Sky Fall For The Battery Con Trick

By Paul Homewood


Sky News have fallen for the old battery storage trick again!




Sky News has been given exclusive access to Europe’s biggest transmission grid-linked battery which takes in the uneven power from wind turbines and smoothing it out for local homes and businesses.

It looks like a self-storage park: rows of shipping containers in a patch of Merseyside waste ground. But appearances can be deceptive as this is the first step in saving billions of pounds off bills and millions of tonnes of carbon. It’s a mega-battery.

Let’s take a step back. One of the great advantages of fossil fuels, and one we take largely for granted, is they are so easy to store. Piles of coal, drums of oil, tanks of gas. They just sit there waiting for a deliberate spark.

Renewables are different: you can’t hold the wind or bottle the sun. As the proportion of green power on our grid grows so does this inconvenient truth.

The variable and uncontrollable nature of solar and wind is not a new discovery, but it is only now that we are coming close to an affordable solution: massive banks of lithium-ion batteries similar to those in a laptop, phone and only affordable now thanks to their use in electric cars.

Sky News has been given exclusive access to Europe’s biggest transmission grid-linked battery just after switch-on. It covers an area of around two football pitches in nearly one hundred containers and can store as much electricity as 1,500 electric cars, taking in the uneven power from wind turbines and smoothing it out for local homes and businesses. If you didn’t do this, lights would dim, or wires could melt. Most of that job today is done by either firing up mini generators – so called gas-peakers – to fill the power troughs or turning turbines off to prevent surges.

James Basden, co-founder and director of Zenobe, says their batteries will cut carbon emissions.

"Battery storage sites like this are enabling more wind power to come on, but also it’s shutting down the gas generators that are currently operating and as a result we save huge amounts of CO2."

Sky News has been given exclusive access to the biggest grid-linked battery just after switch-on

Image: Zenobe’s grid-linked battery

But they should also cut bills too. When wind farms must turn off, they are paid to do this, paid to not generate. This is known as "curtailment" and the total cost is over half a billion pounds per year and rising as we have more renewables in the energy mix.

Zenobe and other big battery developers say if we can store it, we can use it and not pay to waste it.

"This is pushing power back onto the grid in a very consistent and predictable way… So sites like this are going to reduce the amount of curtailment. This site itself will save somewhere between 50 and £100m to consumers over the next 15 years."

The claims are absurd and this battery park will make next to no difference to how the grid operates, but will earn plenty of money paid out of our energy bills.

For a start, it will not stop curtailment of wind power, as claimed, as this is always due to lack of transmission capacity, not excess supply.

But more importantly, the amount of energy it can store is infinitesimally small. They mention the equivalent of 1500 electric cars; at, say, 50 KWh each, that works out at 75 MWh.

On a typical winter day, the UK consumes about 1 TWh, which equal 1 MILLION MWh. And that equals 694 MWh per minute.

So Liverpool’s new battery would be able to keep us going for about 7 seconds!

Somehow I don’t think this battery park, or a thousand of them, will be of much help when the wind stops blowing.

Look at it another way.

A 1000 MW offshore wind farm would typically produce about 9600 MWh a day. If every wind farm was obliged to provide and pay for enough battery storage to cover two weeks of no  output, it would need 134,400 MWh – or 1792 Liverpool battery parks.

So what is this battery park for?

The most it can do is to provide a tiny amount of help in managing frequency fluctuations, for which the National Grid will pay handsomely. In the past this would not have been necessary, because of the inertia provided by spinning generators.

But the main business case is to buy power in when it is cheap, and sell it when it is dear.


February 14, 2023 at 01:31PM

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