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THE HEADLINE IN Science, July 12, 2019, was eye-catching: “Solar Plus Batteries is Now Cheaper Than Fossil Power.” Robert F. Service describes the situation “driven by steady price declines in solar power and utility-scale batteries….”
Yes, I know. The article concerns California, known for its sunny clime and expansive land amenable to solar farms. And, yes, California is also known for its progressive views on issues as varied as immigration, climate change, renewable energy, and other counter-Trumpery before there was Trump.
But the facts here are more than just “California Dreamin.”
The Los Angeles Deal. As Robert Service reported in Science, “The deal calls for a huge solar farm backed up by one of the world’s largest batteries. It would provide 7 percent of the city’s electricity beginning in 2023 at a cost of 1.997 cents per kilowatt hour for the solar power and 1.3 cents per kWh for the battery. That’s cheaper than any power generated with fossil fuel.”
Key to this are the rapidly diminishing costs of renewables and of means of rescheduling their use during inherent intermittency. Back in April of this year, Trump toyed with a rally in Michigan, “ ‘Darling, I want to watch television.’ ‘I’m sorry! The wind isn’t blowing.’ I know a lot about wind.”
But apparently less about batteries.
The California project will be built in Kern County by 8Minute Solar Energy, whose slogan is “In just eight minutes, energy from the Sun reaches the Earth. We take it from there.” The solar array is expected to supply power for more than 65,000 homes during daylight hours; its 800-megawatt-hour battery will store electricity for after sunset, thus reducing the need for fossil-fuel-fired generators.
Battery Storage. “Large-scale battery storage,” Service wrote in Science, “generally relies on lithium-ion batteries—scaled-up versions of the devices that power laptops and most electric vehicles.” He also cited an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance noting that “the cost of utility-scale lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 70 percent since 2012, and by 35 percent in just the past 18 months.”
Other Storage Needed. Jane Long is an energy and energy policy expert recently retired from California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Service quotes her observation that batteries are only part of the future: She said, “You also need to manage for long periods of cloudy weather, or winter conditions.”
Awhile back, June 9, 2017, here at SimanaitisSays there was a two-part overview on “Got Energy? Know How to Store It?” Briefly, batteries aren’t the only means of rescheduling the use of renewables: Among other means already employed are pumped-hydro, compressed air, molten salt, rail energy, flywheel, and stored air conditioning.
Don’t worry, Darling. You wanna watch TV tonight? No problem. And that ain’t “California Dreamin.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019