Dienstag, 2. Januar 2018

LCOS Levelized Cost Of Storage

LCOS the price for stored Energy

Comparison of storage costs

Comparing the costs of energy storage is anything but easy. This is due to the fact that known storage media such as batteries, pumped storage, gravity storage or compressed air have very different prices and efficiencies.
In this post, I would like to explain the LCOS comparison procedure, which is used internationally, and point out the calculation problems.

Where the costs arise

At first glance, many people see only the purchase price (CAPEX) for a storage device. But even this is not a trivial decision, let's just think of a pumped storage reservoir that needs to be built. Perhaps ten years from the investment decision to the first electricity supply, a time when a lot of money is spent. Wouldn't it have been possible to invest the money better during this time, perhaps with a 5% interest rate?
In order to take this effect into account, the discounted price for the future is determined. In a simple case, a storage device that costs 1000 dollars, but can first be used after one year, would cost ~1050 euros.

When the storage facility is in operation, running costs (OPEX) are incurred, e. g. for maintenance and operation, but also for renting the space. If there is a battery storage unit in the house and requires 1 m² of space, you have to allocate the rental costs per month, about 5 $/m², so that the storage unit alone causes 5*12 = 60 $ rental costs per year!

A power storage device is never 100% efficient. Since the electricity that is stored is not free of charge, even if the opposite is often claimed, the costs of electricity lost during storage must be taken into account. For example, if you have a LiIon battery that takes electricity from your own PV system, you can charge assuming 10 ct/kWh for the electricity and a storage efficiency of 90%, measured on the alternating current side. As a result, 10 ct costs are incurred per storage cycle in a 10 kWh storage system due to the internal power loss.

For many calculations, however, the lost interest rate is one of the most expensive but also the most difficult to understand parameter. When making an investment decision, every company wants a return on investment that is higher than the return it would receive from the bank. Since every investment is supposed to generate a profit and is subject to uncertainties, a calculated return is assumed, which appears to be relatively high, currently often 8%.
Consider that a storage facility could break down, in the future there could be another demand or a much cheaper storage facility could come onto the market. In each of these cases, the expected repayment would be in jeopardy and the entrepreneur would be "insured" with a planned return.

Exact calculation 

For an exact calculation of the costs of storing one kWh of electricity (or 1 MWh, the usual size in the electricity market) one must therefore know many factors in advance. The most important ones are:

  • Electricity price of the electricity to be stored (P_elec-in)
  • Efficiency of the storage system (u (DOD))
  • Purchase price of the storage system (CAPEX)
  • Storage device lifetime (N Storage device lifetime in years)
  • Number of storage cycles (#cycles)
  • Expected return (r interest rate)
  • Operating costs (O&M

If you have all these figures collected, you can make a first simple calculation:

                   All costs
Costs per kWh = --------------- 
                  stored power

As simple as this formula may seem, it becomes complicated if future revenues and expenses are used correctly from a financial point of view. Then, for example, a kWh that you store in 5 years becomes smaller than expected, since you have to discount everything for the future (keyword: interest rate).

This discounting can be described by a sum formula which reads as follows:

Detailed formula for calculating the storage costs according the Apricum calculation.
I assume that most people will be awed by the sight of this formula. But, strictly speaking, it does not say more than I have mentioned so far, only in one, for mathematically experienced people, plain way

Evaluation of LCOS with examples

Practically speaking, you can enter such a formula in Excel with a little patience and then start to calculate. I did this together with experts from the Imperial College in London, especially Mr. Schmidt[1], and determined the results for some systems.

Comparing important storage systems gives the following results:

Comparison of LCOS for different storage systems[1]
The graph shows that Gravity Storage and Compressed Air storage have almost the same initial cost (CAPEX) but the storage costs for a Gravity Storage System are lower, because the efficiency is higher there and therefore less power (P-elec) has to be stored in the system in order to have the same amount of power available later on.

The following assumptions were made for the estimation above:

Data used for the calculation above (click to magnify). [1]

How strong the impact of the yield (interest rate) is can be seen if you calculate with 4% interest rate instead of 8% interest rate as shown above.

Change in LCOS at 4% interest rate. [1]

Although all other costs are unchanged, the storage costs for some systems, such as Pumped Hydro  are significantly lower. However, the costs of batteries remain relatively high. What is the reason for this? The reason for this is due to the construction period, while battery systems can be connected to the grid within one year, systems with a construction period of several years require a lot of capital upfront until the first revenues are generated. If interest rates are low, this is less important.


I hope it has become clear at this point that the calculation of storage costs, especially if they are an investment of a company, is not easy to determine, but that there are known procedures for accurately calculating these costs.

Many private users of battery systems will rarely make such a calculation, it is often about the good "feeling" to have a store for one's own electricity, but unfortunately this cannot be reflected in an investment decision.


CAPEX = capital expenditures (capital costs)
LCOS = Levelized Cost of Storage
OPEX = operating expenditures (operating costs)


[1] Schmidt, 2017, report: Levelized cost of storage.

Mittwoch, 20. Dezember 2017

The demand for pumped storage facilities in central Europe

The demand for pumped storage facilities in central Europe 

IIn the year 2017 I was at two pump storage plant meetings,"Pumpspeicherwerke" in Essen on July 10,2017 and on November 29/30 at the 3rd International Pump Storage Conference in Salzburg, the results are somewhat contradictory and I want to discuss them in this blog post.

(This article about pumped storage was first posted in German language and was translated with the help of deepl.com)

International distribution of pumped storage power plants.

Pumped storage in Germany

The German pumped storage facilities have a capacity of 40 gigawatt-hours and a connected load of 6 GB,  these are enormous figures but in relation to the electricity system they are rather small, the power capacity is about one tenth of the German electricity consumption and the energy capacity could supply Germany with electricity for less than an hour (if the power capacity were sufficient).

The task of the pumped storage plants in their original function, however, was not to supply Germany with electricity overnight if the sun doesn't shine, but to manage failures of nuclear power plants or to cover peak loads during the lunchtime period, which were caused by switching on many electric cookers in earlier days.

Rene Kühne on the development of the spot price, the peak at noon has disappeared. (Slides)

Today the picture has changed massively. During the day, the high number of photovoltaic systems, with around 40 GB of installed capacity in Germany, makes a significant contribution to the reduction of electricity demand peaks. Although not always, especially in the winter when it is very cloudy and only a few hundred megawatts are generated by photovoltaics. As a result, the price of electricity no longer fluctuates as much as in the past, which is precisely why pumped storage operators have a major problem financing their systems.

It is now the case that even finished plants can hardly generate the revenues to maintain operation. At the meeting in Essen, for example, some spokespersons stated that in the event of a major overhaul, such as the replacement of a turbine, the power plant would actually have to be shut down for economic reasons.

This would of course have considerable consequences for the electricity grid, because the pumped storage facilities are also used to stabilise the grid and are supposed to buffer solar and wind power in the future in order to provide the corresponding energy at other times of demand.

A new building is therefore practically unthinkable in Germany, which also meant that the well-known Atdorf project in the southern Black Forest was stopped, although 60 million euros have already been spent on planning.

Expansion of the pumped storage power plants has almost come to a standstill, shown as yellow circles, Reinhard Fritzer, ILF (Slides)

Pumpspeicher in ÖsterreichPumped storage in Austria

The situation is different in Austria, where there are considerably more pumped storage power plants, especially in terms of storage capacity. This comes from the large slopes in the Alps around the much larger dams and thus reservoirs.

Professor Helmut Jaberg's famous plant of the Illwerke was presented at the International Pumped Storage Storage Conference in Salzburg. A pumped storage tank with a drop height of more than 800 m and over one gigawatt of power.

The ratio of stored energy to turbine power is larger in Austria and Switzerland, which means that it energy can be stored for longer periods.
Due to the large storage energy capacity, surpluses such as those from longer periods of strong wind can also be absorbed if the lines are sufficient. In times of calm, the energy can then be called off and sold at higher prices.

This is often misleadingly portrayed in the media as if Germany is giving electricity away abroad and reimporting it at great expense. No, there is a service in between that the energy is stored and delivered exactly when we need it!

Storage revenue sources

The very flat price curve for electricity cannot currently finance storage facilities, but there are other sources of revenue for storage facilities, such as balancing the grid. Energy is provided or absorbed at short notice to stabilise the grid.

Control energy is another source of revenue for pumped storage.

In the lecture of the consulting firm BET from Aachen, additional sources of income were presented.

The problem, however, is often the legal regulations, which make it very difficult to treat all markets fairly. This often shows that our energy laws are still too much dominated by the way of thinking in the old energy system. In addition, the transport of energy is not shown, all prices are valid for Germany, although there may be a surplus in Northern Germany and a shortage of electricity in Southern Germany.

The load gradients have been growing in recent years, so fast control power is required.
An alternative to storage is the expansion of the grid, but unfortunately this is progressing very slowly, so that in the long term a lot of energy coming from wind and sun does not reach the consumer.
Network expansion, only 3% are completed in 2016, Slide Team Consult.


Considering pumped storage alone in a power system does not make sense. In the future, all components of a modern power grid will have to work together. Wind, offshore and onshore, PV, power lines, storage facilities in Germany but also across the border and with fair rules for everyone involved.

Dienstag, 4. April 2017

How much land area does a 100% solar powered world need?

Land demand for solar power

Solar energy for Germany, Europe and the world

There is a picture in the solar scene (picture 1) that probably almost everyone knows, it shows how large the surface area is when the world is switched to solar energy. It was, as far as I know, published by Mrs. Nadine May for the first time in her diploma thesis at DLR [1]:

Figure 1: Space requirements for solar power plants, according to Nadine May [1]
This image is widely used and should be checked for correctness. First of all, Algeria is the country that contains the squares for the world and Europe, and Libya, the country which possibly receives the German solar power plants, are no more colonies.

The squares have an edge length of: world 254 km, Europe 110 km and Germany only 45 km.

How big is the energy consumption in the world?

The energy consumption of the world is constantly growing (see figure 2), so it is difficult to specify the energy requirement without a reference year. Currently the demand is over 30,000 TWh (30,000,000,000,000,000 kWh) using the further processed data from the International Energy Agency (IEA). I have considered transforming factors for certain energy forms (transportation, heating) into electricity.

Figure 2: Global energy demand for electricity, transport and all other forms of demand

This energy should be converted with solar cells (PV) into electricity. There are several factors to consider, the efficiency, the irradiation in the course of a year and the necessary storage of the energy for the night.

Solar cells made of silicon achieve an efficiency of around 20% and are currently the most economical method to generate large amounts of solar energy.

The irradiation is very different in different regions of the earth, in particular one must always distinguish between direct and global irradiation. For photovoltaics (PV) only the global irradiation plays a role. Therefore, only these radiation is considered.

Figure 3: Global radiation perpendicular to the ground (source: WEC [2])
The map shows that many areas have an annual irradiation capacity of 2000 kWh per year, in particular the Sahara, but also on other continents good locations can be found; only exception is Europe.

Necessary Land Area

The necessary areas of the solar cells can now be easily calculated. For the world, we need 30,000,000,000,000,000 kWh per year, since one square meter has an incidence of 2000 kWh which would theoretically be 15,000,000,000 m² or 15,000 km².
Now the efficiency comes into play, since only 20% is converted into electricity, we need the fivefold area, that is 75,000 km². However, one has to be able to build the cells and needs paths and additional areas for inverters and storage, which should double the space requirement. This is 150,000 km².
The transport and storage of energy, which is absolutely necessary, since at night the sun doesn't shine, will consume another 25% of the energy, so we are at 200,000 km².

This corresponds to a square of 448 km of edge length, roughly twice as large as in the drawing.

Fair World

Currently, only a few people consume a lot of energy and lots of people have little energy. I am convinced that in the long term all people want at least to reach the standard of living as in Germany. For this, an energy quantity of 15,000 kWh per year and per person would be necessary. There are some countries that already have a much higher energy requirement, but we hope that energy efficiency will also save some energy.

With a world population of 8 billion people, this will yield an annual energy demand of 120,000 TWh or 120,000,000,000,000,000 kWh, or four times the current demand. This would increase the area with solar cells to a square with an edge length of 1000 km (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: Supply the world completely with solar energy in the future
Furthermore, the area of ​​one million square kilometers is still small compared to the Sahara, but a serious part of the solid surface of the earth. The world has about 15 million square kilometers of sunny deserts, which means about 1/15 of this area must be used in the future for solar cells to deliver enough energy.

Storage requirements

If it is assumed that the energy must be stored for at least one day, this requires a storage capacity of 330 TWh (330,000 GWh)
Compared: Germany has pumped storage with a capacity of 0.04 TWh.
If large Gravity Storage systems with 80 GWh capacity (500 m diameter) solves the problem, a considerable number of 4000 pieces would have to be built.

Using batteries from Elon Musks Gigafactory, the gigafactory produces at a planned capacity 50 GWh per year; over 6000 years of production or 400 Gigafactories for 15 years are required. This is to provide the capacity for the first time and we have to continue production because batteries must be replaced after 15 years.

Gigantic conversion

If the global conversion to solar energy succeeds, huge buildings in the form of gigantic solar fields will be necessary. Surely the roof surfaces are never enough. Furthermore, investments are in the order of magnitude of the global gross social product of one year ($ 80,000 billion). This sounds a lot, but it will help mankind to be sustainable. Especially when one considers that afterwards energy is produced clean, without CO2 and at a low cost.

I think: we can do it!


[1] Eco-balance of a Solar ElectricityTransmission from North Africa to Europe, Diploma Thesis of Nadine May, Braunschweig, May 2005

[2] World Energy Resources Solar 2016, World Energy Council 2017

A 186 page paper going into details is from Jakobson et.al., 100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water, and Sunlight (WWS) AllSector Energy Roadmaps for 139 Countries of the World

Montag, 24. Oktober 2016

Global Demand for Energy Storage

Energy Storage Demand in a Sustainable World

The global transition to renewable energy production is in progress. Last year, 2015, more renewable power capacity, like solar and wind power, was installed as conventional capacity like coal and nuclear. Beside this nice development, there is a weak spot, the installed solar and wind capacity produce only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. For a full change to an emission free world, we need energy storage.

How big is the storage demand on a global scale, this is hard to guess, because it depends on a lot of assumptions. I will try to make a good guess within this post.

The Global "Energiewende" 

I will not describe the "Energiewende" (change of the energy system) in Germany, I will focus on the global change. This makes sense, because we have to change the energy system on the global scale to stopp the carbon problem and limit the exhaustion of the scare fossile fuels. 

The strong growth of PV installations, about 70 GW are expected for 2016, continues the long term trend of constant fast growing installations over the last decades. 

This trend will change the energy system as we know it today within two decades, to understand this lets look into the near history.

Growth of the energy consumption and the installed renewable energy production.
Consider the logarithmic axis of the installed power. Data source BP 
The first thing is, the electric power demand has a constant annual global growth of 3%. The installation of wind and solar power combined grows every year with 22%. The result will be, that somewhere around 2025, more fluctuating renewable energy is installed as conventional power plants. 

But be careful, the produced energy of wind and sun will still not match the demand, because they only produce energy when sunlight or wind is available. Resulting in the green line, which represents the mean renewable power generation. This line hits around 2030 the demand.

The result is, the next century will be dominated by the installation of storage to match the flucuating production at any time with the global demand.

Influence to the Storage Demand

The main impact for the storage demand has the electric grid infrastructure. The reason is, that the grid is the most efficient way to transport the electric power from the source to the customer. Is the sun shining in the southern part of a country, it is efficient to bring the energy to the cloudy northern part. And similar, if the northern part has a lot of wind during the night it makes sense to bring the energy with the same grid to the customers in the southern part.

This results in a competition between grid and storage.

To find the economic optimum between power grid size and storage is complex
Theoretical, it would be possible, to span a global grid around the globe and connect this grid with all solar power plants. This would result in a perfect 24 hour solar power supply without any energy storage at all because the sun shines always at some places on our earth.

The main problem seem the high price of such a grid and the energy loss in the power line. The other extreme case is a power storage at home with a seasonal capacity (only necessary in the northern region) of 1000 kWh for every person in the house. Then we can go off grid, sufficient PV on the rooftop assumed. The price for the batteries may reach a million dollars, not affordable.

If we dive into detailed computer simulations as done by J. Tambke und L. Bremen [1] we learn, that a country like Germany needs a storage capacity of seven days after a complete conversion to wind and solar has happend and there is a perfect power grid, often called a copper plate. 

Expanding the area of the perfect grid connection to an area like Europe only two days of storage is necessary. If we are optimistic and assume a perfect grid of this semi continental scale we need only a storage capacity of two days.

Further Chances to Optimize

Beside the grid, another chance to minimise the storage demand is the so called smart grid. Whenever possible, a energy consuming element in the grid goes offline if the power price is high or goes online if the price is low.

We dont know the exact possible amount of energy demand that can be shifted to other times but a optimistic guess might be, that 50% of the demand can be shifted in a way that the storage demand is halved.

Asuming this, we need only one day of storage if a smart grid and a comtinent size grid is available.

Adding up the Numbers

The energy consumption in the world in the year 2030 will be around 4,000 GW. To store this energy over one day, we need a 24h storage system with a capacity of 96,000 GWh. Keep in mind, the Gigafactory of Elon Musk may produce 100 GWh per year. If all the storage is used for the global Energiewende, the production for this demand needs about 1000 years.

But be careful, other solutions may be available.  The energy stored in the lakes of Norway contain an astonishing amount of 80,000 GWh, although there is no pump, the stored volume can only be used once in a year and has to be refilled by natural perception.
Pumped hydro technology may be a good solution, especially the Gravity Storage system, a typical site can store about 8 GWh. We still need 10,000 Sites, but tis seems to be more within practical reach, than a bure battery solution.  


Montag, 17. Oktober 2016

World Energy Council Meeting 2016

World Energy Congress 2016 in Istanbul

From 9th-13th October 2016, the World Congress on Energy was held in Istanbul. It was the 23rd Congress since 1923.

The topics of the congress were distributed over the entire energy area, including the oil and gas production and renewable energies. There were many important statesmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Turkish President Recep Erdogan, including many other government members from different countries, including the visit of Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, the first official meeting after six years frozen relations between Turkey and Israel.
Side by side, Putin and Erdogan at the conference in Istanbul

Vladimir Putin talk was about the importance of energy and the price of oil, a remark about a co-operation with OPEC during the speech has moved the oil price to rise by 2 $! He was the only statesmen, who included the words "exponential growth of solar energy".

The issue of energy just brings together not only scientists and engineers, but also politicians and diplomats. The global linking of energy distribution, especialy natural gas, plays an important role and Turkey was presented as a hub between Asia, Middle East and Europe and the Mediterranean.

The world's energy

All participants have concluded, that the energy transition towards renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, is on the way. However, the completeness and how fast that arives is controversial. While I am convinced that before the end of the next decade the significant change of the energy system has been completed, Marie-José Nadeau, Chair, World Energy Council believes that in 2060 the share of renewable might reach only 50% of total energy production [1] ,
Marie-José Nadeau, Chair, World Energy Council

This is understandable from the perspective of the energy industry. They trade with oil, coal and natural gas. Should the change take place quickly, the oil and the coal is not any longer requested by the market. The industry worries about stranded resources. This means the oil in the ground, on which the wealth of large companies and nations is based, may become worthless.

Key issues in the energy transition in the coming decades

The importance of the Paris Convention for the CO2 reduction was repeatedly stressed. Generally, however, many see only a shift from coal to natural gas, as is well known, natural gas produces half as much CO2 when it is converted into electricity than coal! This is due to a fact that a methane molecule consists of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms, but also to the better efficiency of gas power plants.
Key finding: the phenomenal rise of solar and wind energy will continue!

Power Turntable Turkey

At the conference in Turkey, the geo- (energy-) strategic role of  Turkey was stressed by Erdogan.

Important oil and gas pipelines connect large resources of Asia with European customers, more gas and oil pipelines are planned.
Strategic position of Turkey

Finally, the construction of a new gas pipeline connecting Russian and other Asian gas fields to Europe by crossing Turkey, were one reason why Putin, but also the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, showed up in Istanbul.

The Importance of Hydro-Power

It's a certain irony, the most important renewable energy in the global mix, providing at least 71% of all renewable energy is hydro-power, or 6.8% of global electric energy production, is a often forgotten big player.

The importance of hydro-power may lie in a combination of solar, wind and hydro-power. At the conference solar power as named a water saver, in the form that during the day the turbines are shut down at the dam resulting in increasing water level, during the night, with redoubled turbines, water can be used for power generation. Thus normal dams are important energy storage elements for the energy transition. ot to forget pumped hydro storage or even the new technique of Gravity Storage .
A nice photoshop picture used as advertising billboard in Istanbul

There are, at least in Africa and in South America, still many untapped hydropower "reserves". However, anyone was well aware that each dam has also an enormous impact on nature and very often engages in the habitats of people! Especially in India, the water of the rivers is sacred and thus hardly the construction of dams possible as mentioned by Richard M. Taylorlearned Chief Executive, International Hydropower Association.

Africa to get electricity

While the inhabitants of the Americas and Asia are almost completely supplied with power, in Africa there are still 600 million people without electricity. This means no light, no easy way to charge a mobile phone, no fridge and no welder.

The last day of the conference was therefore devoted to Africa. In Africa, here essentially black sub-Saharan Africa was meant, you have to think about the huge areas and the still sparsely populated countries. This makes the construction of a conventional electric grid network uneconomical and therefore solar energy stand-alone systems and microgrids are very important.
The forum "Talent and Capacity Building" moderated by Samir Ibrahim from Kenya, right Sanjit 'Bunker' Roy from India, next to Andreas Spiess, Solar Kiosk , from Germany.

The practical implementation requires some knowledge of electricity and solar energy. Bunker Roy helps the people with his Barefoot College to teach this to everyone. While he teaches women worldwide (Grandmothers) to practical issues of the use of solar energy, an impressive project!

Andreas Spiess tries with his, as he stressed, commercial solution of the solarkiosk promoting the dissemination of locally adapted use of solar energy in Africa.

The Exibition

There was a international exhibition were companies and countries presented interesting ideas and investment opportunities.
Booth of Heindl Energy GmbH

The Heindl Energy GmbH has presented the "Gravity Storage" technology on its exhibition stand. Unfortunately, very few companies from Europe were represented at the fair. The booth was right next Aramco, the largest oil company in the world from Saudi Arabia. As far as I have observed, our stand had awakened almost more interest.

A 600 MW power plant on the water for emergency cases

There were of course many other interesting exhibition stands, I found the idea of ​​"power ship" interesting, which is a ship with a complete power plant (up to 600MW), inclusive substation, which anchors in a port and supports the local power generation, after a natural disaster or for other reasons.


Montag, 30. Mai 2016

Serious Problem: Battery and Automotive Industry

Lithium Ion drives the Future

The basic innovation LiIon battery, driven by the company Sony, has surprising, but that is common in innovation, enabled the development of electric cars. 

Previously there were only ugly batteries, some were extremely heavy, lead-acid battery, extremely toxic, nickel cadmium, or other drawbacks why they were not suitable for an energy storage device in a car. This has seduced the automotive industry to believe everything would stay the same and no special attention was given to the development of batteries. 

With the successful development of the Tesla S, an all electric car, everything has changed fundamentally, so I will report here about the importance of battery technology in the automotive industry.

The value Chain in the Car Industry (today)

Four things make the value of a car:
  1. the glider, a vehicle without power train and energy storage
  2. the engine with storage (tank or battery)
  3. the image of the brand (mostly through advertising)
  4. the amount of energy consumed by the car in his life
The glider is now a product of the OEM, headlights, bumper, seats or wheels and tires, almost everything visible to the driver is not produced in the car factory. Only the steel welding of the body remains in most car factories, with high automation done by robots.

The engine remains us to the 19th century. An internal combustion engine with a mean efficiency of about 20 percent, emitting significant amounts of particulate matter and other unhealthy substances, accelerates the car more or less rapidly to cruising speed and keeps on this pace. Thousands of engineers try to optimize this technology with legally or illegal means.

The image of cars of different brands developed by massive advertising budgets [1]. Through product placement in movies and elaborate sales centers, a high value of the car is suggested, although all the cars stuck in traffic driving at the same speed. For many people, the car is next to the house, the most expensive product that is purchased for own appreciation.

The fuel that a car burns in the course of its operational phase of approximately 200,000 miles, may sum up to $ 30,000 (depending on local tax) and is often more expensive as the whole car. In addition, no one knows at the time of car purchase how the gas price will develop. The money end up in the pockets of the oil companies and oil states, not in the automotive industry!

Summarized, the major car makers only have the ability to manufacture engines, the rest of the value chain is lost.

The electric car value chain

Electric cars have a significantly different distribution to the above points 1 to 4

The glider remains essentially the same, interestingly, the weight saving is less important than with previous cars, because by recuperation (recovery of braking energy). The energy to accelerate and the energy to go uphill is not used for heating the brake disk, as in conventional cars.

The use of non-rusting aluminum is useful because the life of an electric motor is considerably higher than that of an internal combustion engine. And who wants a rusty electric car that still has a good engine and a working battery.

The value of the electric motor is far below of an internal combustion engine, which consists of 6000 moving precision parts. Electric motors are simple, some copper wire winding and an aluminum cylinder which rotates. Rare earths are not necessary, which can only be found in hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius (46kg!).

There is no fuel in the electric car. But we need a battery and electric power to drive the car.The batteries are by far the most expensive part in an electric car and remarkably similar in price compared to the fuel costs of a conventional car.

Amazingly, this was not noticed neither by the big oil companies nor the major car companies. Exception: Tesla builds a Gigafactory, a battery factory which can supply batteries for about 500,000 electric cars a year, thus making the company independent from other suppliers.

Only the German company Volkswagen has announced that it is considering $ to invest in the construction of a battery company (GAS2) Unfortunately, I have heard such announcements in the area of e-mobility by automotive companies several times. Actual, so far nothing was created.

The "fuel" power would actually be a clear claim for the utilities or oil companies. Here there is complete silence.

The problem of everyday usefulness

If you want to use an electric car just like your previous car, it must be reliable cover about 60 miles a day, but it has also to master the holiday trip or extended business trips.

For daily demand the socket in the garage is sufficient for overnight charging. resulting in a very limited contact to a gas station. Except perhaps refill the windshield wiper fluid and visit the car wash.

On longer trips every car must refuel new energy. At the gas station this is done within five minutes. To charge an electric car during the trip should not substantial extend the duration of the trip. So it is imperative that there is a network of fast-charging stations. 

At this point I'm amazed to read that the policy in Germany will subsidize 10,000 charging stations (per charging station $ 70.000 tax money). However they do not demand the fast charging ability.

Only charging stations, where you can charge more than 200 miles range in 30 minutes (supercharger) lead to everyday practicality of electric cars.
No other company than Tesla operates or plans to operate a supercharger network. A network that could be owned by automaker or other organization. I think oil companies, motorway service areas or  power companies, should be interested to roll out a fast charging network,
Ending up in a monopoly situation, anyone who is interested in a everyday useful car can now only buy a car from Tesla, all other manufacturers have virtually no usable electric car on offer.

The fairytale "battery problem"

The common theme in the discussion about electric cars is the battery problem. It involves at least three subjects
  1. battery price
  2. lifespan
  3. raw materials
Prices of batteries are in free fall. On the picture you can see a slide that has been shown on the Menasol 2016 Energy Conference in Dubai. Compared to the drop in solar cell price, the price of LiIon batteries appear to move even more quickly down.
Development of battery prices, when the market doubles the volume, the price drops by 26%

If the price of batteries is at $ 250 per kWh and a car needs for the daily use about 80 kWh, the battery will cost $ 20,000. Counting the cost of electricity results in less than the fuel costs of a conventional car.

The service life for batteries depends on the charging cycles, and some other factors, such as temperature decreases. Thousand charging cycles required can be delivered by virtually all the batteries, even a lead battery. But this means 200,000 miles (1,000 times 200 miles per charge) is easy reachable by a battery and beyond the life span of the vehicles. Moreover, it seems to be that although there is a slight decrease in capacity, a second life of the battery is possible. For example to use the battery in a PV system for overnight storage.

The raw material lithium (60ppm [2]) is much more common than lead (18 ppm in the earth's crust [3]) to be found. Thus there is no problem of raw materials, even if it could lead to bottlenecks due to slow expansion of mining activity. Unlike oil, lithium is not consumed in the car but can be 100% reused. Lithium is also non-toxic, who spices his soup with sea salt, is eating lithium salt, which in large quantities is part of the sea(salt).

Old industry fails in innovation

Although the facts about electric cars are easy to understand, you wonder why the auto industry is doing almost nothing. The problem is more than a century grown structures. Virtually all automakers are over 100 years old, except for Volkswagen, a company which was established on 28 May 1937 by Hitler.
In these companies, there is extremely much knowledge about internal combustion engines. ignition and oxygen supply, exhaust and catalyst are investigated by expensive and complex means. The technological elite in the automotive industry understands the combustion engine, studied and graduated on that topic.

Battery technology, lithium ion and electrolytes they have heard about in the media. It is not their core competency. How to go about developing the technology? The natural reaction is waiting and building seven-speed transmission and hybrid engines or even worse hydrogen engines.

At the same time a startup, Tesla Motors, succeeded to be about five years ahead the pack. Installed thousands of supercharger stations and without expensive advertising build a brand image that fits to a clean environment with renewable energy.

It would not be new in the history of innovation that industry do not survive the change in technology. No sailing Shipyard has built steamboats, short before bankruptcy they tried with seven master sail and "hybrid" (Sail plus steam engine).
No mail order retailer could defeat amazon or ebay.
No telephone company, Siemens, Motorola nor Nokia, plays an important role in the smartphone league.

We will have to accept that some companies VW / BMW / Daimler are in ten years only a brand name but no longer large employers. 
Peter Schumpeter described this with the words
 "Creative destruction"
And he probably has once again right.

(I tried hard to translate this from my first German blog article "Lithium Ionen treiben die Zukunft an", should you find any flaws, tell me)

Further comments:

[1] Volkswagen spent more than $ 110 million in Germany for advertising in the months Jannuary till  April 2016, source: Nielsen / Statista.
[2] ppm stands for "parts per million", which means you take a ton of average rock, then 60 grams of lithium and 18 grams of lead are contained therein.
[3] The mass fraction concealed, that a kg of lead can only store about a factor of 50 less energy than a kg of lithium. Viewed from this condition, you need less lithium for all cars (if they are electric) than lead is used today for starter batteries in petrol and diesel cars. 

Sonntag, 8. November 2015

Intercontinental Energy Grid

The Vision of China State Grid

The energy production in the future will be based on wind an solar power. Even in a carbon rich power production country, like China there is no doubt about this long term development.
At the Dii conference 2015 in Dubai, I learned in the presentation given by Han Jun, Senior Vice President, State Grid Company of China, that a global energy grid can solve the problem of intermittent power production.
State Grid China, vision of a global electricity balance

  Is a global grid possible

The idea, to have a global grid is simple, but the physical hurdles are hard to overcome. The best solution would be, we take a high temperature superconductor and span the globe with this type of grid. The only remaining problem is, we don't have the technology, and although "high temperature superconducters" (Working at -130°C not high in everyday experience) have been discovered 1986 by Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller at the IBM laboratory. Till today it was not possible to construct a power line on the base of this very brittle material.

Knowing this, the only path in reality is the use of high voltage direct current connections. And it has been shown by Chinese engineering, that the power connection between the three gorges dam and the 2,600 km distant city of Shanghai works to transport 7.2 GW of electricity.

Knowing this, we can try to calculate the necessary equipment to transport the power of wind and solar energy around the globe by conventional technology. 

How much power?

The first question concerns the amount of power that has to be delivered to far apart regions and continents. Today, a conventional power fleet of 5300 GW produces electricity where the consumers live. In a renewable future, this will still be true in some part for solar and wind, but it might be necessary to transmit 10% over very far distances. This would require a power line, able to transport about 600 GW and with a length of 10,000 km. 

This assumptions are very rough, but it is helpful to start with a plausible range, additional demands are then simple multiplications of the result. If we assume that the power line has a voltage of one million Volts, the current through this line is 600,000 Ampere and we don't want to loose more than 20% of the energy within the line. 

With these assumptions, the resistance of the line has to be in the range of R=U/I = 200kV/600kA = 0,3 Ohm. Knowing this, we can lookup in the table of material properties the necessary material demand. Only cooper and aluminium seem to be sufficient, aluminium is much cheaper, so we take aluminium. The electrical resist of aluminium is 28.2 nΩ·m. The diameter of the 10,000,000 m wire has therefor 1 m², quite thick, but able to transport a significant amount of our global electricity demand on a intercontinental distance.
Sources of electricity in the year 2050, estimated by China State Grid.

How expensive is that cable?

To get an idea of the price, we have to know the raw material price of aluminium. At the moment, aluminium sells for 2000 $/t, with limited deviations from that value. Our power line needs 27.000.000 tons of aluminium, because the density is 2700kg/m³. The pricetag is 14 G$, not that bad, if we consider the impact to the global power supply.
A real cable will be at last ten times as expensive as this first assumption, because we have to include an isolation, that can keep one million Volt, but even a price of 140 Billion $ is small compared to the equipment, that is necessary to produce the power.

To produce 600 GW of power, even the cheapest wind power converter at the best suitable places around the arctic circle would cost 600 Billion $.

Impact of a global Grid

A global grid would be a tremendous step to a reliable energy supply. We can compare the solution with the alternative path of large scale storage. The necessary storage for 600 GW over 10 hours needs a capacity of 6000 GWh. This could be done by ultra cheap Lithium Batteries with a price tag of 300$/kWh or 1,800 Billion $ for the required amount. Using the Hydraulic Rock Storage HRS technology, the price could be reduced to 600 G$.

A global grid would use the oceans to wire the continents. The ocean floors are a relatively save place to wire the world, as we already know from the internet fiber optic cables. Another advantage is the international law, the floor of the ocean is not under the same dispute as the land surface and it seems much easier to get a permit to roll out the cables there.

When a country like China takes the lead to interconnect the continents with electric cables, this would change the way, we think about local generation of power. But keep in mind, today, our energy supply system is intercontinental over the ocean, the supertankers distribute comparable amounts of energy over the ocean.