The New York Times has admitted green energy batteries and storage technology aren’t up to the technical challenge of supporting wind and solar panels on a large scale.
A Saturday NYT article found that new batteries and other energy storage methods can’t yet support industrial scale wind and solar power. NYT looked at a variety of prototype energy storage methods, but these were only in the experimental stages and would be difficult to scale up.
“Big energy storage technologies like the ones featured in the story are indeed necessary in large quantities to allow enormous amounts of wind and solar power,” Rich Powell, executive director of the conservative ClearPath Foundation which studies energy storage issues, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The problem is that the cheapest of these storage options – such as pumped storage hydro – are difficult to site and construct. Improvements in lithium ion battery technology have been impressive but haven’t reached the low cost necessary for seasonal power storage.”
The article looked at several energy storage technologies, including constructing giant conventional batteries, compressing air in a cavern, stockpiling energy in molten salt, spinning giant wheels, pumping water uphill, lifting rocks and even building a giant icemaker. However, none of these technologies are ready to store significant amounts of wind or solar power.
“Today, with the rise of green energy sources like solar and wind, the need for industrial-scale energy storage is becoming ever more vital to make sure there’s power even after the sun sets or the breeze dies down,” states NYT’s article. “It’s usually (but not always) still too impractical to string together enough traditional batteries — those powered by chemical reactions, like the ones in smoke alarms and Teslas — to do the job.”
In order for the power grid to function without large-scale energy storage, demand for energy must exactly match supply. Power demand is relatively predictable and conventional power plans, like nuclear plants and natural gas, can adjust output accordingly. Solar and wind power, however, cannot easily adjust output. They also provide power unpredictably relative to conventional power sources, so without reliable storage they are far less useful.
The electricity wind and solar do generate doesn’t coincide with the times when power is most needed either, making storage even more essential. Peak energy demand also occurs in the evenings, when solar power is going offline.
Currently, the most widespread way humans have of storing green energy is pumping water up a hill, which actually accounts for 99 percent of all global energy storage. Yet the NYT article acknowledges that even this can only respond to relatively small changes in electricity demand. Without about 150 times more capacity to store power for later use, wind and solar simply won’t work.
The U.S. has less than 1 percent of the energy storage capacity necessary for wind and solar to meet the green goal of “100 percent green energy,” according to an analysis of federal data published last June by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
A study by Belgian scientists from the Université libre de Bruxelles analyzed data from local energy suppliers and came to the exact same conclusion. The scientists computer simulations determined that the batteries’ short lifetime and high prices — as well as fundamental problems — will likely prevent solar and wind power from ever being viable without lucrative financial incentives from the government.
Numerous other scientific studies have also concluded that solar and wind power cannot be scaled up without better energy storage technology. Scientists from the University of East Anglia reached a similar conclusion in May.
Other researchers found as the amount of green energy entering national power grids increases, the negative impacts of wind and solar’s volatility will also increase unless better batteries are developed. Additionally, scientists suspect that it may be physically impossible to build those better batteries.
The research highlights the fact that it is currently impossible to economically store power for times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Purchasing enough batteries to provide just three days of storage for an average American household costs about $15,000, and those batteries only lasts for about five years and are very difficult to recycle.
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