The AFR on 30th July 2014 re-published this piece from the Economist, entitled ‘Wind, Sun and Drain’.
In response, I wrote a short letter to the editor that didn’t make the cut (and was not published). I decided to post it here instead.
I refer to the article “The power of sun, wind and drain” in the AFR on 30 July 2014 (sourced from The Economist, no byline).
The article increases the claimed cost of wind and solar energy generation by adding in (to that renewable energy cost) the additional fossil fuel power costs required to overcome ‘intermittency’, or in other words, to cover the periods when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
There is, however, a technology that The Economist ignored in writing that article. This technology can take excess power generated when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, and deliver it to consumers at a later time. This technology is based on an invention credited to Alessandro Volta in 1800. It is called a “battery”.
Battery technology costs are falling rapidly and their efficiency is soaring. The rise of long range, high performance electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S is testament to this. Economically solving the “intermittency” challenge in renewable energy generation by using batteries, rather than by backing them up with fossil fuels at all is (at last) within our grasp.
Australia has a fine history of being ‘the clever country’. Deploying advanced battery systems to support renewable energy is clever. Just coming up with ways to dig yet more coal out of the ground… is not.