WHAT’S IN STORE? Some dumb questions from a battery simpleton.
So much talk. So much talk about solar power and battery storage. So much talk about demand management. So much talk about power sharing. So much talk about so much blue sky in the renewable energy space. So much excitement. So many possibilities. So many options.
It’s great that a shiny new industry has sprung up out of nowhere and it’s great there is a new source of employment opportunities. It’s also great those serial entrepreneurs have got a new rag doll to gnaw on and toss around the back yard. It’s also great some of the country’s, nay, the world’s greatest minds are collectively pooling grey matter as we all boldly quick step towards a bright new tomorrow.
It had to happen sooner or later. And it’s not a bad thing – quite the opposite.
What I’m scratching my empty head about is a few questions that don’t have answers – at least not the answers I feel we should all be privy to.
The cacophony of noise coming from the orchestra pit of battery storage and power sharing has got me asking a few dumb questions that need (dumb) answers, in my opinion.
Category One: The Tech
- If lithium ion battery technology is THE best in breed how come we can’t carry Samsung phones on planes because their lithium ion batteries keep catching fire?
- If you install 10kW of lithium ion domestic battery storage on the side of your house, will this not increase the risk of your house going up in flames?
- If you install 10kW of lithium ion domestic battery storage on the side of your house, will your insurance premiums go up? Does the insurance industry have an opinion on safest batteries?
- Isn’t Australia’s building industry’s Standards jury still out on how to install your battery on your house? First it was fire proof garages, then lined bunkers in the back yard. What if the price of your battery drops to affordable levels but you need to spend $10k housing it? And if you got a battery before the new building standards rules, THEN what happens to your insurance premiums?
- Is lithium the only choice when it comes to rechargeable batteries? What about Zinc Bromide, or even safer, Zinc Air?
- Isn’t lithium really expensive and kinda rare? Mines in outback Australia, mesa based lake systems in Argentina and even Siberia supply Elon’s insatiable appetite. Does the cost of remote mining, refining and transportation keep the cost of these batteries high? Zinc is 1/17th the cost of lithium. Air is free (at the time of writing). Wouldn’t a Zinc Air option provide a safer, more price pointed alternative to the Sonnen/Tesla/LG Chem choice we are being brainwashed into accepting as industry best standard? Would $5,000 rather than $10,000 -15,000 be welcomed by the market?
- What happens when your battery dies? I have to recycle the double A’s in my TV remote. Where the hell am I going to recycle my 120Kg fire hazard from the side of the house?
- Are we not witnessing, in front of our very eyes, a brand new bio-hazard being created? No one has offered up waste management solutions for old big batteries.
Category Two: Make Sure You Share
A particularly loud noise from the orchestra pit is Demand Management – or being able to share your stored power when others need it.
- What if I don’t want to share?
- Will new laws emerge around a citizens’ obligations to share when others are in need?
- Should these laws come to pass (likely), all that money and effort to take ‘one step off the grid’, regain some self determination, stick it to the man etc be wasted?
- How will you feel when that happens?
- Recently, on the news, a story emerged around new houses being built, all with solar and storage, that can share power amongst each other when one or more members of this community or ‘micro-grid’ needs it. This is a microcosm example of the big demand management picture. Q. Do you like your ‘grid buddy’ enough to allow him to dip into your hard earned free solar power?
- As you sit under your single globe reading lamp, your grid buddy has all 5 TV’s on and each down light blazing, while dad hits the power tools in the garage. Do you feel resentment rising up within you, knowing your neighbour is arrogantly bleeding power, safe in the knowledge he can leech off you when the sun goes down? Sure, you’ll be paid for your power sharing, but 10c, maybe 15c per kW is as good as it’s ever gonna get. Is it worth it? Which brings me to the next category
Category Three: Who Makes Money?
Someone bigger and uglier than you, is my guess.
- How does one share power? You can’t put 10kW in the esky and hand it to your neighbour over the back fence. I actually know the answer to this one already – the network companies are needed to share power. The poles and wires people, the humming transformer above your driveway people. These companies are the big winners in renewable energy Tomorrowland. Solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geo-thermal, big storage may be disrupting the traditional coal and gas generators while micro grids with power sharing and larger scale VPP’s may be disrupting the electricity retailers but nobody can touch the networks. Electricity without wires is like corn flakes without milk. No matter which way one looks at differing models for a more democratic grid management system or systems and what differing models may emerge as we move forward nothing happens without the networks. What this means is, unless you are truly ‘off grid’, the networks will have you by the short and curlies regardless of where you get your power from. And this means they will charge. Go for it, share your juice with your grid buddy, get the occasional 10c per kW for your trouble but when you get your bill, have a look at the new category on it called (hypothetically) Environmental Network Fees and see what the networks are charging you for your altruism. As it is, network fees account for 48% of your current bill. I can’t see that reducing now nor in a decade when we all have solar, storage, sharing software, good feelings.
- Will energy ever be easy, like it once was?