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Victoria’s Big Battery

July 31, 2021

By Paul Homewood

 

I mentioned the fire at Victoria’s new big battery project yesterday. It’s worth taking a closer look at its business case:

 

 

  image

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2021/07/30/teslas-big-battery-goes-up-in-smoke/

 

When the project was first announced last year, the Victorian Government claimed that it would help the state meet its renewable energy target of 50% by 2030. The Energy Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio said that the "humongous" battery was an important part of delivering on the state government’s plan to move to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

This myth is widely held, that batteries like this one can store power when the sun shines and the wind blows, and release it when renewable generation is low.

In fact the “Big Battery” is rated at 300 MW, and can only store 377 MWh of usable energy. Average load on the Australian grid is 30 GW. In other words, in theory it could supply Australian demand for less than a minute. This battery, and even many more like it, cannot store enough electricity to fulfil demand as claimed, for instance at night when there is no solar power.

The official fact sheet from the Victorian Government makes this clear:

image

 https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/renewable-energy/the-victorian-big-battery/the-victorian-big-battery-q-and-a

 

Its sole role is to provide short term balancing, to meet spikes in demand or sudden dips in generation, typically for just a few minutes until dispatchable generation can be brought on line. This is, of course, a vital component of any grid, and batteries can certainly play their part along with other small peaker generation, such as diesel and gas engines.

With this particular project, its main purpose is to enable the NSW-Victoria Interconnector to run nearer to full capacity, as the Business Case explains:

 

 image

https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/renewable-energy/the-victorian-big-battery

 

In other words, this battery project is a bit of a one off, to allow Victoria to make greater use of coal power from NSW!

 

The cost of the Big Battery is Au$12.5 million a year, index linked over its expected life of 11 years, ie Au$137.5 million at current prices, equivalent to £73 million. The Business Case expects a return on this investment, because of the value of the grid balancing it provides.

But what it will not do is store energy to cater for intermittent renewables.

For the record, Australia still gets 79% of its electricity from fossil fuels, and just 14% from wind and solar:

 

image

BP Energy Review

 

There is not the slightest evidence that the country can manage its grid on much a greater renewable share, regardless of what virtue signalling politicians may say.

FOOTNOTE

The Victorian Government fact sheet also states:

image

 

No comment!

39 Comments
  1. Frank Everest permalink
    July 31, 2021 11:43 am

    What all these battery enthusiasts forget is that after using the stored power, the grid (or wind farm, etc.) has to be used to refill the battery. So the other power sources are not available, while doing so, to be used for normal supply. Doh!

    • Ron Arnett permalink
      July 31, 2021 11:57 am

      Also, no one ever acknowledges what happens when you actually use the battery. They wear out over time. This is not a problem for your laptop because you just have to take it into account when planning your recharge.

      However, when you battery is intended to stabilize your grid by delivering x amount of power instantly for a specified duration, whether it actually can or can not perform is vitally important.

  2. Old Grumpy permalink
    July 31, 2021 12:00 pm

    Typo alert.
    £ sign in front of 137 million

  3. Mike Stoddart permalink
    July 31, 2021 12:15 pm

    You’ve removed my comment but you haven’t corrected the typo. Should be 137 m Australian dollars not £.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    July 31, 2021 1:54 pm

    “In fact the “Big Victorian) Battery” is rated at 300 MW, and can only store 377 MWh of usable energy.”

    “Its sole role is to provide short term balancing, to meet spikes in demand or sudden dips in generation, typically for just a few minutes until dispatchable generation can be brought on line.”

    Remember the “Big South Australian Battery” at Hornsdale? Its owners plug it as “100MW/129MWh”

    https://hornsdalepowerreserve.com.au

    However, “Of the 100MW capacity, 70MW is reserved for system security services contracted to the South Australia government, while Neoen can use the remaining 30MW and 119MWh of storage capacity to participate in market opportunities.”

    https://www.energy-storage.news/news/undeniable-success-south-australias-129mwh-tesla-battery

    So as far as grid-capacity support is concerned, it’s less than 4 hrs at 30MW discharge rate.

    They’re ‘sold’ to politicians and the gullible as storage solutions, when in fact their core duty is stabilising unstable wind generation.

    • Duker permalink
      August 1, 2021 7:13 am

      Yes, the interconnectors dont want to supply their stable power to a separate unstable grid.

      Recent storms outside Melbourne , the strong winds brought down power lines amoung the upper middle class who like to live ‘surrounded by nature’ and big trees. This could be some weeks before power was restored
      Those with rooftop solar panels and home batteries thought ‘at last’ I can continue life much as before. The reality hit after about a day as their battery fully discharged, thats how long it lasted in winter with reduced daylight and no grid recharging. Even when the sun came out the battery wouldnt recharge from the solar panels at all, as a ‘dead start’ required stable grid power.
      Now this major grid battery fail…who would have guessed

  5. July 31, 2021 2:13 pm

    Big Battery = last resort of the desperate.

  6. Gamecock permalink
    July 31, 2021 2:52 pm

    Wind/solar are not fit for purpose, because of intermittency.

    The battery schtick is to get people to believe than wind/solar CAN work. It’s not just virtue signaling (getting your picture taken with Elon Musk), it is technology signaling. Completely plastic-banana fake.

    • markl permalink
      July 31, 2021 4:16 pm

      +1 Most people reading about the battery farm assume it’s usable grid power when the sun goes down or the wind stops. The intent of the MSM is to foster that image.

      • David Wojick permalink
        July 31, 2021 6:24 pm

        One US utility boasted that with their big (actually tiny) new battery people could eat dinner by solar.

  7. July 31, 2021 3:05 pm

    I wonder how long it will take to clear up all the pollution and mess (recycled batteries anyone) and then test all the other battery facilities (very carefully with the fire authority on close standby no doubt).

    No wonder the MSM is keeping quiet about it.

    • Curious George permalink
      July 31, 2021 4:24 pm

      What is the argument for lithium and not lead-acid?

      • tomo permalink
        July 31, 2021 6:42 pm

        https://batteryuniversity.com/

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        July 31, 2021 6:56 pm

        Li-ion is sexier? Musk needs to find a use for all those Gigafactories because he’s not selling enough cars?

        I’ve been reading about the UAE who have had 648MWh of NaS (sodium sulphur) batteries in operation since 2019 apparently. In an industrial park in Abu Dhabi. Since these things contain molten sodium and sulphur at over 300C, I hope the containment is a bit tougher than Mr Musk’s efforts!

        NGK claim to have installed over 4000MWh worldwide. They claim they are a similar price to Li-ion, similar efficiency, longer lasting and easily recycled. How come they don’t get a mention anywhere?

      • JCalvertN permalink
        July 31, 2021 8:44 pm

        This doesn’t answer your question, but you might find it interesting. https://youtu.be/ftMxCehD08U

  8. David Wojick permalink
    July 31, 2021 6:28 pm

    The world’s biggest battery array to date is 1200 MWh in California, ironically built on a shut down fossil fuel generation plant site because the wires are there. It would power the CA grid for 108 seconds at peak demand. Enough time to hopefully find a flashlight.

    • tomo permalink
      July 31, 2021 6:50 pm

      The Chinese Communist Party are going to make a fortune from diesel generators.

      I see having a backup generator is getting quite fashionable in the land of fruits and nuts.

      I wonder when the revolt will happen and people start collaborating to circumvent the eejit officials and their supposed bosses the politicians.

      I wonder how many politicians from CA have a backup set funded by their congressional / senatorial expenses? I mean … it’d be a shame if all Nancy’s ice cream melted.

  9. Chris Morris permalink
    July 31, 2021 8:09 pm

    There is an interesting graph in the Watt Clarity article about the fire showing the battery had just stated importing and exporting power – about 25MW. It shows the spot price for power was often negative, but the battery was charging during peaks.

  10. July 31, 2021 8:46 pm

    The main and perhaps the only fact that is important about the proposed, insane, case for UK decarbonisation is that, as a proportion of global, the UK”s share of manmade CO2 emissions is obviously negligible, at 0.0000065percent.
    So why bother?

    • Gamecock permalink
      July 31, 2021 10:44 pm

      Dammit, Jim! It’s 0.04%! You are off by orders of magnitude !!!

      [Nature produces over 96% of CO2 emissions. Man produces <4%. UK's contribution to that is 1%. So 1% of 4% is 0.04%.]

      But let's not split hairs.

      • Duker permalink
        August 1, 2021 7:28 am

        Good point , dont forget the Natures ‘share of CO2’ is so much larger that the human increase is in ‘the margin of error’ of the carbon Cycle which is in the main uncountable.

  11. July 31, 2021 8:51 pm

    I have just completed a new page on my website for energy storage. https://www.spasmodicenergy.com/Pages/Storage.aspx?start=01/01/2020&end=31/12/2020&charge=350&demand=10 I ignored batteries so it deals with just wind and PHES. The reason is batteries are toys which have nowhere near sufficient capacity.

    What I have done is taken the pattern of demand for a year in question and using that combination to determine what does it take to produce the same response. That has to be done because demand is quite variable. This is day by day and in fact throughout the whole year.

    My result is that for 1 TW hour delivered in the same pattern over a year 500 MW of wind and 21.6 GW hours of storage are needed!

    It is easy to discredit the obsession with batteries. Suppose one has a wind station with a capacity of 100 MW. The capacity factor is 28% so every hour you are getting 28 MW hours on average. That is if it is stable of course. But wind droughts are the killer on 13th of April in 2020 wind dropped to 5% for 19 hours. So instead of getting 532 MW hours only 27 MW hours was dispatched. That is a shortfall of more than 500 MW hours in order to maintain the average. The take-home message is to stabilise 100 MW of wind at least 500 megawatt hours of storage is required. Perhaps we should call big batteries tinker toys!

    Note the figures refer to the eastern grid in Australia and an article is being prepared for submission to the wider world.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      August 2, 2021 9:12 am

      Mike I noted your comments about wind drought in Australia but you should see how bad the UK has been in July this year; Over 25GW of capacity dropped at one stage to just 35MW!
      You can download UK details for the last decade here. https://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
      And as I type we are currently down to 580MW and falling

      • August 2, 2021 11:04 am

        How bad the wind drought is will be determined by whereabouts in the world it is. Quoting megawatts is not as cogent as percentages of capacity factor. I have record of drops to 2% of the capacity factor. In Australia we are getting rid of baseload in favour of renewables. We have no nuclear and we cannot tap into someone across the channel. We are in deep trouble in fact but not many seem to realise it. Our baseload is essentially coal and they are closing because of age and unwillingness to invest in more. Wind systems are very large https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-210.72,-31.51,1542 larger than our grid.

  12. July 31, 2021 9:01 pm

    I just posted a comment on this which seems to have gone up in smoke. I was not logged in so when I was asked to login I did so but it seems my work was lost. Damn spent a lot of effort I’m not keen to do that again.

    • Ed Bo permalink
      August 1, 2021 5:00 am

      Mike – Whenever I want to post a comment more than a couple of lines long, I write it in a text editor, then copy and paste it into the comment box. Saves a lot of heartache if something goes wrong.

      • Deej permalink
        August 1, 2021 9:14 am

        We’ll soon all be back to typing comments on Olivetti’s the way things are going!

      • August 2, 2021 4:35 am

        I have been working on a website (spasmodicenergy.com) and I have worked out the necessary energy storage needed for a given amount of output. This has been estimated against real data. I will not go into detail here but to produce 1 TW hour of electricity you need 500 MW of wind and 22 GW hours of PHES. This is Australian conditions over a very large network on the eastern grid about 3000 x 1500 km. Wind droughts as they are called here are severe and long. For instance in 2020 the whole 8 GW of wind dropped to a capacity factor of 5.5% for 33 hours. This is not unusual.

  13. August 1, 2021 12:11 am

    The local wholesale price swings horrendously.

    AEMO – Electricity price & demand

    Click on the “30 min” and select “5 min” instead. Lately the spikes have been much smaller because the demand curve is different during winter. In summer the spikes, which can occur multiple times a day, can reach $15,000/MWh, or about ₤8,000/MWh.

    So buying at ₤40/MWh and selling at ₤8,000/MWh leads to very yummy profits. But not for ordinary people who have to subsidize the renewable energy causing these crazy spikes.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      August 1, 2021 5:59 am

      And that arbitrage is what makes South Australia’s Big Battery (at Horndale) very profitable, so much so they have increased capacity to 160MW. Payback time is supposed** to be 2 years.
      Electranet (the Grid Manager/Owner in SA) has just spent $A160 milion installing 4 synchronous condensors for stabilising the grid voltage (what the coal-fired power stations used to do for free).

      **From reneweconomy,com.au so may not be reliable.

  14. August 1, 2021 8:29 am

    This is a response from the U.K. Business enterprise and Industrial Strategy department in response to my questioning their policy.:-

    Additionally, electricity storage is a key source of flexibility to the energy system and is critical to integrating low-carbon power, heat and transport. It can enable us to use energy more flexibly and de-carbonise our energy system cost-effectively. We are taking actions to facilitate the deployment of storage through the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan[1], which was published jointly with Ofgem in 2017. The UK currently has around 4GW of operational electricity storage in GB, and there is around 9GW in the planning pipeline.[2]

    The U.K. is planning 9 Gw of additional storage, although no mention of it’s capacity, and we are supposed to accept that it is cost effective?.
    That will not come cheap and I believe there are already objections to a proposed battery facility somewhere in the U.K. based on safety grounds?

    • Frank Everest permalink
      August 1, 2021 1:26 pm

      They keep talking about GW (and 9Gw!), when they almost certainly mean GWh! What hope is there for us if they can’t understand what they are talking about?

  15. howard dewhirst permalink
    August 1, 2021 9:43 am

    Why has the media stopped reporting on the Vic battery fire?
    Why indeed ….

  16. Julian Flood permalink
    August 1, 2021 10:26 am

    It could have been worse.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9775467/UKs-battery-farms-spark-fears-explosions.html

    (points to a proper scientific paper)

    JF

    • JBW permalink
      August 1, 2021 1:21 pm

      Interesting report – a first for the DM perhaps? Only 16 comments and the comment section on this is now closed. I wonder why?

  17. Harry Passfield permalink
    August 1, 2021 2:55 pm

    The media are at the behest of the goverment/green advocates and know they have to double down on CC because….what’s coming is not HOT. If they can get the msg across now they are toast. The agw scam is in the ER.

  18. Stuart Brown permalink
    August 2, 2021 2:55 pm

    For those interested:

    Update at 5.00pm on 2 August, 2021:

    The Moorabool incident was declared under control at 3.05pm on Monday 2 August.

    Firefighters have successfully completed the operation of opening all doors to the container of the battery, with no sign of fire.

    A smaller number of firefighters and fire trucks from CFA will remain on scene for the next 24 hours as a precaution in case of reignition. They will continue taking thermal temperature readings two-hourly to monitor damaged units.

    http://news.cfa.vic.gov.au/firefighters-bring-large-battery-fire-near-geelong-under-control

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