Next time you go to charge your smart phone battery, mark down the time you plug the charger in and the time the battery charge indicator tells you the battery is once again full. If you don’t feel like going through the bother, and who can blame you, I’ll save you the time and just tell you. Charging your smartphone will take hours. As if you didn’t already know.
My smartphone is a Blackberry Z10. It has an 1800 milliAmp-hour battery, which charges at 3.8 Volts. Do the math, and you see that a full charge from empty (not recommended) involves the storage of 6.84 watt-hours of electrical energy. It takes more than a few hours to store these 6.84 watt-hours, or 24,624 joules.
Notice I cannot simply get a charger that utilizes my full household electricity voltage (120 volts) so as to reduce charge time by a factor of 32. That would destroy my battery, and possibly burn down my home.
This morning I received a press release from the Alberta Storage Alliance, a collection of electricity-sector private companies and startups, who propose electricity storage as a solution to the intermittency of renewable sources like wind.
In the ASA’s own words:
The ASA believes energy storage can bring significant benefits to the Alberta Interconnected Electricity System. The ASA’s role is to help energy market stakeholders, regulators and politicians better understand how to integrate energy storage and ensure the province takes full advantage of these technologies.
What benefits could they possibly be talking about?
There are very frequent times when even if Ontario had 10 times the wind capacity it does today (i.e., even if there were 45,000 MW of wind capacity, about 10,000 more than the current total system capacity), wind could not meet even half of electricity demand. A perfect example is today, July 20. At noon on this picture-perfect Wednesday, Ontario’s wind fleet, capacity 4,500 megawatts, is producing a laughable 67 MW. That works out to less than half of one percent of the total.
So never mind having 10 times our current wind capacity—if we had 100 times the current wind capacity, i.e. if we had 450,000 MW of wind capacity, we’d only be getting 6,700 MW from wind.
Forget about meeting anywhere close to heat demand at any time of the year.
Storage is supposed to solve this problem. In the coming utopia, we’ll be able to instantly store excess power during those rare moments when wind output exceeds demand.
As I discussed above in the smartphone example, you cannot instantly store power as potential energy in a chemical battery. You have to wait many hours for the electrons to align.
But even if that fundamental physics problem gets solved—and let’s not fool ourselves, it will never be solved—the excess power, converted to stored energy, still cannot cover the more-frequent times when there just isn’t enough wind power.
Wind power is quite simply an uneconomical and inefficient way to make electricity. It does nothing other than line the pockets of rent-seekers whose business model is to get governments to force us ratepayers to pay them grossly inflated prices for a commodity we can get for far less from far cheaper sources.
Electricity storage is, like wind power, just another of the pie-in-the-sky notions purveyed by people whose careers are spent prying money out of the pockets of unsuspecting electricity ratepayers.
No government should fall for this confidence game.
The Notley NDP in Alberta showed a spark of independent outside-the-green-box thinking with their summary dismissal of the idiocy that is the Leap Manifesto.
Can Alberta’s government maintain that level headed position in the face of the ultra-confident rent-seekers of the ASA?
The best way for the Notley NDP to take full advantage of electricity storage technologies is to ignore them. They solve no problems other than the revenue-generation problems of their proponents.