From RethinkX

“We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most profound disruption of the energy sector in over a century. Like most disruptions, this one is being driven by the convergence of several key technologies whose costs and capabilities have been improving on consistent and predictable trajectories – namely, solar photovoltaic power, wind power, and lithium-ion battery energy storage.

Our analysis shows that 100% clean electricity from the combination of solar, wind, and batteries (SWB) is both physically possible and economically affordable across the entire continental United States as well as the overwhelming majority of other populated regions of the world by 2030. Adoption of SWB is growing exponentially worldwide and disruption is now inevitable because by 2030 they will offer the cheapest electricity option for most regions.

Coal, gas, and nuclear power assets will become stranded during the 2020s, and no new investment in these technologies is rational from this point forward. But the replacement of conventional energy technology with SWB is just the beginning. As has been the case for many other disruptions, SWB will transform our energy system in fundamental ways. The new system that emerges will be much larger than the existing one we know today and will have a completely different architecture that operates in unfamiliar ways.”

This is a great vision and for some people it will pay dividends. But just because SWB will create some extra cheap electricity for a few don’t think for a moment that this will be available for the regular person on the street without some serious effort. I encourage you to read the full report and or watch the video to get an overall idea.

In New Zealand where I live there will be pushback from vested interests who will be forced to re-configure their legacy systems to cope with the challenges of having more locally generated power for example. In fact a headline form this week says

Contact Energy warns of much higher power bills from 2025 “Lines charges accounted for about 40 percent of total retail power bills, so a 10 percent increase in lines charges would automatically add 4 percent to a bill.”

So it’s not the actual energy cost that is a problem – its getting that energy to your place. Contact Energy goes on to say New Zealand that “Contact believes consumers will begin to reap the savings once the country converts to 100 percent renewable energy generation, without the need for thermal as if it is the consumers that are driving all this when it is the generators.

I’m living in the countryside at the moment and the cost of hooking up to the grid is around $25kNZD. For that same investment I could have a reasonable home system. There are no solar subsidies in NZ but there should be. I wrote a series on solar power ten years ago and batteries were very bulky and expensive then. Having more affordable batteries now flips the whole equation and makes off grid systems very feasible. Trying to work out potential savings when the equivalent grid power keeps going up in price seems like a no-brainer to go for solar now.

Last I heard we only use coal as a backup for some time periods (only 10% of power generation) and that is the generators that drive that not really the consumers. On the other hand if consumers start using SWB in much greater numbers then electricity from the central network is less useful and in theory will go down in price because demand goes down.

However when an energy system does start to generate a surplus those who have that electricity will think of new ways to use it. In Australia for example maybe using some of that extra electricity to desalinate water because that process is an energy hog but might be able to be done.

One of the interesting ideas that came out of watching some of the Tony Seba video clips and reading the reports is the observation that AWS – Amazon’s most profitable business came out of the selling their surplus storage to the rest of us. And of course Elon Musk despite being clueless on the Twitter project is very much on his way to another fortune from selling Mega battery storage for solar and wind powered generation.

Tesla is ramping up to a capacity to produce 40 GWh worth of Megapacks per year.

Some of this is already happening such as in Uruguay.
Today, the country has almost phased out fossil fuels in electricity production. Depending on the weather, anything between 90% and 95% of its power comes from renewables. In some years, that number has crept as high as 98%.

Uruguay has achieved this in the last 14 years and NZ which is already has a high level of renewables could easily match that if the political will was there. Uruguay has relied on wind and hydro and if doing this today would be able to make more use of the massive batteries which just were not available till recently. I don’t see any visionary thinking coming out of the regressive NZ government so far though.

Solar + battery storage will make up 81% of new US electric generating capacity in 2024 When even people running the grid in Texas are adding new solar, wind and battery systems it seems like a tipping point has been reached.

Several large-scale battery projects are underway in Australia, including Synergy’s 2nd solar big battery in Western Australia and Neoen’s Western Downs Battery in Queensland. These projects will help further increase the capacity of Australia’s energy storage system and support the continued growth of renewable energy.The Kwinana 2 battery will provide 200MW capacity over four hours and is expected to be operational by late 2024. Synergy also has plans for an even larger battery, the Collie Battery Energy Storage System (CBESS), which will deliver a whopping 500MW/2000MWh of capacity.

These are massive systems. At the very least all of this makes me slightly more hopeful that some of the passengers on planet earth can make enough change to limit the impacts of climate change and speed up the decarbonisation process.

P.S – Updated 23/02/24 – I misplaced some stats on the Tesla Battery business and have found those again.

Battery storage is now Tesla’s most profitable product, but the solar business is tanking

Look at those growth charts for the mega battery pack business. I have seen a short video clip of Elon talking about some of this and it is clear he has seen the ReThinkX charts and analysis and is in a prime position to capitalise on the rise of SWB even if the low end solar business is slow growing. I believe that is only relative to the Mega Packs where the real high value business is.

In the 3rd quarter of 2023, Tesla says it deployed 4.0 gigawatt hours of battery storage, a 90 per cent rise from the same quarter last year, and up 10 per cent on the second quarter, and delivered revenues of $US1.5 billion as production at its new mega factory in California ramps up.

Tesla’s new battery mega factory in Lathrop California is ramping up towards full capacity of 40 GWh a year. Its recent major contract wins in Australia include the 877 MWh Collie battery in Western Australia and the 250 MWh Kerangie battery in Victoria.

Projects already under construction include the 520 MWh Western Downs and 200MWh Chinchilla batteries in Queensland, and the 100 MWh Bouldercombe battery, whose commissioning is on hold while the cause of a fire in one of its modules is investigated.

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