That Battery in Australia

Proves that renewables work for the whole grid it does, it does:

Elon Musk’s agreement to build the world’s largest battery for South Australia isn’t just an extraordinary technological breakthrough that signs coal’s death warrant. It’s potentially a game changer in the way we do politics, reinserting the importance of basic reality into a debate which has been bereft of it for too long.

Post truth, yadda, yadda,

For months now, Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, various fossil fuel energy executives and media commentators like Paul Kelly have been rabbiting on about the “energy trilemma”. It’s their contention that energy policy must deal with cost, reliability and emissions, and that it is impossible to achieve all three at the same time. Conveniently, they choose to put emissions at the bottom of this list and bury it under a pile of coal, which they claim is cheap and reliable.

This is not true. Not even close to it. It doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.

Rilly? For if there weren’t a trilemma then there would be no problem, would there? Further, we’d not need rules or regulations or subsidies or feed in tariffs.

Renewable energy, which obviously wins on emissions, is now beating coal on cost. What’s more, with an energy grid managed effectively by people who want renewables to succeed, it is no less reliable than fossil fuels.


Musk’s gambit closes this book. He has brought reality crashing in.

Within 100 days, there will be a huge battery system making South Australia’s energy grid clean, affordable and reliable, and benefitting the eastern states along with it.

Well, yeeeees.

With those additional installation investments, an estimate of $500-$600 per kilowatt-hour of storage is probably closer to reality. An installed 100 MW/300 MWhr lithium-ion power station would cost somewhere between $150 million -$180 million (200 million Australian dollars to A$240 million)

Within the context of addressing South Australia’s electric power system stability needs, a 300 MW-hr installation appears to have been unaffordable. Premier Jay Weatherill has a total of A$550 million available, and Tesla’s massive battery is only a part of the necessary capability.

As Gizmodo has reported, the system that Tesla will be installing will provide 129 MW-hr of energy storage capacity, less than half of what Rive originally hinted could be delivered. At a discharge rate of 100 MW, the battery will be totally depleted in less than 80 minutes. As all cell phone, tablet or laptop computer owners should know, it isn’t advisable to fully discharge a Li-ion battery. It can dramatically reduce battery lifetime.

The response plan also includes a new government funded, A$360 million, 250 MWe fast reacting gas turbine power plant, a bulk electricity purchase contract designed to encourage construction of a new privately owned power plant, a taxpayer financed exploration fund for additional natural gas supplies, special powers granted to the SA energy minister to order plants to operate, and a requirement for electricity retailers to purchase a fixed portion of their power from SA generators.

They’re having to subsidise people to go fracking to make this work.

Looks like that trilemma is still active really. And what was that about a post truth world?

28 thoughts on “That Battery in Australia”

  1. Even from the other side of the planet I can see that Federal intervention with a pile of taxpayers money isn’t going to change the fundamentals that the greens and lefties are an ignorant bunch of cunts who fully deserve to receive an appropriate slapping for implementing a stupid policy in the face of persistent evidenced criticism.

    I fully expecy the eejits to use public funds to support a biomass scheme involving cucumbers and mirrors.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    You’ve got to admire Musk, the way he manages to get politicians to throw money at him is akin to legalised banditry.

  3. This Elon Musk chap in Oz. Could he be the same guy who has sucked millions, possibly more than a billion, from the US taxpayer? Maybe someone shoud tell them.

  4. The Laughing Cavalier

    Batteries are the wrong way to go, we should be developing the hydrogen economy. Pressure from vested interests and the shortsightedness of governments will lead us to re-running the Betamax/VHs story where the inferior technology replaced the better alternative.

  5. Isn’t pumped storage cheaper? No shortage of land in Oz, though I suppose fresh water might be in short supply.

  6. These lithium batteries have some potential to explode do they not? In a way that nukes do not.

    They may yet live to regret sucking-up so much leftist eco-bullshit.

    There again–the scum of the left on the job undermining and attempting to destroy Western Civilisation.

  7. X
    If memory serves, you’re right. This is just samsung mobile phone scaled up X000 times. Grenfell tower would be a minor incident.

  8. Isn’t pumped storage cheaper? No shortage of land in Oz, though I suppose fresh water might be in short supply.

    Why does pumped storage need fresh water? Surely seawater pumped to the top of a hill works just as well as a store of potential energy.

  9. Tim Hollo epitomises the Green talent for aggressive lies in the face of uncomfortable truths.

    It’d be cheaper in the long run to fund a “test community” of Hollo acolytes rather than to let them impose their barminess on the rest of us.

    Didn’t Musk say he’d do it without payment until the thing was adjudged a success? – so confident was he that it’d be *the* cure for SA’s energy woes?

  10. BiW,
    I assume saltwater corrodes the turbines. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that the Japanese did build one saltwater pumped storage facility.

  11. “He announced in May that he was leaving the company in June to spend more time with his family”

    Presumably, that’s immediate family, not including cousins…

  12. Li-on battery production is far from CO2 neutral (as so with the support infrastructure), so it’s only pretend “clean”. But pretend-clean is the indulgence these idiots are wasting our money on.

  13. The Meissen Bison

    I always groan when I come across potentially a game changer in the way we do politics.

  14. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Pumped Storage

    Didn’t the Aussies beuild some desalination lants that were mothballed because it..err.. rained ?
    They could make the freshwater there and dig a big hole and make a nice lake somewhere for people to go water skiing.

    Potential problems:

    It’d probably evaporate
    Bpund to be some problem with Aboruginal land rights

  15. ‘Renewable energy, which obviously wins on emissions, is now beating coal on cost.’

    Nope. Still 4X.

    ‘What’s more, with an energy grid managed effectively by people who want renewables to succeed, it is no less reliable than fossil fuels.’

    Sound familiar? “Communism has always failed because it wasn’t implemented by the right people.”

    “We are the people we have been waiting for.” – Barack Obama

    ‘energy grid managed effectively by people who want renewables to succeed’

    People who will cut off your washing machine mid-cycle.

    ‘Elon Musk’s agreement to build the world’s largest battery for South Australia isn’t just an extraordinary technological breakthrough that signs coal’s death warrant.’

    Reports of coal’s demise are grossly exaggerated.

    Leftists will be shocked to learn that batteries produce no electricity. SA will have to produce the power to charge them.

    Batteries do not, and cannot, cure intermittency. This fabulous system might provide some ride through capability, but if the problem isn’t fixed in half-an-hour, it’s over anyway.

    Note that there is surely no cost justification for providing a nominal 80 minutes of ride through. 10 minutes is probably a lot smarter, due to lower cost. I.e., if you can’t fix it in 10 minutes, you probably aren’t going to fix it in 80.

    This story says that SA is doubling down on stupid.

  16. Bloke in North Dorset

    From the links in the article:

    “Musk said a failure to deliver the project on time would cost his group about $50m, though the details of the contract have not been revealed.”

    I’m betting that Muskhas do many get outs in there that he’ll never have to bear the cost.

  17. Whilst the magic wind and solar are recharging the battery, where will the electricity come from to supply homes and business?

    Since wind and solar are intermittent and inconsistent, what happens if the interval between the wind blowing/sun shining exceeds the rate at which the stored power discharges and drops below what is required to keep tension on the grid, or the ‘renewables’ input rate is lower than the battery output rate?

    Electricity supply is governed by physics not economics, ideology, fantasy or wishing.

  18. Australia is a very flat country. On the scale that Andrew M proposes there aren’t enough hills for pumped storage. You would need to build a large elevated plateau adjacent to the sea, with an extent of a few hundred square kilometers, and upon it erect a reservoir a hundred metres deep. It would need to be far enough away from habitation by humans or endangered species, so that the first jihadist who came along with a truck and some TNT couldn’t cause a biblical flood.

    I don’t know that salt water is necessarily bad for turbines. That’s what Swansea will be using innit?

    We could also look at the El Hierro RE plant which uses pumped storage, not to produce power, but to stabilise the grid. Although the scheme is not living up to anywhere remotely near its claims, it is still faring considerably better than skeptics like me expected.

  19. Batteries are the wrong way to go, we should be developing the hydrogen economy.
    No – storage is a huge problem, and the round trip efficiency is horrible. Our fossil-fueled economy is quite alright, thank you very much.

  20. “I don’t know that salt water is necessarily bad for turbines. That’s what Swansea will be using innit?”

    It’s technically possible to make turbines that withstand salt water. Unsurprisingly however, they cost more to build and maintain (there is something of a trade off between the two costs) than freshwater ones.

    The trouble with RE + storage is that it is probably just about achievable, providing we don’t mind insane levels of redundancy (I.e. nameplate generation capacity some serious multiple of average demand) and production curtailage to match, alongside flooding half of Scotland as pump storage. The problem is that to pay for this will make electricity so expensive it may be cheaper to burn bank notes for domestic heating.
    Introducing a fairly small amount of crude open cycle gas turbines as backup to RE makes more sense, and rapidly reduces the degree of redundancy and storage required, without actually adding much by way of emissions.
    It’s worth reading Euan Mearns “Energy matters” blog as has frequently explores the claims of various RE technology and does the maths to see if it will scale (usually it doesn’t!)

  21. I rather like the higher temperatures, higher rainfall, and higher food production from the increase in CO2. There is a claim that there will be more extreme weather events, a claim that keeps getting pushed back as the data to back it up stubbornly refuses to come in.
    It is sea level rise that should worry us most, and Australia has done its bit to allay this by ensuring most of the Murray/Darling catchment doesn’t reach the sea or gets there more slowly.
    It’s Britain and Africa that need to step up here – Britain by turning northern England and Wales back into bogs, and Africa by diverting the Congo towards Lake Chad.
    Imv, of course.
    Musk’s skills at fleecing taxpayers are remarkable though. I wonder what Snippa would make of him.

  22. Elon Musk has won the Crony Capitalist Award. He sucked up about $5,000,000,000 from the USA government.

  23. The Laughing Cavalier,

    LOL at hydrogen being superior. Have you priced how much it will cost to retrofit the gas lines in your house to support hydrogen? In my case the estimates ranged from $5200-$7800. This does not include new appliances. 316L stainless isn’t going to see the same price reductions that solar panels have. We are looking at a quadrillion dollar project.

    Or, we could just turn the hydrogen into methane using captured CO2 by spending billions. This works in our existing pipes and kit with no upgrades needed. If the job calls for a liquid fuel a similar setup can produce methanol. Hydrogen is stupid unless you can find a way to safely use it in what is installed in the wild.

  24. My calculations for Switzerland showed that providing the necessary renewables storage (in the wake of shutting down all the nukes) as Tesla Powerpacks would cost so much that you could build and decommission a nuke every year for the same price…

  25. Surely what you want with batteries is a secondary market in renting them out? The gas hob in my kitchen is fueled by a propane bottle which lasts about a couple of months, before I order a replacement. Bloke on a motorbike comes around takes the old one back and gives me a new one for about a tenner.

    Would a similar arrangement be possible for lithium ion batteries powering electric hobs and other things in your house? Mind you, I can always turn off the valve on the gas bottle before I go out, can’t really do that with a battery can you?

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