Storage Double Speak
Storage is essential for large scale use of wind and solar, but several factors have inhibited the building of additional storage capacity on the grid.
Space limitations, such as for adding batteries, or available sites, such as for pumped storage, are two problems that have inhibited adding additional storage, but cost has been the greatest impediment.
But now, with a stroke of the pen, costs have been cut in half.
How is that possible, one might wonder?
Well, AES Corporation has decided that a 1 MW installation is really a 2 MW installation.
As a result, storage that traditionally costs at least $2,000 per KW, can now cost $1,000 per KW … and this makes it competitive with a new natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant that costs around $1,100 per KW to build.
All of this is done with the stroke of a pen, or pencil. It’s so simple, a computer isn’t even needed.
AES Energy Storage President Chris Shelton said that a storage facility performs two functions: First it absorbs energy and then it discharges energy. Voila, costs are cut in half because it can both absorb and discharge electricity.
On this basis AES now claims to have doubled its existing energy storage.
She added, “And I think if the whole storage industry started to think about its capabilities in terms of flexible capacity and ramping — i.e. ramp up and ramp down —we would take off the table the perception of storage being expensive relative to gas.”
Wow, two for the price of one. Everyone likes a bargain.
While this may make it sound as though storage is cheap, it will still cost the same amount to build a storage facility. A facility that costs $100 million will still cost $100 million, no matter how anyone wants to spin the cost.
For example, Beacon’s, 20 MW flywheel storage facility in Stephentown, New York, cost $68 million1. Now, with Doublespeak2, it’s a 40 MW facility.
All of this may seem somewhat humorous and trivial, but it’s the essence of Doublespeak, and Doublespeak is important because it distorts information.
The media can now report that storage is no more costly than building a NGCC power plant, in terms of $/KW. The average person will accept this at face value; even though it isn’t accurate … the plant will still cost at least $2/KW, not $1/KW, to build.
It’s these types of distortions that cause people to believe that wind power is no more expensive than electricity produced by coal or natural gas3.
Storage is expensive, and will remain so until there is a real technological breakthrough, and not because of some sleight of hand, or the stroke of a pen.
- All-in cost including legal, grid connection and construction amounting to $3,400 /KW.
- Doublespeak is from George Orwell’s’ 1984, and is described as using words meaning the opposite of their original meaning, or distorting their meaning for political purposes.
- AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) usually talks about the size of an installation rather than the amount of electricity an installation can produce. It will, for example, announce that X MW of new wind power was installed, and this is what the media reports. The EIA adds a charge to coal for CO2 emissions at $15 per ton, so it appears as though wind is no more expensive than coal for generating electricity.
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