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One giant battery pack...
Old 12-15-2014, 11:24 AM   #1
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One giant battery pack...

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...Oncor, which has 119,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines delivering power to more than three million homes and businesses, surprised the energy world last month when it announced that it was willing to spend billions of dollars by 2018 to install some 25,000 batteries across Texas that would store electricity to be discharged when needed.

The affordability of such a plan was thought to be decades away, but battery costs are fast declining as suppliers like Tesla ramp up production. The Brattle Group, in a study Oncor commissioned, estimated that Texas could add up to five gigawatts of storage capacity to its grid without increasing long-term costs for consumers. Those batteries could store enough electricity to power 1.5 million Texas homes on a hot summer day.
Just one small catch to this plan: it is against Texas state law.

https://www.texastribune.org/2014/12...-breakthrough/
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:04 PM   #2
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The above article says that
"Standing in Oncor's way is a law that prevents it from selling electricity on the wholesale market. State lawmakers erected the wall between transmission companies and electric generators when they deregulated the electricity market in 1999.

Neither a transmission company nor a generator could make the battery economics work under the current system, the Brattle analysis said. A company would need to tap cost savings on both sides of the divide...

Oncor will meet resistance from generators that might be pushed out of the market and others that fear such a change would disrupt the energy market...”
Disrupting existing market? Boy, if we worried about disrupting horse buggy and horse whip makers, we would still be shoveling manure off the streets.

Battery prices coming down? I love it. I have been ogling some Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries for my RV for a couple of years, and have not seen the price drop. It's OK. I am patient.
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Old 12-15-2014, 01:42 PM   #3
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PS. I scanned through the referenced Oncor study, and what caught my eyes immediately was this.

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Due to recent development, electricity storage appears to be on the verge of becoming quite economically attractive. Most importantly, several battery storage manufacturers have indicated that their costs will decrease substantially over the next few years. Public reports now forecast cost declines from the current $700–$3,000 per kWh of installed electricity storage in 2014 to less than half of that over the next three years.
I know that I can buy at retail level a 2.6 KWh LiFePO4 battery for $620, which is only $238/KWh. That price has been stuck there for the last 3 years. However, the number cited in the paper was for "installed cost" which includes electronics (inverter, charger, etc...) and infrastructure costs. So, it appears to be realistic.
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Old 12-15-2014, 02:34 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
PS. I scanned through the referenced Oncor study, and what caught my eyes immediately was this.



I know that I can buy at retail level a 2.6 KWh LiFePO4 battery for $620, which is only $238/KWh. That price has been stuck there for the last 3 years. However, the number cited in the paper was for "installed cost" which includes electronics (inverter, charger, etc...) and infrastructure costs. So, it appears to be realistic.
Where can you buy a 2.6KWh LiFePO4 for $620? The cheapest I have seen the CALB cells is about $250 for a 3.2V 180AH cell (so 576wh). Three of those is only 1728wh and is $750. Plus they come from China with little or no real warranty and need interconnects plus bands to keep the batteries from swelling plus possibly a BMS.

I am all ears though if you have a USA source for a 2.6kwh battery for $620 that is plug and play. I have a 4kw Magnum inverter/charger and would love a cheap light lithium battery.
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Old 12-15-2014, 09:00 PM   #5
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I learned this info from the blog of the Technomadia couple, who are full-time RVers. They have been using a 500AH pack for more than 3 years now, and I have not read about them having any problem. They also have an inverter powerful enough to run their A/C, and their battery pack can run it for 3 or 4 hours.

You can either search or read their blog for more info, or search for "Elite Power GBS battery". Good luck, and keep us informed if you decide to play with these batteries. The price of $620 is still current for a 200AH battery pack (200AH x 13V = 2.6KWh), and has been for 3 years.

PS. OOPS! The $620 is for 100AH pack (1300KWh). The 200AH pack is $1480. Either one costs $476/KWh, not the $238 I reported earlier. That makes it roughly the same as the battery you found. This one is also from China, but perhaps easier to use, plus the Technomadia couple has had good luck with it.
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Old 12-15-2014, 11:10 PM   #6
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I hope that they are able to get this done... storage is the big hole in the grid today...

If you have a place to store electricity, then you can run more efficiently and pollute less... but politics get in the way all the time....
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Old 12-16-2014, 09:02 AM   #7
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I hope that they are able to get this done... storage is the big hole in the grid today...

If you have a place to store electricity, then you can run more efficiently and pollute less... but politics get in the way all the time....
I think economics is getting in the way more than politics. Storage is just simply too expensive at this time to be worthwhile for basic grid storage. It makes great economic sense for places that must be off-grid and/or mobile - the alternatives there are even more expensive/cumbersome.

Try penciling out the price delta between peak kWh and off-peak kWh and see what it takes to make a payback on that storage at pennies per kWh. Factor in start-up capital, losses in charge/discharge, maintenance (how long will those batteries last, being cycled almost daily?), and the fact that with variable power with things like wind, you won't always have an excess to store, and you can't afford enough storage to capture an excess that only happens occasionally.

Not sure what the break-point on that would be, but think of an excess that only occurs 10% of the time - it doesn't seem that you could afford storage for that. Even the 50% rate would probably not be cost effective. Still a lot of energy being wasted for want of storage.

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Old 12-16-2014, 12:35 PM   #8
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I think economics is getting in the way more than politics. Storage is just simply too expensive at this time to be worthwhile for basic grid storage. It makes great economic sense for places that must be off-grid and/or mobile - the alternatives there are even more expensive/cumbersome.

Try penciling out the price delta between peak kWh and off-peak kWh and see what it takes to make a payback on that storage at pennies per kWh. Factor in start-up capital, losses in charge/discharge, maintenance (how long will those batteries last, being cycled almost daily?), and the fact that with variable power with things like wind, you won't always have an excess to store, and you can't afford enough storage to capture an excess that only happens occasionally.

Not sure what the break-point on that would be, but think of an excess that only occurs 10% of the time - it doesn't seem that you could afford storage for that. Even the 50% rate would probably not be cost effective. Still a lot of energy being wasted for want of storage.

-ERD50

It seems that they think that the economics work.... who am I to argue if they wish to spend billions of their own money to do it... so I am not commenting on the cost/benefits of what they propose.... but only on the political reality they are dealing with....

You might be completely right.... but the article seems to suggest they think you are wrong.... but they cannot do what they want because of the laws that exist today in the state... change the law and let's see if they do what they say....

Remember, Texas is one of the states that do not allow Tesla to sell in the state... and that is not going to change anytime soon....
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:52 PM   #9
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I vaguely remember an issue of Scientific American , maybe 10 years ago , on an energy independent America, part of it theorized storing excess energy from windmills via compressed air in underground caverns,or wells. At the time the article the assumption was even all the cost of windmill - to electric compressor , then re-conversion of the energy stored as compressed air to electricity via air turbine generator when needed at peak was lower than batteries. Lots of mechanical stuff .

The Tesla car thing is in several states, it's all about car dealers keeping the manufacturer out of the retail end. Has nothing to do with the energy part.Not the first time this has come up.
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:53 PM   #10
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It seems that they think that the economics work.... ....
But I don't think they went into the economics of it in that article (or any other I could find). I'm going to guess they are counting on subsidies or grants, I really doubt it can support itself on its own merits.

-ERD50
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:55 PM   #11
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I vaguely remember an issue of Scientific American , maybe 10 years ago , on an energy independent America, part of it theorized storing excess energy from windmills via compressed air in underground caverns,or wells. At the time the article the assumption was even all the cost of windmill - to electric compressor , then re-conversion of the energy stored as compressed air to electricity via air turbine generator when needed at peak was lower than batteries. Lots of mechanical stuff .
Yes, but caverns like that don't exist everywhere we would need them. And when you factor in losses, you are adding that to the cost of generating the energy. It's a lot to overcome.

-ERD50
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:00 PM   #12
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I vaguely remember an issue of Scientific American , maybe 10 years ago , on an energy independent America, part of it theorized storing excess energy from windmills via compressed air in underground caverns,or wells. At the time the article the assumption was even all the cost of windmill - to electric compressor , then re-conversion of the energy stored as compressed air to electricity via air turbine generator when needed at peak was lower than batteries. Lots of mechanical stuff
If we could somehow harness "hot air", we'd never have to worry about energy again...
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:06 PM   #13
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If we could somehow harness "hot air", we'd never have to worry about energy again...
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Old 12-16-2014, 05:02 PM   #14
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I think economics is getting in the way more than politics. Storage is just simply too expensive at this time to be worthwhile for basic grid storage. It makes great economic sense for places that must be off-grid and/or mobile - the alternatives there are even more expensive/cumbersome.

Try penciling out the price delta between peak kWh and off-peak kWh and see what it takes to make a payback on that storage at pennies per kWh. Factor in start-up capital, losses in charge/discharge, maintenance (how long will those batteries last, being cycled almost daily?), and the fact that with variable power with things like wind, you won't always have an excess to store, and you can't afford enough storage to capture an excess that only happens occasionally.

Not sure what the break-point on that would be, but think of an excess that only occurs 10% of the time - it doesn't seem that you could afford storage for that. Even the 50% rate would probably not be cost effective. Still a lot of energy being wasted for want of storage.

-ERD50
Yesterday, I was doing a quick estimate of a small solar set up to run a small window A/C in the summer to supplement the big central A/C. If it worked out, I might just build it to have something to tinker with.

It turned out that even with the solar panel low current prices, no labor and installation costs, it still takes 22 summers for this to pay back. And I am not even counting capital opportunity cost and maintenance, etc...

So, where did I go wrong? It turned out that if I can make use of the produced electricity year round, then it would take 1/3 the time for payback. Outside of the summer season I do not have the A/C as a constant load to consume this free electricity. And to store this power and use it elsewhere in the home requires more equipment and creates more complication. It would be best if I could dump this power to the grid, and take credit so that I can use it later. But of course, such homemade experimental setup is not approved for a grid-tie operation, so I will not get very far with this.

Back on battery storage, in the summer I pay $0.21/KWh during peak hours, and $0.07/KWh during off-peak hours. Assuming that the difference above is due to the production cost of running "peaker" generators, then a commercial battery installation is arbitraging between the above two rates. You make $0.14 for every KWh you store during off-peak and release it when people run their A/C.

The cost of battery is around $400 per KWh right now at the retail level. It is rumored that Tesla is paying much less, but they are mum about it. But if they can get it for $200/KWh, you still need 1400 charge/discharge cycles ($200/$0.14) or 4 years to recover the cost of just the battery. Or perhaps during a power crunch, utilities have to pay even higher than $0.21 to peakers to avoid brownouts, though they cannot charge customers as much.

I am not in this business, hence only have a naive view as presented above. But it seems like they expect the battery to get a lot cheaper. If a company in the power generation business is willing to put their money into this to make money and not asking for subsidy, I surely want to stand back and watch it evolve.
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Old 12-16-2014, 07:54 PM   #15
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... But it seems like they expect the battery to get a lot cheaper. ...
IIRC, sources seem to place battery evolution of price/performance at ~ 7% a year. So about a decade for a 2x improvement. In the mean time, other options are not standing still.

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