Tesla unleashes Megapack battery to take on natural gas plants

Amid dipping solar investments, Tesla doubles down on energy storage.

By  Rae Hodge  July 30, 2019 1:09 PM PDT  cnet.com

Tesla has announced the Megapack battery, its largest energy storage product to date. The company aims to support energy grid usage during peak hours by storing up to 3 megawatt hours of clean wind and solar energy, supplanting natural gas "peaker" plants. The Megapacks are intended to be linked together and will be deployed in four California locations, Tesla said on Monday. 

Tesla's second-quarter financial results last week showed 81% growth in the deployment of its other energy storage products, the residential Powerwall and commercial Powerpack systems. The deployment accounted for 415 megawatt-hours of energy storage. 

The energy products accounted for $368 million of the $6.4 billion in revenue Tesla posted in the quarter.

Compared with peaker power plants, which Tesla said cost millions of dollars every day to operate because they "fire up whenever the utility grid can't provide enough power to meet peak demand," the Megapack would be more efficient.

"Instead, a Megapack installation can use stored excess solar or wind energy to support the grid's peak loads," the company said in a press release.

In 2017, Tesla also built the largest lithium-ion battery in the wo..., which it said Monday has allowed the facility to save "nearly $40 million in its first year alone."

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Here is a paper by Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute discussing the myriad of problems related to the proposed "Green Energy Revolution," including the impracticality of using battery energy storage to enable a "renewable" electricity grid. This does not mean that politicians won't impose it on society: consider the policy makers in California for example.

https://www.manhattan-institute.org/green-energy-revolution-near-im...

Thanks, James.  I'll make time to read in full when I get home.  The Manhattan Institute has a somewhat checkered history.

Fact Sheet: Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is an extremely conservative, corporate-funded, New York-based policy group.

  • The Manhattan Institute was founded by former CIA director William J. Casey in 1978. It was originally called the International Center for Economic Policy Studies, renamed the Manhattan Institute in 1980.

  • The Manhattan Institute is funded largely by major corporations and conservative foundations. According to the group's 10-year review, published in 1990, "by 1989, total contributions had grown to $2,113,000, 41 percent of which came from conservative and/or corporate foundations. Thirty-three percent came from Fortune 500 corporations, chiefly insurance companies and pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers including $50,000-plus each from Aetna and State From Insurance and $15,000-plus each from Prudential, Exxon, RJR Nabisco, Philip Morris, Bristol-Myers and Pfizer. Total revenue has grown to about $6 million, according to the 1997 edition of The Right Guide. See, Chesebro, "Galileo's Retort: Peter Huber's Junk Scholarship," 42 Am. U.L.Rev. 1637 (1993).

  • Some Manhattan Institute research on the civil justice system has been heavily criticized in law journals. In 1993, attorney Kenneth J. Chesebro wrote a lengthy and scathing attack on Manhattan Institute fellow Peter Huber's book, Galelio's Revenge. After meticulous research, Chesebro found Huber's book to rely "almost exclusively on anecdotal information and inflated rhetoric, misrepresent[ing] numerous aspects of its subject matter, and present[ing] no considered, objective or empirically-based measure of the extent of the 'junk science' problem." He called Galelio's Revenge, "perfectly described with Huber's own words as a 'catalog of every conceivable kind of error: data dredging, wishful thinking, truculent, dogmatism and, now and again, outright fraud'.… Galileo would quickly become exasperated at the unsupported thesis of Huber's book, its numerous material misrepresentations and omission, and its manipulative and evasive method of argument." Chesebro, "Galileo's Retort: Peter Huber's Junk Scholarship," 42 Am. U.L.Rev. 1637 (1993). See also, Hager, "Civil Compensation and its Discontents: A Response to Huber," 42 Stan. L. Rev. 539 (1990)

Mills is solid and has good credentials, but the go-to guy on these issues is Vaclav Smil, who has both the credentials and an utter lack of agenda.

Below is the Real time display of the lower 48 states operating grid. 

If you click on ERCOT (Texas) or CISCO (Cal) - Both with large renewable generators  you will see that virtually all the renewable power is 100% used all the time.  (note you can expand the time frame to a year by clicking on the spoke on the appropriate chart, if you put the curser over the legend it hi-lights the source.) 

Batteries may reduce peaker units but the power stored will come from non - renewable sources for the foreseeable future.

https://www.eia.gov/beta/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric...

Thanks for the link.  The trajectory of the generation market seems to headed to renewable energy sources with battery storage backed up by natural gas peaker plants.  Although those plants have a critical role to play and are uniquely suited to do so, they will seldom generate base load electricity in the foreseeable future.  They will be the final backup to maintain the grid the few times that the base load sources can not do so.  The renewable energy sources will be varied depending on location/region but I don't think we need battery backups that have the capacity to cover all eventualities.  Each node of the grid will use some level of natural gas fired generation backup.

Maybe Georgetown, Texas could have used some of these big batteries for energy storage.  What's the initial investment cost for the Tesla batteries?  What about disposal issues when the batteries need to be replaced?

https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2019-03-28/in-georgetow...

Here's a more comprehensive article on Georgetown, Texas challenges to go all green.

https://www.statesman.com/news/20190223/why-georgetowns-green-energ...

Georgetown made a business decision mistake as opposed to a bad battery decision.

"The thing that struck me about Georgetown is that they had contracted for more than 100 percent of the power," he says. "They could have contracted for 80 percent of their power and could go on the spot market for the rest. That's one way to manage the risk."

 Battery disposal and/or reuse is getting attention from companies that are looking long term but the ever evolving battery designs make for a challenge.  Lithium-ion is the current standard but will it be replaced in the near future by something else?  Or will the chemistry of lithium-ion batteries change.  Companies are working on both.

“The problem of large scale battery recycling and disposal is not yet upon us, but it’s on its way down the pipeline. This gives us several years to aggressively build the battery recycling industry that is required to support sustainable energy storage. Luckily, the problem is not that one caused by lack of ability, but one caused by unfavourable costs and lack of suitable infrastructure — both issues that renewable energy itself has faced.”

Battery costs are declining rapidly.  Here is a link to a Wood Mackenzie article on the subject.

Report: Levelized Cost of Energy for Lithium-Ion Batteries Is Plummeting

Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds the long-term costs of multi-hour energy storage can compete with natural gas and coal in an increasing number of markets today.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/report-levelized-cost-...

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