prius. According the the website for the upgrade kit, that battery chemistry can withstand being discharged to near 0% without damage, unlike Lead-Acid, Ni-Cd, Li-Ion, or the Ni-MH which the Prius uses. Thus the Lithium Iron Phosphate replacement modules can have more energy usable while having a total weight of the upgraded battery 40 pounds less.

One Li-Fe-Po4 module replaces two of the original Ni-MH modules. The kit includes new wiring and other parts for inside the battery housing. To the Prius’ control system it appears to be just like the original Ni-MH battery but it doesn’t lose charge as quickly.

So in EV mode (North American 2nd Gen Prius requires adding a switch to enable it) the low speed electric only mode has more range. With a good stock battery it’ll go 5 to 7 miles on just the battery. Without adding the EV switch a driver can just be careful with the pedal to keep from causing the engine to run. I’ve managed to travel several miles, mostly downhill with some slight uphill parts, in a US spec 2nd gen Prius without having the engine start. ‘Course that does drain the battery down to the minimum % where the engine starts no matter what.

Another option is a kit that uses Li-Po cylindrical cells in a similar 1 for 2 module swap. It also results in higher capacity though still limited by that chemistry’s inherent minimum discharge voltage that leaves quite a bit of power unusable. One big benefit of this upgrade is cooling airflow through the battery is much freer so there’s little chance of “cooking” the battery when using B mode in long downhill runs.

Ron Long
January 23, 2022 2:40 pm

Waiting for the three commentators to respond, waiting, waiting…if any of them do respond it will clearly show them to be masochistic as they will be pummeled about the head and shoulders. waiting. waiting.

Gregory Woods
Reply to  Ron Long
January 23, 2022 3:10 pm

I have run across GKAM on other sites. He has only the same argument, his personal experience, which I have called him out on….

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Gregory Woods
January 23, 2022 4:57 pm

These people are all early adopters and therefor free riders on the working system.
As we see in Oz and elsewhere when you start getting too much rooftop solar it destabilizes the grid and the utility starts charging and cutting them off.

No different than the electric car wienies
Great to be the early adopter, cash incentives to buy, free charging points, no gas tax, can easily charge at your house.
But as adoption picks up, subsidies vanish, charging no longer free, govt will have to start hammering taxes to maintain roads, neighborhoods will have to torn apart completely to upgrade the grid at horrendous costs, electrical generation has to triple.

It is always true, early adopters are free riders on a functioning system, eventually they collapse the system.

But for now we have to listen to their idiocy as they don’t understand their place in life.

January 23, 2022 2:43 pm

In general, the home solar owners have bought into a sect. They are believers. Reason usually doesn’t work with them.

Bill Treuren
Reply to  Ragnaar
January 23, 2022 3:14 pm

Ultimately we need not worry, take the RE industry at their word and the FF sector will be substituted, or not.
Where the issue really hits the wall is the sell and purchase process. Somehow in New Zealand we have decided that a wind-farm has first hit at any purchaser and at a predetermined fixed price often quite high regardless of the prevailing “market price” while the poor FF supplier can be bumped anytime. That is the only issue and that is what the RE industry does not want to address.
They make conventional generators more expensive and then claim they are more competitive. Really?

Reply to  Bill Treuren
January 23, 2022 3:43 pm

They make conventional generators more expensive…

That’s the con. So far it’s been successful. But when you make fossil fuels more expensive, it causes more renewables, thus getting us closer to the collapse. Con then collapse. It’s happened a lot. In the mean time, I invest in fossil fuels. I figure they will left standing. And they have a lot of hate directed at them now.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Ragnaar
January 23, 2022 3:33 pm

Not always. I have a friend who admits he’ll never recover the cost of installation. He just wants his home to have power when the Green Grid crashes.

Reply to  Ragnaar
January 24, 2022 1:49 am

the Late Sir Roger Scruton oibserved that “It is difficult to reason someone out of a position that was not formed by reason in the first place”.

January 23, 2022 2:59 pm

On the real amount of storage required.

This is an elaborate time-series study including a review of the literature which demonstrates that storage requirements are routinely underestimated by a large factor even by people who make an effort to take account of wind droughts.

https://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/236723

I think the core of the argument is that people only look at the storage required to get through a single bad spell and don’t pay enough attention to the problem of serial events where the storage does not get fully recharged between events. This means that you need several times as much storage as you thought (which costs the earth anyway). The real test is the worst case scenario that you might get over a period of (say) a hundred years (is it ok to know that the grid is going to fail within a hundred years? or would you like to take a 200 year period?)

Fish
Reply to  Rafe Champion
January 23, 2022 3:25 pm

Who’s John(athon) Galt?

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Rafe Champion
January 23, 2022 4:07 pm

Precisely. I’ve done work with over 30 years of hourly data that shows you can get caught out by a run of slightly below normal years just as easily as by a single really bad one – a phenomenon that also affects hydro. So far as cost is concerned, it tends to be much cheaper to over-invest in generating capacity to cut the required storage if you insist on a storage + renewables only solution – but that does have limitations, and it drives up the costs considerably because you also end up with extensive spillage. Marginal useful output from incremental capacity falls off, so the effective cost of adding capacity gets multiplied by the fraction (total output of marginal capacity/useful output), That fraction soon heads towards double digits. You still have an irreducable minimum level of storage to cope with periods of Dunkelflaute.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
January 23, 2022 4:49 pm

And at some point it all goes to zero no matter how much you install

ex-KaliforniaKook
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 25, 2022 12:38 pm

I use a 25KW whole house propane-powered generator for backup after battery depletion. If the road is not too slick (mud or snow) for the propane truck to get here every two weeks, I’m good.

Assuming a prez like Brandon doesn’t regulate it out of existence or price range.

RickWill
Reply to  Rafe Champion
January 23, 2022 5:53 pm

EUR80/MWh appears to be highly optimistic. But a good effort.

Transmission lines are not mentioned – need more of those. There is more cost in managing the complexity. How can hydrogen be priced when it does not exist on the scale required for grid support.

Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  RickWill
January 24, 2022 12:37 am

Transmission lines are very important, as they’ve found out in the Orkney Islands. They put up wind turbines every where they possibly could. Now they generate too much power to use on the islands, and the underwater connection lines to the rest of the UK can only handle a fraction of the generating capacity. Unlike many places with wind turbines, the Orkney islands rarely lack for wind.

So you’d think the owners of all those turbines would band together, grease the appropriate government palms, and get a huge new connection from the islands installed.

Nope. They’re dinking around with electrolyzing water for hydrogen. If they have plans to use that Hydrogen anywhere off the islands, they’ll need an underwater pipeline – to connect to the nonexistent hydrogen distribution infrastructure in the rest of the UK.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Gregg Eshelman
January 24, 2022 4:43 am

The reason for the electrolysis plant is actually somewhat different. They have installed a heavily subsidised tidal stream turbine system. The problem with that is it produces electricity with extreme amounts of flicker, and they needed some sort of system to act as a smoother of the output. Step in electrolysis plus a control system, with a bunch more subsidy to fund it.

OFGEM has in fact given approval for additional interconnection (220MW), which is really waiting for sufficient generation being committed to justify it. Perhaps after the current CFD round, with its dedicated pot for “remote island wind”.

4 Eyes
January 23, 2022 3:09 pm

Anyone who says renewables are cheaper i.e. lower NPV, over a reasonable project lifespan of say 40 years should cut the wires that connect their house to the grid. Anything less means they are uttering weasel words.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  4 Eyes
January 23, 2022 3:16 pm

And “cheaper” always includes other-people’s-money in the form of subsidies that are never included in the calculations.

Inexpensive, reliable, clean power already exists, it is called: base-load coal-fired boilers, combined cycle natural gas turbines, and nuclear power.

Gunga Din
January 23, 2022 3:13 pm

An analogy:
People need information.
There’s lots of information in books.
But books require paper made from trees.
Let’s ban paper and give everybody a Personal Computer.
Someday someone will come up with a transistor.
In the mean time, let’s go Green and ban paper!!
Point:
Cart before the Horse with no EV truck to pull it.

stinkerp
January 23, 2022 3:19 pm

Most of the energy we generate is energy that has been conveniently stored for us already in hydrocarbons or fissile elements by natural processes over millions of years. We’re just unleashing pre-stored energy by burning it or initiating atomic chain reactions. “Renewable” energy in the form of solar and wind (and hydroelectric) also is harvested from natural processes but it can only be used when those natural processes are providing the energy. So we have to come up with a way to store the energy, which means diverting a portion of the energy when it’s available to some storage mechanism. It’s not as “efficient” as just extracting pre-stored energy from fossil fuels because some percentage has to be diverted to storage. There’s nothing inherently wrong with renewable energy coupled with storage but to properly compare the cost to generating pre-stored energy from fossil fuels you have to factor in the cost of storage, which no one does.

It seems likely that someday we’ll run out of fossil fuels; maybe in several decades or maybe in hundreds of years. If we haven’t transitioned primarily to renewable energy or “essentially renewable” energy (like fissioning uranium extracted from seawater that could potentially provide a billion years of energy), we’ll be in a heap of trouble. As impractical and expensive as most current renewable energy schemes are, we should still take the concept seriously enough to develop and refine it. We aren’t at “peak oil” yet but if and when we reach it, the cost of fossil fuels will increase until they eclipse the costs of the inefficient and expensive renewable-plus-storage systems today. Luckily lots of bright minds are working on this. Now if we could just get the dummies and doomsayers to shut up. Unfortunately a lot of them have found their way into government, making ridiculous policies based on fervid ideology and (so far) untenable technology.

Incorporating renewables with fossil fuels makes sense as a bridge to some future technology and to reduce fossil fuel use so we buy more time to develop a better energy production method, but with current technology it’s impractical for renewables to make up anything more than a fraction of power generation.

Last edited 4 months ago by stinkerp
Bill Sprague
Reply to  stinkerp
January 24, 2022 1:35 am

Two aspects of ignored storage are also ignored. The first is how much storage? A week, a month, two months? Secondly, unreliable production capacity of solar and wind must be scaled up to provide for day to day demand plus excess capacity to recharge the storage mechanism. If x is daily demand, we will need 1.2x, 1.4x to provide recharge capacity.

How much recharge generating capacity is needed depends upon how fast the storage needs to be recharged. Once storage is fully recharged, now the excess capacity for storage has no demand and is economically useless, but still must be paid for.

It is shocking that there is so little study and economic analysis done on these critical issues.

Equally shocking is the dearth of information on what it means to our economy if we go to 100% EVs. 30% of total US energy use is transportation. 100% EV usage means that we need to increase electricity production by an amount equivalent to the 30% now provided by gas and diesel, with the same issues of unreliability, need for storage, excess capacity to recharge storage all added in.

The unrecognized, or unacknowledged issue is that we are changing from a high energy density fuel source to a low energy density fuel source. The additional land capacity needed is something on the order of CA, OR, and WA just for the swap for transportation.

None of this takes into consideration the huge increase in demand for lithium and rare earth metals needed to make the swap, and the increase in cost of those items.

At the end of the day, we will be paying 5x or more for energy than we pay today, with decreased reliability, only to get what we already have. The destruction of economic wealth and huge reduction of standards of living that we are imposing on ourselves are enormous. Meanwhile, China will prosper because they are basing their future economic prosperity on low cost reliable coal. Even worse, we will be trusting availability of materials to produce our energy needs to China, our biggest geopolitical rival.

This whole 100% solar/wind energy future is just certifiably nuts.

kzb
Reply to  Bill Sprague
January 24, 2022 5:45 pm

You’ve neglected to take into account that EVs are 3 -4 times as efficient as internal combustion engines. So your 30% is more like 10%.
Even so, to supply that amount of juice at peak times is surely problematic.

Icepilot(@icepilot)
Reply to  stinkerp
January 24, 2022 6:43 pm

“It seems likely that someday we’ll run out of fossil fuels” – Nope.
Titan has oceans of the stuff.

MarkW
Reply to  Icepilot
January 25, 2022 7:56 am

It’ll take more energy to bring the stuff to earth than there is in it.

gringojay
January 23, 2022 3:28 pm

Wondering at what age some begin to understand about promises …

136F300A-426E-407F-8108-A76EAC43423E.jpeg
Paul
Reply to  gringojay
January 23, 2022 5:20 pm

heh heh, Calafornee got lots more problems that need fixed without adding
green energy to the mix

markl
January 23, 2022 3:45 pm

I have yet to see solar panel lifetime and catastrophic damage factored in. Hail/wind/tornado damage? Ask Puerto Rico about the possibility.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  markl
January 23, 2022 7:36 pm

Currently when weather damage occurs, the power generating platform is not affected. Transmission lines and connection devices are replaced and the power is back on usually in days or weeks at the most. When wind and solar are the only power generating platforms, the platform itself can be destroyed by weather and it will take many months to repair the entire system.

John Bell
January 23, 2022 3:56 pm

How about lead acid batteries the size of houses, and rows of them. Better than nothing. Of course you would need petrol to mine the lead, and if you have petrol, why bother with the battery?

Rud Istvan
Reply to  John Bell
January 23, 2022 4:34 pm

PbA was invented hundreds of years ago. There are two types, SLA and slow discharge. Both (depending on other stuff) have a life of about 4 years. If PbA wasn’t a long ago non-starter for renewables, Greenies would be deploying en mass.

Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 24, 2022 12:45 am

Funny thing about Absorbed Glass Mat lead acid battery technology is that the same concept was used in the early (1910’s to 1920’s) LA batteries for vehicles. Instead of glass fiber, thin sheets of porous wood veneer were compressed between the lead/lead oxide plates. An HTML version of an old book on LA batteries, including rebuilding them. I’d think that replacing the wood veneer with woven glass fiber would make them more reliable. https://www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/battery_WITTE.htm

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  John Bell
January 23, 2022 4:46 pm

A “grid scale” lead acid battery would be so heavy it likely warps space-time!
Consider the weight of the little one in you car then multiply that by a trillion.

And that’s just one battery

David
January 23, 2022 3:59 pm

One type of efficient battery we may consider is a hydroelectric dam. Daytime, renewables; nightime (or windless periods), hydroelectricity. Of course, only available to regions with hydroelectric potential or areas connected to grids using hydroelectricity. Dams fill up when not in use (storage), empties when needed. Thoughts?

Gregory Woods
Reply to  David
January 23, 2022 4:13 pm

Draughts?

MarkW
Reply to  Gregory Woods
January 23, 2022 7:02 pm

Why ruin good beer by using it for hydroelectric power?

J Mac
Reply to  David
January 23, 2022 4:13 pm

If you have hydroelectric generating capabilities sufficient to meet the grid load demands, you don’t need to waste further time, effort, and money on anything else. Your ‘Renewables’ are a redundant waste.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  David
January 23, 2022 4:14 pm

You need sufficient flow that you can return some to the reservoir without ruining the ecosystem of the river downstream. Oroville dam was built to do this, with a large man-made reservoir at its base so it could pump water back when power was available. I don’t have any stats on whether they even do this.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
January 24, 2022 2:17 am

He wasn’t describing pumped storage, he was describing modulating conventional hydro to reserve water in times of high wind.

Consider the Hoover Dam. Or whatever its called these days – the one at the end of lake Mead. Its output power is large – about 2GW from memory, but there is never enough rain to run it at that level.

Electricity generation has fallen from 4.8TWh per year in 2000 to around 3.5TWh per year today.

If you divide those figures by the number of hours in a year, the dam used to average 570 MW to two significant places. Now it is only 400MW.

Wikis says

The total gross power rating for the plant, including two 2.4 megawatt Pelton turbine-generators that power Hoover Dam’s own operations is a maximum capacity of 2080 megawatts. The annual generation of Hoover Dam varies. The maximum net generation was 10.348 TWh in 1984, and the minimum since 1940 was 2.648 TWh in 1956. The average power generated was 4.2 TWh/year for 1947–2008.In 2015, the dam generated 3.6 TWh

So the dam is operating at a capacity factor of 20%. Due to lack of water.

What this means is that it is probably cost effective to stuff 2GW of windmills and solar panels in the Mojave desert and use the dam to only cover generation when there is no wind – which in my experience in that part of the world is very seldom – and at night.

MarkW
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2022 7:49 am

Las Vegas has periods of extended cloudiness during the winter.

MontanaRic
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2022 8:29 am

The problem is the dams serve a number of purposes not just power generation. Difficult to farm if your irrigation water only comes when the wind isn’t blowing in California.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  David
January 23, 2022 4:38 pm

What you are referring to is pumped storage.
You install huge pumps and when power is cheaper, generally overnight and in middle of day, you pump the water uphill, then run it down throw generators when there are shortages or demand is high.
Ideally, you use wind power when it’s available to pump uphill.
Such schemes depend on arbitrage between times of cheap vs expensive power on 24 hour cycle

But such projects need to beware, as more electric cars are purchased we will see the load balance more as they charge during those traditional low demand times reducing or eliminating that differential and suddenly you have a white elephant.

Or you bid to supply power but then the wind dies and there isn’t any cheap power to pump up the hill and then you cannot deliver when needed, or you have to use expensive power to pump water and therefore lose on supply.

DMacKenzie
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 23, 2022 5:49 pm

But you can *NOT* pump and declare that water *NOT* sent through the hydro turbines to be the equivalent of “pumped storage”….have the wind and solar folks pay the hydro folks for the virtual “pumped storage” ….leveling the playing field for all by having a more legitimate “storage” cost for the unreliables….the hydro “storage” can be far away (sort of like carbon credits trading)…..catch my drift Pat ? Let’s have coffee over it.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  DMacKenzie
January 23, 2022 10:00 pm

It’s all just another form of Enron accounting.
Always up for coffee

DMacKenzie
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 24, 2022 7:29 am

Coffee…goog “Doug” and my “last name” which you know..plus your “home city” plus “engineering”….ask for Eva at my workplace and she’ll give you my cellphone number on confirming you’re the real Pat from Kerbob.

David Stone CEng
Reply to  David
January 24, 2022 1:07 am

Again, not that simple. We have such a system in the UK, between 2 large lakes. It is about 70% efficient overall but the lower lake cannot have a drain, otherwise, there will rarely be enough water to fill the top lake! An ordinary river dam has no lower reservoir, so cannot be used. Never mind!

David Ipperciel
Reply to  David Stone CEng
January 24, 2022 6:47 am

I am thinking of the situation in Quebec, where Hydro-Quebec provides all (100%) of the electricity from hydro dams (that are 1000km away from Montreal). If they added renewables, it would reduce the use of the dams, its level would move up, storing energy for later. No pumping, dams naturally go up with rain. They just make sure they don’t go down below a threshold so that it’s perpetual. This gives a limit to the electric potential of the dam. In this case, renewables seems to increase to total potential of power output. At first glance, this seems like free storage. Unless someone shows me otherwise. Happy to hear any thoughts.

Reply to  David
January 24, 2022 1:59 am

Yes. The ONLY ‘renewable’ combination that actually works at grid scale is where you have the hydro capacity to run the whole place, but not enough rainfall to do it all the time.
There are a few countries where this holds. Norway, New Zealand….

Even here, its inefficient. year of high wind and rain will see you releasing water, and years of low wind and low rain may still deplete your dams.

Apropos of it just having popped inyo my head, the whole renewable fiasco is simply a repeat of ‘steam versus sail’ – with people arguing that clipper ships were in fact faster than tramp steamers. Well, so they were, in a fair wind, but on average they were slower.

And a clipper ship ‘created jobs’ – you probably needed 100 men to run the sails, as against five to service a boiler.

withing 50 years really steam wiped out sail. Why we are tring to bring it back is beyond me.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  David
January 24, 2022 4:26 am

It’s how Norway operates with its system of hydro and interconnectors. If there is a surplus of wind generation in Denmark and Germany, they import it, and shut off an equivalent amount of hydro generation. They may then run hydro capacity to meet their own demand plus some more for export over the interconnectors when the wind isn’t blowing. That way there is no energy penalty for actually pumping.

However, the result is that they find themselves importing shortage pricing from the countries they link to. Norwegians are unhappy about that, because they rely on electricity for heating and it’s cold in winter. They are now set against offering further interconnectors. In any event, they are limited by their generation capacity, and the need to ensure they don’t run down their reservoirs supplying Germany while winter is still on. They have now limited exports for precisely that reason, with reservoirs having been at near record lows for the time of year.

kzb
Reply to  David
January 24, 2022 5:48 pm

Pumped hydro is the most established form of grid storage. It’s 80% efficient as well. Here in Britain we don’t have enough room for the number that would be required, not without ruining what is left of nature here.

KevC
January 23, 2022 4:10 pm

How often do we see the claim that RE is cheaper ?? and justified by reference to LCOE ?. Therein lies the problem… It is my understanding that LCOE was a methodology of comparing generator costs going back years before RE came on the scene. The one thing in common with comparing costs, prior to RE, is that the costs were being compared between generators that were capable of providing power when required.. LCOE appears to be a reasonable “rule of thumb” for comparing such like generators. RE, on the other hand, does NOT belong in such a group, as, without storage, power from RE is “when RE wants to deliver” rather than “when consumer needs the power”.. The RE crowd understand LCOE very well and push it as it gives them a HUGE advantage, justifies their claim of lower cost, and hides real world costs with going high % RE.. This has been recognised by some and some attempt has been made to modify the LCOE methodology to concentrate on costs of providing power to the consumer, when the consumer needs it.. LCOCE, ” Levelized Cost of Consummed Electricity”. LCOE was reasonable when comparing dispatchable power generators with each other, but is grossly unfair when used to compare intermittent generators with dispatchable generators. RE pushers are getting a free ride when they quote LCOE…Why does the established industry still use LCOE, giving RE a free run, rather than call it out and use LCOCE.. RE cannot compete when storage is taken into account..as it will need to be when LCOCE is used to cost RE generation.. LCOE must be discredited and replaced with LCOCE.. Consummed Electricity is where the $$$ are paid…!

Ken
January 23, 2022 4:12 pm

Most advocates of 100% renewables (and most of the general public) would not understand what it takes to synchronise the output from any storage battery with the grid.
The grid is always 3 phase AC all over the world even though supply voltage may differ.
Batteries are by their very nature DC so they cannot connect to the grid without a complex array of inverters and control devices that have to ensure that the battery output is converted to AC and synchronised in all of four parameters:

  1. voltage
  2. frequency
  3. phase sequence
  4. phase angle

To achieve all this energy is lost in the conversion and control gear. This means that it cannot be 100% efficient and is probably 85% efficient at best.
This would require any battery capacity to be oversized by 15% to achieve the desired outcome.
Also the grid requires the base load generation (currently coal, nuclear or Hydro) to provide the spinning reserve base of all four factors for additional generators (batteries) to synchronise with.

I have not seen any advocates of 100% renewables address any of these issues.

Still waiting for some responses!

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Ken
January 23, 2022 4:32 pm

Whenever I comment elsewhere that 100% renewables are impossible someone invariably accuses me of erecting a straw man as “no one advocates 100% renewables”.
So then I post articles from supposedly serious sources saying it is possible, as well as statements by politicians and then invite comment from the straw man trolls

And crickets

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 23, 2022 5:10 pm

states with net zero laws do advocate 100% renewables- that’s the case here in Mass.- I keep asking state officials and the enviros how is it possible? nobody responds

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Ken
January 24, 2022 6:09 am

Good (windy) morning Ken,
I got to wondering about your 85% efficiency estimate for DC~AC conversion. Thought to take a look at the Pacific intertie, where northwest hydro is converted to DC for transmission south, and then reconverted to AC in Southern Califonria. Bumbled around googling for efficiency figures, but haven’t found any yet. I’d be interested in any link you could provide to support that (or any other figure).

Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 23, 2022 4:18 pm

Thank you for this article. In addition to the cost of storage, there is the problem of maintaining frequency. As renewables become a bigger proportion of our energy supply, where will the rotating inertia come from? Or are Black Swan events acceptable in the new, cheaper renewable energy world?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 23, 2022 4:29 pm

Sitting the dark hoping the light come back on will be part of the charm

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 23, 2022 8:55 pm

Buy candle futures?

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 24, 2022 3:59 am

I have bought candles for the future

pls
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 24, 2022 2:17 am

And that is the real answer to the storage problem that RE advocates have. If you listen carefully, you can hear them muttering it: Provide power only when power is available. Assuming you have electricity 24×7 is a thing of the past.

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
January 24, 2022 2:25 am

Batteries are being used to provide frequency stabilization right now. Batteries will never be used to store off peak generation for on peak demand. That is a green fantasy,

It is perfectly possible to have an inverter that supplies quite large amounts of power to the grid at very short order from batteries. Just not for very long.

But its also very costly. and as time goes on and people realise the bullshit they have been spoonfed about renewables, and how much it really costs, the no-brainer solution of nuclear power is going to be the only game in town.

A wind turbine shorn of subsidy is already more expensive than a nuclear reactor and that is before you start adding super capacitors, batteries, pumped storage, hydrogen, interconnects or all the other crap that is supposed to make them work.
It is just taking so long for people to realize this.

Pat from kerbob
January 23, 2022 4:28 pm

Everything is always solved by the soon to come magic batteries.
Because magic.
I run into this constantly
Just another example of religious fervor/delusion

Paul Johnson
January 23, 2022 4:51 pm

I don’t know which is worst; the woke geriatric hippie, the naive over-optimistic libertarian, or the self-appointed truth troll. Each is intractable in their own way.

Toby Nixon(@tobynixon)
January 23, 2022 5:09 pm

What is the strategy for getting this information out to the general public, so that people understand they’re being lied to?

Mohatdebos
January 23, 2022 5:18 pm

I have posted this before, but will do so again. Do a simple exercise; correlate the cost of electricity with the amount of renewable energy in a U.S. state or a country. You will find a strong positi.ve correlation. The only exceptions are countries (Norway and Sweden) or states (Oregon and Washington generate hydroelectric power.

Philo
January 23, 2022 5:42 pm

I had solar power installed on our house the year after it was built. Thanks to ridiculous subsidies it basically paid itself off in 5 years. Thanks to the local states interpower agreements we were able to get rebates for most of the power we regenerated. We’ve been getting ~$100/month for selling excess electricity. Thanks to our installer we got the very best solar panels from Sunpower which are still producing to 90% of the predicted power. No need for batteries. The local states interpower agreements ration the power out to various companies, industries, etc. who pay extra for it.

It’ll probably be still generating money when I die.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Philo
January 23, 2022 5:59 pm

Isn’t that the same as scalping?

Alexy Scherbakoff
January 23, 2022 5:43 pm

comment image

Mike Smith
January 23, 2022 6:03 pm

Excellent article. I wish more people understood the issues:
a The invalidity of LCOE when considering intermittent power sources.
b The fact that storage costs dominate once the proportion of RE is significant.
c The fact that batteries are expensive, nasty, and the realities of physics and chemistry will mean technological advancements will be modest.
d The fact that there are very limited geological opportunities for pumped storage.
e The fact that the entire renewable strategy as being executed by the western world sucks.
f The fact that is sucks big time!

Richard Thornton
January 23, 2022 6:24 pm

Do not forget the laws of economics will not be suspended due to the forced adoption of solar and wind. For example let’s say through whatever method solar and wind comprise 25% of generated electricity thus displacing coal and gas. This would likely lead to a substantial reduction in the price of coal and gas because the supply would be the same, but demand decreased. Will solar and wind be able to compete with natural gas between $1.25 and $1.75 natural gas? Not very well.

John the Econ
January 23, 2022 6:39 pm

Of course, there’s the other options they don’t mention but many of their compatriots believe: Roll back Americans standard of living by a century.

Duane
January 23, 2022 6:44 pm

I disagree with the author and most readers of this blog.

No source of energy is 100% dispatchable, it is a matter of degrees. Nuclear is the most available source but it is still well under 100%. Coal is one of the least dispatchable at somewhere in the 60-70% range – far from 100%. Wind varies as in some areas it can be as much or more than coal, while in more marginal locations it is closer to 20-30%. Photovoltaic also varies a lot by location (climate) ranging from 30-60%. Hydropower production also varies a great deal on a seasonal basis and even hourly basis (some hydro plants are used mainly to supply daily peak usage), and typically averages less than 50% annually.

Simplistic analyses such as presented in this author’s posts always ignore demand. Demand is never constant and in fact varies widely by time of day and by time of year, in ways that often actually favor wind and solar. Peak power demand almost always occurs in daytime when most people are awake and working in commercial or industrial activities – when wind and solar produce the most power. Ditto that peak electrical demands occur in summer when solar is at its peak. So logically, use solar and wind for peak generation and thermal plants for base load production.

Indeed most utilities will charge a user much less if they agree to let the utility manage their power supply remotely so as to avoid having to build more peak capacity that is used only a few hours per day.

Power sourcing is therefore NOT a binary, mutually exclusive choice. The issue of matching power supply to demand is never simplistic.

“Everything looks easy when you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Words to live by.

Wind and solar cannot be relied upon solely, but at the same time can still be great economical sources of peaking power, daily and seasonably. The most stable and reliable and economical power generation system is one that is diverse. The optimum mixture of power sources is therefore a combination of coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar, but that mix is also going to be regionalized due to local factors such as climate, available resources, and grid capability.

Duane
Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2022 6:54 pm

Another complication due to variability in demand: just because a given power plant is capable of operating at full capacity does not mean that it is actually operated at full capacity. If demand falls below capacity, that plant will only produce what is demanded since there is little to no electrical power storage availability in any existing grid. So when demand falls below capacity the plant produces less power, sometimes by shutting down individual generators or even entire plants.

That is why economical peak generating capacity is so useful to utilities. It costs a huge amount of capital to build thermal power plants relative to today’s cost of wind and solar plants. Building expensive capacity only to see it used only part time is inefficient and wasteful.

Mike Smith
Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2022 6:56 pm

Peak demand arises rather late in the day when solar is falling off quite dramatically, to zero in the winter.

For example, last Friday in CA, solar was down 50% by 4:00pm. Demand peaked at 6:00pm and remained high for several more hours.

MarkW
Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2022 7:08 pm

Wind and solar are useless for peaking power because they can be relied on to produce power when power is needed.
You keep claiming that solar matches well with demand curve, and every time you get shot down by people who actually know what they are talking about.
Solar’s peak output, when it isn’t cloudy is around 1pm to 2pm. In the summer peak demand is around 5pm to 7pm and in the winter peak demand is more like 10pm to midnight.

MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2022 7:55 am

cannot be relied on

Reply to  Duane
January 24, 2022 2:43 am

No source of energy is 100% dispatchable, it is a matter of degrees. Nuclear is the most available source but it is still well under 100%. Coal is one of the least dispatchable at somewhere in the 60-70% range – far from 100%. Wind varies as in some areas it can be as much or more than coal, while in more marginal locations it is closer to 20-30%. Photovoltaic also varies a lot by location (climate) ranging from 30-60%. Hydropower production also varies a great deal on a seasonal basis and even hourly basis (some hydro plants are used mainly to supply daily peak usage), and typically averages less than 50% annually.

First of all its clear you do not know what dispatchable means. You are confusing it with availability and capacity factor.

Dispatchability is the ability to modulate the output of a power stain to match demand. In the case of wind and solar the only way to do that is by throwing energy away.

Fossil and nuclear can have whatever drives the fire turned down. Coal is of course highly dispatchable, or steam locomotives wouldn’t work.

Taking all those facts into account, what you are really saying is all about availability. which combined with dispatchability gives us the final capacity factor.

So a nuclear power station that is 90% available and is run undisptached will have a capacity factor of 90% also. Like wise wind an solar at around 23% and 15% availability are also run flat out to generate the same capacity factors.

The reason to run the plant this way is to maximize return on capital. The fuel is essentially free.

But when it comes to coal and gas, the fuel is very much not free. If there is so much nuclear or renewable energy that the price of electricity drops below the cost of the fuel, there is no economic justification in running the power station at a loss.

So the low capacity factors on coal and gas are nothing to do with availability, but everything to do with using them as dispatchable generators to match demand and supply.
`
Hydro is a different case, since whilst it is eminently dispatchable, there is generally insufficient rainfall to give year round availability.

People confuse all these issues, technological limitations, and financial ones. Mostly because they don’t really understand either.

January 23, 2022 6:45 pm

LCOE is not “levelized”!
Instead, fossil fuels are encumbered by arbitrary costs or subsidies paid to renewables. e.g., assigning future carbon social costs to fossil fuels.

Alleged renewable costs benefit from those funds taken from fossil fuels plus government mandates for usage or the subsidies given to renewables.

Nor does LCOE contain end of life costs for when solar arrays are dismantled or wind mills fail..
EOL should include bonds paid in advance to remove roads, concrete foundations, every scrap of broken solar cells, etc.

All of those windmill blades that must be taken to the local dump are costs dumped on the local governments.

Then the incredibly rational problem that wind farms get protective contracts requiring local utilities to buy renewable energy over fossil fuel generated energy.

Coupled to this is that renewables do not pay for their interconnects, line stabilizers or the fact that fossil fuels sites must stand idle so they can cover renewable insufficiency or failure immediately.

Renewable installations have a bad habit of failing to live as long as their installers originally claimed.

Another cost ignored by renewables are the costs paid by the destruction of flying wildlife, especially endangered birds or bats.

Stop pretending LCOE levelize costs except as ‘rob fossil fuels or taxpayers to pay renewables’.

RoHa
January 23, 2022 7:04 pm

Sorry. No space in my garage. Can’t help.

marlene
January 23, 2022 10:13 pm

FACEBOOK: “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.”

GregK
January 23, 2022 11:35 pm

P’raps if we could manage to build large scale super conductors we could pump renewable electrons into huge super conductor loops and just keep them whizzing around until we need them….just tap into them as required. May I have a cup full of renewable electrons for my Tesla please ?

Reply to  GregK
January 24, 2022 2:43 am

just dont drop a screwdriver across the terminals..

Vincent Causey
January 23, 2022 11:50 pm

All I know is that in the UK our energy bills keep going up, with the prospect of eye watering increases in the Spring. This ever escalating cost of energy seems to correlate rather well with the increasd share of unreliables.

Rod Evans
January 23, 2022 11:51 pm

Does anyone know who has stolen our wind?
Here in the UK we are having a windless winter. This is very troubling for the nation that Boris has defined as, the Saudi Arabia of wind.
So come on, own up who has taken our wind?

Reply to  Rod Evans
January 24, 2022 2:44 am

Its lockdown. Normally all the cars rushing around do the trick.

Roger Tilbury
January 24, 2022 12:27 am

I have been following Wild and Wonderful Off-Grid on YouTube. This lovely couple have built a beautiful home in West Virginia and it is entirely solar-powered and the house and farm runs on 110v. They have 3 children the oldest of whom is just a teenager.
To do this they have 32 panels and 6 (or maybe 8 now) batteries, plus a LPG powered home generator (that they don’t expect to use). This has cost them 10s of 100s of dollars, but since there was no power line part of this is offset by avoding paying for a new connection and they will repay the cost in a few years by avoiding power company charges.
Good for them, it’s a great setup and clearly works, but not many people have the space or spare cash to do that. And it doesn;t include powering an energy-intensive industry.
We installed solar panels when we moved into our new house 3 years ago as we will recoup the investment in about 8 years, but we are a retired couple and we can delay using washing appliances for a day or two until the sun shines and we use excess generated power for an electric heater in winter to reduce our LPG gas usage.
I haven’t been able to justify the purchase of a battery so far, but that may change if it all kicks off in Ukraine…

Roger Tilbury
Reply to  Roger Tilbury
January 24, 2022 12:28 am

10s of 1000s, not hundreds…

Iain Reid
January 24, 2022 1:24 am

Storage to cover intermittency is so obviously impossible that it is not a consideration, simple arithmetic will show just how much capacity is required and the extra generation to ensure that the battery is charged. All grid connected batteries are for frequency support, not intermittency.

That aside the renewable enthusiasts seem to ignore that renewables are asynchronous and cannot run a grid. Asynchronysim is like driving a car with no throttle control.
The greater the proportion of renewables feeding a grid the less stable it becomes until eventually if sufficient power is fed in from renewables that it will overwhelm the stabilising conventional generators and power will be lost. And it won’t be easy or quick to restore power when that happens.

Last edited 4 months ago by Iain Reid
Reply to  Iain Reid
January 24, 2022 2:47 am

Storage to cover intermittency is so obviously impossible that it is not a consideration, simple arithmetic will show just how much capacity is required and the extra generation to ensure that the battery is charged. All grid connected batteries are for frequency support, not intermittency.

Completely true, but how many GreenMinds™ actually understand that, or can even do simple arithmetic?

They deal in touchy-feely qualitative concepts that suit their ’emotional intelligence’ .
We have become a society run by people who have no idea how it actually works.

January 24, 2022 1:28 am

Renewable energy , which needs massive storage, is more expensive than nuclear power, that does not.

Go figure….

griff
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2022 9:22 am

It isn’t. Nuclear is massively more expensive.

The guaranteed payment rate for electricity for UK’s new nuclear reactor at Hinkley is massively above that of any renewable and even current gas price.

MarkW
Reply to  griff
January 24, 2022 4:40 pm

The only reason why nuclear is expensive is because opponents like griff do everything in the power to make it so.
In places not ruled by lawfare and where over regulation is kept in check, nuclear is one of the least expensive forms of power.

This has been explained to griff many times, but like his other lies, he doesn’t let reality color any of his opinions.

michel
January 24, 2022 1:52 am

Yes, intermittency is the problem. When conventional is compared with wind or solar, its apples and oranges. For a fair comparison you have to make sure you are comparing identical products. The key product feature of conventional is that it is consistent, 24 x 7 available, and predictable.

To do a fair comparison to wind and solar, you have to add in the costs of making wind and solar consistent, 24 x 7, and predictable.

Faced with this problem, the renewables lobby has resorted to three tactics.

The first is simple denial. You can read this on Ars Technica, where its comonly asserted by both editorial and commenters (those who are permitted to continue commenting) that in modern economies and grids intermittency simply isn’t an issue. There is never any quantitative justification of this.

The second is to claim that it can be overcome by a big enough grid. You find this in the claims that the wind is always blowing somewhere, so we can just import. Or the sun is always shining somewhere, so we import. This however is totally unsatisfactory as soon as you look at the facts. In Western Europe, for instance, the wind is not always blowing somewhere, especially not in winter. This argument is also never quantified.

The third is more insidious, and is in the very concept of LCOE. The argument is that if you compare LCOE of intermittent and conventional, you find intermittent is cheaper. This has to be combined with some other argument to the effect that intermittency is not an important product feature.

But the concept of LCOE is deficient to start with, despite the fact that its commonly used and widely accepted as a measure of competitiveness.

The reason is, it takes all the power generated over the life of an installation and divides by the total cost. Discount the cash flows to allow for the time value of money, and you get the calculated LCOE per unit of power.

The hidden assumption here is that it doesn’t matter when the power is generated. But of course, that is exactly the problem with wind and solar. Peak demand in the UK, as a for instance, occurs between 5pm and 10pm on dark cold winter evenings. And this is the period when, for a week or so every winter, there is a blocking high and so minimal generation.

But the assumption in the LCOE method is that this does not matter to value. It doesn’t matter when you generate it, its value is assumed to be the same. Whether its in hot breezy and sunny July, generate all you want, whether its needed or not, and it will count as raw megawatts generated. Fail to generate in cold dark calm Jan or Feb, and this will not enter into the calculation either.

I have sometimes trying to explain this used a lettuce example. Its like we are s supermarket trying to meet lettuce demand. One supplier ships whenever they feel like it, sometimes a truckload on Monday evening, sometimes none for a week or two. Another delivers a constant amount twice a week.

We have to throw out half what the first supplier delivers because it goes off before sale, owing to mismatch with demand. We sell just about all of the second supplier’s deliveries.

The first supplier now says they want to be paid the same as the second for every lettuce they deliver, delivered whether we want it and can sell it or not. Deliver a month’s supply on Monday morning, get paid, then deliver some more when they can,maybe in a few weeks.

This is the fundamental intellectual dishonesty at the heart of LCOE. Make the products comparable in features, and intermittent makes no sense except in very special circumstances. I can imagine for instance that in super hot climates with cool nights, solar to power AC might fly financially. As soon as you get hot nights however, no way.

Graeme#4
Reply to  michel
January 24, 2022 2:33 am

The LCOE calculations quoted, such as Lazard, tend to only use 30 years as the measurement period, and they then claim that both solar and wind systems will survive for these 30 years. But if you actually compare energy sources of their full lifetimes, such as nuclear with over 60 years, then you have to factor in the renewable replacement costs. This would greatly alter the cost comparisons.

MarkW
Reply to  Graeme#4
January 24, 2022 8:02 am

It’s quite dishonest to claim that wind or solar will last for 30 years. Real world data shows actual lifespan for both is much shorter. Especially for offshore wind.
In addition, they are assuming that solar will continue to produce first day power, for it’s entire lifespan. That is also demonstrably wrong.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Graeme#4
January 24, 2022 9:04 am

I remember reading somewhere that the US Energy Information Administration also use the 30 years measurement period for wind and in their comparisons with other forms of power generation use the same 30 year life even though, as you say, the actual operating life of coal, gas and nuclear is far greater than 30 years.

lgl
January 24, 2022 2:50 am

“Hydrogen generation from low-cost renewables at $25/MWh with a capacity factor of 50% yields a cost of $1.70/kg of hydrogen produced. Storing this hydrogen underground will add about another $0.30/kg, thus the hydrogen costs $2/kg. If this hydrogen is used to generate power, the resulting cost is $100 to $200/MWh. In ideal conditions (e.g. a CCGT turbine at 60% utilisation), the cost is $100/MWh, while simple-cycle turbines at 25% utilisation would deliver power at $200/MWh.”

https://www.powermag.com/how-much-will-hydrogen-based-power-cost/

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  lgl
January 24, 2022 4:02 am

Fantasy. You’re not going to get $25/MWh renewables anyway. Use to make hydrogen either adds to demand instead of supplying it when there is no surplus production, so the cost becomes what other generation you fire up to meet demand, or it relies on highly intermittent and variable amounts of surplus, which are never going to reach 50% capacity factor for any appreciable volume. See this chart

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/nZM72/1/

lgl
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
January 24, 2022 10:00 am

The exact numbers is not the point. 25 or 30 $ doesn’t matter much. We don’t need to store all of the RE produced. Mentons posts are just red herrings in the storage debate. I doubt anybody ever suggested using Li batteries for grid scale seasonal storage.

Old Cocky
Reply to  lgl
January 24, 2022 12:24 pm

I think you’re saying that storing excess electricity production as hydrogen and then using the hydrogen to run OCGT to fill in gaps between demand and supply will cost, for the OCGT, 8x as much as the initial excess electricity.

Hydrogen CCGT at 4x the cost of the electricity used to produce the hydrogen doesn’t seem economic, due to the time it takes to ramp up. Perhaps it could be scheduled in conjunction with solar PV, but wind doesn’t have the cyclic nature of day and night.

A solar PV/OCGT/CCGT hybrid seems an interesting alternative to molten salt solar thermal for shorter terms where seasonal factors don’t come into play.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  lgl
January 26, 2022 5:06 am

The order of magnitude numbers are the point. Firstly, the scale of the storage requirement in terms of redeliverable energy, which is substantial and far beyond most estimates of covering a handful of days of low renewables production that are typically used in these evaluations. And secondly in the real costs and round trip efficiencies that drive the rest of the equation. I calculated that to have supplied the UK during 2021 from wind generation there would have needed to be over 50TWh of hydrogen storage that would have had to be already over half full at 1 January. At 60% efficiency for electrolysis and 60% efficiency for a CCGT to burn the hydrogen to produce power again you are down to 36% round trip efficiency, which already severely taxes the economics.

It is always cheaper to look at solutions with proper dispatchable backup rather than storage, and the trade off between storage and simply spilling excess power greatly favours the latter, but you eventually reach unavoidable levels of storage or proper backup.

I’ve done the numbers. Please, no battery red herrings designed to fool green ingenues.

MarkW
Reply to  lgl
January 24, 2022 8:04 am

The big problem is that there is no such thing as low-cost renewables, and never will be.

D M
January 24, 2022 5:45 am

Superb reply to reneawbleguy et. al, Mr. Menton

May I suggest 2 enhancements to future versions?

1) Make the following point. INTERMITTENT renewable electricity differs fundamentally from the RELIABLE electricity to which we are accustomed. Intermittency REDUCES the value of renewable electricity to electricity users. Furthermore, intermittent generators need 3-4x more transmission line capacity than thermal & hydro generators. Thus, straight comparison of LCOEs is wrong.

2) Suggest creating a new electricity service category–SOLELY solar & wind 365. Lack of electricity at night, insufficient electricity on calm days, and huge, frequent fluctuations most days & nights may smarten up renewable enthusiasts.

Dan M
January 24, 2022 7:34 am

As for renewables being cheaper than fossil fuels, the proof is in the deployment. Germany is highly reliant on renewables but has electric rates 2 or 3 times the US, which uses much less renewables. California is highly reliant on renewables and is in the top 5 states for consumer electric rates, as well as suffering brownouts or rolling blackouts during peak usage times. This type of data belies the “renewables are cheaper mantra”.

griff
Reply to  Dan M
January 24, 2022 9:20 am

Much of the German electricity cost is tax. And the green levy component on it will fall this year. Plus very many German households have solar and excellent insulation. German households use less electricity than US ones.

Graemethecat
Reply to  griff
January 24, 2022 2:17 pm

German households use less electricity than US ones precisely because electricity is so much more expensive.

MarkW
Reply to  griff
January 24, 2022 4:42 pm

Can you demonstrate that German taxes have increased this dramatically in recent years? Or is this just another lie that you have been told to push?

Ben
January 24, 2022 9:08 am

Gkam and Galt post regularly on another site I read. Gkam has repeated his personal story a thousand times. Galt is reasonable until it gets to storage. He than repeats the Ambri and Form story. Don’t waste your time responding to them.

Doonman
January 24, 2022 9:55 am

So the proposal is that a government-mandated total transformation of the entire energy system of our economy should depend on one or another of two not-yet-invented-or demonstrated-at-scale technologies, which may or may not work, and the cost projections of which may be wildly off.

And if you wish hard enough, Tinkerbell will come back.

Baby Boomers were taught this as children. It’s no wonder they still believe in fairy dust and unicorn rainbows.

menace
January 24, 2022 11:22 am

Here is “reneawbleguy” on the relative cost of fossil fuel electricity generation versus renewables:

Energy costs savings. RE will be cheaper that FF business as usual. 10.43 cents per kw-hr FF 7.81 cents per kw-hr RE. Dollars into our pockets is a clear difference favoring RE. Clear difference.

Money cost savings per person.

No source is cited, but I would agree that approximately these numbers can be found in some studies of relative costs of the renewables versus fossil fuels. But the studies that get these numbers it do so by ignoring the entire storage problem completely.

It is more than storage being ignored. FF incurs more cost as a large portion of generating assets need to be held on standby in case the wind stops blowing. So the very existence of the unreliable renewable generating sources on the grid drives up the costs for the reliable fossil fuel sources because they are only partially utilized and so their rates have to incur more capital and overhead costs. Without the RE on the grid, under a more full utilization of assets (think revenue per dollar asset) their costs very likely could be just 6-7 cents.

Roger
January 24, 2022 1:06 pm

Over the years, I have noted that many environmentalists hide their true goals. We are told one (usually reasonable) thing when the hidden goal is something else entirely.

I believe that power storage is one of those things. Currently power supply is varied (dispatched) to follow demand. Wind and solar are capable of doing this, requiring storage to provide/absorb the difference.

If, however, demand is forced to follow supply, the whole problem of storage goes away. I believe that this is the true (unstated) goal of renewable energy.

January 24, 2022 2:56 pm

Mandating dependence on nonexistent technology?

Echoes of Nonqawuse

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nongqawuse

Last edited 4 months ago by Phil Salmon
DWittman
January 24, 2022 6:13 pm

I was wondering this holds true for all wind turbines. When temps drop below -22°F(-30°C) turbines automatically shut down (for safety) and become a net consumer of electricity to maintain a minimum operating temp.
https://www.americanexperiment.org/it-wasnt-very-windy-this-morning-and-thats-a-problem/

rwisrael
January 24, 2022 8:46 pm

Steve Martin did it much more clearly in his “how to get a million dollars and don’t pay any taxes” bit, “First, you get a million dollars, then you don’t pay taxes”. Easy.

Plebney
January 25, 2022 9:14 am

I haven’t seen much discussion about flywheels as kinetic energy storage. These have been used in vehicles before but stationary flywheel storage seems practical. Giant flywheel in a vacuum with air or magnetic bearings? A well-designed flywheel usually has a greater storage life and capacity than a battery.

Geo
January 25, 2022 9:54 am

Words that cannot be said enough: At scale.

I can generate power from an exercise bike, but I can’t at scale.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, know if we can store energy in batteries at scale. Nobody has successfully done it. No utility, in the last 100 years, has ever tired it.

I actually like the Ambri idea – at least someone is realizing batteries need to be dirt cheap to have any value at scale. But the amount of batteries we need, the scale of manufacturing, is truly astonishing.

Joseph Zarebski
January 26, 2022 8:00 am

The Green New Deal plan for energy storage is that once everyone has an EV they will use your cars plugged into the grid for battery storage. So in the morning instead of having a good charge your battery will be empty. Then during the day they will fill it up and drain it again over night.

Gkam
February 1, 2022 10:49 am

Utility-scale battery storage is down to about one cent/kWh, and with PV power under 2 Cents/kWh, show me any other system which can produce and sell power at 3 cents/kWh.

Gkam
February 1, 2022 11:17 am

Gosh, guys, are none of you aware of the low cost of battery storage?
And flow batteries are on the market already, for wind turbine installations.
Utility-scale batteries are around 1 cent/kWh now.

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