The cost and capacity of humungous batteries

Perry Williams continues to provoke wry and disbelieving comments in The Australian with the promotion of RE and most recently the prospect of a billion dollar spend on two new batteries in NSW.

Origin and Neoen plan $1bn batteries for NSW power plants

The idea is to replace power stations with RE and storage but there are two elephants in the room, one is the fact that storage depends on generation and the other is the guaranteed uncertainty of wind power production due to frequent wind droughts across the whole of SE Australia.  Everyone knows that the sun sets and everyone needs to know the reality of prolonged wind droughts.

The public records of the Energy Market Operator for the month of June 2020 show that the supply dropped below 10% of the (theoretical) installed capacity of the windfleet thirteen times.  The longest spells were 33 hours, 18 hours, 16 hours and 14  hours. That is unusual but every month there are period below the 10% point and the system needs to cope with very rare events. The Launceston flood protection system is designed to handle a one in 200 year deluge.

Capacity and cost

Be careful to check the capacity of the battery in MWh (Megawat Hours) and don’t get too excited by the large numbers of MW that Perry Williams and others use to describe the size of these things.

Origin Energy plans to develop a giant 700 megawatt battery at Eraring, Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, while France’s Neoen is preparing a 500MW battery stack dubbed the Great Western Battery Project at Wallerawang, home to the former EnergyAustralia coal station, which has now been decommissioned. The two batteries would rank as the largest storage devices in the world and over four times larger
than the Tesla world-beating battery in South Australia, which is also operated by Neoen.

Four times larger than the Tesla and Hornsdale sounds good and we have the cost figures for it.    It occupies over a hectare and came with a total price tag in the vicinity of  $160 million. With the second stage installed it has 194MWh of capacity that enables it to deliver 10 minutes of grid services and 3 hours of load shifting.

Presumably “load shifting” means contributing in a significant way to the grid, unlike the grid services that relate to frequency control and stabilization.  Think of the load shifting contribution from the Tesla as a tributary flowing into the river of power in the SA grid.  The load shifting stream has a “depth” of 30 MW compared with  the depth of the river of power required for South Australia that ranges from 1000MW to 2500MW.  So when the wind stops blowing the Hornsdale facility will contribute next to nothing to the grid for a short time compared with a serious wind drought.

You can amuse yourself by estimating the cost of covering a prolonged wind drought when the SE-Australia wide demand (the “stream”) is 20,000 to 30,000MW deep and the cost of the storage is in the order of  a million dollars per MWhour.

Actually that is something of a red herring because  big batteries are not supposed to handle wind droughts , or at least the qualified engineers in the system to not expect them to do so and it is unhelpful for people like Perry Williams to write about them as though they are genuine grid-scale storage.

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37 Responses to The cost and capacity of humungous batteries

  1. stackja says:

    Flat battery? Need recharge?

  2. Suburban Boy says:

    Everyone knows that the sun sets …

    I think you overestimate the intelligence of the RE enthusiasts.

  3. yarpos says:

    So basically an FCAS capability but primarily just a big arbitrage $ generator under the cloak of “load shifting”

    A lot of games being played just to avoid building reliable power generation in the first place. and line the pockets of the anointed few.

  4. MPH says:

    It’s embarassing how little understanding most people have of what is relatively simple maths, but at the same time they feel sufficiently competent to comment on these sorts of things – things that are objective facts no less.

  5. Jonesy says:

    Beware! As soon as BigEars and AGL get their wishes…A brown coal station in LAtrobe valley and Baywater closed is the beginning of the end. The first day base load is wound back as clean green wind picks up is the trigger for a cascade disaster. Like SA. like Alice Springs but ALL of the east coast (Maybe, not QLD, if they can cut the two lines quick enough) will be plunged into a total shutdown requiring a black start. This example of stupidity will shine a spotlight on the glaring ineptitude of our leaders and like minded “Engineers”. There will be a total outage lasting days. Tomago and Portland will be gone forever. That little piece of knowledge…frequency control and generation against a load…is going to be indelibly inscribed into the brains of even the most simple among us. The two things that cannot EVER be done by intermittent generation..no matter how many boondoggle baubles are hooked up to it!

    Power generation is simple when it is all up and running. The inertial mass of all those generators maintains frequency. All those generators easily adjust their output against the rise and fall of the various load requirments during the day. It is only those peak times when everyone turns on the toaster or the jug of a morning or hits the jug on the first ad break in Home and Away that peak load generators are bought in…if not the load comes on too quick all those big generators cannot match the load and start slowing down, not only does the power voltage start dropping so does the frequency and this frequency signal can only be allowed to move by a couple of percent lest the system starts tripping out sets. The system crashes. Swap Home and Away for a wind farm that goes on its own ad break at a random time. IT INSTANTLY ADDS LOAD THAT IS THE DISASTER!

  6. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Origin Energy plans to develop a giant 700 megawatt battery at Eraring, Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, while France’s Neoen is preparing a 500MW battery stack dubbed the Great Western Battery Project at Wallerawang, home to the former EnergyAustralia coal station, which has now been decommissioned.

    The Wallerawang power station was rated at 1000 MW, so given these two batteries would routinely be run down about 80% of capacity, to protect their integrity, the billion dollars in batteries would deliver about as much as the power station could have done. For one hour.

    If they’d spent it on upgrading the power station it would’ve provided that 1000 MW for thirty years.

    I’m increasingly convinced that no one in the main political parties understands even basic arithmetic, let alone financial analysis.

  7. Jonesy says:

    PAH! batteries! Boondoggle Baubles introduced to try and paper over the lie. The bet is the wind will start blowing again within the hour timeframe. Unlike the “Predictability” of climate, wind is weather.

  8. Roger says:

    …big batteries are not supposed to handle wind droughts , or at least the qualified engineers in the system to not expect them to do so and it is unhelpful for people like Perry Williams to write about them as though they are genuine grid-scale storage.

    Engineers?

    Pfft…what would they know.

  9. miltonf says:

    You know Trumble told us that the laws of Australia are more important than the laws of mathematics.

  10. duncanm says:

    $1bn in batteries gives you some idea of the profit margin on the RE trough.

    I despair.

    I also blame the NSW energy minister – my local state member , and a dimwitted fool.

  11. Roger says:

    You know Trumble told us that the laws of Australia are more important than the laws of mathematics.

    A gem from the wit and wisdom of Maladroit Blight Trumble, Esquire; let it never be forgotten.

  12. Bad Samaritan says:

    OK, so we’re back to the Bootleggers and Baptists discussion from yesterday or the day before. In essence we have the white-shoe brigade manipulating useful idiots to enrich themselves, whilst the enablers in govt and finance take a fat cut of the taxpayer-funded largesse. What else is new?

    For those still not aware…….https://stopthesethings.com/2017/03/13/born-lucky-stars-align-perfectly-for-pms-son-with-mammoth-bet-on-wind-power-outfit-infigen/

    The guts of it….

    “Take Babcock & Brown which, having disintegrated in 2009, became Infigen.
    As an investment ‘prospect’, the Infigen story has been all about bleeding cash.
    It backed up a $55 million loss in 2011/12 with an $80 million loss in 2012/13 and kept losing money: booking a $9 million loss in 2013/14; and racked up a whopping $304 million loss in 2014/15……In the mother of all ironies, Infigen tried to brush off its monumental $304 million loss for 2014/15 by blaming “particularly poor wind conditions” (the pitch again appearing on the pages of that august journal, ruin-economy).”

    Read on for how Malcolm Turnbull’s son got rich as a result.

  13. Tom says:

    This is the true value of the Cat when the nation’s only surviving broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, now allows fascist opponents of free speech — the dregs of the journalism schools who infest its feedback forums as moderators — to censor readers’ th9oughts on the left’s technologically backward fashions like “renewable energy” — i.e., windmills, which farmers realised a century ago were so unreliable they were useful only for pumping water into troughs for livestock.

    With energy — as with its broader neverending struggle to subvert the dominant paradigm — the left’s only and overriding strategy is to obfuscate and muddy the waters of reality.

  14. Rusty of Qld says:

    Cheer up lads, the Socially Responsible Australian Shares (renewable energy) has earnings of 17.5205% YTD in the portfolio, someone has to get a few bucks out of it.

  15. TonyfromOz says:

    They’re building this, umm, ‘battery’ on the site of the Eraring power plant, which is closing down very very soon, thank you very much, well, in twelve YEARS anyway.
    Having been built at Eraring (coal fired power plant) umm, I wonder what power source they will they be using to charge the battery?
    You either charge the battery OR use the power for consumption. You cannot do both.
    The battery replaces Eraring, and well, what a bonus, they get to use all that already in place transmission lines. Win win.
    So, replace a 2880MW twenty four seven power source with a 700MW part time Power consuming battery, as the losses ensure that power out is less than power in.
    2880MW gone. 700MW replacement. Also sounds like a win win.
    So, when the charging source is gone, (Eraring closure) they will need to find the power to charge it from somewhere else then, eh!
    So, with wind power running at 29% CF, that’s 700MW multiplied by three so 2100MW, plus losses, so 2650MW of wind, six times larger than the biggest wind plant in the Country. Then they can’t use that wind power, because they need it to charge the battery.
    Oh stop it, my head hurts.
    Tony.

  16. cohenite says:

    You can never scale batteries up to replace fossil/nuclear powered grids:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/markpmills/2016/06/25/the-tesla-and-solar-city-merger-is-rooted-in-battery-derangement-syndrome/#2ee37a1b17fe

    Start with the grid and set aside economics. As Bill Gates accurately said we’re “more than a factor of 10 away from the economics to get [economic grid-scale storage].” Consider instead the quantity of batteries needed to achieve the Times vision of every home becoming a “miniature power plant” based on solar-battery systems that duplicate the reliable 24×7 power delivery of the ‘old’ grid. For this exercise we count all of the world’s lithium battery factories, not just the enormous $5 billion Tesla battery factory under construction in Nevada, the so-called “gigafactory” with its giga-subsidies of $1 billion.

    Global lithium battery factories collectively manufacture enough capacity to store 100 billion watt-hours (Wh) of electricity annually. Sounds like a big number, but here’s the rub: the world uses over 50,000 billion Wh every day, with America alone using about 10,000 billion Wh daily. To achieve the ‘pure’ green solar-battery vision, quite obviously each home needs on average at least 12 hours of storage any given day. (We’re being generous here ignoring issues like cloudy days.) Thus, do the math on what’s required to manufacture a total of 25,000 billion watt-hours of storage systems to hold that half-day’s worth of electricity: it would take 250 years of production from all of today’s global battery factories. Yes, we could build more factories, but these are very big systems with enormous capital costs that already use astronomical quantities of materials. It is an understatement to say a 100-fold kind of manufacturing expansion for an already huge industry would be a very heavy lift.

    Now consider the scale needed for batteries to replace gasoline. At any given moment the fuel tanks in more than 1 billion vehicles on the world’s highways and in garages hold about 10,000 million gallons of gasoline (and diesel). That quantity of energy expressed in electrical terms totals 400,000 billion watt-hours. If we reduce this to take into account the efficiency advantage of electric motors, typically 4x better than an engine at converting stored energy into motion, then one needs only 100,000 billion Wh of batteries. That’s a quantity 5x greater than the already massive number needed for the solar vision. This. Won’t. Happen.

  17. wal1957 says:

    cohenite
    #3722861 3:45 pm

    Good read.

    Response from a Gerbil Warming believer…
    yeah but…errrr…but…also there’s…errr…
    “Your killing the planet”!!!! Don’t you know about CO2!!?

    It’s similar to the response I sometimes get when I criticise Liebors policy on illegal immigrants.
    Typically it goes…’blah, blah, blah and you’re being a waaciiist!!!”

  18. Tel says:

    Yes the cost is high, I’ve always said as much, and the reliability is not good … given how much they cost.

    These things will improve with time, cost always comes down as technology matures. We are at the stage where mobile phones are the size of a house brick, and they run one analog channel, no data, and only the super wealthy can afford them. That all changed … eventually.

    If you are the first guy into these things what you really are doing is paying the development costs for the next guy. That’s what the Australian government is doing with our money … a massive R&D project … and an overpriced jobs program.

  19. Tel says:

    . As Bill Gates accurately said we’re “more than a factor of 10 away from the economics to get [economic grid-scale storage].”

    Bill also said that no computer will ever need more than 640k and he was wrong by four powers of 10. The average mobile phone has ten thousand times more memory than Bill Gates said was the limit.

  20. Rayvic says:

    “This is the true value of the Cat when the nation’s only surviving broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, now allows fascist opponents of free speech — the dregs of the journalism schools who infest its feedback forums as moderators — to censor readers’ th9oughts on the left’s technologically backward fashions like “renewable energy” .

    Thanks Tom for the clarification . It appears I am not the only one whose sometimes mildly anti-left feedback gets disallowed by the Oz’s forum ‘moderators’, i.e. censors.

  21. Rayvic says:

    Bruce of Newcastle: “I’m increasingly convinced that no one in the main political parties understands even basic arithmetic, let alone financial analysis.”

    The problem goes deeper: the MPs are capitulating to unaccountable bureaucratic groupthink that doesn’t understand basic arithmetic, let alone financial analysis.

  22. Dr Faustus says:

    Think of the load shifting contribution from the Tesla as a tributary flowing into the river of power in the SA grid.

    Think of load shifting as an opportunist supply waiting to be brought into the market for a couple of hours when base load can’t supply and renewables are not available – and the power price moves towards $14,000/MWh.

    Every few days in summer, once filthy Liddell is safely out of the way.

    Smartish guys gaming thick fuckers…

  23. Rob says:

    Nobody employed by the mainstream media can get anywhere near the level of understanding Australia’s electricity supply demonstrated by Cats on this site.
    Perry Williams should be reporting on flower shows or kindergarten concerts.

  24. Squirrel says:

    “The two batteries would rank as the largest storage devices in the world and over four times larger
    than the Tesla world-beating battery in South Australia”

    That’s the hype which will be used to sell this crap to the punters – it appeals massively to twits who like shiny new things and to the vanity of those (often the same group) who just love the idea of Straya leading the world (even if what it is leading in is shoot yourself in the foot idiocy).

    The difference between one-off storage capacity and 24/7 generation capacity will become apparent to these people when they’re freezing in the dark in winter, sweltering in summer, and stuck in lifts or locked out of the underground parking in their high-rise dogboxes and paying “surge pricing” to get a little bit of what used to be cheap and abundant – but as long as there’s a pretty little app on their phone to tell them how much they’re being gouged, they’ll be OK with it and tell themselves they’re saving the planet.

  25. Mike Ryan says:

    We’re not immune from this lunacy here in central Newcastle.

    Plans have been lodged to build a 28-megawatt battery storage system at Mayfield West.
    The development application lodged with City of Newcastle by Precinct Capital and Edify Energy proposes to build the project on approximately 0.6 hectares inside the Steel River Estate
    If approved it will be the first utility-scale battery storage system to be constructed within an existing industrial precinct. Precinct Capital chairman, Bruce Baudinet said the system had been designed to charge and discharge directly from the grid, responding to electricity market signals and disturbances to ensure stability and reliability of the grid as renewable energy penetration increases in coming years.
    “Deploying this battery in the heart of Newcastle’s industrial precinct will help balance the power system for the city, keeping the lights on for industry and households throughout the region,” he said.

    Directly from the grid?
    Local rag the Newcastle Herald have never seen a renewables project that they can be sceptical of or question the business case. There has not been a positive story about coal prosperity written in a decade.
    Free press my arse!

  26. Mike Ryan says:

    What happens to the spent cells? Nobody is talking about the battery lifecycle. In fact, MSM are deliberately avoiding this difficult question.

  27. John Bayley says:

    Precinct Capital chairman, Bruce Baudinet said the system had been designed to charge and discharge directly from the grid…

    I think the correct spelling of Bruce’s surname is ‘Bandit’, not ‘Baudinet’.

    On the above topic, I was under the impression that massive lithium ion batteries could be quite dangerous – especially when they catch on fire.

    The toxic fumes this produces are apparently quite capable of killing a fair few people.
    As Paul Homewood and his commenters discuss on his site.

  28. Mike Ryan says:

    Perry Williams continues to provoke wry and disbelieving comments

    The comments that are published.

  29. Aynsley Kellow says:

    Good post Rafe.

    What needs to be repeated is that batteries CONSUME energy in order to shift it in time. The usual ‘will power x number of houses’ is a complete lie. It should be ‘will consume the energy that could have powered x number of houses.’ They do not generate – they consume electricity in order to make it available at another time.

  30. RobK says:

    The usual ‘will power x number of houses’ is a complete lie.
    The batteries primarily ameliorate the high rate of change of energy flow that RE is often prone to.
    As Jonesy was pointing out; the fluctuations in RE supply are seen by the grid as a massive load, or a big load that rapidly disappears. Both these swings are problems in transmission engineering. Big batteries that are capable of only an hour or so of its associated RE source are only capable of buffering so that the transmission system can get tamer peaks and troughs of short time span ( minutes). It is avoiding some curtailment. Where there’s a lot of distributed RE, such as domestic and commercial PV, a local battery is required at higher RE penetration rates. This is so regardless of how many home batteries there are because there will still be times of glut when all the batteries are full. Conversely, when the home batteries are flat, they become a load. For this reason the AEMO wants to be able to control the output of all RE.
    There is no way, with present technology, to address the issues in a economic manner, given that coal and nuclear are ignored.
    The experiment continues.

  31. RobK says:

    Wind turbine output power is proportional to the cube of wind speed. This means that in gusty, fluctuating winds, there are massive surges on the grid.
    For those not familiar with solar output; a graph of output on a patchy cloud day looks like a porcupine with complete swings in output every few minutes. It’s a transmission nightmare.

  32. Splatacrobat says:

    Origin Engineer’s name was Arter,
    By God was he a farter,
    When the wind wouldn’t blow and the sun was low,

    They’d call Arter the farter to start her

  33. NoFixedAddress says:

    At what temperature does a battery explode?

  34. 2dogs says:

    If we are to use batteries, they should be located at the consumer.

    With centralised battery storage, on top of the normal battery inefficiency, you also get line losses. With consumer storage the line losses have already been had, so you have more effective capacity.

    Further, consumer storage allows customers to select the time of day when they would like to draw from the grid. This can makes spot pricing attractive.

    Spot pricing, in turn, will prompt consumers to consume electricity when it is cheap (e.g. I’ll run that clothes dryer at midday rather than early evening).

    Big, central batteries are the worst solution to the duck curve.

  35. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Fire hazard 2dogs. Teslas still are going up, despite theirs being very good batteries. Shonky Chinese batteries would be worse you’d think. A plague of house fires due to batteries would not go down well in voterland.

    U.S. safety board urges automakers to improve EV fire response guides (14 Jan)

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged automakers on Wednesday to improve electric vehicle emergency response guides that lack clear information and hamper efforts to extinguish lithium-ion battery fires.

    The recommendations follow a series of NTSB investigations into four Tesla electric vehicle battery fires on U.S. roads in 2017 and 2018, including three high-speed crashes in which the lithium-ion battery reignited after firefighters extinguished fires.

    The agency added that “in addition to hampering efficient extinguishing of high-voltage lithium-ion battery fires, the lack of clear, vehicle-specific firefighting information can lead to confusion or inadvisable action on the part of first responders.”

    Fireys are already concerned about roof-top PV, add a big battery and it would be even more hazardous.

    Solar panel fire season is all year round and it’s getting more intense in Australia (6 Jan)

  36. RJH says:

    “Perry Williams should be reporting on flower shows or kindergarten concerts.” – Rob think you are vastly overestimating Perry’s journalistic abilities, he’d be too busy seeking advice from those fairies at the bottom of the garden? He comes across as someone incapable of independent thinking for himself and/or yet again another example of the Lefts indoctrination/long march of the education system/journalism schools.

    If he was in any way fair dinkum in establishing journalistic truth he would be asking the Energy Ministers as to why they continue to sprout that Wholesale Energy prices have come down, then why have the Retail prices not also done the same? Or if the RE industry products which they say are so cheap/price competitive why does the Government need to inject Billions & Billions of taxpayer dollars each year into this carpetbagging industry?

  37. mundi says:

    Even the most basic of napkin calculations can tell you that Lithium batteries are a dead end.

    On the planet right now, sitting in fuel tanks for all different kinds of vehicles is about 400TWhours of energy in fuel.

    Even if these vehicles were electric, they would still need 100TWhours.

    To make 100TWhours of batteries would require 400,000,000 tones of lithium.

    There is only 58,000,000 known lithium reserves, and over half of those reserves are at a 10x increase in price to extract.

    EV’s ramp up, lithium prices will hold stubbornly high, as the mining becomes harder and harder.

    If you want to know how bad it is: Lithium has only dropped in price by 13% despite going from 5,000 tones per year to 100,000 tones per year.

    The ‘drops’ in battery prices are simply not going to happen. Lithium will drop in price probably for the next 10 years, by a small amount, maybe another 10%. After that it will flat line, and demand will flatline with it.

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