Last year I reviewed the Tesla Powerwall and said that the price of this battery needed to drop by 50% to around $1,500 to catch my attention. Since the Powerwall battery was priced at $428/kWh I was hoping to see a price closer to $214/kWh to get me interested. Last week I saw an article about the BioSolar battery that said it might be the “Game Changer” because this battery is estimated to cost $54/kWh. With my current electrical cost of 12¢ per kilowatt hour a 7 kWh battery will save me $0.84 a day. If we make a guess that a 7 kWh BioSolar battery will cost less than a $1,000 then the payback is now 3.26 years versus 9.78 years for the Powerwall. If the Powerwall was a small step forward for green technology then the Biosolar battery is a great leap forward. The cost effectiveness of the BioSolar battery has the potential to make a subsidy-less, solar panel project a financial reality. Since going off the grid is quickly becoming both simple and cost effective, look out utility companies!
Many people including me thought that the science behind Ivanpah Solar Plant was so much better than the rest of the pack that it was the renewable energy idea that was most likely to succeed. Last year I heard stories that the plant was using considerably more natural gas than anticipated in an effort to start steam generation from solar power earlier in the day. So either the brine was cooling off too quickly overnight or someone had dramatically underestimated the power available from the morning sun. It is an intriguing mechanical engineering problem but it looked more like a problem with bad solar science rather than bad luck with the weather. The unanswered question was whether this solar science problem could be overcome with a small additional cost or was this a deal breaker for this plant?
This month we got the answer.
California electric utility regulators on Thursday, March 17, approved a deal between Pacific Gas & Electric and the owners of Ivanpah solar plant that gives plant operators more time to increase electricity production.
The plant’s owners have agreed to pay PG&E an undisclosed sum in exchange for getting time to improve the plant’s electricity output. The deal followed realizations that the plant is failing to meet its production obligations to the utility.
Technically the plant’s owners signed a forbearance agreement so that PG&E will not declare that its power purchase agreement with the plant owners is in default. When PG&E uses the word default the problem is serious and activists are forcing it to confront the production problem. If Californians opted to buy renewable power through higher utility rates, they better be getting their power from solar powered generators and not from gas powered generators. If the plant owners do not get their act together by July 31 then they probably have only one six month extension they can count on before PG&E will push for default. According to the report the solar power production for last year amounted to only 624,500 megawatt hours of solar power or about 62% of what they expected to produce. This production number is 50% better than the previous year and it was achieved primarily by preheating the water to extend the solar production day. Once again this looks like a mechanical engineering patch for bad solar science rather than luck with the weather.
The really interesting question is what can the plant owner’s do to avoid default and what is the future for renewable energy. The plant owner’s have enough solar data from running the plant in 2014 and 2015 to predict the maximum amount of electricity they can generate from solar power. Do they have any engineering tricks left that will improve solar power production by 50% or is the best strategy is to avoid the sunk cost fallacy and admit defeat. Negotiating a new contract with lower production quotas sounds like a better financial solution for the plant owners than throwing additional money at the problem or shutting down the plant. The enduring problem is that the Ivanpah failure will give credence to the argument that big renewable energy projects are not only bad investments but are prone to corruption through the use of bad science. Future renewable energy projects will be slower to fund and construct since they will have to meet much tougher scientific standards.
As an Ohio resident I am upset that my electrical rate has gone up at a 5.1% annual rate since 2011. It is not like we have a shortage of electrical power generation or any of its fuels. I did my fair share of improving my carbon footprint but rate increases overwhelmed all of my cost savings from improved insulation and LED light bulbs. The renewable lobby has over promised the cost savings and new jobs for years and the middle class has been stuck with the bill. Last year the Ohio legislature finally said we need to pause the renewable energy mandates and take a close look at why this program has consistently under-performed. Hurray! A group of legislators who actually did their job!
For middle class people whose salaries have been stagnant, the “Green Energy” mandates reminds us of the Affordable Care Act since the only thing worse than my electrical rate increases has been the 11.7% annual increase in my health insurance premiums. For those middle class people who balance their budget on a regular basis we are getting slapped in the face by our “friends” in government trying to help us. If this is helping the middle class, I want less help. Both of these programs share the same management style that encourages government incompetence and cronyism at the expense of the middle class.
As a person who lives on a farm a Powerwall battery I am a likely customer if the battery when teamed up with a solar array is a cost effective replacement for utility company generated electricity. With my current electrical cost of 12¢ per kilowatt hour a 7kWh battery will save me $0.84 a day. If we ignore the investment cost of producing the charging electricity with a solar array, it will take about 9.78 years to break even under perfect weather conditions. If we assume that I would probably be willing to take a chance on the battery if the payback was 5 years or less then, that either the electrical rate has to go up to 24¢ per kilowatt hour or the battery cost has to drop to $1,500 for the battery.
Here are the specifications on the Powerwall.
- Technology – Wall mounted, rechargeable lithium ion battery with liquid thermal control.
- 10 kWh Cost: $3,500
Purpose: For backup applications
- 7 kWh Cost: $3,000
Purpose: For daily cycle applications
- 10 kWh Cost: $3,500
- Warranty Ten year warranty with an optional ten year extension.
- Efficiency 92% round-trip DC efficiency
- Power 2.0 kW continuous, 3.3 kW peak
- Voltage 350 – 450 volts
- Current 5 amp nominal, 8.5 amp peak output
- Compatibility Single phase and three phase utility grid compatible.
- Operating Temperature -4°F to 110°F / -20°C to 43°C
- Enclosure Rated for indoor and outdoor installation.
- Installation Requires installation by a trained electrician. AC-DC inverter not included.
- Weight 220 lbs. / 100 kg
- Dimensions 52.1″ x 33.9″ x 7.1″ (130 cm x 86 cm x 18 cm)
- Certifications UL listed
Although Breitbart is typically not a source I would consult for information on wind farm projects, I think that this article, FLAGSHIP GERMAN OFFSHORE WIND FARM PROJECT HUMILIATED BY TECHNICAL FAULTS, provides a good summary of the state of the wind farm projects in Europe. This article does not mention the technical problems but I suspect the biggest problem for these big wind generators is the bearing technology is not good enough. I first heard about the bearing problem in the article, Bearings: The Achilles Heel of Wind Turbines. This sounds like an engineering technology problem that is not going away fast enough to avoid big political problems for wind technology supporters.
by DONNA RACHEL EDMUNDS 12 Sep 2014
Germany’s flagship Bard 1 offshore wind farm has been described as “a faulty total system” as technical problems continue to plague the project, casting major doubts on the feasibility of large scale offshore projects.
The wind farm was officially turned on in August last year but was shut down again almost immediately due to technical difficulties that have still not been resolved – and now lawyers are getting involved.
The wind farm comprises 80 5MW turbines situated 100 km off the north German coastline. The difficulty facing engineers is how to get the electricity generated back to shore. So far, every attempt to turn on the turbines has resulted in overloaded and “gently smouldering” offshore converter stations.
Built at a cost of hundreds of millions and costing between €1 and €2 million a day to service, the project is estimated to have cost €340 million in lost power generation over the last year alone. And if the problems with the technology are deemed not to be the fault of the operator, German taxpayers will be on the hook for the running and repair costs, thanks to the German Energy Act 2012.
My electric company replaced my electric meter last month with a smart meter and said I could view the meter data online. So when I was paying the bill last month I took a look to at the data. The hourly data looked interesting since at first glance it looked like it peaked during dinner time. To get an idea of electrical usage on a typical day I download July’s data and averaged it per hour. Sure enough it peaks around dinner time. My first thought was how is solar power going to help me if it peaks around lunch and I need it at dinner time. The only remaining question was how much solar power was being generated around dinner time. So I went over to PVWatts® Calculator to estimate my solar power capability. As you can see below the solar power drop off is significant after 3 pm. By the time my air conditioner and stove are creating my peak electrical demand, solar power has become an insignificant contributor. It looks like I need a significant investment in batteries for this project to provide most of my electrical power in July and an even larger investment in solar panels and batteries to provide the power in my peak electrical usage months of December, January, and February.
According to analysts, this assault on Ohio’s coal-burning power plants transfers directly into at least 10 plant shutdowns — from North Bend to Beverly — and over 1,000 job losses. According to a report from the United Mine Workers of America, national job losses associated with the closure of EPA-targeted coal units could be significant, amounting to more than 50,000 jobs in the coal, utility and rail industries. With Ohio’s unemployment rate still above 9 percent, the EPA "Train Wreck" would clearly be a major blow to our state.