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Net Zero Energy Storage Presents a Battery of Problems

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Larry Bell By Friday, 21 June 2024 09:54 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

An April International Energy Agency (IEA) report titled “Batteries and Secure Energy Transitions” attempts to slap a happy face sticker on technical, economic and environmental barriers associated with energy storage requirements attached to achieving “Net Zero” CO2 emission goals by 2050 proposed by nearly 200 countries at the latest U.N. COP28 climate meetings.

Among requisite requirements, by 2030 alone that proposal envisions “tripling global renewable energy capacity, doubling the pace of energy efficiency improvements and transitioning away from fossil fuels,” all of which will demand huge multipliers of electrical storage means to match periods of power supply and demand.

Given that fossil fuel hydrocarbons currently represent the most efficient form of energy storage, with chemical batteries a far distant second, achieving those goals will present enormous practical obstacles for transportation and utility scale power applications along with attendant rare earth material mining and disposal demands that the IEA report treats much too cavalierly.

Battery Limitations for Electric Vehicles:

As discussed by Senior Research Associate Iddo Wernick at the Rockefeller University’s Program for the Human Environment in his recent Epoch Times article “The Many Problems with Batteries,” the IEA argument assumes that rapidly eliminating the internal combustion engine will leave society with no choice but to use battery-powered vehicles.

Dr. Wernick points out that just as batteries store energy less efficiently than hydrocarbon fuels, they also release that energy more slowly than fuels do during combustion resulting in longer recharging times.

In turn, ultra-high voltage rechargers greatly increase power input demands and costs.

Batteries also store less “energy density” than hydrocarbon fuels, meaning that they impose substantially more mass and volume which erodes mileage efficiency. Gasoline, for example, has an energy density more than 50 times greater than today’s best lithium-ion batteries.

Electric plug-in vehicles have to lug this added battery mass around, consuming about half of that stored power while also reducing brake system and tire life.

Cold winter weather climate conditions further degrade battery efficiency. Operating vehicles with heaters on can consequentially drop battery mileage by nearly half.

Battery Storage for Utility Scale Power:

A so-called “transition” to an intermittent, weather dependent wind and solar-powered Net Zero future, will drive energy storage requirements for utility scale applications beyond anything imaginable with batteries or any other currently known technologies capable of keeping homes air conditioned, coffee-makers perking, and offices and industrial plants in business.

U.S. electricity demand growth projections for over the next five years have already doubled from a year ago.

Adding tens of millions of government-subsidized and mandated EVs and charging stations plus AI data centers and computer chip production to already stressed power grid capacities will demand much more — not less — electricity than green energy pipe dreams replacing real ones carrying oil and gas can supply.

Citing growth in new industries such as EV and battery factories, a recent forecast by Georgia Power projected a 17-fold increase in its winter demand by 2031.

As acknowledged in an earlier 2021 IEA publication, “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions,” this escalating power requirement will impose enormous battery material mining and processing requirements ... especially rare earth minerals currently imported from Communist China.

Even the most recent IEA report projects a five- to 30-times increase in demand for these battery metals by 2050 to meet the U.N.’s Net Zero fantasy.

Here again, Iddo Wernick dramatically highlights shortcomings of battery storage if reliable fossil-fueled generators are shut down.

Wernick calculates that for residential power grids alone, the volume of batteries needed to keep a city going for a full day is staggering, whereby electrifying the greater Seattle area would require a cylinder of batteries (needing to be recharged) more than 180 feet in diameter rising to the height of the Space Needle (605 feet).

By his estimate, the Kapolei Energy Storage outside Honolulu which contains 6,000 tons of lower efficiency lithium iron phosphate batteries which avoid most rare earth metals (enough to fill a pole one meter in diameter and the height of Mauna Loa, at 13,679 feet) can supply only a sixth of the electricity needed to meet demands of Oahu residents over three to six hours.

Dirty Facts About “Clean Energy” Batteries:

IEA makes little mention of environmental hazards associated with mining of rare earth materials in China which is simultaneously building the equivalence of about one new coal-fired plant weekly, or pollution impacts of processing of these materials such as high-grade nickel in Indonesia using high-pressure acid leaching.

Each Tesla-class battery, for example, requires mining, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of materials: 20 times that of a typical petroleum engine uses over the life of a car.

Put another way, averaged over a 1,000-pound battery’s life, each mile of driving an EV ''consumes'' about five pounds of earth moved by hydrocarbons.

Also keep in mind that meeting those green new delusions will add enormously to the tonnage of U.S. and global waste ... countless millions of tons of batteries, including toxic rare earth elements — such as dysprosium they contain — will become landfill garbage.

In summary, “Net Zero” accurately describes the net benefits of an inane energy transition to a battery of blackouts that will paralyze transportation, gridlock lives and workplaces, and produce mountains of toxic waste.

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 12 books is "Architectures Beyond Boxes and Boundaries: My Life By Design" (2022). Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.

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Each Tesla-class battery, for example, requires mining, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of materials: 20 times that of a typical petroleum engine uses over the life of a car.
net zero, batteries
Friday, 21 June 2024 09:54 AM
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