You know the wind and solar industries are in trouble when they’re reduced to muttering about humongous batteries saving their bacon.
Around the world, renewable energy rent-seekers have been furiously peddling the myth that mega-batteries are a free and easy solution to the hopeless intermittency of weather-dependent wind and solar.
The line goes that giant banks of lithium ion cells can store ‘free and abundant’ wind and solar power, whenever the sun is up and the wind is blowing (just right). Then, at absolutely zero cost to power consumers, these monster grid-scale batteries can lovingly release groovy ‘green’ power at any time that businesses and households need it.
Back in 2017, South Australia, Australia’s wind power capital, squandered $150 million on one of Elon Musk’s creations, that would power the state for all of 4 minutes when the wind stops blowing and/or the sun goes down.
Giant lithium ion batteries are touted as the antidote to the inherent chaos that comes with attempting to rely on sunshine and breezes; bringing stability and security to a grid on the brink of collapse.
However, as Rafe Champion details below, claims by wind and solar worshippers that ‘big batteries will save us’ is just another humongous lie perpetuated by those with serious skin in the game.
Stop bragging about Big Batteries
7 December 2020
They are not grid-scale storage!
Big batteries have been springing up like mushrooms lately and one in Victoria is even described as humongous. Lucky Victorians! Ms D’Ambrosio said every dollar spent would have a $2 return for Victorians. She said the “humongous” battery was an important part of delivering on the state government’s plan to move to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Big batteries are one of the items in the Holy Trinity of strategies to fill in the gaps between the peaks of RE as the Integrated System Plan proceeds. The plan is to replace most of the current 20GW of coal capacity with some 40GW of wind and solar backed up by a humongous amount of firming capacity and storage.
The Holy Trinity is Transmission Lines, Batteries and Pumped Hydro. The problem with transmission lines, apart from the humongous cost is the need to have power to transmit and when the wind is low across the whole SE there is no spare wind power to send anywhere. Batteries are not grid-scale storage, and pumped hydro beyond the Snowy is hardly more than a silly joke in a dry continent or maybe something that could work in special locations off the grid.
As for big batteries, this is the story about what they can do and what they cannot.
Let’s put to bed two common misconceptions:
- The VBB will not store huge quantities of surplus energy generated by renewables on sunny, windy days, and release this back into the grid for days and days when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Its energy storage capacity is limited to at most a few hours’ worth of charging and release. Claims that such batteries will magically solve all the challenges of renewable generation variability and set us on a path to 100 per cent renewables tomorrow totally misconstrue the real roles that grid-scale batteries can effectively play.
- This limitation is largely irrelevant, because storing and time-shifting large quantities of energy isn’t remotely the justification for battery projects anywhere.