Are batteries the solution to intermittent renewables?
With traditional power resources, a home or business is connected to a local distribution grid so that it can be accessed 24/7. When using a renewable energy resource, back-up and storage resources must be included with the power generation opportunity. Those resources may come from solar or wind, however the sun only shines for part of each day and only if it’s not cloudy. Wind can be very inconsistent, reducing wind generator output that may not meet high demand, or peak, needs. The storage capabilities that would be required to ensure that customers have reliable service can push the cost of a new renewable energy system beyond what the average person or community can afford.
Batteries are the most common solution to renewable intermittency. (An intermittent energy source cannot be turned on or off to meet demand) This concept works in theory, however it’s the scale and costs of a battery storage system that is a barrier at this time.
To store the energy Muscatine requires for just 12 hours, MPW would need to install about 2,000 mega-watt hours (MWH) of battery storage. That amount of storage would require 40-50 acres of land. Additionally, the cost of the battery storage would cost approximately $887 million – and that’s just in capital cost. Add another $97 million in annual costs for debt service, fixed operation, and maintenance. Not only would this cost be a tremendous burden on our taxpayers, but disposal of battery material would also be a significant environmental concern.