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Bob Meinetz's picture
Nuclear Power Policy Activist Independent

I am a passionate advocate for the environment and nuclear energy. With the threat of climate change, I’ve embarked on a mission to help overcome the fears of nuclear energy. I’ve been active in...

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  • Sep 14, 2021
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"A massive U.S. battery storage project is offline in California, stoking reliability and safety questions about a technology that will be crucial to meeting future clean electricity goals.

The overheating of battery modules on Labor Day weekend affected a 300-megawatt facility at Vistra Corp.’s Moss Landing energy storage site. But the implications go beyond any one state, company or project.

That’s because energy storage offers one path to help offset the intermittency of fast-growing renewable energy capacity. A reliability problem with batteries is among the factors that could hamper the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035, not to mention countless midcentury state and corporate clean energy goals.

Experts caution that adjustments — from battery chemistry to management systems — may be needed to ensure large battery sites can stay online, especially as their role on the grid grows. There’s hope the industry will rise to the challenge, though changes come with costs."

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Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Sep 14, 2021

Bob, I've heard that Zinc batteries are the safest form of energy storage, excluding pumped hydro. Do you have any insights to share in this regard? Thanks.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 14, 2021

Dick, zinc-air batteries have been around for a while, at least since the 1980s. They can explode too - in hot weather the electrolytes become unstable and release hydrogen gas. Because they use ambient air as one of the reactants, they're very light  - I think that's why they attracted attention for EV batteries. Zinc is a lot easier to come by than lithium, so kWh-per-kWh they're cheaper.

Biggest downside for rechargeable ones is efficiency. I'm sure it's improved in recent years, but last time I checked it was ~50%.

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Sep 15, 2021

All new technologies have teething problems and many like gasoline cars still have substantial risks after 120 years of development, but in this case we already have solutions LiFe batteries not to mention Sodium, Zinc Bromine etc etc  

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 15, 2021

"All new technologies have teething problems and many like gasoline cars still have substantial risks after 120 years of development..."

Glad you brought that up - let's take a look at how development of automobiles compares to solar power:


Percentage of households with cars
in 1900: .5%

in 1950: 78%
 

Percentage of U.S. electricity generated by solar panels

in 1954: 0%
in 2004: .004%
 

In their first 50 years, gasoline cars were 19,500 times more successful than solar power.

If gasoline cars have teething problems, solar panels need dental implants.

 

Rao Konidena's picture
Rao Konidena on Sep 15, 2021

It is perhaps worthwhile to remind ourselves from Arizona Public Service's battery fire incident report that,

"There were five main contributing factors that led to the explosion:
• Contributing Factor #1: Internal failure in a battery cell initiated thermal runaway
• Contributing Factor #2: The fire suppression system was incapable of stopping thermal runaway

• Contributing Factor #3: Lack of thermal barriers between cells led to cascading thermal runaway
• Contributing Factor #4: Flammable off-gases concentrated without a means to ventilate
• Contributing Factor #5: Emergency response plan did not have an extinguishing, ventilation, and
entry procedure "

https://www.aps.com/-/media/APS/APSCOM-PDFs/About/Our-Company/Newsroom/McMickenFinalTechnicalReport.ashx?la=en&hash=50335FB5098D9858BFD276C40FA54FCE

 

Let's wait for the incident report to find out what went wrong in this battery fire accident.

Rao

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 15, 2021

Great point, Rao-- there are any number of failures that may have occurred, and regardless of what the results are those failures should be taken as lessons to be learned and implemented in further safety measures rather than an indictment of the industry as a whole

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