Bad luck for the much hyped Tesla battery when the grand opening in South Australia yesterday coincided with storms that brought power outages in its immediate vicinity.
Designated as reliability-proofing a state that has seen the future of electricity generation more clearly than Lincoln Steffens saw how effectively the infant USSR would work , it was launched with the usual puffery of how it could power 30,000 homes for an hour in the event of a blackout. This leaves 737,267 South Australian homes without even that amount of comfort.
In December’s Climate News issued yesterday, I had this to say
The giant Elon Musk battery designed to future proof South Australia was completed on time on 1 December. The battery charges up when prices are low and feeds into the grid when they are high. The battery is also contracted by the government to provide fast-response stability services. It will allow 100 MW of power to be produced for about one hour – enough to supply five per cent of South Australia’s demand.
Euan Means estimates that to enable a grid size storage adequate to serve a renewable energy dominated UK would require 1.8 TWh at a notional cost of £48 billion with pumped storage, if such a scheme were feasible. To do it with Musk-style South Australian batteries would require 14,000 of these 129 MWh facilities at a cost of £405 billion
The ANU (Blakers et al) estimated the cost for 100% renewable electricity system is $93 and $75 per MWh respectively using current and projected future wind and PV prices. It put the capital cost of this at $184 billion (current pv/wind prices) and $152 billion (estimated future prices). The team from the ANU estimated that South Australia could be fully renewable with back-up of 400-500 GWh of storage but another study estimates this at 6,800 GWh. And, in a refrain constantly regurgitated over the past 30 years, the ANU team claims no cost to eliminating CO2 from energy use since “the cost of electricity from new-build wind and solar power generators was below the cost of electricity from new-build fossil fuel generators”.
With renewables subsidised and regulated into prominence in the electricity supply system, there is likely to be an increasing role for batteries as a means of counteracting wind/solar’s irregular supply and difficult to control features. This means additional associated costs involved that further reduce the economics of renewables other than hydro (which works because water, having 100 times the density of air, (800 thanks Faustus and Gavin) can push turbines more effectively). But we have a potent brew with politicians backed by wide-eyed green enthusiasts determined to undermine the market and reforge it to conform to their own preferences, and gimlet-eyed businesses keen to exploit any subsidy on offer.
Batteries are therefore assured of a major new role in further adding to the costs of electricity at least until our politicians are forced to awaken, Trump-style, to the realities of renewables’ costs and the invalidity of the climate scare. Hopefully the damage to the economy in the interim will not prove irreparable.