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Germany Finances Major Push Into Home Battery Storage For Solar

Unknown Lamer posted about 9 months ago | from the slight-problem-with-physics dept.

Power 282

mdsolar writes with this bit of news from Green Tech Media "The German government has responded to the next big challenge in its energy transition – storing the output from the solar boom it has created — by doing exactly what it has successfully done to date: greasing the wheels of finance to bring down the cost of new technology. ... Now it is looking at bringing down the cost of the next piece in the puzzle of its energy transition — battery storage. ... KfW’s aim, according to Axel Nawrath, a member of the KfW Bankengruppe executive board, is to ensure that the output of wind and solar must be 'more decoupled' from the grid. ... This is seen as critical as the level of renewable penetration rises to around 40 per cent — a level expected in Germany within the next 10 years. ... According to Papenfuss, households participating in the scheme will spend between €20,000 and €28,000 on solar and storage, depending on the size of the system (the average size is expected to be around 7kW for the solar array and around 4kWh for the battery)."

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Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377065)

Stuffing everyone's basements full of LiPo batteries is just a disaster waiting to happen.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377129)

They specifically state they are targeting lead-acid and lithium-ion. In other words, not LiPo. Yes, yes, LiPo is a type of lithium-ion but typically when you state "lithium-ion" they are not talking about LiPo but safer chemistries.

Although I find it hard to believe all those batteries are good for the environment. The whole point of a central power system is optimization and they are doing the opposite.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

dmbasso (1052166) | about 9 months ago | (#45377159)

Some months ago there was a TED talk about molten salt batteries. How do they compare with lead-acid and lithium-ion?

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (2)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 9 months ago | (#45377173)

Molten salt if for thermal storage. Does not compare.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (4, Insightful)

Barsteward (969998) | about 9 months ago | (#45377193)

"The whole point of a central power system is optimization and they are doing the opposite."

A central power system is also a single point of failure, distributed power generation is the way forward once they've got power storage sorted and cheap. The grid can be used as a back up system

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377395)

For solar power, centralised is actually less efficient, because of the extra steps to high-voltage networks, transport, and similar steps down to 240V. Germany has some huge solar panel installations, but the majority of solar panels are placed in small roof-top installations.
What I'm waiting for is swapping the prices of day and night electricity prices. In the summer "peak" demand has shifted to night time by now.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (2)

kwark (512736) | about 9 months ago | (#45377587)

"What I'm waiting for is swapping the prices of day and night electricity prices. In the summer "peak" demand has shifted to night time by now."

Until this happens, storing solar generated energy is just dumb. At the moment my panels help me in 2 ways:
-it lowers my electricity demand for a year by about 50%.
-it saves about 10% on the price per kWh since I send energy to the grid at peak rates (0.22 EUR/kWh) and almost exclusively use offpeak (0.20 EUR/kWh)

I have absolutely nothing to gain by storing electricity right now.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377465)

A central power system is also a single point of failure, distributed power generation

We already have hundreds if not thousands of power plants in Germany and the whole grid can cope with some of them failing and each of them is more efficient than a mini plant could ever be.

The only time some of the more of the grid towns suffer noticeable (more than half an hour) power outages is during extreme winter conditions and solar power wont do any good unless you find someone to dig the panels free in that weather.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377477)

Everyone around here that did NOT rely on the power grid 100% had no problems when power was out for 2 weeks. The foolish or the uneduated are the ones that shun home power generation and storage.

You are trying to argue with one of those that does not want to bother with learning how this stuff works or how to apply it to their own life.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (4, Informative)

multi io (640409) | about 9 months ago | (#45377479)

They specifically state they are targeting lead-acid and lithium-ion.

Which is a different kind of disaster waiting to happen. Lead batteries provide about 40Wh of storage capacity per kg of lead. Germany has 40m households, and their average electricity consumption is 10 kWh per household per day. Which means that if, statistically, every household wanted to be able store one day of electricity consumption (which, arguably, isn't enough if you go 100% wind/solar, but anyway), you'd need 10 million tons of lead -- about one annual world production of lead, roughly as much as is contained in all car batteries worldwide combined.

And private households only consume 1/3rd or so of all the electricity produced in Germany (businesses and industry consume the other two 3rds).

AFAICT from this, the whole thing is a total non-starter. It will never scale up to any significant number of homes. A few percent of the households (mostly rich home owners) may do it, collect Government support and feel good about saving the environment. The overall effects will be inconsequential -- so much so that the whole project wasn't worth starting in the first place.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#45377527)

The whole point of a central power system is optimization and they are doing the opposite.

No, the point of a central power system is economy of scale. But, unlike coal or nukes, solar PV doesn't really benefit from economy of scale. Most batteries don't benefit much either. By decentralizing they avoid the transmission losses, and avoid some of the capital expenses of the grid. But there is a BIG drawback to decentralized power generation and storage: it will be harder to tax.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 9 months ago | (#45377175)

Would you call this a case of "LiPo-suction"?

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377295)

A pun isn't good unless it's bad.

so green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377075)

imagine 4KWh of lead-acid batteries. that is going to be so much
better for the environment!

captcha: redneck (guilty)

Re:so green (4, Informative)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 9 months ago | (#45377103)

Personally I prefer my home steam generator. It uses 100% renewable, carbon-cycle, eco-friendly biofuel (wood) to generate steam that drives a turbine generator. I can get about 3kW out of my setup.

Re:so green (3, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about 9 months ago | (#45377179)

Personally I prefer my home steam generator. It uses 100% renewable, carbon-cycle, eco-friendly biofuel (wood) to generate steam that drives a turbine generator. I can get about 3kW out of my setup.

Home-built or off-the-shelf? Link to plans or manufacturer or re-seller, please ;-)

Re:so green (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 9 months ago | (#45377227)

This sounds really neat. Does it scale up? And does it have to burn just wood?

Re:so green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377281)

Personally I prefer my home steam generator. It uses 100% renewable, carbon-cycle, eco-friendly biofuel (wood) to generate steam that drives a turbine generator. I can get about 3kW out of my setup.

Could you elaborate on your system? I'm moving offgrid by summer 2014. Currently I'm looking at solar panels+charge converter+deep cycle batteries to provide my electricity. What costs are involved for your steam generator system?

Re:so green (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377591)

I know that tiny tech india (http://www.tinytechindia.com) sells steam power plants specifically for home power generation. Now, they are shipping from India, so if you don't live nearby the shipping costs will run into the hundreds of dollars. HOWEVER, they sell them so cheap that even with the exorbitant shipping, it's cheaper than buying a locally made steam plant, as most modern made "Classical style" steam plants are usually intended for either large scale industrial use (READ: Expensive) or as boutique steam motors for old-time steamboat and steam car hobbyists. (READ: Even more expensive!)

The Tiny Tech plants are very simple and basic and ugly as sin, but they work VERY well. (I know of a guy that bought one for use as a steamboat engine, and after just a few modifications to allow for reversing the motor action he had a really nicely working, if ugly, motor.)

Alternately, with just a bit of metal fabrication you can build your own steam engine out of an old refrigerator compressor or a large AC compressor (basically the same thing) I've even seen guys re-work air compressors like the kind you can buy at Harbor Freight into working steam engines for various uses.

The tech is old, and requires some good old-fashioned metal-working and machining skills, not to mention patience and a willingness to learn a whole new set of terminology, but it is still a very viable way to generate power for all sorts of uses.

Re:so green (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 9 months ago | (#45377107)

That's only a few car batteries.

However the problem still exists the second you scale up.

The problem, as always, is that's it not "just a battery", but "battery with charger with load monitor with safety protection with replacement batteries every few years", which greatly adds to the cost.

If it was easy to store electricity efficiently, we wouldn't need all this "always-on" peak demand power generation. We'd just store everything generated at night already and then release it the next day.

Fact is, as soon as you get into storing electricity, you're into massive efficiency drops.

Re:so green (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377161)

Fact is, as soon as you get into storing electricity, you're into massive efficiency drops.

Between the power plant and your outlet, an average of 50% of energy is lost. There's something to work with.

Re:so green (3, Informative)

Rising Ape (1620461) | about 9 months ago | (#45377293)

Energy lost in transmission is about 7% [eia.gov] , not 50%.

Re:so green (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 9 months ago | (#45377309)

He is probably taking into account heat to electricity losses. But that is kind of a misnomer since this does not apply to non-thermal power plants.

Re:so green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377495)

The chemical-to-electricity losses in a thermal power plant is also much greater than 50%, so depending on the mix of power sources 50% may still be reasonable.

Re:so green (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 9 months ago | (#45377165)

Efficiency matters a lot when you're in the burn-fuel-for-power model, because you can always just burn the fuel tomorrow if you need to have the power tomorrow instead of today. For wind and solar power, the power is available when it's available, and you can either consume it, store it, or waste it. Ideally you'd have a proper smart grid (not the kind that's being marketed, which is just a power meter with WiFi) so that you could have things like fridges and freezers run their compressors during supply spikes and leave washing machines and so on programmed to run whenever there is surplus power. In the absence of being able to trigger demand when you have supply, storing it inefficiently is probably better than wasting it.

That said, the majority of my electricity consumption when there is no solar power available is lighting. It would be great to have a DC main with a relatively small battery that could power LED lights overnight. It would probably also let me charge electronic devices more efficiently than going via DC.

Re:so green (3, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | about 9 months ago | (#45377189)

The problem, as always, is that's it not "just a battery", but "battery with charger with load monitor with safety protection with replacement batteries every few years", which greatly adds to the cost.

Perhaps this would be a use case for nickel-iron batteries? They have an extremely long life; the reason they fell out of use is because of low energy density and poor charge retention. But energy density matters much less in your crawl space than it does in your tablet or your car, and for this use, being able to hold a charge for only a few days would be fine.

Re:so green (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 9 months ago | (#45377339)

Not holding a charge mean wasting energy at the end. It is like drilling a giant hole into a hydroelectric dam at the end.

Anyway, the other question is: What's the carbon footprint of these batteries including the whole life cycle on a sufficient long period of time to not bias the result?

Re:so green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377445)

Not holding a charge mean wasting energy at the end. It is like drilling a giant hole into a hydroelectric dam at the end.

Dams already have to dump excess water when the fill level gets too high and/or there's too much grid power being generated already.

Re:so green (1)

sribe (304414) | about 9 months ago | (#45377469)

Not holding a charge mean wasting energy at the end. It is like drilling a giant hole into a hydroelectric dam at the end.

The point is, in the most basic system, you'd expect to discharge the batteries every night.

Anyway, the other question is: What's the carbon footprint of these batteries including the whole life cycle on a sufficient long period of time to not bias the result?

Considering that their lifespan is actually measured in decades, probably not bad ;-)

Re:so green (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 9 months ago | (#45377551)

Not holding a charge mean wasting energy at the end. It is like drilling a giant hole into a hydroelectric dam at the end.

NiFe batteries self discharge at a rate of 20-30% per month. If they're fully charged, during the day, they'll lose under 0.5% of their charge by the time you start charging them again, which seems a pretty adequate loss - you'll lose more than that in the charging and discharging of pretty much any battery type. Remember, we're talking about very short-term energy storage here.

Re:so green (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377341)

It sounds like a great use for nickel-iron. Unfortunately the nickel content makes them expensive. Of course the nickel can be recycled, so it's essentially a one-time investment. It's be interesting to work out the economics.

Re:so green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377405)

Nickel-iron batteries are also made from relatively common materials and don't contain environmentally hazardous chemicals. If you're going to put 100 kg of batteries in every home basement, it's hard to think of a better option.

Re:so green (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377471)

They also last practically forever with little or no maintenance. I wonder what the nickel content costs though? It's a fairly expensive metal.

Re:so green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377307)

Yeah, that is about as dumb as keeping 40-50 gallons of water at 120F 24/7. Wait?

Re:so green (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#45377585)

Efficiency is irrelevant.

The grid and the power plants _are already very inefficien_! But you accept it. Now as we talk about batteries (I'm not really fond about this idea) you suddenly come up with _inefficiencies_ ... thats pretty lol, imho.

Re:so green (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | about 9 months ago | (#45377217)

Lead-acid batteries are quite easily recycled. Granted, you have to take care due to the lead - then again, the other batteries have similar problems. On the other hand, they're quite simple: Lead, sulfuric acid and that's about it. No exotic materials.

Re:so green (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#45377257)

yes, I am quite sure that all of those cheap batteries are going to be lead-acid. *roll-eye*

Re:so green (2)

burni2 (1643061) | about 9 months ago | (#45377319)

Lead Acid Batteries in fact are green, as long as you don't dump those in the nature, these types of batteries can be perfectly recylced!

its not easy being green (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377497)

hey mate, no hard feelings about this reply but;

when you say something is a fact on the internet but you are only potentially right in some unstated hypothetical reality as opposed to RL then you just contribute to confusion and misinformation, which is becoming a really major porblem ;)

ok. my gripe; yes, if all materials are retained they should all be reusable. the issue is that this does not happen, and although lead acid are one of the most easily recycled battery, and certainly common, less than 40% of the material is recovered. this is a matter of energy economics (of the cost of reextracting the materials vs making and transporting a new one) and so lead acid batteries are only potentially green, but are not so in RL.

you would think agriculture was green too right, but major major countries presently use over 2kJ of oil per kJ of food produced. even the most efficient country in the world, agriculturally, australia only gets a slight return from the sun with about 0.9kJ of oil per kJ of food produced. sad isnt it.

and then there is peak phosphorus, etc etc.

have a nice day mate.

Re:its not easy being green (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377543)

although lead acid are one of the most easily recycled battery, and certainly common, less than 40% of the material is recovered

Cite? I find it hard to believe that applies to the lead.

even the most efficient country in the world, agriculturally, australia only gets a slight return from the sun with about 0.9kJ of oil per kJ of food produced

Do the sheep account for much of that efficiency? I would think that livestock grazing on large expanses of open land (which aren't artificially fertilized or anything) would be very efficient from that PoV. How does New Zealand do?

Re:so green (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377331)

imagine 4KWh of lead-acid batteries. that is going to be so much
better for the environment!

The lead in lead-acid batteries is completely recycled. That's already done with car batteries, so it's nothing new. Sulfuric acid is also recycled. [wikipedia.org]

Germany is fucked (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377095)

Big goverment always fails. Like a family you cannot run up huge credit card bills and expect the kids to pay them off. Sure things might look okay now, but in 10 years when bubsiness (and JOBS) have moved to more market driven countries, the bills come due, and the solar panels and batteries all need to be replaced who is going to pay for it all? This is why big goverment is a bad idea.

!Ron Paul 2016!

Re:Germany is fucked (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 9 months ago | (#45377133)

I had five kids, and now you tell me I can't count on them? Dammit!

Re:Germany is fucked (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 9 months ago | (#45377145)

Depends on how you spend the money.

Re:Germany is fucked (5, Insightful)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 9 months ago | (#45377157)

Generalizing is always wrong. No government has 100% failure rate at anything. That said, a subsidy aimed at reducing the technological debt is very helpful in introducing new technology and competition.

Re:Germany is fucked (5, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#45377249)

yeah, it is not like coal, oil, nukes, hydro, trains, planes, space crafts, cars/roads, electrification, telephony, etc ever got a hand out from a gov, esp. the American federal or state govs.

Re:Germany is fucked (2)

guanxi (216397) | about 9 months ago | (#45377289)

yeah, it is not like coal, oil, nukes, hydro, trains, planes, space crafts, cars/roads, electrification, telephony, etc ever got a hand out from a gov, esp. the American federal or state govs.

You forgot natural gas, the US government funded the development of fracking, I just read about cotton, where the government developed anti-wrinkle technology that reputedly saved the industry from new synthetic competitors around 1950.

Also, didn't we give the financial industry a couple of bucks the other day? Health care? Every defense-related industry?

Re:Germany is fucked (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#45377579)

It makes sense for gov. to help new industries get started, but I do not like how they do it. far better ways to do so.
BUT, the financial industry is the one that burns me. We should NOT have bailed them out. Instead, we should have allowed them to crash and then picked up the pieces and re-built many new banks or better yet, credit unions.

Re:Germany is fucked (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377553)

Sure things might look okay now, but in 10 years when bubsiness (and JOBS) have moved to more market driven countries

Which countries are those?

P.S. Even though I completely disagree with you, I think it's idiotic that you were down modded to -1. Hey mods: that's for trolls and flamebait, not opinions you disagree with.

The problem with artificial markets (-1, Redundant)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 9 months ago | (#45377137)

The problem with government-created, artificial markets is that the second the government money stops, so does the artificial market.

Nobody would spend their own money on solar or wind energy, because anyone expecting a return on their investment knows that these are poor investments that are likely to lose money over time.

Government has no problem losing money because they can always just take more from you.

Re:The problem with artificial markets (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#45377239)

wind is already cheaper in America than everything except for hydro, geo-thermal, and nat. gas (and in that order). And in some places, they do not have much of those 3, but have wind, so those areas are in fact, ordering wind. Even here in Colorado, Xcell is installing multiple nat. gas power plants, but they are installing several new wind power parks because they KNOW that nat. gas prices will go up.

And as to batteries, eos energy storage is already the lowest going, and they are below the costs of a nat. gas plant.

Re:The problem with artificial markets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377287)

Artificially establishing a self-sustaining market may be a very good thing. Why would power companies invest into green energy if the transition is both risky and costly, and if there is too little to gain from a strategic perspective? That does not even mean that they're likely to lose money in the long run, just that the return will be too little too late to justify the risk. On the other hand, society as a whole has a huge interest in greener energy. So what's wrong with making the transition more attractive? You're not creating artificial demand that would otherwise not be there.

Re:The problem with artificial markets (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377371)

You have a good point. There shouldn't be subsidies for solar, just like we shouldn't have subsidies for nuclear, oil and hydro. Somehow it's the solar subsidies that get the most criticism though.

Re:The problem with artificial markets (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#45377645)

The role of "the state" or the government is to take action for stuff the populace or the market or the industry is to short sighted for.

Hence we have laws/subsidies for education, military, healthcare, space travel, pensions, marriage etc etc and especially for future energy.

Get Real (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377185)

Someone is not thinking about the CO2 produced in the process of building and maintaining the wind turbines and solar panels. Now we can add more of that with batteries. What do you do with the batteries when they wear out. It might make more sense to make hot water during the day in the winter for heat at night. The per ton cost of abating CO2 this way is insanely high, assuming we need to get rid of CO2. Somehow nobody noticed that temperatures have not gone up in 16 years while CO2 levels climbed. So much for this new pagan religion.

Re:Get Real (5, Insightful)

gdshaw (1015745) | about 9 months ago | (#45377265)

Somehow nobody noticed that temperatures have not gone up in 16 years while CO2 levels climbed. So much for this new pagan religion.

Some people understand the importance of not drawing conclusions about long-term trends from short-term measurements in the presence of noise, and avoid cherry-picking the start date for their trend lines.

You get your CO2 back in 3 - 6 Months! (2, Insightful)

burni2 (1643061) | about 9 months ago | (#45377335)

This is the CO2 return of invest of a windturbine. Solar panel is around 10 - 15 Months or so.

Bout time (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377197)

Been saying we should have started doing this in the USA two decades ago when i worked home construction.

Every one of those subdivision mcmansion homes we have built should have come with a solar panel on the roof and 2 volt battery array.
We built MILLIONS of them. Hell the people buying 40k homes for 200k+ you could have even sold it to them as a 'feature' and not subsidize it at all.

Between that and all the big box stores having an array on the roof. We could be powering half the entire country by solar now. And it would have cost less than a month of one of our 'wars'.

But no. Because socialisim or something. Or no wait. Solar is for hippies. Or no wait.. It's expensive. Or no wait. Solar sucks. Or no wait whats the excuse of the day now?
We're dumb.

Re:Bout time (5, Funny)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377381)

Because socialisim or something. Or no wait. Solar is for hippies. Or no wait.. It's expensive. Or no wait. Solar sucks. Or no wait whats the excuse of the day now?

Solar is unsustainable. In a few billion years we'll lose the source.

Phew! (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#45377593)

You had me worried for a moment - I misread billion as million.

Re:Bout time (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 9 months ago | (#45377559)

No, because you're socializing the profit but privatizing the risk.

Re:Bout time (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 9 months ago | (#45377651)

Exactly! It's supposed to be the other way around!

Re:Bout time (2)

Solandri (704621) | about 9 months ago | (#45377573)

The reason is pretty simple. It's because if you add up all the costs, every study done by someone other than an environmental wacko group says PV solar is 2-5x more expensive per kWh generated [wikipedia.org] than other energy sources. I wish it weren't so, but PV solar is very much a technology which needs further R&D before widescale adoption. There are a few locations (e.g. desert southwest U.S.) where the abundance of sunlight makes it more feasible (though still not advantageous). But in general, outside of a few niche applications (e.g. off-grid, like generating electricity on sailboats), and certain locations where geography already makes the price of electricity naturally high (e.g. Hawaii), it's not economically effective yet.

If you ignore that and decide to charge ahead with it anyway, the decision isn't without consequences. Your average electricity price increases. [theenergycollective.com]

Re:Bout time (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 9 months ago | (#45377665)

The problems now are pollution, resource scarcity, and unemployment. It makes sense to consider strategies that are more expensive but less resource-intensive.

Interesting experiment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377201)

We will see how it works out. Currently industries are considering leaving Germany for parts elsewhere due to the unreliability of the electric grid. We may finally see Germany returned to an agrarian nation that was posited as a punishment for WWII.

In the meantime, it's unlikely you will find residential consumers willing to pay for such expensive solar and battery technology. And in the US, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and some wind power will still be the rule over the next century. So let's hope those industries make their way to the US and enjoy some of our natural resources and more reliable delivery system.

Re:Interesting experiment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377255)

Where did you pick up that opinion ? I can't think of a more reliable power grid. Living in Germany most part of my life (40+) I have never seen a brown-out nor a black-out here, except when a excavator damaged a big power line in the neighborhood. On the other hand working and vacationing in the USA, I have seen a number of brown-outs and I escaped the Northeast blackout of 2003 by sheer luck by a few hours flying west.

Re:Interesting experiment (0)

burni2 (1643061) | about 9 months ago | (#45377361)

Well, in germany anytime the industry announces to leave germany if they are remembered that they have social and environmental duties,
but the first that tried this, came back to germany crying about unstable justice systems and unquallified workers, and concluded that they had spent far more, than they would have staying in germany.

Germany was dizzed by the US, for selling so many goods. I know that's because the industry fears ..

And btw. there are many places like the examples are USA and Australia where the grid is worse than the german grid.

Re:Interesting experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377647)

unreliability of the electric grid.

Hahahahahahah.
What?

Signed,
a German

skeptical of home batteries for large-scale use (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about 9 months ago | (#45377205)

I agree with the general drive towards decoupling immediate production vs. use with better energy storage, but even with improved battery technology, everyone having batteries in their house is a particularly inefficient (and high-maintenance) way of doing it. Better approaches need quite large sinks for excess energy. For example, pumped-storage hydro [wikipedia.org] is good for very large amounts. For medium-sized amounts, especially transient spikes, Denmark is experimenting with (PDF) [ramboll.com] dumping the excess production into district heating, since the heat reservoir handles fluctuations better than the grid does.

Better prediction and integration between sources can also help. For example, Denmark is largely managing its fluctuating wind energy these days not by literally storing it, but by predicting much of the variation, and offsetting discretionary production within the integrated Nordic energy market. What mostly happens is that on high-wind days, Sweden and Norway just reduce production at their hydro plants, and use the excess Danish wind power instead. In a sense the excess wind therefore gets stored as potential energy in the hydro reservoirs, but just by not producing the hydro in the first place, rather than pump-storage.

Re:skeptical of home batteries for large-scale use (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#45377519)

Well, traditional pumped storage is exhausted in germany. However there are concepts like cutting a huge cylinder out of a mountain and filling the hole with water, the stone cylinder is supposed to swim on this water and increase its pressure. (sorry, don't find a link for it).
On the other hand germany still can build more pumped storages by simply creating artificial lakes on top of hills like this picture: http://www.dena.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Sonstiges/themen/esd_2.jpg [www.dena.de]

Forcasting as you describe it is also done in germany, otherwise a grid would not be manageable

Re:skeptical of home batteries for large-scale use (1)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 9 months ago | (#45377635)

Batteries are not likely to ever be cost competitive to pumped hydro for grid-scale energy storage. Although the initial capital costs can be similar (if we can get enough lead for multi-GWh battery banks), the overall operating cost over a >60 yeah life span is so much in favor of pumped hydro, it's not even a contest. I think it might be worthwhile to invest more into pumped hydro technology, for example to find economical ways of reducing land use for a given storage capacity. There's a somewhat interesting proposal to build high energy density per area storage shafts [gigaom.com] on flat terrain. People are also experimenting with compressed air storage [wikipedia.org] , which has similar economics to pumped hydro, but the tech is not quite as simple and mature.

It puzzles me why the Germans would promote household-level battery storage as the solution. Perhaps their terrain is too flat for hydro or compressed air storage? Even if batteries are really the only choice, grid-scale batteries [wikipedia.org] using specialized technology would still be way cheaper.

unfortunately (0)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#45377211)

"The German government has responded to the next big challenge in its energy transition – storing the output from the solar boom it has created — by doing exactly what it has successfully done to date: greasing the wheels of finance to bring down the cost of new technology.

Unfortunately, that's been ineffective: costs for solar have come down no faster than they would have without German government intervention. Also at EU 20-28k, you can pay for decades of electricity usage, and that's not even taking into account maintenance. Waste of money.

Re:unfortunately (1)

jecblackpepper (1160029) | about 9 months ago | (#45377705)

Also at EU 20-28k, you can pay for decades of electricity usage, and that's not even taking into account maintenance. Waste of money.

Decades only at current prices. Prices having been increasing significantly over the last few years and that trend does not seem likely to change any time soon. If for EUR 20K you can lock in your energy prices for the life of the system (also measured in decades), then you are very likely to make significant savings over that time.

For example, according to UK Department of Energy and Climate Change figures, electricity prices have risen by 63% since 2005, and by over 250% since 1987 (considering 25 years being the typical life of a solar PV installation).

Old is new again (3)

moteyalpha (1228680) | about 9 months ago | (#45377213)

Molten Batteries [wikipedia.org]
I was surprised to learn that the concept behind molten batteries originated in Germany with the V1. MIT and Dr Sadoway have a battery system that is supposed to be available 2014. If it was invented in Germany and has since been used for ICBMs and ordinance. Seems odd that it has taken almost 70 years to come full circle.

China will work to destroy this. again. (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#45377215)

China will do what they did with solar, which is acquire western tech, and then subsidize and dump on Germany.

If Germany really wants to do this right, they will block ALL energy storage from China. Heck, the fact that they manipulate their money against the Euro and USD should be more than enough of a subsidy to trigger this.

Re:China will work to destroy this. again. (2)

twms2h (473383) | about 9 months ago | (#45377473)

There are several goals in this:
1. develop the technology
2. build the storage systems
3. generate jobs in the process
4. make the technology cheap

China will assist in 4. and destroy some of the jobs generated in 3 in the process, but only some of them.
That's fine with me (I am from Germany)

Re:China will work to destroy this. again. (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#45377539)

Germany is investing into green energy production (by setting up laws), not into the production of factories to produce technology for green energy (that is left to the market).

German companies can easily set up sub companies in China ...

Where do you put a massive bank of batteries? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 9 months ago | (#45377251)

Where would you put this set of battery cells? I'm guessing it's not going to be something the size of a car battery... probably won't be able to store it in the basement in case it floods or the attic due to weight. So do German's have a extra space in their garage for something that may take up the floor space of a water heater or furnace?

I keep a very clean and organized garage and I'd have trouble storing another lawn mower or installing another water heater/washer/clothesdryer.

Re:Where do you put a massive bank of batteries? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#45377409)

I keep a very clean and organized garage and I'd have trouble storing another lawn mower or installing another water heater/washer/clothesdryer.

I keep a very disorganized garage. You could probably put an entire substation in it and I would never notice (until I needed a big cable or something and went at it with a hack saw).

Who will be leaders in solar technology? (2)

guanxi (216397) | about 9 months ago | (#45377259)

Solar has a good chance of being a very large industry in the future. Germany continues to advance, giving themselves an opportunity to be the world leaders in the industry -- the place where the skills, infrastructure, funding, supporting know-how (legal, financial, etc.) are all concentrated, like Silicon Valley for IT.

Meanwhile the "conservatives" in the US continue to obstruct progress here for political reasons, as part of their universal anti-liberal crusade. By loudly denying any idea that at any point was associated with liberals (including climate change and alternative energy), they will somehow change the facts and make conservatives "right".

Re:Who will be leaders in solar technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377461)

Dismantling nuclear capacity to replace it with solar is unlikely to be a net positive for Germany. Not sure how much "obstruction" of solar is going on in the US when billions are being squandered on negative-return solar projects, but if the liberals are right we don't have to worry about falling behind Germany anyway since we can just print money to get anything Germany produces for free.

Re:Who will be leaders in solar technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377577)

Dismantling nuclear capacity to replace it with solar is unlikely to be a net positive for Germany [Citation needed]. Not sure how much "obstruction" of solar is going on in the US when billions are being squandered on negative-return solar projects [Citation needed], but if the liberals are right we don't have to worry about falling behind Germany anyway since we can just print money to get anything Germany produces for free [Citation needed].

Re:Who will be leaders in solar technology? (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 9 months ago | (#45377689)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese were intent on being the world leaders in HDTV. They poured the equivalent of billions of dollars (which was a lot more money back then) into R&D of HDTV broadcast standards and transmission and display technologies. They showcased their impressive work at expos and technology conferences around the world. So what happened? Why aren't we all using Japanese HDTV standards?

Like standard definition TV, the system they developed was analog. Around the 1990s, digital signal processors came down in price enough that you could affordably do real-time analog-to-digital conversion, compress the digital stream for transmission, then do decompression at the receiver end. This resulted in an order of magnitude bandwidth savings over purely analog systems. At a certain threshold price point, all that Japanese R&D was rendered obsolete.

Not betting on the wrong horse is just as important as betting on the right horse. PV solar still isn't cost-competitive with other energy sources (if you want to bet on a green energy source right now, wind is the closest to economic parity with coal). Betting heavily on solar now is high-risk. The smart money is on further R&D. Who knows, it could very much end up a repeat of HDTV, with some new photovoltaic chemistry coming out of some little lab which renders all previous PV technologies obsolete.

Very limited practicality (2)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 9 months ago | (#45377275)

In order to really be useful, Germany would have to store at least gigawatt-hours of power. This huge solar peak they have during the daytime needs to be distributed at least into the evening hours, and ideally into the morning of the following day.

Distributed solar makes sense, at least partically because the loss of efficiency due to zillions of small power generation points more-or-less balances out with the gain in efficiency because the power is consumed near where it is generated, thus eliminating transmission losses.

Distributed power storage makes a good bit less sense. Charging and discharging batteries is - depending on the situation - somewhere between 60% and 80% efficient, dropping as the batteries age. The batteries will have to be replaced every few years, which further decreases the efficiency. Gigawatt-hours of batteries - we are talking - rough estimate - around 20,000 tons of batteries per GWh. That a lot of nasty chemical, not to mention manufacturing and recycling costs.

Frankly, Germany would be better off selling excess electricity to the Swiss, who then pump their lakes full [wikipedia.org] , and then buying that electricity back when needed. This is around 70% efficient, and a hell of a lot friendlier to the environment.

Re:Very limited practicality (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377283)

There are concerns other than absolute efficiency. A distributed system is far more robust against nuclear/bio/whatever attack, and the way the USA is going the americans will be the new nazi global menace soon, we don't want all our eggs in one basket.

Re:Very limited practicality (1)

jiriki (119865) | about 9 months ago | (#45377351)

Frankly, Germany would be better off selling excess electricity to the Swiss, who then pump their lakes full [wikipedia.org] , and then buying that electricity back when needed. This is around 70% efficient, and a hell of a lot friendlier to the environment.

Most wind energy is produced in northern Germany. The current power grid is already unable to distribute the peak power to southern Germany. So storing it in Switzerland will not work. Norway would be a better place [google.com] . But there is probably no single solution and having batteries helps as well....

Re:Very limited practicality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377357)

The thing is, the Swiss don't want out excess energy. There are times when German utilities have to pay others to get rid of the excess energy.

But I do agree with you that there should not be batteries coupled to the solar panels but big energy storage facilities.

Re:Very limited practicality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377431)

Germany would have to store at least gigawatt-hours of power.

First of all, while Gigawatt-hours are indeed the right unit, that's a unit for Energy. With 41 Million households in Germany, and 4kWh of storage capacity planned for the average installation, Gigawatt hours are reached when less than 1% of the households run one of those home battery storage devices. Since there are already around 1 million photovoltaic installations connected to the public grid, I'd say that this a a goal that should be easy to achieve within 5-10 years.

Re:Very limited practicality (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 9 months ago | (#45377455)

the loss of efficiency due to zillions of small power generation points more-or-less balances out with the gain in efficiency because the power is consumed near where it is generated, thus eliminating transmission losses

Transmission losses for a traditional central power plant approach averages only 7%, from generator to electrical outlet. It simply is not a major source of inefficiency.

Frankly, Germany would be better off selling excess electricity to the Swiss, who then pump their lakes full [wikipedia.org], and then buying that electricity back when needed. This is around 70% efficient, and a hell of a lot friendlier to the environment.

There I agree with you. I defend batteries as not necessarily being the worst things, but hydro storage is better. Best is if you don't have to use pumped storage. You simply shut off (or at least cut back) hydro generation during the day and let the water build up in the reservoir, then use it at night or during unusually cloudy weather (a typical dam can hold a hell of a lot more than a day's worth of extra water, and certainly a much longer period's worth than any practical battery). You get better than 70% efficiency, and don't have to build pumps.

AFAIK the problem is economics. The Swiss hate the German solar initiative, because it reduces the demand for their hydro power when the prices are highest during the day. Nighttime electricity prices are much lower. It would be nice if they could come to some sort of an economic agreement. It'd be worth it to the Germans to compensate the Swiss to some extent, because the Germans could save money on batteries.

Re:Very limited practicality (4, Informative)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#45377701)

AFAIK the problem is economics. The Swiss hate the German solar initiative, because it reduces the demand for their hydro power when the prices are highest during the day. Nighttime electricity prices are much lower. It would be nice if they could come to some sort of an economic agreement. It'd be worth it to the Germans to compensate the Swiss to some extent, because the Germans could save money on batteries.
Sorry, that is nonsense ;D
Hydro power, especially pumped storage, is mainly used as "balancing energy" (sorry, no dictionary has the right english term for "Regelenergie").
So it is always payed well, regardless of "germanies solar power". Before germany had "solar power" we used coal. That means Switzerland is losing nothing due to our switch to solar and wind.
In fact they win. Because NOW we indeed buy energy from Switzerland as "balancing energy".

It would be nice if they could come to some sort of an economic agreement
We have such agreements already, otherwise the trade between the EU and Switzerland would not happen ...

Re:Very limited practicality (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 9 months ago | (#45377493)

Frankly, Germany would be better off selling excess electricity to the Swiss, who then pump their lakes full [wikipedia.org] , and then buying that electricity back when needed. This is around 70% efficient, and a hell of a lot friendlier to the environment.

They already do that with us here in Austria. They sell excess electricity to us, we pump Danube water up barrages with it, and when we need power, release the water over turbines again. Part of what we generate, we sell back to the Germans. Good deal, both sides are satisfied: the Germans with a place to store their excess kWh, we with cheap power.

Potential energy storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377557)

Frankly, Germany would be better off selling excess electricity to the Swiss, who then pump their lakes full [wikipedia.org] , and then buying that electricity back when needed. This is around 70% efficient, and a hell of a lot friendlier to the environment.

Yeah, potential energy storage (pumping water uphill with excess energy and later letting it fall to recover the energy) is quite practical even if it isn't glamorous. It's been quietly used in the US for years - e.g., the Taum Sauk pumped storage unit in Missouri. (Whose dam failed several years ago after a limiter switch failed to cut off the pumps when the reservoir filled. Several lives were lost in the resulting flood.)

Re:Very limited practicality (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#45377563)

Frankly, Germany would be better off selling excess electricity to the Swiss
That happens already. However we have right now two problems. Most wind production is at the coast in the north and we lack grid capacity to get it to Switzerland. The second problem is that Switzerland right now has not the storage capacity. But they are working on it. The long term goal of Switzerland is to be the central european pumped storage hub.

Distributed power storage makes a good bit less sense Ofc it makes sense. The power is stored close to the point where it is used later. All grid infrastructure is already in place.

Keep in mind the concept posted here is only aiming to store perhaps 1GWh ... it is not meant to be a storage for "whole germany".

Re:Very limited practicality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377611)

Your battery perception is based on consumer products.

Batteries don't have to loose (much) efficiency as they age. Batteries don't have to be replaced every few years. Batteries don't have to be recharged in 20 minutes and hold a charge for weeks.

If you have unlimited space and weight isn't a factor (you don't have to carry it in your pocket all day), there are 'other' battery technologies that make our consumer batteries look like disposable paper cups.

america wastes to be rich! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377305)

First: you make a debt by dumping some CO2 into the atmosphere to build the initial solar panels (and batteries).
Any future solar and battery creation will not add to the CO2-to-atmosphere debt, since the energy
is now from a carbon-free source.

Second: If hina wants to help germany go green and be MOER independent from oil and gas producing countries
by manufacturing cheap solar modules and batteries, then this is a good thing.

Same logic applies to point two: Once the system has been installed country wide and the source being free (sun),
the future manufacturing and replacement will be cheaper since the source is unlimited and the devices were cheap
(made in china). In the second iteration, that is in 10-20 years when the cheap (chinese) solar modules and batteries will need
replacement, the chinese will not be able to compete, because in the mean time the energy used in china to produce
solar moduels and batteries is gas/coal/oil and these will keep rising and getting moer expensive.

Meanwhile in germany, after the initial investment ... everything is just going to get cheaper by the day : )

The best place for a battery, is inside a car (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45377447)

This assumes that there is surplus electric power, which is undesirable, because that is some fossil fuel that could have not been burned, and could have been saved for another day.

The electricity is going to have losses, in converting to proper voltage for the battery. The battery itself has charging losses. Then, there will be more losses, when the battery's electricity is converted back to a standard voltage. Batteries cost a significant amount of money. If you are going to go through the time and money to store electricity in a battery, why not stick it into a car?

house in Germany (4, Informative)

bkmoore (1910118) | about 9 months ago | (#45377525)

I own a house in Germany, unlike most readers here. To be clear, the money from the KfW is a loan, not a subsidy. The subsidy, if there is one, is that most KfW loans are interest free for the first 10 years.

The irritating thing to this home owner is that there seems to be no end to home improvements that our German government would like for me to implement. Be it tripple-paned windows, foam insulation, solar heating, solar power, and now batteries. And my house is barely 20 years old. I'm not against somebody who wants to put all these things into their home, but for this home owner, none of these things make any economic sense - even with a zero interest loan. This home owner has decided to do exactly nothing. And that in and of itself saves the environment a lot of waste.

Commies! (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 9 months ago | (#45377617)

I'll take my socialism in the form of corporate welfare for the oil companies, than you very much.
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