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Plan to Zero (#21) It starts with Storage.

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization, Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
  • 299 items added with 117,676 views
  • Jun 5, 2023

In this portion we start to form a plan which will continue for several weeks.

Depending on which report you read, by 2050 the US grid needs to make and move between 220 and 280 percent of what it did in 2020. New capacity installation of wind is currently 40% of renewables, and Solar is 60% (2021-2). Some non-renewable generation will be added to meet the 2050 goals (likely nuclear if we push).
To firm the future generation, storage is required, a massive amount of storage. Ideally, we are talking about 500 GW of demand and 50 to 100 hours of that storage. That is Terawatt hours of storage, a mind-boggling ten of trillions of dollars in Lithium based batteries [Musk’s math is wrong].

The reality is lithium does not belong as stationary storage. Rather pumped hydro in Ludington type facilities is what we need.
The Japanese on Okinawa have proven that salt water pumped hydro is not only possible but is proven to operate for 50 plus years. It is possible to build pumped hydro islands near shore. There are 30 or 40 good sites around the US for large Ludington type facilities. Five or six exist on the Great Lakes, 2 or 3 on the Finger Lakes, 3 offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, 6-12 along the Atlantic coast, and 4-14 on the West Coast. All are capable of hosting at least 10 Gigawatts of pumped storage, some able to host up to 100 GW.
Likely like the great projects of the 1920s and 30s, these will have to be government-chartered corporations (think TVA and BPA). This keeps the debt off the Federal books, similar to what was done with TVA and BPA. The corporations would run their organizations to pay off the debt over 40 years while breaking even otherwise.

When all is done, we are likely to have the equivalent of Lake Michigan not once but twice in these new storage islands. Currently the total electrical energy storage in North America is less than 5 minutes (if we could use it all at once) of average summer usage. We are adding capacity at less than 20 seconds per year.
This type of storage at this magnitude is beyond the thinking of any one from the government that I have had the opportunity to chat with, from many of the industry experts I get a lot of laughs or blank stares.
A few weeks later, in many cases, they want to talk.
If we can firm renewables and provide enough energy to ride through heat domes and polar vortex events, then we can support 100% renewables, anything short of being able to do this means that some fossil fuel ends up in the mix. That fossil fuel will likely come in the worst form, backup generation.

NOTE: This is the first of several articles, storage will appear again in the series when we get to distribution and customers. Nuclear will also appear in the series (of which this is part 21).
NEXT: Regulatory reform.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jun 8, 2023

Battery Storage has always been the Holy Grail of the GRID and Renewable Energy. The nice part is we now have that with the MegaBattery by Tesla and similar systems from others. EVen better is the millions of homes with Solar and Battery Storage that is there right now. This past summer Tesla created the VPP Virtual Power Plant. They asked customers to sign up and give a small amount of their Battery Storage to the GRID during times of need. They were paid $2 a kWh . It workled great and now Tesla is signing up homes in Texas to do the same thing. I hope they do it all over the world. Next there are millions of Plugin Vehicles that will be able to provide EVen more power to the GRID with V2G Vehicle to GRID. This is becoming a in demand feature to make your Vehicle pay for itself and provide backup power for your home. A sure hope you don't push for your limited Uranium choice. QUOTE = Some non-renewable generation will be added to meet the 2050 goals (likely nuclear if we push).


Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jun 8, 2023

Based on US DOE estimates about 800,000 homes have storage. 

Only 1 vehicle today has all the equipment and software for V2H - the F-150 lightning, the rest are missing hardware. Ford does not have the V2G firmware finished yet, so there are technically no V2G vehicles yet. Most warranties (including Tesla) prohibit V2H let alone V2G and the manufacturer can take your battery if you do violate the warranty. 

Storage is NOT just lithium based batteries, there are lots of LOWER cost choices with higher levels of safety and a much longer life. 


Pulikkal Ashokan's picture
Pulikkal Ashokan on Jun 8, 2023

I am working on better solutions to generate power 24 hours continuously.
Perhaps this will help not to patronize the costly battery storage. My efforts are
to focus on instant energy to the end users at their doorsteps independently instead of
bringing the power from distant areas.
Researcher - 100% clean energy
Ph 9074575071 , email

Doug Houseman's picture
Thank Doug for the Post!
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