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Lack of energy storage makes renewables-only grids a pipedream

December 1, 2022

By Paul Homewood

 

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London, 1 December – A new paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation warns that renewable energy policies being pursued around the world are unrealistic.
That’s because renewables-only grids require large amounts of electricity storage to make them viable. However, the world currently lacks any power storage technology that is both affordable and scalable.
As the paper’s author, Francis Menton explains: 
“The amount of storage required is very large – perhaps as much as two months’ of average demand. The cost then becomes absurd: you could spend all of your GDP on batteries every year, and it would still not be enough. Hydrogen is better, but is still astonishingly expensive, because it’s so inefficient”.
In one of Mr Menton’s estimates, the cost of providing lithium ion batteries for a grid could be more than ten times GDP. Moreover, because the batteries wear out, the expenditure would need to be repeated every few years.
Despite this, policymakers are ploughing ahead with deployment of wind and solar, hoping that scientists will come up with something to save the day.  
GWPF Director, Dr Benny Peiser said:
“The skyrocketing prices in UK electricity markets in recent days are a warning. Without economic forms of electricity storage, a drive for renewables is going to end very badly for consumers.”
Francis Menton: The Energy Storage Conundrum (pdf)

27 Comments
  1. December 1, 2022 10:55 am

    Britain has just 27GWh of pumped hydro plus about 2GWh of batteries for electricity storage.

    Despite what the BBC & others try to claim, we’ve now approx 40,000GWh of underground plus LNG natural gas storage capacity. That figure includes the newly re-opened Rough facility at its current reduced storage pressure & capacity.

  2. Gamecock permalink
    December 1, 2022 10:55 am

    Storage doesn’t have to work; they only need to convince people that it can work.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      December 1, 2022 6:12 pm

      Er…not if you want to keep the lights on. Then it does have to work. Joe public not going to be convinced it works if the lights go out.

      • Gamecock permalink
        December 2, 2022 1:45 pm

        So even you think that storage can keep the lights on ?!?!

        Convincing the people isn’t difficult.

  3. December 1, 2022 11:20 am

    Pumped hydro, batteries and diesel generators are only able to provide tile for other generation to start or increase output. They can’t, and won’t ever, be able to service the grid when wind and solar fail.

  4. Ben Vorlich permalink
    December 1, 2022 11:26 am

    Lithium Ion Batteries thrown in household rubbish bins cause about 700 fires every year in dustcarts and waste-processing centres, local authorities say.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63809620

    No mention of bus fires caused by the same batteries

  5. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 1, 2022 11:27 am

    What would be the cost of synchronising a totally renewable grid?

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      December 1, 2022 12:11 pm

      The crazy thing Harry is one way currently being deployed is to spin up idle generators to act as synchronous condensers. In other words use the quality power plant that you are trying to get rid of to make the crap power supply work.
      Many little used OCGT units are making more profit even now from providing inertia than from actually generating. YCMIU

  6. Vernon E permalink
    December 1, 2022 11:32 am

    There is a simple way to create storage – dual fuel our gas turbine generators with liquid distillate fuel (cf the Ireland Alternative Fuel Obligation).

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 1, 2022 1:16 pm

      Not quite as simple as you assume. Here is an informed comment from Peter M at Watt-Logic:

      You suggest dual-fuelling CCGT’s. This is not a feasible solution for this winter. The changes required on large industrial GT’s are too large and complex to perform in a matter of weeks. The plant needs to be built with the capability and sadly very few of the CCGT’s in the UK / GB were built with liquid fuel capability. In part, as NOx emissions limits have dropped, it becomes harder to meet the limits when firing liquid fuels and there has also been assumption that there is no longer a requirement for diverse fuel options. As far as I know, the only CCGT’s built (both in the 1990’s) with liquid fuel capability were:
      Keadby 1 (diesel / distillate)
      Teeside (naptha) – long since demolished.

      I don’t know if Keadby still has the distillate capability. It may have been lost when SSE upgraded the GT’s?

      • Vernon E permalink
        December 2, 2022 1:19 pm

        Itdoesn’taddup: I took as my reference model the 1920/21 successful conversion of the Termocandelaria, Columbia, 320 MW station extensively described on the net but there are a number of dual fuel stations in Ireland. It took one year to execute mainly in the piping and storage (plus an instrumentation up-grade) but changes to the two Westinghouse machines were minimal – new nozzles and addirtion of steam injection (because the fuel is diesel). Of course its too late for this year but one year versus infinty for nuclear?

      • December 3, 2022 3:48 am

        Do you or anyone else here have any idea why fuel storage isn’t a legal requirement in Great Britain since interestingly Ireland makes reference to a EU directive as justification for the requirement although I suspect there has since at least the 1920s being an informal requirement to stockpile imported fuel used for electricity generation?

        Click to access CER15213-Review-of-Fuel-Stock-Obligations.pdf

        Regardless section 34 of Electricity Act 1989 has always since privatisation given the secretary of State the power to require fuel stocks at generating stations and I am amazed the Thatcher government knowing the circumstance of how the Heath government was brought down and it could have being if they didn’t change course in the early 1980s when there was nearly a miners strike in winter didn’t go further than this and explicitly require 6 months storage.

        Then I wonder why no-one has considered LPG/air mixing systems (approx 47% air and 53% propane) to increase gas storage as this could be a reasonably quick way (storage tanks built in stratific parts of the gas grid on former gas work sites many being unused brownfield sites) vs natural gas storage to get to 90 days storage by next winter and I know this was done in Cornwall during the conversion from town gas so they could isolate different parts of the distribution network as the main truck pipeline couldn’t carry both coal gas and natural gas at the same time.

        Does anyone know if Nox would be more of an issue with LPG/air mixing systems if you run the power stations on it?

  7. December 1, 2022 11:49 am

    Anyone who has looked at buying a “Portable Power Station” will know the combination of high cost and low capacity of batteries. A top end one will have a capacity of only around 1000 Watt-hours, and will cost around £1000. For that you can run a 100 watt light bulb for only around 8 hours (some energy is wasted).

    Great for minor domestic purposes during blackouts or camping trips, but totally incapable of dealing even with the tiny total electricity consumption of a house.

  8. December 1, 2022 11:59 am

    This was a good read. Well done. However, if such documents are to be taken seriously as a scientific, methodical analysis, we really could do with cutting out the hyperbole as the eco fundamentalists who now rule us will otherwise ignore the calculations as only the rantings of ‘sceptics’.

    It would be VERY useful to see a similar analysis and summary of the amounts of rare earths and other minerals currently needed for our existing level of renewables and a calculation of how much will be needed in say 10 years when this madness is in full swing and everyone is competing for the raw materials

    I understand that we will need at least 5 to 10 Planet Earths to obtain all the stuff we will need but it would be good to see real world figures and costs.

    Equally we need to tie in the Environmental destruction of the mining and processing and the manner this is carried out using child slaves and coerced labour, vast amounts of coal to make solar panels and vast amounts of cement to put each land based wind turbine in place.

    This document is a ‘keeper’ but we do need shorter and pithier ancillary documents that show the whole picture

    https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2022/11/Menton-Energy-Storage-Conundrum.pdf?mc_cid=80a8bdfb6a&mc_eid=4961da7cb1

  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 1, 2022 1:31 pm

    I’ve been following Francis Menton’s articles at WUWT. He often mentions his inspiration was the analysis of renewables storage problems done mainly by the late Roger Andrews at Euan Mearns’ site, which I also followed and commented at, and even provided a couple of articles myself. I have done plenty of long term analysis at hourly resolution that demonstrates that the storage requirements for a renewables based gird are infeasibly large, and supports his conclusions.

    • December 1, 2022 5:22 pm

      👍

      Ewan’s site had some very informative articles, many of which are still relevant today.

      E.g. http://euanmearns.com/the-loch-ness-monster-of-energy-storage/

      http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-portal/

      • December 3, 2022 4:43 am

        I liked Ewan’s site does anyone know why it hasn’t been updated since 2019?

      • December 3, 2022 7:30 am

        PZ

        Euan (my original misspelling) found it was taking too much of his valuable time to maintain, and create his well-researched posts.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 4, 2022 1:35 am

        Roger Andrews, who had been providing much of the content, died. Euan had taken a position at ETH, Zurich that was taking much of his time. I think that much of the ground that could have been covered was already fairly well dissected in terms of assessing the technical options for energy supply. Although there had been a number of excellent guest contributions from people with specific areas of expertise no-one emerged to take on the job of putting together a weekly news bulletin (the Blowout) plus a couple of in depth technical articles a week, and moderate the comments, all with the huge array of knowledge that Roger had displayed. The site remains as a testament to their hard work, and its content remains highly relevant.

        We should of course be thankful that Paul manages to do so much at this site: it must be a lot of work, and he pulls together a big range of material, while also repackaging it for other sites in syndication.

      • Joe Public permalink
        December 5, 2022 10:32 am

        IDAU

        ++ 👍

        Paul’s efforts are amazing. So too are those of the commenters here too.

  10. Ian PRSY permalink
    December 1, 2022 1:43 pm

    As usual, showing the impossibility of dealing with “how” when they should be asking “WHY?”

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 1, 2022 3:30 pm

      At a Coverdale project-management course many years ago one was taught to always ask ‘why’ – to the seventh. It tends to cut through the B.S..

  11. Devoncamel permalink
    December 1, 2022 1:49 pm

    Some questions for the renewable lobby:
    1) What is your estimation of the vast quantities of finite earth metals and minerals required to produce enough storage?
    2) What are the known global reserves of lithium, cobalt etc?
    3) How much additional CO2 will be released in the vast increase in mining operations?
    Perhaps the likes of Ed Milliband, (Sir) Ed Davy and Lord Deben could answer one each on a televised panel. Paul, you could be question master.

  12. Martin Thomson permalink
    December 1, 2022 3:23 pm

    A very worthwhile study that provides a genuine reality check (or should that be shock) on the whole net zero nonsense. What really annoys me is that if we had a decent media they would read these releases and start asking some serious questions of our political leaders and taking them to task unless they come up with some answers. If only a fraction of the time they spent on the likes of ‘Partygate’ and the like were spent on real issues like this we might get somewhere. I fear it won’t happen as they appear to have all swallowed the alarmist narrative and can’t turn back. (I’ve given up hope on the BBC of course)

  13. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 1, 2022 3:56 pm

    At a Coverdale project-management course many years ago one was taught to always ask ‘why’ – to the seventh. It tends to cut through the B.S..

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      December 1, 2022 6:14 pm

      What, twice? 🙂

      And they play Whitesnake? (Big fan)

  14. December 2, 2022 3:16 pm

    Everybody known that without storage renewables muck up the grid. EXCEPT APPARENTLY the CEO of OFCOM, thinks storage just grows on trees.

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