The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

Posted: July 27, 2017 by tallbloke in Analysis, Energy, Maths, wind


H/T @hockeyschtick1 for this great article on the non-viability of wind/solar as large-scale replacement for fossil/nuclear. Now can we scrap the CCA please?


Brave New Climate

Pick up a research paper on battery technology, fuel cells, energy storage technologies or any of the advanced materials science used in these fields, and you will likely find somewhere in the introductory paragraphs a throwaway line about its application to the storage of renewable energy.  Energy storage makes sense for enabling a transition away from fossil fuels to more intermittent sources like wind and solar, and the storage problem presents a meaningful challenge for chemists and materials scientists… Or does it?

Guest Post by John Morgan. John is Chief Scientist at a Sydney startup developing smart grid and grid scale energy storage technologies.  He is Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at RMIT, holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and is an experienced industrial R&D leader.  You can follow John on twitter at @JohnDPMorganFirst published in Chemistry in Australia.

Several recent analyses of the…

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  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    The warmists will not see any problem.
    Firstly, they won’t understand the article.
    Secondly, if they absorb it, the only bit they will retain is that modern society isn’t possible with all renewable energy. As destroying modern society is entirely their aim, that won’t discourage them.
    Thirdly, their attitude to problems is to “throw money” (yours and mine) at it, hoping that something will happen.
    Bear in mind that many of them are at the top of the pyramid in that diagram, and are scientifically illiterate and quite innumerate. Their attitude is that of a 5 year old…”I want it…It’s mine..gimme”.

  2. oldbrew says:

    You can’t store electricity. Next !

    Update 27.07.17 — on an industrial scale that is.

  3. gallopingcamel says:

    While I have been kicked off several Warmist blogs, the only ejection I regret is “Brave New Climate”. The owner (Barry Brook) holds the Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at the University of Adelaide. Barry presents an impressive series of well reasoned guest posts relating to energy policy. The post above is just one of a long series of excellent articles stretching back to 2008. Barry is into “Solutions” and that appeals to me as an engineer/physicist.

    While I agree with Professor Brook on many things, we fell out when he published a piece of nonsense declaring “Climate change vs. gravity: Greater complexity, comparable certainty”:

    A fairly spirited debate followed although my best responses were deleted by the moderator.

  4. j martin says:

    Superb article. There won’t be many UK politicians with sufficient intellect to understand the implications, least of all those who think they can reduce UK co2 output by 80%

  5. Except for minuscule amounts of storage for the very very short term, the only viable technology for many years has been pump storage. It is how nuclear was made to work on a electricity grid with variable demand, and so, if anyone had any real intention of using wind, it would be the way that wind electricity would be stored.

    So why hasn’t the necessary pump storage started?

    The answer occurred to me as I was looking out candles and torches ready for the winter.

    The government are going to wait until there are power cuts and people are demanding action and then the scumbags are going to say “the people are demanding pump storage”.

    In other words, they are intentionally taking us to the brink so that it appears this is them responding to public demand.

  6. tallbloke says:

    The entire Bangladeshi grid has gone down. This is a country of 170 millions. How many will die in hospitals? The outage was due to the Indian interconnect causing a problem. We are now at 2% margin. If the French interconnect causes a problem, We will all be fishing around in the dark for those torches and candles.

    At the moment, electric and gas bills are number 4 on peoples list of annoyances. It won’t take many hours of power free living to drive that up towards number 1.

  7. Anything is possible says:

    Power now restored to most of Bangladesh. Expected to be back to normal by this afternoon :

  8. kuhnkat says:


    “You can’t store electricity”

    OK I am stupid. What do capacitors do??

  9. John Knowles says:

    In the early 90s a retired aeronautical and civil engineer named Alan Knowles, voluntarily designed an earth wall dam across the 100m narrow section half way along Loch Langabhat on the Isle of Harris. He proposed a pump storage scheme for wind generated power and acknowledged the big losses due to pumping but pointed out that living on the islands without power or using a huge diesel generator were poor alternatives.
    Needless to say, the Govt rejected his ideas even though he’d already done much of the planning for them at no cost and had designed the wind turbines as well.
    In 2014 they have so many windmills they don’t know what to do with the surplus generating capacity.

  10. kuhnkat says: November 2, 2014 at 5:06 am

    (OldBrew, “You can’t store electricity”)

    “OK I am stupid. What do capacitors do??”

    One half of a lumped resonant circuit, both halves are lossy. Store water in a high leaking tank, less lossy.

  11. oldbrew says:

    What I mean is, you can’t store electricity directly at an industrial level. Batteries are too small-scale for national grids.

    Pumped storage is a user of electricity as well as a generator of it. It provides some flexibility in timing and cost savings if cheaper rate electricity does the pumping, but what is stored is water.

  12. hunter says:

    Wind is not worth the trouble of damming up rivers and lakes. I fail to understand how anyone who claims to be concerned for the environment can possibly believe that a good solution is to clutter up the land with wind mills and dam up even more lakes and rivers.

  13. hunter says:

    And when I say “useless” I mean look at this report from the US grid that uses more wind than any other:
    Download any daily report you wish.
    Go to any other month in the record.
    Windmill power does not blow. It sucks.

  14. Paul Vaughan says:

    That’s a well-written article that encourages sobriety.

    The only defense of climate campaigning that might remotely make any sense to me: a crazy US-led gamble to protect a key but resource-poor ally, Europe. If the strategy fails — as it appears it most certainly will — the implications are clear, so we should be preparing for that eventuality in which Russia & China suddenly become our natural security allies. (Once upon a time who would have thought France & Germany would become best friends?)

  15. oldbrew says:

    Is the UK Treasury starting to catch on at last? They’re going to throw money down the wind power drain at a slower rate, and suddenly big energy firms aren’t so keen to invest any more.

    ‘Energy giants decide that big offshore projects are not financially viable’

  16. kuhnkat says:


    “Windmill power does not blow. It sucks.”

    and there are even times when it is using power from the grid to suck!!

  17. Curious George says:


    In October 2013, the CPUC adopted an energy storage procurement framework and established an energy storage target of 1,325 megawatts for PG&E, Edison, and SDG&E by 2020, with installations required no later than the end of 2024.

    No kidding. They want to store megawatts. Not miles, or kilograms. Long live Governments.

  18. ren says:

    A good film. The truth and only the truth.

  19. ren says:

    Tallbloke, it turns out that the increase of solar protons causes a significant decrease in the GCR.

  20. tallbloke says:

    I’ve resurrected this old post because some people (I’m looking at you Greg Clarke, Jo Johnson and Michael Gove) are in need of a quick whack with the clue-bat.

  21. Dodgy Geezer says:

    One point about stored energy that everyone seems to ignore. I suppose that they will keep ignoring it, but it’s important nevertheless.

    Stored energy is inherently dangerous.

    Any energy which is stored in an easily extractable form carries the danger that it all might come out at once. Coal stockpiles might catch fire, dams might burst. And these are small stores of energy.To store enough energy to allow intermittent power sources like photo and windmills to run a grid needs ENORMOUS amounts of storage – certainly the equivalent of many nuclear bombs.

    I don’t want to be around when something like that goes up…

  22. oldbrew says:

    Wood pellets aka biomass easily catch fire…

    More than 120 firefighters, 15 fire engines, three aerial ladder platforms and a mass foam attack unit have been tackling the fire. [2012 report]

  23. oldbrew says:

    German States Acting Like Trump On Global Warming

    At least two German states are prioritizing economic growth over fighting global warming, according to Breaking Views.

    Germany is estimated to have paid over $1.1 trillion to support green power. This “Energiewende” aimed to boost the amount of wind and solar power to fight global warming, but the country’s CO2 emissions haven’t significantly decreased and may have actually gone up due to the inherent unreliability of wind and solar power.
    – – –
    Piling energy storage costs on top of all the existing mad renewable costs is never going to work on an economic level, even if it could ever work on any sort of practical level.

  24. Stephen Richards says:

    (Once upon a time who would have thought France & Germany would become best friends?)

    They aren’t. They need each other for different reasons. Macron because he needs a strong EU ally to allow france to increase it’s debt and Merkel because she cannot do everything on her own.

  25. ren says:

    In a few days, the coronal hole will again cause a jump in the speed of the solar wind to which volcanoes will react.

  26. Windchaser says:

    Hmmm. Some of the assumptions in that original article seem suspect.

    This is a recent paper showing an EROEI of 9-10 for solar PV in Switzerland. While that doesn’t include storage, Switzerland is also not exactly known for being prime land for solar.

    And the EROEI of solar is increasing as the technology progresses. We’ll be able to accomplish a lot more in another 10 or 20 years, with the better technology we have then.

    So… it basically comes down to grid-scale storage, whether we can figure out cheap technologies or not.

  27. Windchaser says:

    Whoops, forgot the paper, hehe.

    I also found this blog post on the subject of calculating solar EROEI and some of the differences in methodology between lower or higher estimates. The takeaway, though, is that the EROEI has increased pretty quickly since the start of the century.

  28. tallbloke says:

    Windchaser: Thanks for the links, good to have up to date info.

  29. Bitter&twisted says:

    Morgan’s paper should required reading for dim-wit, Gove.

  30. oldbrew says:

    Meanwhile in the real world…

    DELINGPOLE: Trump’s Embrace of Fossil Fuels Is Making America Great Again

    Donald Trump’s U.S.A. is winning the global energy war by rejecting climate change nonsense and unapologetically embracing fossil fuels.
    . . .
    All this is, of course, very good news if you’re lucky enough to be American.

    And very bad news if, like me, you’re not, because increasingly we’re going to find ourselves in a world of two halves: winners and losers.

    On the winning side, there will be the half that follows the American model and embraces the cheap, abundant energy provided by fossil fuel. This includes China and India who, for all their green posturing to gullible Westerners, don’t really believe in renewables.

    On the losing side, there will be the half — including, currently, Canada, Australia, Britain and most of Continental Europe — which continues to insist on making obeisance to the Climate Fairy. And which, therefore, remains wedded to the kind of renewable energy schemes which are causing the indigent to die in fuel poverty, which are ruining industry, and which are driving up the cost of living to no practical purpose whatsoever.

  31. Gamecock says:

    “There won’t be many UK politicians with sufficient intellect to understand the implications, least of all those who think they can reduce UK co2 output by 80%”

    That’s easy to do. Cut production by 80%. There. Done.

    But . . . but . . . but nothing. Cut supply; screw demand.

    I see the political trend will push decentralization of the electricity supply.

  32. oldbrew says:

    Strategic siting could reduce wind variability in Europe, researchers claim

    ‘Storage was seen as a non-starter’