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Battery Energy Storage Projects & Developments

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • Feb 9, 2021
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With this post we will focus on new grid-scale BESS projects and other developments for BESS technology.

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Thank John for the Post!
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Cindy Miller's picture
Cindy Miller on Feb 9, 2021

Thanks for posting this excellent information.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 9, 2021

Once (at least) one battery had a thermal runaway, the fire-suppression equipment was not sufficient to keep it from expanding to the whole rack of batteries

I found this interesting. Obviously, the critical aspect is to make the batteries and their production/storage as safe as possible, but I'm curious based on how you phrased this if those equipping these factories or working in nearby fire departments of these facilities would benefit from additional equipment tailor-made to address these issues? 

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John Benson on Feb 9, 2021

You are quite welcome, Cindy.

Matt:

Several additional comments. As I indicated in the article, the first generation of BESS battery containers were standard shipping containers. I went into one of these in (from a major battery vendor) several years ago, and it was a mess. It wasn't designed so much as cobbled together. The opposite of this would the the modular designs referenced in the post, that were not only designed, but probably also had computer simulations of every possible event and environmental challenge run against the design.

One reason for the above is the potential for multimillion dollar legal settlements from anyone (read: fire-fighters) that might be injured by an "event". It's called due-diligence.

-John

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 9, 2021

"Battery capacity is frequently used to store solar and wind energy when there is low demand, and respond in times of peak demand."

John, though this seems to be a popular assumption, I have yet to see evidence this is how batteries are being used. I see a lot of evidence, matched by financial incentive, to charge batteries with A) a grid mix, or B) the direct output of natural gas plants.

Building a large battery installation next to a solar farm is great for optics. It makes it look like the batteries are storing 100% clean energy, that is then being used to power the grid with 100% clean energy. But that is far from the most financially-rewarding option for the facility's developer. When the sky is cloudy or it's after sundown and his batteries aren't charged, they're useless. If he charges from the grid mix at night when prices are low, he can sell energy from his fully-charged batteries back to the grid at a profit the next day. Any time, in any weather.

If that is the case (and there's no reason to think it isn't), batteries enable an arbitrage scheme that only increases carbon emissions. They're storing imported gas- or coal-fired electricity at night (you didn't think California's energy imports were all from clean sources, did you?), wasting at least 20% of it in storage losses, then spitting it out the next day at a profit.

By usage data, batteries are seldom used to shave peak demand. They're used far more often to supply-balance intermittent renewable energy - to patch the holes left  when the wind dies, or clouds move over the sun. They're used to provide ancillary services - to correct voltage / frequency instabilities introduced by solar and wind sources. In short: get rid of renewable energy and they're 100% unnecessary.

I submit fewer emissions would result by carting renewables and grid batteries off to the electronic waste dump and generating all of our electricity with efficient CCGT gas plants - meeting demand efficiently, in real-time. Proving that's not the case, before lining the pockets of venture capitalists with $billions in rate increases for electricity customers, should be Step #1. Shouldn't it?

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John Benson on Feb 10, 2021

Hi Bob:

All grid transactions are financial and include any T&D costs via locational marginal pricing (LMP).  An owner of batteries should charge them with the least expensive power, considering schedule constraints as to when the power will need to be delivered (discharged from the battery and sent back to the grid). Many years ago, this would have been late-night to early morning generation, when generation in California actually had negative pricing at times. Now it's late morning to early afternoon power due to PV output reaching its peak output before the grid load does (the duck curve).

If I owned a large BESS, in the summer I might consider charging this in the above described low cost period and selling it back through the grid a few hours later (early evening) when the LMP peaks. This would also be best for grid stability.

-John

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 12, 2021

John, the current owners of BESS in California are using it quite differently than you would. This morning's pattern of charging / discharging (below) shows batteries are serving only to correct fluctuations in solar and wind energy. That makes sense - batteries capable of long-term storage are more expensive, and apparently not worth the expense.

CAISO has expanded the Y-axis of this scale by a factor of roughly 20 compared to other graphs on the page. Like those of all renewables-related generation, the purpose is to exaggerate the batteries' usefulness and, in a broader context, the effectiveness of state policy. Though highly-promoted as an antidote to the intermittency of renewables, the contribution of all grid storage in the state would be meaningless dots if accurately displayed on the scale of California demand.

In practice: grid-scale batteries are useful only to help fix instabilities introduced by renewables. Get rid of renewables and they're not only unnecessary, they're unprofitable.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Feb 12, 2021

Hi Bob:

Although I agree with what you say, renewables are the least expensive resource. Add BESS to mitigate the renewables variability and they (renewables + BESS) are still the least expensive. The other major advantage is that they can be deployed rapidly.

-John

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 13, 2021

"Add BESS to mitigate the renewables variability and they (renewables + BESS) are still the least expensive."

John, if you're attempting to compare the price of renewables + BESS to any utility-scale dispatchable plant, there is no comparison. Your renewables + BESS combination would have to approximate a steady supply of generation not for one night, or two nights, but for a duration corresponding to a dispatchable plant's refueling schedule. For a nuclear plant, that's eighteen months.

To illustrate how ridiculously expensive that would be: one cloudy, windless day of powering the CAISO grid with Li-ion batteries, at today's prices ($620/kWh) would cost $228 billion in battery capacity - about twice California's annual budget. We would have to overbuild renewables by 100% or more, to be able to charge the batteries while they're powering the grid. The batteries would need to be replaced every 7-10 years, the solar or wind farm every 35 years.

For good reason, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) won't compare operating costs for renewables to dispatchable sources. Instead, they combine gas together with wind and solar plants in a category named "Gas Turbine and Small Scale". It's 20% more expensive than nuclear, and 162% more expensive than large hydro. Like I said, no comparison.
 

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