281. MORE ON FLOW BATTERIES
In #274, I briefly discussed flow batteries, and provided a link to Jim Fraser's explanation of how they operate. These batteries are capable of storing huge amounts of energy -- on the order of hundreds of MWh (enough energy to power 100,000 ordinary homes for a few hours).
A new article from the Toronto Star provides some details on the cost effectiveness of flow batteries compared to gas peaking plants:
While flow batteries are not new, the first dating back to the 19th century, interest has grown since the 1970s, and especially recently as they have become commercially viable for large-scale applications. They currently sell for approximately $500 per kWh of storage capacity, with incremental storage costs in large-scale systems of only $150 per kWh. In comparison, the cost of the 550 MW Portlands Energy Centre [a gas peaking plant] is projected to be $700 million.Flow batteries also have other advantages relative to gas peaking plants: short construction periods, zero emissions, low noise, few moving parts and smaller site footprint.
Installation costs are difficult to compare, as generator size is measured in megawatts (MW) while batteries are measured in megawatt-hours (MWh). The installation cost of a generator, to be compared to a battery, would have to take into account the number of hours it is expected to operate. If the Portlands Energy Centre served a daily peak of five hours duration, installation would cost $255 for each daily kWh it produced. Installation of a five-hour flow battery would cost $220 per kWh. Working lifetimes of the systems are comparable.
Operating and maintenance costs of flow batteries are dramatically lower than those of gas-fired generation, at a tenth of a penny per kWh. The system operates automatically. The "fuel" for flow batteries is inexpensive energy purchased off-peak at about 3 cents per kWh. With energy losses of 25 to 30 per cent, total costs for delivery are about 4 cents per kWh.
Gas-fired generation, by contrast, fluctuates around 7 cents per kWh just for the fuel to produce it, with much higher operating and maintenance costs that can bring the total cost to 10 cents per kWh produced.
These batteries are a great idea, and in fact, may actually be too great of an idea. If they catch on, they're bound to step on the toes of the existing Big Gas industry and all the fat cats and speculators who've invested in gas futures and LNG. Now that every greedy scumbag around is positioned to profiteer on skyrocketing gas prices, the last thing they want to see is some slick, simple technology which slashes demand for gas.
In fact, it's very possible that the entrenched gas/utility industry has actually stepped in to derail the development of flow batteries. In the early 2000s, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was constructing a 120MWh flow battery in Columbus, Mississippi...
Developed as the Regenesys Project with the Tennessee Valley Authority and partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the project generated tremendous interest through 2003. A 120 MWh peak system was to provide the power for 7,500 homes for 10 hours each day.From an AP report:
The project reached the point where electrolyte was being brought in. But when the energy company developing the process was purchased by a German firm, the project was suddenly halted.(Source: Toronto Star article)
Posted on Tue, Dec. 09, 2003Further info from the Guardian:
Company pulls plug on power storage plant in Lowndes County
COLUMBUS, Miss. - Seven months after halting construction of a cutting edge, large-scale power storage plant here, Regenesys Technology Ltd. has pulled the plug on the $25 million Lowndes County project.
The company will no longer manufacture the technology needed to run the 12-megawatt plant that was being built off Mississippi 373 near Columbus Air Force Base.
Mark Kuntz, Regenesys' vice president of marketing and business development for U.S. operations, said German utility company RWE purchased its parent company, Innogy Technology Ventures Limited of Great Britain, and wishes to stop funding the technology.
"Upon review of overall strategy, the parent company decided that Regenesys Technology is not part of their core operation," Kuntz said.Source
Innogy pulls plug on RegenesysA similar 120MWh battery in Little Barford (UK) was almost complete when it was axed by the new owners (more information here). Here's a photo of the abandoned facility from the Google cache:
Tuesday December 16, 2003
Innogy, the energy group, has abandoned its Regenesys electricity storage project after its German parent, RWE, decided against investing the money needed to commercialise the technology.
"The whole project has stopped. Following a European-wide review of core projects, the decision was taken not to commit further funding to the Regenesys electricity storage scheme," a spokesman said yesterday. "While ongoing testing has proven the technology, we will not be committing the capital expenditure needed to take it to market," he added. (Source: same as above)