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Len Rosen's picture
Principal Author and Editor 21st Century Tech Blog

Futurist, Writer and Researcher, now retired, former freelance writer for new technology ventures. Former President & CEO of Len Rosen Marketing Inc., a marketing consulting firm focused on...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jul 6, 2020

This item is part of the Energy Storage Insights - Summer 2020 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

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Storing energy is not new to humanity. We have recognized the power in falling water for more than 5 millennia.  From water wheels to hydroelectric plants, we have learned to harvest the latent energy stored in moving water. We even learned to pump water back uphill to release it later when we needed more energy than our hydroelectric plant could produce conventionally. Pumped water storage dates back to 1929 but we haven't made much progress since then until recently with new energy storage technologies gaining ground. 

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 6, 2020

Len, there are inconvenient truths involved with using batteries to power a grid that make it hopelessly impractical, and always will. I use renewables-friendly California as an example.

1) Price. Enough storage to power California for one day of cloudy, calm weather would cost more than $1 trillion - six times California's annual budget. It would need to be replaced every 10-12 years.
2) There can never be enough. Allowing the grid to go down during an extended period of cloudy, windless weather is not an option.
3) Batteries can't charge themselves. Renewable capacity would have to double to charge batteries while existing capacity is powering the grid.
3) Binding grid constraints. We can't just build storage wherever we like, and use it to send power wherever we like. The grid was designed with radial topology - to carry electricity, using big, fat wires from centralized sources of generation. Then, as the energy is split to provide energy to various population centers, the wires get smaller and thinner. If we run big fat electricity through small thin wires they melt, and the lights go out.
4) Storage increases carbon emissions. If policymakers are serious about meeting climate targets, why would California spend $1 trillion every 10-12 years to emit even more CO2?

Len Rosen's picture
Len Rosen on Jul 6, 2020

Inevitably, Bob, I believe that storage will be part of distributed infrastructure and play only an inconsequential part in the future of the electrical grid. 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 7, 2020

Curious Len... when you say

 I believe that storage will be part of distributed infrastructure and play only an inconsequential part in the future of the electrical grid. 

How much battery storage do you think will there be on the US grid by 2030?

1)   < 10 GWh

2) 10GWh - 100 GWh

3) 100-1000GWh

4) > 1000 GWh

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