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Energy

One (Megawatt) is the loneliest number, but hundreds of batteries are absurd

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12 minute read

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Zinchuk

That comes out to $104,000,000,000, in batteries, alone, to cover those 18 hours on Feb. 8. To make it easier on you, $104 billion. If you use Smith’s numbers, it’s $80.6 billion. Even if I’m out by a factor of two, it’s an obscene amount of money.

SaskPower Minister Dustin Duncan recently told me I watch electricity markets like some people watch fantasy football. I would agree with him, if I knew anything about fantasy football.

I had some time to kill around noon on Feb. 8, and I checked out the minute-by-minute updates from the Alberta Electric System Operator. What I saw for wind power production was jaw-dropping to say the least. Alberta has built 45 wind farms with hundreds of wind turbines totalling an installed capacity of 4,481 megawatts.

My usual threshold for writing a story about this is output falling to less than one per cent – 45 megawatts. Its output at 11:07 a.m., Alberta time, in megawatts?

“1”

Ten minutes later:

“1”

30 minutes later:

“1”

How long can this last? Is there a fault with the website? There doesn’t seem to be.

12:07 p.m.

“1”

Strains of “One is the loneliest number” flow through my head.

I’ve seen it hit one before briefly. Even zero for a minute or two. But this keeps going. And going. I keep taking screenshots. How long will this last?

1:07 p.m.

“1”

1:29 p.m.

“1”

Finally, there’s a big change at 2:38. The output has doubled.

“2.”

That’s 2.5 hours at one. How long will two last?

3:45 p.m.

“2”

4:10 p.m. – output quadruples – to a whopping eight megawatts.

It ever-so-slowly crept up from there. Ten hours after I started keeping track, total wind output had risen to 39 megawatts – still not even one per cent of rated output. Ten hours.

It turns out that wind fell below one per cent around 5 a.m., and stayed under that for 18 hours.

Building lots of turbines doesn’t work

The argument has long been if it’s not blowing here, it’s blowing somewhere. Build enough turbines, spread them all over, and you should always have at least some wind power. But Alberta’s wind turbines are spread over an area larger than the Benelux countries, and they still had essentially zero wind for 18 hours. Shouldn’t 45 wind farms be enough geographic distribution?

The other argument is to build lots and lots of batteries. Use surplus renewable power to charge them, and then when the wind isn’t blowing (or sun isn’t shining), draw power from the batteries.

Alberta has already built 10 grid-scale batteries. Nine of those are the eReserve fleet, each 20 megawatt Tesla systems. I haven’t been able to find the price of those, but SaskPower is building a 20 megawatt Tesla system on the east side of Regina, and its price is $26 million.

From over a year’s frequent observation, it’s apparent that the eReserve batteries only put out a maximum of 20 megawatts for about an hour before they’re depleted. They can run longer at lower outputs, but I haven’t seen anything to show they could get two or five hours out of the battery at full power. And SaskPower’s press release explains its 20 megawatt Tesla system has about 20 megawatts-hours of power. This corresponds very closely to remarks made by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, along with the price of about $1 million per megawatt hour for grid-scale battery capacity.

She said in late October, “I want to talk about batteries for a minute, because I know that everybody thinks that this economy is going to be operated on wind and solar and battery power — and it cannot. There is no industrialized economy in the world operating that way, because they need baseload. And, I’ll tell you what I know about batteries, because I talked to somebody thinking of investing in it on a 200-megawatt plant. One million dollars to be able to get each megawatt stored: that’s 200 million dollars for his plant alone, and he would get one hour of storage. So if you want me to have 12 thousand megawatts of storage, that’s 12 billion dollars for one hour of storage, 24 billion dollars for two hours of storage, 36 billion dollars for three hours of storage, and there are long stretches in winter, where we can go weeks without wind or solar. That is the reason why we need legitimate, real solutions that rely on baseload power rather than fantasy thinking.”

So let’s do some math to see if the premier is on the money.

If you wanted enough batteries to output the equivalent of the 4,481 megawatts of wind for one hour (minus the 1 megawatt it was producing), that’s 4480 megawatts / 20 megawatts per battery = 224 batteries like those in the eReserve fleet. But remember, they can only output their full power for about an hour. So the next hour, you need another 224, and so on. For 18 hours, you need 4032 batteries. Let’s be generous and subtract the miniscule wind production over that time, and round it to 4,000 batteries, at $26 million a pop. (Does Tesla offer bulk discounts?)

That comes out to $104,000,000,000, in batteries, alone, to cover those 18 hours on Feb. 8. To make it easier on you, $104 billion. If you use Smith’s numbers, it’s $80.6 billion. Even if I’m out by a factor of two, it’s an obscene amount of money.

But wait, there’s more!

You would also need massive amounts of transmission infrastructure to power and tie in those batteries. I’m not even going to count the dollars for that.

But you also need the surplus power to charge all those batteries. The Alberta grid, like most grids, runs with a four per cent contingency, as regulated by NERC. Surplus power is often sold to neighbours. And there’s been times, like mid-January, where that was violated, resulting in a series of grid alerts.

At times when there’s lots of wind and solar on the grid, there’s up to around 900 megawatts being sold to B.C and other neighbours. But for 18 hours (not days, but hours), you need 4,000 batteries * 20 megawatt-hours per battery =  80,000 megawatt hours. Assuming 100 per cent efficiency in charging (which is against the laws of physics, but work with me here), if you had a consistent 900 megawatts of surplus power, it would take 89 hours to charge them (if they could charge that fast, which is unlikely).

That’s surplus power you are not selling to an external client, meaning you’re not taking in any extra revenue, and they might not be getting the power they need. And having 900 megawatts is the exception here. It’s much more like 300 megawatts surplus. So your perfect 89 hours to charge becomes 267 hours (11.1 days), all to backfill 18 hours of essentially no wind power.

This all assumes at you’ve had sufficient surplus power to charge your batteries, that days or weeks of low wind and/or solar don’t deplete your reserves, and the length of time they are needed does not exceed your battery capacity.

Nor does it figure in how many years life are you going to get out of those batteries in the first place? How many charge cycles before you have to recapitalize the whole fleet?

For the dollars we’re talking here, you’re easily better off to four (or more) Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors, with 1,100 megawatts capacity each. Their uptime should be somewhere around 90 per cent.

Or maybe coal could be renewed – built with the most modern technology like high efficiency, low emissions (HELE), with integrated carbon capture from Day 1. How many HELE coal-fired power plants, with carbon capture and storage, could you build for either $80 billion or $104 billion? Certainly more than 4,481 megawatts worth.

Building either nuclear or HELE coal gives you solid, consistent baseload power, without the worry of the entire fleet going down, like wind did in Alberta on Feb. 8, as well as Feb. 45, 6, and 7.

Indeed, according to X bot account @ReliableAB, which does hourly tracking of the Alberta grid, from Feb. 5 to 11:15 a.m., Feb. 9, Alberta wind output averaged 3.45 per cent of capacity. So now instead of 18 hours, we’re talking 108 hours needing 96+ per cent to be backfilled. I don’t have enough brain power to figure it out.

You can argue we only need to backfill X amount of wind, maybe 25 per cent, since you can’t count on wind to ever produce 100 per cent of its nameplate across the fleet. But Alberta has thousands more megawatts of wind on tap to be built as soon as the province lifts is pause on approvals. If they build all of it, maybe the numbers I provide will indeed be that 25 per cent. Who knows? The point is all of this is ludicrous.

Just build reliable, baseload power, with peaking capacity. And end this foolishness.

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online, and occasional contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Energy

Tech giants’ self-made AI energy crisis

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For years tech giants have been helping climate catastrophists shut down reliable fossil fuel electricity. Now the grid they’ve helped gut cannot possibly supply their growing AI needs.

For years tech giants have been helping climate catastrophists shut down reliable fossil fuel electricity, falsely claiming they can be replaced by solar/wind.

Now the grid they’ve helped gut can’t supply their growing AI needs.¹

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  • For the last decade, tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Meta, and Google have, through dedicated anti-fossil-fuel propaganda and political efforts, promoted the shutdown of reliable fossil fuel power plants in favor of unreliable solar and wind.
    Image
  • Tech giants have propagandized against reliable fossil fuel power plants by falsely claiming to be “100% renewable” and implying everyone could do it. In fact, they have just paid utilities to credit them for others’ solar and wind use and blame others for their coal and gas use.²
  • In addition to their “100% renewable” propaganda, tech giants directly endorsed people and policies who shut down reliable fossil fuel power plants.E.g., The RE100 coalition, including Google, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft, advocates for policies to “accelerate change towards zero carbon grids at scale by 2040.”³
  • Companies’ propaganda that solar/wind could rapidly replace fossil fuels has proven false. 

    Statewide blackouts in California (2020) and Texas (2021) were caused by the failure of solar/wind—which can go near zero at any time—to make up for lack of reliable fossil fuel capacity.

  • Thanks in significant part to tech giants’ advocacy, we have now shut down enough reliable power plants to be in a nationwide electricity crisis. 

    For example, most of North America is at elevated/high risk of electricity shortfalls between 2024-2028.⁴

  • The anti-fossil-fuel, pro-unreliable solar and wind political climate that tech giants have fostered is getting much worse, as the Administration has pledged to further reduce reliable electricity supply via power plant shutdowns and add artificial demand through EV mandates.

    Biden’s EV mandate: a dictatorial attack on the American driver and the US grid

    ·
    APR 22
    Biden's EV mandate: a dictatorial attack on the American driver and the US grid
     

    Biden’s de facto mandate of over 50% EVs by 2032 is a dictatorial attack on the American driver and the US grid that will 1. Force Americans to drive inferior cars. 2. Place massive new demand for reliable electricity on a grid that is declining in reliable electricity supply.

     

    Read full story
  • While for years tech giants didn’t seem to have any concern about the electricity supply disaster their propaganda and policies were bringing about, they are now very interested because of the accelerating power requirements of computing, above all the hyper-competitive AI space.
  • To function at its potential, AI requires massive amounts of power. E.g., state-of-the-art data centers can require as much electricity as a large nuclear reactor.⁵
  • Electricity demand from US data centers already doubled between 2014 and 2023. Now with the fast growth of energy-hungry AI, demand from data centers could triple from 2.5% to 7.5% of our electricity use by 2030, according to Boston Consulting Group.⁶
  • In large part due to AI, nationwide electricity demand is projected to skyrocket. Official 10-year projections for the US have summer and winter peak demand rising by over 79 gigawatt and over 90 gigawatt. 90 gigawatt is equivalent to adding the entire power generating capacity of California (!)⁷
  • Given the woeful underpowered grid that AI giants have helped bring about, dramatically rising demand from AI will not only contribute to massive electricity shortages, but it will also destroy a lot of potential for AI to occur in the United States.
  • Limited and expensive electricity will force data centers to operate with higher cost or lower capacity within the US—or take a performance hit in the form of increased latency (which can drastically reduce the value of the product) by moving offshore.
  • Not only is offshoring data centers destructive from an economic standpoint, it also poses a substantial security risk. E.g., Building a data center in China—which we already depend on dangerously for critical minerals—gives the CCP physical power over more parts of our economy.
  • Economically, data centers are a gold mine of opportunities.Globally, data centers employed 2M people full-time in 2019, many in high-skill/high-pay jobs—and this number is forecast to increase nearly 300K by 2025.

    Our gutted grid will cost many Americans these opportunities.⁸

  • In the face of woefully inadequate electricity supply for their AI goals, tech giant CEOs are finally speaking up about the lack of power. 

    E.g., Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview that energy will be the #1 bottleneck to AI progress.

  • It is not enough for tech giants to warn us about the lack of reliable power. They need to take responsibility for their anti-fossil-fuel advocacy that helped caused it. And they need to support energy freedom policies that allow all fuels to compete to provide reliable power. 

    End preferences for unreliable electricity

    ·
    DECEMBER 14, 2022
    End preferences for unreliable electricity
     

    Today’s grids are being ruined by systemic preferences for unreliable electricity: 1) no price penalty for being unreliable 2) huge subsidies for unreliables 3) mandates for unreliables Congress should end these now. The Opportunity America, given its combination of abundant domestic energy resources, technological ingenuity, and free-market competition, has …

     

    Read full story
  • An example of a tech giant influencer not taking any responsibility for causing the electricity crisis is BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who pushed companies and governments to adopt “net-zero” policies using mostly solar/wind, but now admits they can’t power AI data centers!
  • A better attitude toward electricity was expressed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman: “There will always be people who wait and sit around and say ‘we shouldn’t do AI because we may burn a little more carbon’… the anti-progress streak” and this “is something that we can all fight against.”⁹
  • America faces a choice. We can either continue our current trajectory, descend into a Third World grid, and become totally inhospitable for AI, or we can adopt energy freedom policies and become a world leader in both AI and electricity.
  • Share this article with tech giant CEOs and tell them to publicly apologize for damaging our grid and to commit to energy freedom policies.Google: @sundarpichai ([email protected])
    Apple: @tim_cook ([email protected])
    Meta: @finkd ([email protected])
    Microsoft: @satyanadella ([email protected])

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Michelle Hung contributed to this piece.

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Energy

New Report Reveals Just How Energy Rich America Really Is

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By DAVID BLACKMON

 

A new report by the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a nonprofit dedicated to the study of the impact of government regulation on global energy resources, finds that U.S. inventories of oil and natural gas have experienced stunning growth since 2011.

The same report, the North American Energy Inventory 2024, finds the United States also leading the world in coal resources, with total proven resources that are more than 53% bigger than China’s.

Despite years of record production levels and almost a decade of curtailed investment in the finding and development of new reserves forced by government regulation and discrimination by ESG-focused investment houses, America’s technically recoverable resource in oil grew by 15% from 2011 to 2024. Now standing at 1.66 trillion barrels, the U.S. resource is 5.6 times the proved reserves held by Saudi Arabia.

The story for natural gas is even more amazing: IER finds the technically recoverable resource for gas expanded by 47% in just 13 years, to a total of 4.03 quadrillion cubic feet. At current US consumption rates, that’s enough gas to supply the country’s needs for 130 years.

“The 2024 North American Energy Inventory makes it clear that we have ample reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal that will sustain us for generations,” Tom Pyle, President at IER, said in a release. “Technological advancements in the production process, along with our unique system of private ownership, have propelled the U.S. to global leadership in oil and natural gas production, fostering economic benefits like lower energy prices, job growth, enhanced national security, and an improved environment.”

It is key to understand here that the “technically recoverable” resource measure used in financial reporting is designed solely to create a point-in-time estimate of the amount of oil and gas in place underground that can be produced with current technology. Because technology advances in the oil and gas business every day, just as it does in society at large, this measure almost always is a vast understatement of the amount of resource that will ultimately be produced.

The Permian Basin has provided a great example of this phenomenon. Just over the past decade, the deployment of steadily advancing drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies has enabled producers in that vast resource play to more than double expected recoveries from each new well drilled. Similar advances have been experienced in the other major shale plays throughout North America. As a result, the U.S. industry has been able to consistently raise record overall production levels of both oil and gas despite an active rig count that has fallen by over 30% since January 2023.

In its report, IER notes this aspect of the industry by pointing out that, while the technically recoverable resource for U.S. natural gas sits at an impressive 4.03 quads, the total gas resource in place underground is currently estimated at an overwhelming 65 quads. If just half of that resource in place eventually becomes recoverable thanks to advancing technology over the coming decades, that would mean the United States will enjoy more than 1,000 years of gas supply at current consumption levels. That is not a typo.

Where coal is concerned, IER finds the US is home to a world-leading 470 billion short tons of the most energy-dense fossil fuel in place. That equates to 912 years of supply at current consumption rates.

No other country on Earth can come close to rivaling the U.S. for this level of wealth in energy mineral resources, and few countries’ governments would dream of squandering them in pursuit of a political agenda driven by climate fearmongering. “And yet, many politicians, government agents, and activists seek to constrain North America’s energy potential,” Pyle says, adding, “We must resist these efforts and commit ourselves to unlocking these resources so that American families can continue to enjoy the real and meaningful benefits our energy production offers.”

With President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump staking out polar opposite positions on this crucial question, America’s energy future is truly on the ballot this November.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

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