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Battery Hype

June 1, 2012

It’s disturbing to see published reports that are not only technically misleading, and probably inaccurate, but also pure propaganda.

The most recent example of this is the report on Distributed Energy Storage published by the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBATT).

The report tries to justify spending huge sums of money to install Distributed Energy Storage (DES) using batteries by claiming they are needed to (1) avoid financial losses from grid events, i.e., power interruptions, (2) allowing increased wind and solar power, and (3) to reduce our need for imported oil by using electric vehicles, either PHEVs or EVs.

The purpose of this type of propaganda is to justify the adoption of specific programs, in this case the widespread use of batteries to provide flexibility to the distribution system. Flexibility, as used in the report, is highly flexible and has little resemblance to the actual technical requirements of a distribution system.

For example, the report says DES can provide flexibility to a distribution transformer when PHEVs or EVs are being recharged. Distribution transformers come in various sizes, essentially from 5 KVA to 167 KVA, and can provide the current needed within the transformer’s rating. They can even be overloaded for short periods of time. But adding some batteries to augment the distribution transformer does little good. The correct course of action is to change out the distribution transformer with a larger unit, which provides a permanent solution to the additional load caused by battery recharging. (See, Hidden Cost of PHEVs Pt II)

Flexibility in this instance is a phony reason for installing DES.

The major emphasis of the report is to justify the use of batteries to allow for the integration of unreliable wind and solar power on the grid. Wind and solar are unreliable and stop generating electricity when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, which is an anathema to grid operation. Large battery installations could, theoretically, bridge the gap between when the wind stops blowing and new power generation supply, such as from gas turbines, can be brought on-line to replace the power lost from the now non-functioning wind turbines.

The report is merely another attempt to make it seem as though wind and solar are legitimate methods for generating electricity. Both methods are much more expensive than natural gas or coal for generating electricity, and adding batteries to the grid merely adds to the already high cost.

The report goes to great lengths to promote PHEVs and EVs as the way to cut oil imports, but recognizes that the high cost of batteries is likely to keep people from buying these vehicles. It uses the “save the country from foreign oil” slogan to propose that greater use of batteries in DES would increase the volume of batteries being manufactured, which would bring down the cost of the batteries, thereby making PHEVs and EVs more affordable.

The best way to avoid using oil from OPEC is to increase drilling in the United States.

The report fails to mention one exceedingly important factor about using batteries for DES – batteries don’t last very long and need to be replaced.

It may be unfair to relate the life of batteries used in laptop computers to the life of batteries used in DES, but it demonstrates that battery life is a real issue – that’s not mentioned in the report. One might say that failing to mention the issue is intellectually dishonest.

The report claims large savings from the avoidance of power interruptions, with most savings coming from people who need uninterruptable power. If that’s the case, then it’s more appropriate and cost effective for those needing uninterruptable power to install the necessary equipment to maintain a constant power supply.

In so far as residential savings are concerned, no amount of DES using batteries can supply electricity when the lines are down, which is what happens when there are storms. 

There is one final concern about the proposals for DES by the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries. The report tries to establish a “national need” so that costs can be spread across the nation, no matter who benefits.

The National Battery Alliance claims in section 4.3, Inability to Monetize the National Value of DES Systems that the main barrier to widespread adoption of DES is allowing local rate payers who pay for DES locally, to obtain monetary compensation for national benefits. Their solution to this is a tax credit, i.e., subsidy.

This proposal is contrary to the well established tradition of “user pays”. When equipment is installed on the grid, such as transmission lines, the cost is included in the rates of those who directly benefit from the new transmission line. A new line in Wisconsin isn’t paid for by those living in New York, even though there is a possibility that people in New York might benefit from the transmission line in Wisconsin.

It’s fairly clear that this report is merely another attempt to prop up wind and solar, which is coming under closer scrutiny because both are unreliable and expensive methods for generating electricity.

It’s also an attempt to justify more funding from the government for DES.



The NAATBAAT white paper is available at

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2012 10:07 pm

    Batteries can store the Direct Current generated by the variable speed wind generators and variable output solar cells, but are useless with the more practicle Alternating Current that drives all Western power grids. Batteries chemically ‘store’ energy with an input and output efficency loss, along with molecular erosion, which limits the number of recharge cycles. Photovoltaic cells ‘work’ strictly by molecular erosion and NEVER produce the energy required for manufacture. The article “Green Prince of Darkness” explains this greenie parlor trick. Other methods of energy ‘storage’ include capacitors, flywheels, pumped-elevated storage and phase change salts. All of these system have drawback and it is best if we just finally realize that Hydrocarbons are a natural by-product of Earth’s variable fission process. The article “Fossil Fuel is Nuclear Waste” explains that petroleum is in fact RENEWABLE energy !

  2. June 13, 2012 10:09 am

    Thanks for your comment.
    Batteries are a very limited solution for storing energy.


  1. Recent Energy and Environmental News – 12th June 2012 « PA Pundits – International

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