126 Comments
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

We used to maintain a minimum of 3 months storage in our coal inventories. That is, we could run our plants 24/7 for 3 months without new fuel delivery. Our 1800 MW Baldwin power station would occasionally build inventory to 6 months in anticipation of supply disruptions due to mine or railroad problems. All this was to meet our customer service obligations and earn our keep.

Expand full comment
author

What did all that coal storage space cost you on the plant?

Expand full comment
May 5Liked by Isaac Orr

😀

Earth storage

Expand full comment

Exactly, and it’s why we should stop burning and definitely stop exporting coal. How can anyone that lived through 2008 when CPI hit 5.5% yoy believe cheap energy is our birthright?? Oh, and that 5.5% CPI was BS because in 2005/06 Katrina spiked energy prices and so they fell before returning to trend.

Expand full comment
author

Cheap energy is our birthright

Expand full comment

$130/barrel oil and $12.69 Henry Hub after almost 8 years of two energy industry CEOs as president and VP. 😂 😂 😂

Expand full comment
May 4·edited May 4Liked by Isaac Orr

Good information for people to know and understand. Back in the day customers mattered, now we are just here for the fleecing and wind, solar and batteries are good at that!

Expand full comment
May 5Liked by Isaac Orr

All of the coal fired plants here in Alberta were built on coal mines

So, ~300 year supply

Free storage

Expand full comment
May 5Liked by Isaac Orr

Better than conversion to methane by millions of times.

Expand full comment
May 5Liked by Isaac Orr

Many of our coal thermal plants were converted to gas thermal plants, the coal is still right there.

Once the tulip mania abates we can just convert them back as needed

Expand full comment

Or we can consider it insurance for when we really need it. Burning coal is dumber than smoking cigarettes!

Expand full comment

Nothing wrong with coal if you scrub particulates

Expand full comment

Maybe if you have a short memory and don’t remember 2008…we had an energy crisis that imploded the economy. 5.5% CPI that was probably closer to 8%.

Expand full comment

Wow - what a difference in preparedness.

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

Good article, and an important spotlight on the fallacy of battery energy storage vs. direct burn of high energy density fossil fuels or nat gas.

See comparison of energy densities of common combustible materials for example:

https://tucoschild.substack.com/p/energy-density-and-why-we-need-nuclear

Expand full comment

This is one of your most important articles. You might consider re-publicizing it after making an edit to update some information.

Expand full comment

Gene, it's amazing that NatGas has 100x the energy density of Li battery and they insist on foisting on us electrons and batteries from remote fuel burn .

Incredibly inefficient.

Expand full comment

I believe this inefficiency has its roots in subsidy-seeking instead of applying scientific and engineering principles. The saying, "follow the money" is apt.

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

I hope that ISO New England is listening to this. They have decommissioned all of their coal-fired capacity. Connecticut, one of the worst offenders in this regard, is 60% reliant on natural gas fired electrical generation. The Millstone nuclear power plant provides nearly 40% of the remaining capacity. The state has an undersized natural gas pipeline network with very little storage. In the winter months the state of Connecticut purchases LNG on the international spot market from Tobago and Trinidad - at 4 to 5 times the cost of pipeline gas. All of this has led to an exorbitant cost of living in the state --- while putting the public in a very precarious position by over reliance on natural gas and a single nuclear power plant. Connecticut is an accident waiting to happen.

Expand full comment

Talk about the methane hydrate formation in pipelines

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

Wind droughts are the fundamental problem. The Energy Bad Boys are right onto this and awareness is growing, not before time because the Autralians Anton Lang and the Paul Miskelly group described the wind drought problem over a decade ago ,but nobody took any notice. There was more conventional power in the system so the variable input didn’t really matter and people didn’t notice what was going on, like the frog in the saucepan.

It is scandalous that the meteorologists never said anything about wind droughts and the wind policy planners never asked. Now we know that windmills should never have been connected to the grid.

Expand full comment
May 5Liked by Isaac Orr

Last Summer in CTX and mostly all of TX and OK, we had multiple "HEAT DOMES". The renewables press highlighted in early July that the renewables saved texas power generation over. The real truth is that wind generation doesn't operate in extreme heat - NO WIND, my neighbors Generac's natural gas generators fired up and we stayed out of electricity a couple of times in 106+, once for 20 hrs during a 106 day, this year I'll spend any blackouts with a neighbor. The state of Texas is an independent energy state run by ERCOT, as an isolated Power Grid all Heat Waves requires all energy sources to operate at max and during the summer months. Further, Texas wind power output tends to hit its seasonal lows during the summer due to lower wind speeds, so total clean power generation may actually approach its annual low just as total power demand hits its highs. https://www.reuters.com/sustainability/climate-energy/slow-clean-power-generation-growth-hits-texas-power-sector-maguire-2024-04-17/

Expand full comment

There is another aspect of drought that needs more of a spotlight:

Large scale wind farms increase local temperatures and dry out ecosystems from air movement and friction. Please see:

https://tucoschild.substack.com/p/redux-wind-turbines-cause-local-and

Expand full comment
author

We should get a lawsuit going on these grounds

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

Great article. One key component, possibly the most important, deserves more attention: “Even if you were to build the battery storage instead of the natural gas storage facility, it might not necessarily be charged,..” This is critical. Imagine 5 days into a bad weather event when this storage is fully needed. In those 5 days, it is highly likely that the resilient gas supply system will be back in service- significant outages are almost always short-lived. I can’t recall any time they weren’t. Yet after 5 days of relying on battery power, the ability to recharge them could be low or non existent- think of a prolonged winter cold snap. At the times of greatest need, the ability to recharge those batteries will be lowest. A catastrophe for anyone foolish enough to rely on them for baseload.

Expand full comment

Terry, I was thinking the same thing, except no battery backup system comes anywhere near to being good for 5 days - it's more like 4 hours! And right, it "might not necessarily be charged" (what an understatement) - no wind and/or no solar for 5 days would leave the batteries uncharged for 4 days and 20 hours. LOL

Expand full comment

Exactly! The 5 days is a pipe dream. I was trying to be polite haha. Even the most basic analysis proves the insanity. As yet another compounding factor, batteries accept charge in a poor manner at temperature extremes, both hot and cold. The whole idea becomes farcical with an hour's analysis...and yet the Union of Concerned Scientists can't get there. Some science.

Expand full comment

Batteries are non-starters for mulit-hour grid storage. But the post is misleading on one respect. Tanks have to be charged too. In this case, what is fascinating

(if not astonishing) is they intend to do the liquifaction on site. Liquifying methane is very expensive. So I suspect the liquifaction plant will be quite small. If so, the charge time relative to capacity is probably worse than batteries.

Expand full comment

I was very surprised to see that as well. It might explain the cost…at a heat rate of 8 GJ/MWh the Otter storage will he about 0.25 BCF, for a cost of $80 million or $320 million/BCF…that has to include the cost of all the equipment. Other storage transactions in the southern US last year were about $20 million/BCF.

Expand full comment

Right. Dual fuel and an oil tanks would be far cheaper.

Expand full comment

Good Post!

Imagine the explosion hazards from these batteries, especially a lightning strike or other failure event

Expand full comment

Ugh never even thought of that. And they burn forever

Expand full comment

Hi. I cross-posted this at Electric Grandma, and Gene Preston wrote an email to me. I asked if I could share it as a comment on the post, and he said I could. Gene has decades of experience in utility planning. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/author/38556464200

And now, on to Preston's comment:

This is true but misleading. In Texas we only need extra gas storage to meet winter storm Uri energy supplies using gas plants. There is no way we could ever purchase enough battery energy storage so that's not even being looked at for winter energy. For summer peaking such as storage of solar energy to shift the delivery of excess solar to later hours in the same day battery storage is being looked at and some solar plants here are putting in some storage. It remains to be seen if the hourly nodal prices will pay for the battery cost. That application doesn't even look at gas storage vs batteries because its specific to solar plants. Batteries for summer peak load shaving (not for winter peaks) can be charged up during off peak hours. However its cheaper to just install peaker generators than try to use batteries. Batteries for that usage would need other advantages such as quick response for stability reasons. I don't recall anyone ever comparing LNG to batteries for a practical application. You have to ask yourself, where is the energy coming from to charge batteries? Is it fossil fuel free energy such as solar wind or nuclear or is it from other fossil plants charging the batteries? It matters when decarbonizing the grid such as in this simulation for a 2050 ERCOT scenario with 95% fossil fuel free emission. https://egpreston.com/ERCOT22N4.xlsx

Expand full comment
author

The reason we wrote the piece is because wind and solar advocates are claiming we don’t need fuel storage for gas and we can instead use batteries and the rest of it. I think Preston is correct for summer peaking systems but that’s why we focused on winter demand and storage needs.

Expand full comment

California with its large installed solar PV generation is an important example. Even with batteries, the state still requires significant synchronous grid inertia to maintain stability. See the GreenNUKE article, "Why is Grid Inertia Important?" 04 March 2024 https://greennuke.substack.com/p/why-is-grid-inertia-important. LNG offers the advantage that it can power a synchronous thermal generator. Batteries can't supply significant amounts of synchronous grid inertia, as is noted in the GreenNUKE article. Furthermore, for winter peaking electric power grids, about the only thing solar and wind can be counted on is to NOT be available. See Winter Storm Uri's (February, 2021) after-action report from ERCOT. This article covers some details: https://www.energygps.com/Newsletter/b/Newsletter-ORDC-Action-in-August--2252292 If you need a copy of this article, please email me at government [at] CGNP dot org See also https://www.naturalnews.com/2022-12-30-gas-power-saves-texas-from-blackouts.html for the late December, 2022 failure of wind generation.

Expand full comment

Very important point Gene, the renewable group is claiming battery backed synthetic intertia is all we need. They keep talking about Australia, in the meantime Australia is having some real issues with subsychronous reactance caused by the inverter penitration. WECC is also seeing forced oscillations from inverters that power system stabilizers are unable to dampen out.

Expand full comment

Agreed. When the power transmission infrastructure is critical, as in the case of the Pacific DC Intertie, a sophisticated protection scheme to keep this 1 million Volt DC intertie stable after disturbances is cost-effective. The economics for a grid-connected battery pack protection scheme are unfavorable, so a much simpler protection scheme is employed. Since the electric power grid was designed around large synchronous generators, the most likely consequence of more batteries is more problems.

Expand full comment

I remember when the DC tripped it would bounce path 51 all over and they would sometimes insert the Chief Joseph Brake to calm things down.

Expand full comment
author

The battery vs lng debate is active at the MN PUC, as all of the environmental groups have opposed the LNG facility. Maybe that’s not an issue in Texas but this course of action is being advocated for here and it gets much colder on the northern border.

Expand full comment
May 6Liked by Isaac Orr

PJM just pointed out the facts of a Sierra Club proposal to close a Baltimore Gas & Electric coal plant and replace with a 600MW 4 or 6 hour battery storage.

"PJM estimated the 2024 cost to build a 600 MW four-hour and six-hour duration battery; the capital cost alone is ~$1 billion and ~$1.4 billion respectively in 2022 dollars, based on the overnight capital cost from NREL's Annual Technology Baseline."

https://pjm.com/-/media/library/reports-notices/special-reports/2024/20240503-bess-technical-viability-wagner-and-brandon-shores-retirements-study.ashx

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

Once again - love what you are doing and saying and all the resources you provide for light evening reading!

Pricing on batteries is great information, knew it was ridiculous, but this shows where we are headed! TPUC just loves batteries! So God help us! Never been a fan myself, in case you couldn't tell.

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Mitch Rolling

In what sane world would BATTERIES be viewed as a reasonable source of utility level electricity? I think Elon is a great brain but he and the others who propose to saddle the country with this nonsense are playing a very expensive and health threatening game with taxpayer money.

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

We are five minutes to midnight, lose more fossil fuel capacity and lights will be failing all over the world every night when the wind is low.

Expand full comment

China opens three new coal plants each week. These nut jobs don't care about that, and go bonkers over the existence of even one plant in Minn. or S.D. This makes no sense until one considers the fact that their goal is Washington based control of all American life. Energy and a manufactured "climate emergency" are simply useful as a vehicle to intimidate/bully/ frighten people into compliance.

The world's maximum coal usage/demand occurred in 2023. After this year, it will be 2024. This is not because the US is using more. These people know that.

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

Thanks for another great and informative article!

Expand full comment

It was the efficiency of the combined cycle plants combined with plentiful cheap gas that just priced a lot if coal out of business. Coal has faced ever increasing regulation both on the mining side and the burn side that has driven up costs as gas has dropped. Unfortunately gas will never offer the fuel storage options of solid fuel, but LNG will go a long way. It's time for NERC to bring back the onsight fuel requirements they removed twenty years ago.

Expand full comment

FERC should credit nuclear power plants for their on-site energy storage of approximately two years duration. However, fossil interests have apparently lobbied FERC to prevent that crediting from taking place. CGNP observed this apparent fossil interest lobbying during the two most recent FERC Dockets we filed in: EL21-13-000, CGNP Complaint before FERC Challenging DCPP Retirement and ER22-2762, the Western Resource Adequacy Program (WRAP.)

Expand full comment

Agreed, I was unaware of those political games, one has to ask "why"? Nuclear, hydro, and solid fuel plants are naturally already in compliance with on-site fuel.

Another area that NERC/FERC have fubard things up is with black start units. Your black start resource now has to be certified, and if it's certified it has to meet CIP Level 3. The CIP requirements are so expensive to maintain, it has resulted in a marked decrease in the number of black start capable units on the system.

Expand full comment

In 2012, I was defending Vermont Yankee and learning about the grid. Around that time, ISO-NE was changing away from hydro for black start. They were changing to gas plants. Here’s my blog post about the situation in southern Vermont at the time.

https://yesvy.blogspot.com/2012/08/black-start-blackout-and-diesels-some.html

Expand full comment

Well that was just stupid 🤷

Expand full comment
May 4Liked by Isaac Orr, Mitch Rolling

The response from pro-battery people will be that battery quality, storage density and market demand are on are a steep S curve that will quickly make your cost calculation obsolete. (see RMI “The Rise of Batteries in Six Charts and Not Too Many Numbers”.) “Incumbent modelers remain behind the curve” is their standard trump card. Do you have a perspective on that?

Expand full comment
author

But seriously there was a report from MIT a few years ago that said the current battery cost decline projections from groups like that have the battery costing less than the materials needed to build them. That’s a problem

Expand full comment
author

A conservative believes it when they see it, a liberal sees it when they believe it 😉

Expand full comment

Ha! Good one

Expand full comment

Like with WMDs! 😂

Expand full comment
May 13Liked by Isaac Orr

Thought provoking article. Thanks for sharing. I have a question on the figure you used for the cost of the battery storage.

In the Energy Information Administration's assumptions, the $1,316 figure seems to be the estimate for the MISC (Middle Mississippi Valley) region. However, the Astoria plant in Deuel County is in the SPPN region (Northern Great Plains), which has a battery cost of $1,257 - slightly lower. Why are you using the wrong estimate if you are tying the calculations to a specific gas plant? Not that it's a huge difference, but still, I think it harms your point if you are cherry picking data to make batteries appear as expensive as possible. Am I missing something? Thanks.

https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/assumptions/pdf/EMM_Assumptions.pdf

Expand full comment
author

Honestly we wrote the bulk of this article in March 2023 before the latest market module came out. We used miso north region prices because that’s the portion of the grid the plant serves, so we didn’t cherry pick but we didn’t update it to be the latest data due to time constraints at our real jobs. Hope this helps!

Expand full comment

Thanks for taking the time to respond. That is fair - after all it's not a big difference!

Expand full comment
May 9·edited May 9Liked by Isaac Orr

What about the cost to "recharge" the LNG storage facility compared to the cost of recharging the 4-hour battery. Also, you can discharge the battery directly providing energy, and you need to run the LNG through a generator after you gasify it. You need to add the cost of the gas generator to do a comparison and include the cost to recharge and repeat the process of energy production. Those all add to the energy cost of the LNG to produce power.

Expand full comment
author

Hi Martin, if we did the cost to recharge the LNG we’d have to incorporate the cost of wind and solar to charge the batteries to ensure they are sufficiently charged when needed. We’re open to doing that analysis someday but here we limited the analysis to capital costs. It would be interesting to look at considering the short lifespan of batteries and looking at the differences between retail and wholesale power costs.

Expand full comment

We just need more nukes, more nat gas, more coal. Time to quit stressing the grid with wind and solar. Put solar at the end user site and let the end user pay for it; put wind in the same position. Both will suffer an economic failure - that’s how much sense it makes.

Expand full comment

Big advantage with nuclear, essentially unlimited fuel storage, even enough to last through a major supply disruption like a Middle East war or Saudi Arabia revolution.

Expand full comment

That's what France figured out in their decision-making to build a large nuclear fleet after the Arab oil shocks of the 1970s. It required less than 25 years.

Expand full comment