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Guardian’s Energy Storage Delusion

June 18, 2020

By Paul Homewood

 

 

The Guardian has finally caught up with the story AEP was peddling a year ago!

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Construction is beginning on the world’s largest liquid air battery, which will store renewable electricity and reduce carbon emissions from fossil-fuel power plants.

The project near Manchester, UK, will use spare green energy to compress air into a liquid and store it. When demand is higher, the liquid air is released back into a gas, powering a turbine that puts the green energy back into the grid.

A big expansion of wind and solar energy is vital to tackle the climate emergency but they are not always available. Storage is therefore key and the new project will be the largest in the world outside of pumped hydro schemes, which require a mountain reservoir to store water.

The new liquid air battery, being developed by Highview Power, is due to be operational in 2022 and will be able to power up to 200,000 homes for five hours, and store power for many weeks. Chemical batteries are also needed for the transition to a zero-carbon world and are plummeting in price, but can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods.

Liquid air batteries can be constructed anywhere, said Highview’s chief executive, Javier Cavada: “Air is everywhere in the world. The main competitor is really not other storage technologies but fossil fuels, as people still want to continue building gas and coal-fired plants today, strangely enough,” he said.

The UK government has supported the project with a £10m grant. The energy and clean growth minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “This revolutionary new facility will form a key part of our push towards net zero, bringing greater flexibility to Britain’s electricity grid and creating green-collar jobs in Greater Manchester.

“Projects like these will help us realise the full value of our world-class renewables, ensuring homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy, even when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing,” he said.

The UK government is being urged to make the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic a green one. “We owe it to future generations to build back better,” said the prime minister, Boris Johnson, recently, while the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is reported to be planning a “green industrial revolution”.

Alex Buckman, an energy storage expert at the Energy Systems Catapult group, said polluting gas power plants were the main way the UK electricity grid was balanced. But a net zero carbon system would need more than the 30% renewable energy of today and therefore more storage.

“There is likely going to be a need for one or more of the medium-to-long duration electricity storage technologies to fill a gap in the market, and liquid air energy storage (LAES) is right up there as an option,” he said. Pumped hydro is limited by the need for a mountain reservoir, while gravity storage – where you raise a weight and then let it drop to power a generator – is less developed, as is large-scale production of hydrogen fuel from green energy.

“The combination of being more developed and more scalable provides LAES with an opportunity to be competitive, if they can prove that they can reduce costs with increased scale,” Buckman said.

The Highview battery will store 250MWh of energy, almost double the amount stored by the biggest chemical battery, built by Tesla in South Australia. The new project is sited at the Trafford Energy Park, also home to the Carrington gas-powered energy plant and a closed coal power station.

The project will cost £85m, and Highview received £35m of investment from the Japanese machinery giant Sumitomo in February. The liquid air battery is creating 200 jobs, mainly in construction, and employing former oil and gas engineers, with a few dozen in the continuing operation. The plant’s lifetime is expected to be 30-40 years. “It will pass to the next generation,” said Cavada.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/18/worlds-biggest-liquid-air-battery-starts-construction-in-uk

 

As with AEP’ Telegraph articles, for instance here, Damien Carrington shows his utter lack of understanding about what storage systems such as this actually work. (Why, by the way, do “Environmental Editors, such as Carrington and Harrabin, even get the job of reporting on energy matters, for which they are totally unqualified to talk about?)

So let’s look more closely at Highview’s claims.

 The new liquid air battery, being developed by Highview Power, is due to be operational in 2022 and will be able to power up to 200,000 homes for five hours, and store power for many weeks. Chemical batteries are also needed for the transition to a zero-carbon world and are plummeting in price, but can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods.

This is a grossly dishonest claim, Mr Carrington.

Chemical batteries can store power for just as long as Highview’s system. However, you are right that chemical batteries can only store relatively small amounts of electricity. What you have not got the gumption to realise is that exactly the same is true of Highview’s supposed ground breaker.

The claim about “number of homes” is as ever a red herring, though five hours should give the game away!

As I revealed last October, this new Highview plant will store only 250 MWh. This, as anyone with the slightest knowledge of the power system will tell you, is a pitifully small amount. On a normal day, demand is close to 1 million MWh, so you would need 4000 Highviews to cover that if we did not have proper backup capacity for when renewables were not producing.

And, of course, the system would need time to recharge the next day, which would be impossible without surplus renewable power available.

Carrington compares Highview with mountain pumped storage. But Dinorwig can store 9.1 GWh of energy, thirty six times as much. Even so, all of the pumped storage in the UK still only provides half a percent of our electricity.

Highview themselves admit that their system cannot fill the gap when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. It will simply help with short term balancing of the grid, typically for an hour so so, just in the same way other small scale peakers do, such as OCGT, diesel engines and batteries:

 

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https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2019/10/22/aeps-energy-storage-delusions/

 

Sadly, the likes of Carrington, Harrabin and Evans Pritchard, are so fanatical in their obsession with renewables, that they only see what they want to see.

Interestingly, this project will cost £85 million for 50MW of storage. If wind farms had to pay this cost for every 50MW of capacity, I doubt whether any would be built!

25 Comments
  1. Joe Public permalink
    June 18, 2020 10:17 pm

    “On a normal day, demand is close to 1 million MWh, so you would need 4000 Highviews to cover that if we did not have proper backup capacity for when renewables were not producing.”

    GB’s Wind generation over the past 7 days:

  2. Ray Sanders permalink
    June 18, 2020 10:19 pm

    Although a few years old now the link below was written by a power engineer (and former colleague of mine) Andy Dawson, who certainly knows what he is talking about.
    If “decarbonising” the electricity grid was really the issue, his suggestion sorts that out with effectively no grid reinforcements and certainly no batteries (or shit like liquid air) required.
    Shame the Euan Mearns blog has gone quiet of late.
    http://euanmearns.com/decarbonising-uk-power-generation-the-nuclear-option/

  3. June 18, 2020 10:38 pm

    High costs, low performance – par for the course in fanciful but ineffective green energy projects.

  4. Gamecock permalink
    June 18, 2020 10:58 pm

    ‘will be able to power up to 200,000 homes for five hours’

    What is that in Hiroshima bombs?

    ‘Chemical batteries are also needed for the transition to a zero-carbon world and are plummeting in price’

    [citation needed]

    ‘but can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods’

    Dude, five hours from ‘liquid air battery’ is a short period when wind can be out for days.

    IOW, it gives you NOTHING. The investment is foolish on its face. It replaces nothing.

    Net Zero Electricity 2050.

  5. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 18, 2020 11:22 pm

    “Interestingly, this project will cost £85 million for 50MW of storage. If wind farms had to pay this cost for every 50MW of capacity, I doubt whether any would be built!”

    If the capacity factor for a 3MW windmill is a generous 40%, you need another 2 additional windmills to have the spare capacity to store as cooled liquid air (75% efficient) and 43MWh of said capacity, for a continuous 3MW supply.

    But of course that would only work in an impossibly idealistic situation, so it would still massively fail to provide a continuous 3MW from 9MW of windmills.

    But anyway, in that impossible ideal situation their 250MWh system will not even be quite enough to allow 18 3MW windmills to provide the full time equivalent of 6 (18MW).

    I think I got that right! Anyway, it’s madhouse economics/an insane engineering solution.

    • Joe Public permalink
      June 19, 2020 11:31 am

      Cartoon: 🤣🤣🤣

  6. Gamecock permalink
    June 19, 2020 12:16 am

    The problem with wind/solar is that they are weather dependent, hence can be out for days.

    The renewabletards know this is a problem. They act like, “Oh, this can easily be fixed with storage.” When, of course, no it can’t. It’s grossly impractacle to have enough storage to cover the potential outage of wind/solar.

    Guardian acts like this liquid air battery is relevant. But, more importantly, the story is part of a long stream of puff pieces to get people to believe that wind/solar can actually provide your electricity. This isn’t really about the battery. It’s about getting people to believe in unicorns.

  7. Graeme No.3 permalink
    June 19, 2020 12:29 am

    Here in South Australia the largest battery is located at a windfarm and made money by storing some of the output of the wind farm when the selling price was low, and releasing it when the price was higher. (For all that, no other wind farm is installing one — HINT: no more government grants of 70% of the cost). But its major source of income was very short term frequency stabilisation. You might have seen articles “Big battery saves the grid”. The local grid owner is installing large synchronous condensers for frequency stabilisation. Measured in seconds. Cost $A160 million.

    Germany had a compressed air storage scheme, supposedly 60% efficient. We had a company wanting to install one here in an abandoned and flooded mine shaft. The water cooled the compressed air going to the storage and warmed it up as it was released, but again it failed to proceed. This at least avoided the problem that this Highview scheme may have. How will they store the heat from compressing and liquifying the air?

    Perhaps this scheme would be best installed at Highgate not Highview.

    • Duker permalink
      June 19, 2020 5:27 am

      Great points , gets to real reasons which is arbitrage on the different prices for electricity through out the day or week.
      Sometimes when it comes to actually filling a serious grid shortage , the stored power could have been depleted to make regular income when prices were high but hadnt been recharged as the off peak prices remained too high.
      Its the same issue Brisbane had with its flood protection dam which played secondary role as water supply , thus when the heavy rains came as they do in summer , the dam was near full so any flood retention was impossible as gates were opened wide to spill excess water and added to peak river flows.

      • OldFogey permalink
        June 19, 2020 8:57 am

        Graeme 3 and Duker – you’ve nailed it.
        – Arbitrage (charge it up at night from cheap – coal-fired – power, and sell it it when the price is right)
        – Frequency stabilisation – for a network destabilised by unpredictable renewables

        I saw (last year) the figures for profit, and this “battery” is a money-spinner for its owners ! Shame that the tax-payer / consumer pays for it all

    • RichardW permalink
      June 19, 2020 9:11 am

      >>How will they store the heat from compressing and liquifying the air?

      There’s actually no storage of energy in this scheme – rather it is a way of mopping up excess capacity (with the heat of liquefaction rejected to the atmosphere) and then later providing energy back to the grid by converting another source of energy (the atmosphere, or tellingly if you read their blurb, when associated with an industrial facility, what would otherwise be waste heat) back into electricity. If the atmosphere is the source, then it is some 20% efficient!!

  8. June 19, 2020 1:44 am

    “Sadly, the likes of Carrington, Harrabin and Evans Pritchard, are so fanatical in their obsession with renewables, that they only see what they want to see”

    Sadder yet is that goofball enthusiasm like this for non fossil fuel energy serves as the basis for energy policy.

  9. June 19, 2020 7:16 am

    The late Professor Sir David MacKay (Chief Scientific Adviser to the hen DECC) summed up the futility of energy storage in his book ‘Sustainable energy – without the hot air’ years ago. Successive governments have ignored all his excellent advice, hence the mess we are currently in.

    • June 19, 2020 8:06 am

      Nature solved the energy storage problem and gave us oil and gas and coal.

    • Vic Hanby permalink
      June 19, 2020 1:18 pm

      SEWTHA is an excellent book. In the Foreward a certain John Prescott (then in charge of DEFRA suggested everybody should read it. Seems like no-one has.

  10. Coeur de Lion permalink
    June 19, 2020 7:54 am

    The terrible thought is that all this is aimed at controlling global temperature in 2100AD. U.K. produces just over one per cent of global CO2. Dubious that CO2 controls temperature anyway. Virtue signalling unobserved by anyone. Pointless, futile, silly, impoverishing.

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 19, 2020 2:46 pm

      UK produces ~1% of the HUMAN PRODUCED CO2. Nature produces over 96%.

      “U.K. produces just under 0.04 per cent of global CO2.”

      Fixed it.

  11. mwhite permalink
    June 19, 2020 9:35 am

    The Guardian?

    “The Guardian faces push to shutdown from growing online petition
    25,099 views •17 Jun 2020”

  12. John Cullen permalink
    June 19, 2020 10:32 am

    As a retired electrical engineer I find it strange that when reading about renewable energy schemes I am increasingly comparing them to unicorns, so much so that I have been forced to look up the collective noun for unicorns. There are apparently three possibilities:-
    Blessing,
    Glory,
    Marvel.

    These seem singularly inappropriate terms for the renewable energy schemes I have encountered since they are certainly not a blessing (except perhaps for their investors); they are in no sense glorious (except as failures – although their investors may think differently), and the only marvel is that, in the West, our journalists and politicians (as egged on by the green-industrial complex) think they are worthy of support from the public purse.

    This fairy story is progressing badly, and we have not yet reached the beginning of the end. We still have much more to pay, I’m afraid!

    Regards,
    John.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      June 19, 2020 10:45 am

      Unicorns? More like a pile of Rocking Horse poop.

  13. Sobaken permalink
    June 19, 2020 10:42 am

    Have you considered writing a review of the IEA/IMF’s Sustainable Recovery Plan?

  14. Colin MacDonald permalink
    June 19, 2020 11:39 am

    Enough power to charge up about 3000 Tesla Model 3’s. Or £29000 per car.

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