Renewable Energy can’t supply more than 30% of electricity without revolutionary battery breakthrough

Wind and solar are too intermittent to comprise much of electric grid power now, according to Steven Chu, former US energy secretary.  In 2010, Chu said, “Without technological breakthroughs in efficient, large-scale energy storage, it will be difficult to rely on intermittent renewables for much more than 20-30% of electricity.”

Unless a major breakthrough in batteries happens, we will continue to require natural gas fueled power plants to ramp up and down quickly to cope with intermittent sources of power.  “When you ramp power plants up and down they lose efficiency” according to Haresh Kamath of the Electric Power Research Institute in Washington DC.

And keep in mind, for the long run, these batteries need to have a positive EROEI over their entire life cycle from mining and crushing of rocks for metals to fabrication to delivery.  If they require more energy to construct across the life cycle than they more energy to create than at least 5 times the energy stored and discharged, our way of life can’t continue.

In addition, batteries must be composed of cheap and abundant materials.  Platinum, lithium, and many other metals are scarce and take too much energy to extract.

References

Hal Hodson. 2 Feb 2013. Greening the Grid. NewScientist.

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One Response to Renewable Energy can’t supply more than 30% of electricity without revolutionary battery breakthrough

  1. Bill chaffee says:

    More efficient and economical energy storage would also help base load power generators. If surplus power generatored by base load plants at night was stored and then released in response to demand then there would be less need for peaking plants. The potential energy density of fly wheels is limited by the strength of materials. Doubling the speed of fly wheels quadruples the energy density and stress. Conversion loses limit efficiency. Renewable energy is banned by the second law of thermodynamics