Programming note: Next week I’ll be afield with loyal sidekick Rat in pursuit of antlered ungulates, so we’ll have some placeholder totty while I’m out of contact. Tomorrow and the following Saturday we’ll have Gingermageddon as usual, then normal posts resume on Monday the 8th.
The bloodwind calls! It’s time to hunt.
Now then: Go and read this treatise on California’s new energy “infrastructure.” Excerpts, with my comments, follow.
The leaders of California and China have at least one thing in common: fear of blackouts. In late September, following widespread and economically debilitating losses of power, China’s vice premier Han Zheng ordered the country’s energy companies to ensure sufficient supplies before winter “at all costs” and added, ominously, that blackouts “won’t be tolerated.” A month earlier, California governor Gavin Newsom issued emergency orders to procure more natural gas-fired electrical capacity to avoid blackouts. And in a possible sign of more such moves to come, earlier in the summer, California’s electric grid operator “stole” electricity that Arizona utilities had purchased and that was in transit from Oregon.
Energy is far from the only thing the leaders of California and China have in common, of course. But the energy issue is a big one. China, of course, is addressing this by building coal-fired power plants, and plenty of ’em. California? Well, they’re trying a different approach.
In late August, in pursuit of that “transition” vision and while skirting the edge of widespread blackouts, California brought online the world’s biggest-ever grid-scale battery, located at Moss Landing, just 60 miles south of Silicon Valley. Proponents of an all-wind/solar grid seem to be saying that all we need to do to get past the volatility of conventional fuels for electricity is to build enough such batteries—the sooner, the better.
The Moss Landing battery is about ten times the size of the previous world-record-holder: the grid-scale battery that Elon Musk built, to global fanfare, for the South Australia grid in 2017. States and countries everywhere are in hot pursuit of grid-scale storage, including New York City, where the state Public Service Commission recently approved construction of a battery “plant” in Queens roughly the size of Tesla’s Australian project.
Three basic constraints work against building enough batteries to solve the intermittency of wind and solar power, however. First, there’s the time it takes to conquer the inevitable engineering challenges in building anything new at industrial scales. Second, there’s the scale issue itself and the deeply naïve reluctance to consider the utterly staggering quantity of batteries that would be required to keep society powered if most electricity is supplied at nature’s convenience. And finally, directly derived from the scale issues, are the difficulties involved in obtaining sufficient primary minerals to build as many batteries as the green dreamers want.
Ay, and that’s the rub; there just aren’t enough of those materials. It’s not a matter of economies of scale, nor of lack of will; there just simply aren’t enough materials:
Building enough Moss Landing-class systems for 12 hours of storage for the U.S. alone would entail mining materials equal to what would be needed for two centuries’ worth of production of batteries for all the world’s smartphones. That doesn’t count the additional minerals needed for the transition to electric cars or the “energy minerals” needed to build the wind and solar machines themselves. It’s a little-noted fact that using wind/solar/battery machines to deliver the same amount of energy as conventional hydrocarbon machines requires about 1,000 percent more primary materials for fabrication.
The world isn’t now mining, nor is it planning to mine, a quantity of minerals and metals sufficient to build as many batteries as the transition roadmap requires. About this fact there is no dispute, even if it’s being ignored. In a surreal disconnect, the International Energy Agency’s own analysis of the astonishing, even impossible mineral demands required for the wind/solar/battery path was quickly followed by a different report proposing an even more aggressive pursuit of the energy transition. Meantime, another recent study from the Geological Survey of Finland totaled up the overall demand that the transition will create just for common minerals—for example, copper, nickel, graphite, and lithium—never mind the more exotic ones. They concluded that demand would exceed known global reserves of those minerals. (Emphasis added by me.)
So, in other words, what nitwit Gavin Newsom and that idiot Alexandria “Crazy Eyes” Occasional Cortex and her ilk want to do to our electrical grid just simply isn’t possible. There is an existing source of clean electricity, of course – nuclear power. But the nitwit brigade doesn’t want to discuss that.
What’s left out of this article is this: The Powers That Would Be in this country don’t care if the peasantry has to deal with rolling blackouts and prohibitive fuel costs. They figure they’ll have theirs; like the old Soviet Polituro had their Zil limos and their dachas in the woods outside Moscow, the new American Politburo figures on still having their Congressional auto service and their tony Georgetown mansions. The agenda is all for these idiots, facts be damned, and they’re willing to stomp all over you and I to shape things as they think they ought to be.