From the Manhattan Contrarian
May 11, 2021 / Francis Menton
As we all know, California residents and their elected officials are far more refined and virtuous than the rest of us who live in other parts of the country. This is especially true in the climate change arena, where California is paving the way to saving the planet by rapidly eliminating all carbon emissions from its electricity sector. California’s CO2 emissions account for about 1% of the world’s total annual emissions, and the electricity sector accounts for about 15% of those emissions. So we’re talking about 0.15% of global emissions – an amount that, as you can easily see, removing it will quickly change the world’s climate.
In 2018 California passed a law called SB100 that will require a 100% carbon emission free power sector by 2045. But how do you get from here to there? That question was finally answered in March of this year when the California state agencies responsible for achieving the goal (California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission and California Air Resources Board) issued a joint agency report and an accompanying document with their plans. The plans can be accessed via this link.
The plans show that California regulators have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Maybe I’m wrong. I invite all readers to check myself out and see if there is anything missing. But I do not think. Either these people do not understand the basic units used in these calculations, or they cannot do basic arithmetic, or both. In their forecast of the additional costs, I think they differ by a factor of about 1000 or more.
The answer in the plans for how to get a zero-emission electricity sector is to build lots and lots of solar and wind turbines. Obviously these don’t always work. So you first have to build up a lot more capacity than your maximum utilization. Peak power consumption in California is currently around 40 GW, and this is expected to increase significantly as more of the economy, such as automobiles, become electrified. The plans therefore envisage adding 97.6 GW of solar capacity and 22.6 GW of wind capacity by 2045, in addition to 26.5 GW of the two currently available. (Plans also include the addition of 0.1 GW of geothermal capacity, but this is a rounding error.) With the additions, California would have a total wind and solar capacity of 146.7 GW, which could be roughly three times the peak load after You have taken into account the gradual electrification of the economy by 2045.
But then solar and wind power are “intermittent,” which means they don’t necessarily provide the power when you need it. What do we do to supply electricity on completely quiet nights when the sun and wind do not provide anything? The California regulators have an answer here in the plans, namely “storage”. And how much storage do we need? They give a very specific number: 52.8 GW. Maybe that makes sense at first glance. If peak consumption is around 50 GW by 2045, then 52.8 GW of very low margin storage might just be enough to deliver electricity at a rate sufficient to meet demand when the sun and wind are completely dead.
And how much does it all cost? We will replace all current fossil fuel production with wind and solar and add enough storage to make everything work. Here is the calculation:
The modeling results show that achieving 100 percent clean electricity will increase the total annual cost of the electricity grid by nearly $ 4.6 billion by 2045. This is 6 percent more than the cost of the government’s standard renewable energy requirement to have at least 60 percent clean electricity by 2030.
Basically, it’s fool switch. Because “modeling results” prove it.
But are we missing something? Here’s a piece that I think is more than a little significant: All discussions in the plans about storage needs and capacity are expressed in units of gigawatts (GW). Now, GW capacity can certainly be relevant in this context as it is definitely a major engineering challenge to ensure that power from these massive batteries can be delivered quickly enough to meet peak demand. Another topic is gigawatt hours (GWH). In other words, is the total amount of energy stored by the system enough to keep you running for as long as possible when demand exceeds supply? How about if there are whole seasons – like “winter” for example – when the days are short, the clouds are high, the wind has long periods of calm and the batteries could be empty for weeks or even months? How much GWH of storage capacity do you need to support this entirely wind and solar system? and how much does it cost?
There is nothing on the subject that I can find in these plans. Can you find it
In 2018, a man named Roger Andrews performed such a calculation and posted it on a website called Energy Matters. I covered the topic in a November 2018 post titled “How much are climate cruisers planning to increase their electricity bills? – Part III. “Mr. Andrews used actual daily production data from existing wind and solar plants in California to predict how much such plants would be needed to meet California’s total annual needs over a one-year period, and then the same data was used further to calculate the daily surpluses and deficits and find out how much battery capacity, in GWH, would be required to survive the longest period of low production Wind and solar systems is that the production from these systems is not only interrupted within a day or a week, but is also very seasonal, with higher production in spring and autumn and lower production, especially in winter.
Here is Andrews’ graph, showing production from existing wind and solar systems, normalized to meet total demand over the course of a year, and plotted daily against actual demand:
The large spring surpluses and winter deficits catch the eye. Andrews then calculated – and it’s just a matter of simple arithmetic – daily surpluses and deficits to figure out how much battery capacity California would need to carry them for a full year. Here are his diagrams showing this work:
The bottom line is that around 25,000 GWH of stored energy would be needed to get through all year round. The batteries would get to this level around August and be dead by March. And of course that is a peak load of around 40 GW. If you increase the maximum utilization to 50 GW, you will need more than 32,000 GWH of storage.
How much is it? In my November 2018 post, the answer for California was “around $ 5 trillion.” Let’s see if we can get a more recent number. According to this post at Electrek on April 1, 2021, in order to demonstrate its extreme virtue in the corporate climate, Apple plans to build a gigantic battery project so that the corporate headquarters can only run on solar energy. From Apple’s press release:
“Apple is building one of the largest battery projects in the country, California Flats – an industry-leading, grid-scale energy storage project that can store 240 megawatt hours of energy and enough to power more than 7,000 homes for a day. This project supports the company’s 130 megawatt solar farm, which provides all of its renewable energy in California by storing excess energy generated during the day and using it when needed. “
The batteries are supplied by Tesla. Based on Tesla pricing data, which puts the cost of such batteries in the range of $ 200 to $ 300 per kilowatt hour, Electrek calculates Apple’s cost of 240 MWH battery capacity to be about $ 50 million. What would then be the cost of these 32,000 gigawatt hours of batteries? You do the math. If it helps, there’s a million KWH in a GWH. I’m getting about $ 6.7 trillion.
$ 6.7 trillion is well over twice the annual GDP of California. Recall that the California Task Force’s plans for joint agencies said the additional cost of the all-wind and solar-plus storage system would be around $ 4.6 billion. Could they really differ by a factor of well over 1000?
Meanwhile, California is marching forward with large expansions to its grid battery capacity to balance the grid in the face of the additional solar and wind power. But are the supplements useful for this task or inexpensive from a distance? Here is a post from RenewEconomy on April 5th:
A recent report published by Bloomberg Green, citing new BloombergNEF figures, found that leading electricity analysts expect California to install not just 1.7 GW of new battery storage in 2021, but another 1.4 in 2022 GW, followed by 1.2 GW in 2023.
Always GW, never GWH. Trying to get useful information out of these people is almost impossible. I think they are all completely innumerable. Out of 40 million people in California, isn’t there a single person who can ask a relevant question?
Read the full article at the source here.