David Bidstrup guest post. The vexed question of energy storage.

The popular belief is that renewable energy can be made to “work” by using storage whereby excess capacity is used to charge something up, be it a battery, pumped hydro, compressed air storage or even the lifting and lowering of weights from storage “towers” and then releasing the “stored energy” when it is needed.As all politicians’ promise that they will rid us of the nasty fossil fuels and give us all clean green wind and solar I thought I would see what was involved in getting to this utopian place.

The process is a bit convoluted but bear with me.

The first step is to look at some actual data gleaned from AEMO records and find out the demand and the contribution to meeting that demand from nasty fossil fuels and lovely renewables. The only actual records I have are for 2018, (thanks to Andrew Miskelly), so they will have to do for this illustrative example. The records give the output of every generator in the system every five minutes so the files are large, (105,000 lines for one year), and take a bit of wrangling.

The studies below are based on full renewables to provide the electricity. The demand curve is just the total of all output for the various time periods as electricity is generated to meet demand. There is no “excess electricity” sloshing around waiting for something to use it.

After finding the combined output for wind and solar for the periods under investigation the next step is to scale them up to a point where there are periods of excess capacity to “charge something up” and periods where the stored power is used and hopefully balancing them up. The first example uses January 18 and 19 2018, days where the temperatures were high and demand also. In the chart below the black line is the total demand in MW and the shaded blue area is the output of combined wind and solar scaled up by a factor of 19. Any blue shaded area above the demand line represents MWh that can be “stored” as supply exceeds demand. Note that there are 288 time intervals for one day, (24X12). The clear areas below the demand curve are the times when “stored energy” needs to be released as supply is less than demand.

See here to get the picture.

DB The vexed question of storage

The wind and solar outputs are as they were on the actual days, but scaled up to find the level necessary to be able to “store” enough to cover the periods where demand exceeded output. In the example above the “stored energy” is about 207,000 MWh and the requirement to top up is about 195,000 MWh, so in the paddock. Note the amount to be stored, it is around 2,070 100 MWh batteries which cost about $100 million each. We also need 19 times as much wind and solar generating capacity as we had in 2018.
I then looked at some days in winter, 30 June and 1 and 2 July to see if the scale up was any different.

Here the “storage” was 496,000 MWh and the deficit was 345,000 MWh, so there needs to be 3,450 100 MWh batteries available to be “charged up”.

This analysis is illustrative only and uses data that is 3 years old but it shows the issues that we face if the future is hung on renewables and storage. The “supply” curves shown are actual data scaled up so the “intermittency/unreliability” of wind and solar is evident.
The management of a system that had to constantly balance storage and deficits on a daily basis would be fraught with complexity and it would not take much for the system to fall over completely, something like a week of wind drought for example.

I am sure that there are people who are smarter than me and who could wrangle the data better to get more definitive results but the issue of “storage” and the quantification of it is something I never hear about when the fanatics promise us the world for nothing.

This is not part of David’s post but I just found it in a recent search for Ruth Park books on Abe and it is quite appropriate to indicate the mindset of the RE groupies and their inventions. 

The Muddle-headed WOMBAT and the Invention: RUTH PARK ;

See also The Muddle-Headed Wombat does energy policy.

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59 Responses to David Bidstrup guest post. The vexed question of energy storage.

  1. duncanm says:

    Thanks David for doing this analysis… its exactly what’s needed.

    .. and then on top of that, there’s the dream of adding transport energy consumption – electric cars.

    From 2017-18, we see that road transport consumed about 1200PJ, roughly 50/50 petrol/diesel.

    Electricity supply/generation is about 1600PJ

    If we just consider the petrol vehicles (600PJ), that’s another 166,000 GWh of energy per year, about 30% on top of your figures.

    They’re dreaming of unicorn farts and rivers of chocolate.

  2. Muddy says:

    I cannot contribute anything of significance on this topic, however, if I may digress slightly, I find the concept of capacity an issue which seems to slip under the radar.

    At a café, I can pay for a large-sized cup for my caffeine hit, but if the barista who doesn’t want to be there only fills it to the 70% level, I’m not receiving what I paid for.

    A question/suggestion: Can you present the total dollar cost of battery storage as X number of ‘average income’ taxpayers working 12 months solely to pay for the aforementioned storage? i.e. 32, 456 Australian average-income earners will have to work 12 months … (I’m suggesting that presenting the cost in a more relatable format might garner more attention).

  3. chrism says:

    so we need to spend about 400 billion on batteries and ? 1 trillion on solar and wind and then we’ll have ‘free’ electricity for the current level of demand – cool – what could i get for 1.4 T in 30 year US T-bonds?

    or that is 56k per head or 120k per taxpayer?

    and the service cost is? 10k per year per taxpayer?

    so free electricity for each taxpayer for 10k per year

  4. Roger says:

    This analysis is illustrative only and uses data that is 3 years old but it shows the issues that we face if the future is hung on renewables and storage.

    It’s no longer if, it’s when.

    The QLD government, whose coal fired generators routinely help the eastern grid meet supply via the interstate interconnectors, has resolved to begin to close coal fired generators ahead of schedule in order to meet their 50% renewables by 2030 goal.

    We may just maintain enough base load supply to keep our lights on, with the aid of “demand management”, but I doubt there’ll be much excess power flowing through the interconnectors.

    Say, do you suppose these matters are discussed at the National Cabinet? Because ahead of us looms a greater disaster than covid-19, and this one defintely is man made.

  5. Roger says:

    And great post, David!

  6. duncanm says:

    Muddy,

    as David says, $100M/100MWh is about the cost.

    We need 3,500 of them – $350 billion dollars.

    That’s about $25k per tax payer – assuming 15M of them.

  7. Muddy says:

    Is it far-fetched to expect that a form of energy feudalism, where lower income individuals or households are supplied electricity by the benevolent grace of a regional ‘trickery baron, (in exchange for what? Their labour? Their vote?), may arise?

  8. Boxcar says:

    When we have built lots of widespread wind factories to capture the wind where it’s blowing, how does it get to the batteries? Are there network capacity problems?

  9. Muddy says:

    Thanks, duncanm.

    The price of a ticket in the reliability lottery is $25,000 then.
    Whether we personally approve of gambling, or not.
    It’s a selectively-applied infrastructure tax, correct?

  10. Roger says:

    That’s about $25k per tax payer – assuming 15M of them.

    On a regularly recurring basis, given the limited life of batteries.

  11. Jonesy says:

    Where is the “excess” power coming from to charge up the batteries to supply power when in deficit? If this excess power is from wind and/or solar why is it excess? Excess ruinables means that a coal or gas fired plant MUST be turned down to use the “excess” ruinable power…I ask again..where is the power coming from to charge up the batteries if all the power generated is being used to keep the lights on?

    Unicorn farts indeed!

    Back when all this started to gather momentum, I was and and still am of the opinion that ruinable power must never be used anywhere in the grid. The only time ruinable power can ever be used is to pump water uphill or charge a battery. Once this stored energy is in place then and only then can these operators BID to SUPPLY the stored power in peak demand. Stiff penalties apply for non-delivery. The issue is even using ruinable energy to pump/charge up energy storage is hard slog because the power is too intermittent to run the pumps for hydro or raise potential to charge a battery bank.

    The travesty is the alteration of the laws of supply and demand to give primacy to ruinables above all others, Ruinables can never bid for supply, ruinables can never be relied upon to be ready to supply when required.

    A catch22? When do I start bombing my own airfield because the economics stack up?

  12. Muddy says:

    Off-topic, sorry, but considering energy security from a physical security perspective, let’s hypothesize the consequences should one or more of these battery mega-banks be substantially tampered with or destroyed. Say there’s a battery mega-bank in each state, and those banks in two of the eastern states are sabotaged and are non-functional until full replacement becomes available. Those two states will need to draw their electrickery from the mega-bank of another state/s (assuming there are now no coal-fired generators).

    Whether from external, or malicious internal actors, the insecurity of our electrical grid has the potential to be taken advantage of, and incur enormous economic damage. To increase this structural insecurity is reckless.

  13. Squirrel says:

    Bit of a problem here – this may by why Bill Gates has been saying for some time that nuclear is the only realistic option.

    The climate crusaders only want us to “follow the science” in relation to climate change, not in relation to energy solutions – on the latter, they are going for faith-based initiatives.

  14. Best way to store energy is in a pile of coal.
    High energy density, stable, easy to handle with no special requirements.

    Second best way to store energy is in the form of uranium fuel elements.
    They have even higher energy density, but more stringent storage requirements.

    After that fuggetaboutit.

  15. NoFixedAddress says:

    JoNova has a good post on the US Sovereign Electoral Fraud – https://joannenova.com.au/2021/03/expert-criminal-profilers-talk-about-sovereign-scale-vote-fraud-in-the-us/

    Our Political “system” is engaged in Sovereign Power Supply Fraud.

    And yes, good post David.

  16. RobK says:

    Regarding storage such as batteries; much of the time they will not be able to be used to the nameplate energy capacity because sometimes they will need to reverse flow on short notice to enhance stability. In corollary, the owners desire to maximise arbitrage will never approach perfect so a fudge factor is required. It isn’t small.

  17. Rex Anger says:

    Best way to store energy is in a pile of coal.
    High energy density, stable, easy to handle with no special requirements.

    Second best way to store energy is in the form of uranium fuel elements.
    They have even higher energy density, but more stringent storage requirements.

    And they are not hard to liberate energy from.

    (I will confess, however that uranium does not clinker anywhere near as badly as coal does…)

  18. 132andBush says:

    Great post.

    At the risk of appearing conspiratorial I think it’s high time the funding for any group pushing for ‘renewable energy’ is subjected to some serious scrutiny.
    How much CCP money going to these groups?

  19. Rafe Champion says:

    A comment on RenewEconomy today,
    What happens when there is a prolonged wind drought with next to no RE at breakast and dinnertime? Transmission lines won’t help when there is no spare RE anywhere.
    South Australia has been importing at breakfast and dinner practically every day over the last two months, gas can contribute as much as wind but they are still depending on coal power from Victoria, what happens when that is not available. If the wind-leasing state can’t run on RE alone, what can we expect for the rest of the country?

    Under this piece about NSW forging ahead boldly towards net zero.

  20. duncanm says:

    .. and this is what shits me no end.

    If there was one numerate MP in the place, they have renewballs on the ropes.

    They’re either stupid, or in on the fix. I strongly suspect the latter.

  21. Tel says:

    Note the amount to be stored, it is around 2,070 100 MWh batteries which cost about $100 million each.

    Yes … it may not be a perfectly accurate calculation but close enough.

    I’ve said it a plurality of times. The big problem is cost … there’s plenty of room in Australia for those batteries but no one wants to pay for them. The additional problem is reliability … in a hot country Lithium is a fire hazard … and the best batteries only have perhaps 5000 full charge cycles before they give up.

  22. egg_ says:

    Say, do you suppose these matters are discussed at the National Cabinet? Because ahead of us looms a greater disaster than covid-19, and this one defintely is man made.

    Present day numpties won’t be around then?

  23. Muddy says:

    The elites have informed us we are transitioning to a knowledge economy, and following Covid 19, no doubt there will be ‘incentives’ (higher petrol excise, higher car registration costs, etc.) to base our employment at home. How will a more unreliable electricity grid help with the new stay-in-your-own-box paradigm?

  24. Muddy says:

    Tel says:
    … in a hot country Lithium is a fire hazard …

    Apropos my comment above regarding physical infrastructure security: An extreme-far-right-wing-radical-extremist may not find it too challenging to sabotage a battery mega-bank or four? (Not that they’d be stacked loosely outside, beneath a blue tarp flapping in the breeze, but the concern is still valid).

  25. egg_ says:

    The elites have informed us we are transitioning to a knowledge economy, and following Covid 19, no doubt there will be ‘incentives’ (higher petrol excise, higher car registration costs, etc.) to base our employment at home.

    Back to the serfdom of the middle ages?

  26. wal1957 says:

    How will a more unreliable electricity grid help with the new stay-in-your-own-box paradigm?

    I think at the very least we will all have to learn how to use an abacus for calculation purposes and smoke signals for our communications.

  27. Muddy says:

    Hence my question about the possibility of energy feudalism above, egg.

    Certainly society will be more stratified, and one of the definitions of wealth will become access to affordable electricity (not just domestically, but in regards to running a small business also).

    I think that the concept of energy feudalism is one that has the potential to spearhead a sharpening of our pro-growth, pro-health, reliable energy message, backed by evidence-based research such as in this article. Fact-checking as a sole tactic rarely works from a defensive position.

  28. egg_ says:

    Hence my question about the possibility of energy feudalism

    What you describe sounds like Third World cottage industries, working from home.
    Even today in Japan a lot of electronic componentry is assembled in this manner, e.g. farmers wives subsidising their family’s small plots, only we wont have the small plots, being mere “knowledge worker” slaves at home.

  29. Rob says:

    By 2050 we will have ample evidence (as if we don’t have it already) that global warming / climate change is part of the natural cycling that the the world has been experiencing for millions of years.
    We are suffering under civilisation’s greatest ever con job.

  30. Rex Anger says:

    Environmental Marxism is what you’re looking for Rob.

    Economic Marxism didn’t work. Racial Marxism has not been anywhere near as successful as our putative rulers would desire. So now Sexual and Environmental Marxism are today’s weapons of choice.

    And both of those seem to be sputtering loudly, despite their apparent success.

    So we might see the stooges and ideologues cycle BACK to Economic Marxism and start again in a decade or two…

  31. Lazlo says:

    Batteries are not a vexed question. They are bollocks.

  32. Mike Ryan says:

    Batteries must be replaced on a regular basis. The cells must be disposed of responsibly until a viable recycling program exists. Tesla recycle their failed production cells – straight into a furnace. Use 80% as a baseline and remember battery chemistry is expensive and faces potential shortages if Lithium supplies fluctuate.
    But at least we have pumped hydro in Tassie – “The Battery of a Nation”.
    Thanks Scotty ; – )
    Thorium – now that’s the future.

  33. Herodotus says:

    The ruinables boosters – and that includes our governments – prefer “truth over facts” (hat tip Joe Biden).
    We live in the Era of Giant Frauds.

  34. Batteries must be replaced on a regular basis. The cells must be disposed of responsibly

    Even the best of them, like the ones on the ISS.

    2.9-ton battery pallet becomes largest object discharged from space station (15 Mar)

    Mission controllers in Houston commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release an external pallet loaded with the 2.9 tons of nickel-hydrogen batteries into Earth’s orbit Thursday morning.

    “It is safely moving away from the station and will orbit Earth between two to four years before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere,” NASA said in a statement.

    There’s a bit of concern about that last statement since it’s quite a large compact package. Don’t stand underneath!

  35. Herodotus says:

    On a slightly related topic (one that I would prefer not to cast into the cesspit of the open forum until it is cleansed of dirty trolls) here’s an interesting article on the rare earth saga, which China has had the lead on for some time. It’s not the rareness of the ore that’s the limiting factor, but the refining of it and the environmental issues that arise.
    Since so many current technologies need these refined products (including windmills and batteries) it’s a topic worth looking at. China might not retain that lead if refining can be ramped up elsewhere, since the ore can be found in various places, including Australia.
    American Thinker.

  36. Herodotus says:

    There’s an article at News.com.au about Australia’s potential for supply of rare earths to the “Quad” countries, but the page crashed my iPad so no link. Easy to find however.

  37. Ragu says:

    On these numbers, governments will have to find excess capacity in taxpayers for a doubling of income tax rates just for the installation costs. Ponzi immigration can’t move fast enough cover that

  38. Ben says:

    If we continue down this 100% renewables path I wonder if the demand for diesel powered home backup generators will soar, effectively wiping out any ‘gains’ made in carbon emission reduction.

  39. Vagabond says:

    This is a terrific video of a gas turbine power plant. It’s no substitute for proper base load generation but at least it’s better and more reliable better than unicorn farts.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD2-auVioyU

  40. Australia’s potential for supply of rare earths

    BHP’s Olympic Dam mine contains enough REE for the entire world for 500 years at current rates. Over 80 million tonnes of REO. By far the biggest deposit anywhere. They don’t even bother recovering them, it would trash prices immediately.

  41. Forester says:

    Of course your power demand will be ‘managed’ at the whim of your local Electrical Trade Union member with his hand over the off button on your household ‘smart’ electricity and gas meters. Those demand peaks on the chart are illusory, you will not be permitted air conditioning or winter heating.

    They know what’s best for you.

    I still haven’t heard from the one true journalist in this country asking Matt Kean
    will he categorically rule out a ban on household backup diesel generators?

    I expect our Yoof’s support of renewable energy will last only until the end of the second day of cold showers.

  42. Spurgeon Monkfish III says:

    the demand for diesel powered home backup generators will soar

    Until they’re banned, the cost of diesel soars, or both.

    What people need to realise is the true greenfilth agenda – they don’t want anyone they consider inferior to them to have access to electrickery. Those greenfilth within the politico/bureaucratic class know full well that roonables do not work.

    They are year zero luddites who hate civilization and want to dismantle it, so that they can lord it over the peasants that haven’t starved or been purged in various other ways.

    Evil people, just the worst.

  43. Spurgeon Monkfish III says:

    “will he categorically rule out a ban on household backup diesel generators?”

    Why would he? That loathsome greenfilth slag would be perfectly aware of the perverse results if the proles started using diesel generators en masse.

    You’re talking about a bunch of misanthropic arseholes who were just recently considering banning the use of indoor fireplaces, something they or labore and the greenfilth will eventually do regardless. Not to mention that labore and the greenfilth also want to ban household gas appliances (and how long until the gliberals excitedly leap onto that blandwagon?).

    There will come a point when these vile destructive arseholes are on the receiving end of the long overdue implementation of HOP Time. I just hope I’m around to see it.

  44. Andre Lewis says:

    Astronomical costs noted here are only to set up a renewables plus batteries system. Missing is another enormous cost of maintaining both wind and solar technology and replacing it every 15 years or so; ditto for the bloody batteries.

  45. rickw says:

    How about we store the energy in chains made of Carbon and Hydrogen molecules?

  46. Forester says:

    rickw says at 11:36 am
    “How about we store the energy in chains made of Carbon and Hydrogen molecules?”

    Imagine if we could just dig it up cheaply from underground! and in converting it to useful energy the byproduct made our trees grow faster while using less water!

    How’s that for triple bottom line accounting, Win, win, win!

  47. rickw says:

    This is a terrific video of a gas turbine power plant. It’s no substitute for proper base load generation but at least it’s better and more reliable better than unicorn farts.

    Reciprocating engines are terrible for stationary purposes because they’re operation entails them hammering themselves apart.

    Gensets using small gas turbines (maybe turbocharger based?) for home power generation?

    The only option for the moment is personal solutions until the idiocracy manages to cause a massive and prolonged power outage.

  48. Kneel says:

    “In the example above the “stored energy” is about 207,000 MWh and the requirement to top up is about 195,000 MWh…”

    It’s not just MW and MW/h – the grid also need FCAS.
    Frequency Control and Ancillary Services.
    Without that, the grid collapses regardless of being able to match generation and demand in MW, because each generator “moves” slightly in frequency and/or phase, causing massive power flows that reduce the power able to be supplied to the actual consumer of that power.
    It’s not unusual for a 2GW power station to be “consuming” (or “supplying”) 100MW in “synchronising power”.
    If there is insufficient FCAS, generators “push/pull” each other and a cascade of failure ensues, where each failure makes the system more unstable and eventually results in a “black” grid (ie, total grid failure). This is, in actual fact, what happens when demand exceeds generation – generators “slow down” under the extra load, then need to consume power to get them back in phase with the rest of the grid, essentially increasing demand even more, causing other generators to slow, which need synchronising power to “fix”… it quickly spirals downward as more and more generators either trip off-line for self preservation or consume massive amounts of synchronising power.

    It is worth noting that most renew-a-bubble generators in our current system do NOT provide FCAS at all – hydro being a significant exception. That is one reason why AEMO curtails renew-a-buble inputs and requires a significant amount of “rotating” generation to be on-line at all times (a 600+MW turbine and generator is bloody big and heavy, and does not like to change speed).

    But even ignoring that (at your peril!), we also need “headroom” or “spinning reserve” – this is where we need 2GW, but have 2 x 2GW power stations, one at 1.5GW and the other at 0.5GW, so if something fails and a generator trips off, it’s fairly quick to “ramp up” generation to cover the gap. This, along with duplicated and physically separated transmission lines is part of our grid “gold plating” – it doesn’t exist just to waste money, it’s there for a reason and that reason is reliability. We have been most fortunate that for the last 40 years at least, we have not had a significant grid-scale blackout other than the debacle in SA not long ago. If we keep on the renew-a-bubbles path, one will happen eventually unless we are very, very lucky – and trusting to luck is hardly a “plan”.

  49. Just a quick question on the Renewables battery:
    Has anyone calculated how much energy would be released over what time frame if someone were to detonate a .57 kg block of C4 against one of the banks of batteries, would it lead to the release of the entire energy stored in the facility?
    I hope this scenario has been fully considered by the designers of the facility.

  50. rickw says:

    Has anyone calculated how much energy would be released over what time frame if someone were to detonate a .57 kg block of C4 against one of the banks of batteries, would it lead to the release of the entire energy stored in the facility?
    I hope this scenario has been fully considered by the designers of the facility.

    I believe a humble .22 would do the job. Once you’ve created a single short, the batteries take care of themselves. Plenty of videos of lithium battery / faults / shorts around. Exciting stuff.

  51. another ian says:

    “Reciprocating engines are terrible for stationary purposes because they’re operation entails them hammering themselves apart.”

    I’d better not show that statement to the Southern Cross engine on one of our bores-installed 1940 and as far as the local fixer knows hasn’t been overhauled so far.

    A friend’s Lister lighting plant racked up around 58.000 hours before the SWER line arrived

  52. duncanm says:

    Forester says:
    March 19, 2021 at 11:11 am
    Of course your power demand will be ‘managed’ at the whim of your local Electrical Trade Union member with his hand over the off button on your household ‘smart’ electricity and gas meters

    too right — which is exactly why I’ve stuck with my spinning discs.

  53. Vagabond says:

    Whenever I encounter some ignorant renewable energy advocate I amuse myself by casually asking them to explain the difference between energy and power and what units are used to measure them. The result is usually a stunned and embarrassing silence and the conversation goes elsewhere. The almost universal lack of understanding of these basic concepts tells you all you need to know about our betters and the standard of debate on this issue.

    Until we experience third world levels of blackouts and rationing there will not be any serious attempts to restore sanity to the electricity supply industry. I say bring it on, by encouraging electric vehicle use and “renewables” as quickly as possible. The downside is that even once that happens, it will take years to correct the damage that has already been done. You can’t construct a base load thermal power station overnight.

  54. Nato says:

    It’s like a slow-motion napalming of igorance. Who could be bothered to read it?

  55. Tel says:

    Gensets using small gas turbines (maybe turbocharger based?) for home power generation?

    Colin Furze and the turbocharged BBQ!!!

    http://www.colinfurze.com/turbojet-engine.html

  56. Muddy says:

    I guess we’re assuming that all of the batteries we require (plus replacements), will be easily produced and purchased?
    Battery World?

    And if there is a big Whoosh! (Whoomph?), we can call Uber Batteries for a 60 minute-or-less delivery of the new mega-bank?

  57. Dot says:

    Just remember.

    Neutrons are electrically neutral but have magnetic charge.

    Some boffin will unlock nuclear power and neutron flow to make ICE and renewables seem like primitive rain dances.

  58. Dot says:

    Sorry

    Not magnetic charge.

    Nuclear magnetic spin.

  59. Kneel says:

    “…casually asking them to explain the difference between energy and power…”

    And that’s before you mention VARs and waveform distortions.

    In many areas (factories etc), electric motors mean the load is inductive, while in other areas (data centres, office buildings etc) the load is not only capacative, but also only “on” around the voltage peak.

    Inductive or capacative loads need to be “corrected” to ensure voltage and current are in phase or the meter will read a lower amount of consumption than actual usage – that correction consumes (“wastes”) power.
    Waveform distortion (only drawing power at peak voltage, eg) creates massive eddy losses in transformers, essentially de-rating their nominal VA rating (they get hotter for the same average load).

    With the switch to the high efficiency and low weight of “switchmode” power supplies (phone chargers, PCs, TV’s, “inverter” A/C systems, LED lighting etc), waveform distortion is on the rise as a significant “system” loss – what you “save” in using “less” energy with these systems is mostly squandered at the system level “adjusting” the system to cope. In the end, you will pay the same amount or even more to do the same thing, despite the increased efficiency of your end device.

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