back to article Giant Tesla battery providing explosion in renewable energy – not as intended

Tesla's battery technology is extremely hot in Australia right now – but not in a good way. A 300-megawatt lithium-ion battery built in the state of Victoria using Tesla tech is literally on fire. The "Victorian Big Battery" – an installation due to come online later this year – was commissioned by authorities "to boost the …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Mushroom

    It's not online yet

    So just a smoke test.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It's not online yet

      Well, now that they've let the smoke out, they'll have to repack it with fresh smoke.

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: It's not online yet

      Or a burn-in test...

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: It's not online yet

      Hmm.. wonder why Aussies are being advised to seal themselves in? Ah.. Some science-

      https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-09784-z

      The results have been validated using two independent measurement techniques and show that large amounts of hydrogen fluoride (HF) may be generated, ranging between 20 and 200 mg/Wh of nominal battery energy capacity. In addition, 15–22 mg/Wh of another potentially toxic gas, phosphoryl fluoride (POF3), was measured in some of the fire tests.

      And..

      POF3 + H2O → HPO2F2 + HF

      But this stuff is green... isn't it?

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: It's not online yet

        Hydrofluoric acid is extremely toxic. If you spill some on your hand you cut your arm off and hope to survive.

        https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002499.htm

        1. Chris Gray 1
          Facepalm

          Re: It's not online yet

          I hope everyone understands that the above is a humorous reply, and not to be taken seriously. Follow the link instead.

          1. EricB123

            Re: It's not online yet

            " I hope everyone understands that the above is a humorous reply, and not to be taken seriously. Follow the link instead."

            Too late!

        2. EricB123

          Re: It's not online yet

          But it's only a flesh wound!

    4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: It's not online yet

      Smoke?

      No difference to the Roadsters and, has Elon been smoking a joint or two, or more?

  2. jake Silver badge

    Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

    More seriously, did anyone expect any different?

    As a side note, it's not renewable. There is no such thing as "renewable energy", regardless of the greenaholics oft repeated canon. Entropy says no.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

      Entropy says no, but the sun says "wait your turn, I'm still only middle aged".

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Entropy says no.

        True, there is plenty enough energy in the sun to last forever. But there is a much more finite amount of rare-earth metals (hence the name) here on earth that are unfortunately needed to build each MW of installed capacity. And when it goes on fire like this, Entropy does indeed kick in.

        There's a lot of energy needed to turn that pile of blackened scrap back into a functioning battery. Most likely, it will simply be consigned to the toxic waste dump.

        1. Steve K Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

          Rare-earth metals are not called that because they are rare/scarce.....

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

            Then please enlighten us, my dear Steve.

            And tell me where you've hidden all of the neodymium and cobalt that I need for my green projects.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

              Quoting Wiki: "Although neodymium is classed as a rare-earth element, it is fairly common, no rarer than cobalt, nickel, or copper, and is widely distributed in the Earth's crust." and "Despite their name, rare-earth elements are relatively plentiful in Earth's crust".

              Cobalt is found pretty much everywhere you can find copper and nickle, so it's not all that rare, either.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                The "wide distribution" is exactly the problem. From the same wiki page, its average concentration in the earth's crust is around 40mg/kg, or 0.004%. How big do you think the hole would have to be, to extract a useful amount from any particlar part of the earth?

                World reserves of neodymium are estimated at 8 million tonnes, or 1/100th that of copper.

                They are called "rare earths" for a reason.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                  "They are called "rare earths" for a reason."

                  True. It's because of a lack of understanding on the part of the early discoverers.

                  Rare Earth elements are hardly rare. Look it up for yourself.

                  1. DwarfPants
                    Coat

                    Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                    A pain in the ass to extract, did not have the same ring to it as Rare.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                    I did, and quoted the results to you. If an element that comprises 0.004% of the earth's crust is not "rare", then what is?

                    Even so, this doesn't touch on the difficulty of actually extracting and refining the stuff.

                    1. Mark #255

                      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                      If an element that comprises 0.004% of the earth's crust is not "rare", then what is?

                      Oooh, I know the answer to this.

                      Gold

                      4 parts per billion, or 0.0000004% of the earth's crust; 10,000 times less abundant than neodymium.

                      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

                        Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                        Gold is more readily concentrated by hydrothermal fluids and then by water transportation than rare earths. So whilst gold is less common in the bulk Crust, *locally* it can reach relatively high concentrations making it easier to mine.

                        Having said that, there are plenty of places where rare earths reach economic concentrations. One reason there hasn't been much mining in the West is that the processing and environmental clean-up to remove associated uranium and thorium minerals greatly increase the cost. For a long time it was easier to import them from China where little issues like dumping radioactive tailings weren't taken seriously.

                    2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

                      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                      Would they just use a gravity shaking/sorting device to separate the ore into layers?

                2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                  Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                  World reserves of pretty much everything only go out as far as a decade or two. It's because there is no business case for finding something that you won't need for another 20 years. Look up the history of "peak oil".

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                    Peak oil, eh? We keep seeming to find more, right? Given the dubious overall CO2 reductions of EVs, makes you wonder why we all need to buy new cars.

                    1. John Robson Silver badge

                      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                      We don't need to buy new cars, but if/when we replace them we should do so with a far less environmentally damaging EV.

                      A pedal cycle would be better, and they are easily capable of the typical 20 miles/day that a car manages.

                  2. Roland6 Silver badge

                    Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                    >Look up the history of "peak oil"

                    Given the amount of surveying going on, you would have thought we would have discovered another North Sea, Saudia Arabia - yet all we've discovered is oil reserves that moving ever closer to parity ie. use one gallon of oil to extract one gallon of oil...

                    1. Andy the ex-Brit

                      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                      Arguably, some of the tar sands and shale oil fields are already beyond that point. The difference is being made up by "investors" as new money is used to keep paying the old.

                3. claimed

                  Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                  Quite a lot of copper piping about. If it's as rare as that, we'll be ok

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                That's all very well and good but the problem is getting at it, considering its stuck to other things and buried under forests or at the bottom of oceans where disturbing the silt at the bottom will wipe out the life that lives there or removing aforementioned forests to get at the minerals below is this really a good idea?

              3. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                >"relatively plentiful"

                Need to be careful, it can mean that a sample from anywhere will most probably contain traces of said elements, but whether these traces are sufficiently large to be commercially exploitable is another matter.

                Also it can mean relative to (known) demand, which until comparatively recently has been very low. Unfortunately, for many of the elements we need for the high tech we are now wishing to mass produce, demand is highly likely to outstrip supply.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

              For a period I dined yearly with the owners of the outfits that mined these materials. Not because I was "in the business" but because the guy who organised the events in Zürich was a friend of mine and always invited me.

              They're not rare because they're hard to find. They're hard to extract, however, usually requiring processes that use a lot of energy and are in general not the healthiest thing to be close to.

              It was fascinating to learn what it takes to set up a mining operation, it's not a trivial exercise which often starts with complex logistics to get equipment in and ore out which is why it's often processed on site if the required resources are there.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                My wife works for one of those companies. She likes to tell people she works in renewables, although it usually kills the conversation when she explains why.

              2. Mike 16 Silver badge

                Re: What it takes...

                You forgot to mention the management structure needed to identify the proper local authorities and deliver all the brown envelopes.

        2. andro

          Re: Entropy says no.

          True, I think lithium is only a brief environmentally damaging stopover on the way to hydrogen storage.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Entropy says no.

            And a fire in a hydrogen storage battery is likely to be over before the fire-crews get there. Good luck stopping it spreading to the adjacent units - and beyond.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Entropy says no.

              On the plus side, it's easy to clean up afterwards. Just fill in the crater..

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Entropy says no.

            Given the inefficiency in fuel cells... I suspect that hydrogen will have a place, but it won't be to replace more conventional batteries.

            If mass isn't a critical factor then there are various metal/air battery technologies which are really quite promising.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

      If the power lasts for a significant portion of a star's lifetime, it is more than renewable enough for the human race.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

        Regardless, it's fuzzy and/or under educated thinking. This (and several other scientifically inaccurate anecdotes) are part of the reason many folks here at ElReg question the credentials of those who promote global warming. They quite frankly don't have the scientific background to discuss the topic they are regurgitating/parroting as canon.

    3. Chris Miller

      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

      "to boost the state's energy reliability, drive down electricity prices and support Victoria's transition to renewable energy – as well as creating local jobs as we take steps towards a COVID normal."

      Boost reliability - how's that working out so far?

      Drive down prices - so spending huge sums on a project that will generate zero new energy will reduce the cost of a unit. Clearly arithmetic works upside down in the antipodes.

      As well as creating local jobs - jobs are a cost, not a benefit of doing something.

      1. 42656e4d203239

        Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

        >>Boost reliability - how's that working out so far?

        quite well actually

        "After six months of operation, the Hornsdale Power Reserve was responsible for 55% of frequency control and ancillary services in South Australia. By the end of 2018, it was estimated that the Power Reserve had saved A$40 million in costs, mostly in eliminating the need for a fuel-powered 35 MW Frequency Control Ancillary Service. In 2019, grid costs were reduced by $116 million due to the operation of HPR"

        >> so spending huge sums on a project that will generate zero new energy will reduce the cost of a unit

        these batteries do not just do what you think they do...

        >>- jobs are a cost,

        only to the company... to "society" they are a benefit (fewer resources required to support the otherwise unemployed, more spending power in the community and a larger revenue stream in the form of taxes).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

          Nice article, I particularly liked how the battery operators price-gouged during a spike in spot prices, selling power at AUD14,000 per MWh, compared to the usual spot price of AUD100 per MWh.

          It is quite surprising what the relatively tiny capacity of the site, at 130MWh, can apparently do compared to the average daily Austrailian power generation of 700,000 MWh. Apparently, it was able to inject 7MW and compensate for the loss of a 560MW power plant! Truly fantastic stuff. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

          Edit: given the much-hyped ability of the HPR to reduce FCAS costs (the cost of regulating the grid), why does the AUS power board report that the FCAS costs in 2021 are the second-highest ever?

          https://www.aer.gov.au/wholesale-markets/wholesale-statistics

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

            It is quite surprising what the relatively tiny capacity of the site, at 130MWh, can apparently do compared to the average daily Austrailian power generation of 700,000 MWh.

            Why are you using total Australian energy generation and then comparing it to something that is state-level grid? One of the smaller states population-wise at that, about 7%.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

              Don't know why you're so defensive, but it would help if you got your facts right. I didn't know Australia has state-level grids, but even so, Victoria is not one of the smaller states. It contains 26% of the population, according to Wikipedia, and consumes 21% of the total power generated in Australia.

          2. Jon 37 Silver badge

            Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

            "price-gouged"? Not really.

            That's how capitalist funding for energy storage is supposed to work: when you really really need the energy they provide you pay a lot. When you don't need it, you pay less.

            The alternative funding model is for the state (or other energy provider monopoly) to invest in the battery storage. They pay the capital costs upfront, pay the running and maintenance costs, and don't charge themselves for the energy at all.

            Overall, the capitalist approach will be more expensive since you're paying for the cost of capital - the interest plus a premium ("profit") due to the risk the investors took. But it's not going to be 100x more expensive, despite charging over 100x more for electricity at the very rare times when demand is at the maximum.

        2. Chris Miller

          Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

          So, 42656e4d203239 (may I call you 4?) you believe batteries actually generate additional energy. Can I interest you in this perpetual motion machine?

          Jobs are a cost - and if they're used to do something pointless and unproductive by gummint, that takes money from the economy that could be used to create jobs doing something actually useful. You sound like a believer in Corbynomics.

          Sorry to rain on your parade.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

            >So, 42656e4d203239 (may I call you 4?)

            They might prefer to be called: BenM 29

          2. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

            "you believe batteries actually generate additional energy"

            No, I don't think they believe that for a second. I do however think you're missing the point of what this installation is intended to do, and why therefore you seem so unable to believe that spending money on non-generating infrastructure might have any hope of reducing the cost of generating electricity...

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

              Fun how people understand the purpose behind Dinorwig, but seem to have problems with a high-tech version.

              1. AlbertH
                Flame

                Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                Fun how people understand the purpose behind Dinorwig, but seem to have problems with a high-tech version.

                It's actually a very low-tech, terribly inefficient way of trying to stabilise a power grid that is fundamentally unstable because of the insane adoption of solar and wind generation. The battery plant doesn't have sufficient capacity to make a significant difference, and is outrageously expensive.

                Conversely, the pumped storage power stations actually work - particularly where there is spare off-peak generating capacity provided by nukes. They're also very cheap and very efficient when compared to these stupid, giant UPS efforts!

                The only viable forms of generation for the future are nukes (both uranium and thorium cycles), hydro, tidal (to a small extent) and pumped storage to handle demand peaks. Nothing else comes at all close to the cleanliness, efficiency and stability of such a generation system. We have to overcome the uneducated stupidities of the "greenies", and get some governments on this planet with some real foresight and intelligence (probably a vain hope....)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

                  It's funny how many people have bought the idea that "high-tech" solutions are always intrinsically better.

      2. claimed

        Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

        There is always overcapacity in a grid system, to prevent brownouts. By capturing it you prevent it going to waste, which is what currently happens. So you're giving the energy to the future instead of throwing it in the bin, so you can respond to fluctuating demand without scaling your power generation... that's where the savings come in.

        Same thing happens with hydroelectric pumps in lots of places, when you've got a surplus you use it or you lose it.

        So... reliability, check. Prices, in theory. Jobs, TBC.

    4. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

      Sun energy is catch and use it or lose it.

      A fresh lot might arrive when/if the sun shines tomorrow, but nothing is certain, except it is not renewed. Energy is being radiated all the time by manipulating matter in the nuclear furnace we call the sun

    5. devin3782

      Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a problem with using up one finite resource which is polluting for another finite resource which is also polluting but in a more insidious way which is more difficult to measure how much energy and damage is done in its manufacture.

      That said we do have acres of roofs fill those with solar, although those would have to be shipped round the world too.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge

    So in Australia, it isn't only beds which are burning.

    It would be indeed interesting to know what was the firestarter

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Probably something twisted! At least that's what The Prodigy predicted!

      1. ClockworkOwl
        Gimp

        Unfortunately, it's those downwind who are now 'well intoxicated' Yeah!!!

        RIP Keith >

  4. fpx
    Boffin

    If this thingy could crank out 300 Megawatts permanently, I would call it a power plant, not a battery.

    Can you user proper units of energy, please? I see that it is just as misleading in the referenced article, but Google takes me to https://victorianbigbattery.com.au/ which educates me that "The Victorian Big Battery is a 300 MW / 450 MWh grid-scale battery storage project in Geelong, Australia which will store enough energy in reserve to power over one million Victorian homes for 1/2 an hour."

    1. Solviva
      Flame

      So it's a UPS to keep power on till the Diesel kicks in then?

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Boffin

        "So it's a UPS to keep power on till the Diesel kicks in then?"

        Probably something like that. 30 minutes may look not so much, but this could do wonders to smooth that pesky surges, that are short lived and very intense.

        Things like everybody turning the kettle on, ate the game brake. This type of thing could very well negate the need to fire up a natural gas generator for 15 minutes.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We have one, in Snowdonia. It's pumped water storage, and can supply 1.7GW peak, which it can apparently maintain for 5 hours. Kinda blows that giant battery out of the water, with it's measly 130MWh.

          1. ChrisC Silver badge

            Dinorwig is also designed with black-start capability to get the grid up and running again in the event of a total shutdown - I suspect a battery-based system would be similarly capable as well.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              It might help, but black-start plants need to generate megawatts of power for a few days while a plant that is not capable of black start (like a coal plant) comes online.

              Coal plants, for instance, need lots of power to handle coal, grind coal, inject coal, inject air*, run water pumps, etc. From a cold start, this can take several days of ramping up to produce meaningful power.

              A battery installation might help with voltage and frequency regulation during a blackstart situation.

              *a plant near me had something like four blowersfor combustion air. Each is run by a 10,000 hp motor IIRC.

            2. AlbertH
              Mushroom

              The battery systems simply don't have sufficient capacity to do much useful work. They are a solution for your desktop PC, so that you have time to back up your work before the battery dies.

              They're truly useless for anything large scale, are incredibly expensive, are ridiculously inefficient and tend to burst into flames (this is NOT the first of these storage arrays to self-immolate!).

          2. Roland6 Silver badge
            Pint

            >We have one, in Snowdonia.

            Two actually, Ffestiniog is still operational and also within the National Park, okay it is only 360 MW and can supply this for "several hours"

  5. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

    Those building look very close together

    I though Australia had plenty of space, so why pack the building so close? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but maybe future battery farms could have bigger fire breaks between.

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Those building look very close together

      it's a container - it may just have had uninstalled stock in it ...

      1. Boothy Silver badge

        Re: Those building look very close together

        It's not a shipping container.

        The quote from Fire and Rescue Victoria included the word container (no shipping), but if you look at the pictures, it looks like installed hardware, there's a set of what looks like cooling fans running alone the top, and no corrugated sides like you'd see in a shipping container.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Those building look very close together

      Probably cabling, but I agree that it would make sense to add some firebreaks in the layout. It has turned out to be very much needed.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How could this be? I was assured by very smart people that massive piles of lithium batteries would be an excellent idea, and would allow us to power our sustainable techno-utopia!

    And this is with brand-new cells. Imagine what a similar-sized pile of used lithium batteries could do (and especially if, for example, these great big piles of batteries were being dis-assembled by low-paid workers in an effort to "recycle" them).

    I am pretty confident that the economics of lithium extraction, and the realities of lithium battery lifetimes (and chemical properties!), will put an end to this fairly soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's pure battery envy. The cells heard of that Tesla that was only one week old catching fire and getting loads of publicity, so they wanted that too.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    300 MW

    That's a lot of power, surely! But what's the storage capacity? How long can it sustaain the 300 MW?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 300 MW

      It has a storage capacity of 130MWh, which is a truly stinkin' huge battery, but a drop in the ocean compared to the average daily power generation of 700,000MWh in Australia.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: 300 MW

        Since this is state-level electricity infrastructure for 1.8 million people, about 7% of the total population, stop comparing it to the total combined power generation for the entire country.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: 300 MW

          Ok, so this super battery could supply those 1.8m people with an average of 72W for an hour..

          But that's not really watt it's about. Australia's done much as the UK, so 'invested' heavily in intermittent 'renewables'. Because consumers expect stable, constant power, the operator of this battery farm will charge those consumers some millions of AUD to fix the problems caused by 'renewables'. And like other battery farms, the real money comes from arbitrage. So charge when electricity prices are low, discharge when they're high. Which is highly profitable, but those profits come from the consumers.

          In reality, the costs should come from the generators. So a windfarm contracts to supply 300MW. If it doesn't, or can't, it should make up the difference from the market. Of course that would make the windfarm go bust pretty quickly, which is why they suck up subsidies and the consumer's electricity bills go up because of inherently expensive and unreliable forms of generation.

          And this is only going to get worse as countries shoot for vanity projects like 'net zero'. Easy for politicians to virtue signal, but the costs of those Green ambitions just get tacked on to energy bills. Which obviously increases the cost of pretty much everything, along with increasing energy poverty, and inflation.

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: 300 MW

            I agree.

            But what's this got to do with my reply to @ILikeDrinkingBeer?

            @ILikeDrinkingBeer has posted several times on this article disdain for the 130MWh size of the battery in SA (not the 300MW one being built in Vic) because it is so small relative to the entire Australian daily energy generation. This is a willfully misleading comparison because the SA battery isn't designed to stabilise/smooth-out intermittent energy sources (renewables) for the entirety of Australia. It is designed to do this for SA only. Therefore any comparisons of the battery storage vs power generation should be using the SA power generation (or usage if it's net negative and it imports from other states) for its 1.8m residents, rather than the entire countries power requirement for 26million residents.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: 300 MW

              Therefore any comparisons of the battery storage vs power generation should be using the SA power generation (or usage if it's net negative and it imports from other states) for its 1.8m residents, rather than the entire countries power requirement for 26million residents.

              Well.. It's typical of Greenwashing to use favorable metrics to gloss over the unfavorable ones. For large parts of the year, SA power production would be net negative due to it's 'renewables' policy. Hence needing to add the cost of this battery array which will continue to suck subsidies. It will not save any money, just cost around AUD12.5m a year, and it's operators have a generous index-linked price guarantee. So basically it'll increase in cost every year.

              But the number of homes it might power is pretty much irrelevant given it's purpose is grid balancing, specifically via the NSW-Victoria interconnector. So allows Victoria to import coal power from NSW and/or buy time to fire up gas turbines.

              If Australia just carried on investing in coal or nuclear, it'd meet it's carbon targets given modern coal powerstations are more efficient than old ones. But neither satisifies the need for 'renewables' lobbyists to extract blllions from energy consumers. Hence all the money they spend on lobbying to convince gullible politicians that the world needs to go back to pre-Industrial Revolution era technology, even though history showed why the Age of Sail gave way to the Age of Steam.

              1. eldakka Silver badge

                Re: 300 MW

                Yet again, while I don't disagree with you, what has any of this got to do with my posts that you are replying to?

                You know you can reply to specific posts, right? you don't have to reply to the last post in the trail? You can reply directly to the specific post you want to reply to. I feel that your first post in this thread should have been a reply to @Martijn Otto post who wrote:

                >"That's a lot of power, surely! But what's the storage capacity? How long can it sustaain the 300 MW?That's a lot of power, surely! But what's the storage capacity? How long can it sustaain the 300 MW?"

                not mine.

            2. katrinab Silver badge
              Megaphone

              Re: 300 MW

              Also, concerns about lack of capacity can be solved by building more of them. You have to start somewhere, and you probably don’t want the whole country or even a whole state relying on one battery.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: 300 MW

                Also, concerns about lack of capacity can be solved by building more of them. You have to start somewhere, and you probably don’t want the whole country or even a whole state relying on one battery.

                No, you really don't. It's about doing some basic root cause analysis and cost modelling.

                So you want to spend AUD150m on a single battery array. You need to do this because your energy supply is intermittent/unreliable, so you need to import energy from a neighboring state that produces cheap coal powered electricity.

                So basically all you're doing is adding more cost to an already expensive and unreliable generation strategy, ie wind/solar in an attempt to solve a problem that generation strategy has created. Alternatively, you could look to a cheaper and more reliable energy policy that can provide both base load and cope with variations in demand. So coal/nuclear/gas, not 'renewables'. Obviously the 'renewables' lobby hates this idea because they're earning billions by promoting the expensive, unreliable stuff.

                And then behind it all is the Greenwashing, ie Global Warming.. Which has problems of it's own, eg-

                https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/07/un-climate-panel-confronts-implausibly-hot-forecasts-future-warming

                But as climate scientists face this alarming reality, the climate models that help them project the future have grown a little too alarmist. Many of the world’s leading models are now projecting warming rates that most scientists, including the modelmakers themselves, believe are implausibly fast....

                ...The models were also out of step with records of past climate. For example, scientists used the new model from NCAR to simulate the coldest point of the most recent ice age, 20,000 years ago. Extensive paleoclimate records suggest Earth cooled nearly 6°C compared with preindustrial times, but the model, fed with low ice age CO2 levels, had temperatures plummeting by nearly twice that much, suggesting it was far too sensitive to the ups and downs of CO2. “That is clearly outside the range of what the geological data indicate,” says Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the work, which appeared in Geophysical Research Letters. “It’s totally out there.”

                This should be good news when prominent climate scientists who've previously been very vocal in promoting global warming are now realising they've got serious problems with their assumptions. Other scientists have been saying for years that CO2 sensitivity is too high, and reality disagrees with the models. But they've usually been shouted down as 'deniers', even though this article strongly suggests those 'deniers' were right about the science.

                But such is politics. The problem is global warming dogma's spawned a huge Greenwashing industry that's making billions off these alarmist, and potentially incorrect predictions. Given low CO2 sensitivity, there is no 'climate emergency'.

            3. AlbertH

              Re: 300 MW

              300 MW for a few minutes is insignificant. Australia does have some measure of power distribution between states, so the problem of consistent power generation is distributed somewhat. Their stupid moves towards solar and wind generation have made giant UPS efforts like these necessary.

              Pretty soon they'll realise that their insane "green" generation schemes aren't going to work. They'll find that their commerce is crippled by the intermittency that they'll suffer (the Californians have just realised this and are about to do something about it by commissioning the construction of several nukes!).

              A paper has recently been presented to the UK government, laying out the utter stupidity of their "green" power proposals, and amply demonstrating that this government has little time in which to dither around "deciding" what to do.

              Unless significant amounts of generation capacity is added to the grid very soon, the UK will have rolling power cuts (that's why your "Smart Meter" has a remotely controllable contactor inside it). The closure of most of the old nuke stations has precipitated this collapse in power infrastructure, and no number of worthless bird mincing windmills and solar arrays are going to make up the energy shortfall.

              The UK doesn't have the engineering capacity or a sufficiently educated populace to deal with the problem any more. The UK government will have to hire in expensive "talent" from elsewhere. It really is a shambles!

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: 300 MW

                "the Californians have just realised this and are about to do something about it by commissioning the construction of several nukes!"

                Post proof or retract.

                Hint: Don't bother. It's not happening. Not until either Congress in DC gets off it's butt and passes a law detailing the treatment of spent fuel rods and/or the People of the State of California revoke a law we(??) passed a couple decades ago mandating no approval for new nuke plants until Congress in DC gets off it;s ass etc. etc.

          2. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            Re: 300 MW

            Remember in the UK we don't have subsidies for wind farms - we have feed in tariffs. Actual consequence the consumer pays the wind farm a little more directly than by giving it to the government first.

            That's real efficiency for you.

        2. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

          Re: 300 MW

          Can you give us the figure to compare it to please.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 300 MW

          As I pointed out in another comment, you have your facts wrong. Victoria has 26% of Australia's population, with a proportionate level of power usage.

  8. Danny 2 Silver badge

    It's just drop down dead funny

    I copied this Guardian article to my three American pals. "Three Americans create enough carbon emissions to kill one person, study finds "

    I told them to just stop, just dinnae dae that. Australians, did we ever need them anyway?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: It's just drop down dead funny

      Has the Grauniad reported this fire? For some reason, despite usually been quick to report the 'news' on 'renewable' projects, the Bbc doesn't seem to have noticed this fire. Then again, both aren't exactly reliable sources when it comes to energy matters.

  9. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Shipping Containers????

    According to the article, only one shipping container is on fire. Remember OVH? (https://www.theregister.com/2021/05/06/ovh_outlines_threepoint_hyper_resiliance/) Their power supplies were built using shipping containers too.

    Why do people build power systems (batteries, UPS, backup generators) in sites made of shipping containers? Is this the best construction method, or merely the cheapest?

    Now I accept that we only hear about them when there is a disaster ("Shipping container UPS keeps power running in minor company's IT system after mains power failure" is probably not a headline you'll hear on the BBC 6 O'Clock News any time soon), but are they really an appropriate construction structure for power systems?

    Paris Hilton icon because I'm sure she understands this a lot better than I do.

    1. elwe

      Re: Shipping Containers????

      They are probably not second hand shipping containers like you are imagining.

      Offsite manufacture of modular units is much, much cheaper than trying to build on site. Once you start down that road you need to be able to ship the modules to site and there is this handy standard that hundreds of thousands of trucks are made to take, the shipping container, The modules will be made to the same maximum diamensions, weight limit, loading points, handing points etc. But that may be all they have in comman with an actual shipping container. The rest may be down to journalists liking of simplifying things to levels the average Daily Star reader can comprehend (so that last word is out).

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Shipping Containers????

      In this case, "shipping container" is not an actual part number, rather it is a form factor.

    3. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: Shipping Containers????

      There not in shipping containers.

      Looking at the images linked in the article they look like a regular set of metal cabinet, two large cabinets, back to back, several little handles down the outside to gain entry into a section, and a row of fan grills along the top for ventilation. Fairly typical for plant and industrial equipment etc.

      This specific image shows some scale, as it's a, little zoomed out with steps and movable barriers in the shot.

      Looking at the sizes, I'd say each 'unit' of batteries, (two cabinets back to back) would likely fit inside a shipping container. So I'd suspect they are built off-site, and transported in a shipping container, unloaded and then moved into place.

  10. elwe

    In the UK we have a lot of grid scale batteries online and being built out. They are almost all 50MW or smaller for regulatory reasons. I am invested in quite a number of them.

    The big difference is very, very few use Tesla batteries. Most use NEC batteries. At the minute Tesla only make batteries designed to be mobile. When you need a battery to be mobile you prioritise it being light and dense (small). For fixed installations neither of these matter in the slightest. Reliability is far more important and if you aren't constrained to making the battery as small as possbile you can make the cells much safer by using up more volume. Just look at the Note where Samsung too the battery packing too dense and had to recall and recycle every one made. NEC have a battery line/chemistry designed for fixed installation, with the correct properties prioritised.

    The Tesla cells are only used in projects like this because Tesla want to get the volume of manufacture up and so the cost per unit down. So they are offered at a market distorting price to overcome their shortcomings in fixed use. The downside is outcomes like this...

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      "Outcomes like this ..."

      Your inference is that a Tesla battery caught fire simply due to it's inherent unsafe build quality with no other external influence. The primary cause of the fire was the battery and it's cheap build quality. There is no question of the installer doing anything wrong, a fire caused by another source, or any other scenario I can think of.

      Fine.

      Where's your evidence for that statement?

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        I think you're reading a bit too much into what the previous commenter was saying there. It's not unreasonable to consider that using components that aren't designed specifically for a particular type of setup may have had at least some bearing either on mistakes being made in the design/shipping/installation phases about what conditions the batteries would be able to withstand, or in the resultant outcome of running said components in a system where those mistakes had been made.

        That doesn't mean anyone is implying that Tesla batteries are unsafe/poorly built/cheap (*) etc, only that because they're unlikely to be as inherently resilient to external influences in such setups as other batteries which *are* designed for this type of setup, more care is likely required to ensure they aren't run beyond their limits. If the designers/installers are used to dealing with more industrial-spec batteries like the NEC ones mentioned, they may well have overlooked something which was rather important for a system built around Tesla batteries.

        * at least not cheap as in "cheap and nasty", though it seems entirely likely that Tesla are indeed offering their packs at a substantial discount compared to the alternatives, either as the previous commenter noted to build their manufacturing volumes and thus gain economies of scale that benefit their own battery requirements, or because Tesla are as much a master of marketing as they are of engineering and are keen to have their name associated with projects like this.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Your inference is that a Tesla battery caught fire simply due to it's inherent unsafe build quality with no other external influence.

        Well, the evidence is obvious with the fire and toxic smoke. And apparently a second 'container' has also started burning. So one issue is why the first unit caught fire during commissioning. One could reasonably expect battery management modules, heat sensors and thermal management to detect a fault condition and act to prevent a thermal runaway. Something obviously failed here, hence overheating became fire.

        Second issue is whether the overall site design is unsafe and might allow fires to spread from one unit to others in the array. This may also be obvious with a second unit on fire. These types of battery fire are notorious for burning hot, and being very difficult to put out.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's lunacy to start with

    Those "big" batteries are - as they are in Teslas - composed out of lots and lots of tiny cells. You could say there's a lot of packaging involved in building a lithium based battery pack.

    I would have thought that flow batteries would have been a MUCH better idea, as you more or less scale those by just getting a bigger tank (it's a bit more complex, but that's the main effort involved). Or those batteries that are based on liquid metal (I think they run at high temperature but that's apparently not an issue - apologies, can't find the company right now) - key is that you HAVE the space, so use it. These things won't work in a car because you're limited in space, but you don't have that problem in the desert.

    In short - NOT lithium based, which is (a) hard to recycle, (b) loses capacity over time and (c) a swine to scale.

    That said, what they're doing here may also improve matters..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's lunacy to start with

      Update: the company making those hot batteries is called "Ambri".

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It's lunacy to start with

      "composed out of lots and lots of tiny cells."

      That's the definition of a "battery". A collection of cells joined together. Also sometimes known, especially historically, as a "pile". eg 1.5V AA and AAA cells and 9v batteries.

  12. Roland6 Silver badge

    Absence of fire suppression - reminds me of OVH...

    Given the location (and from the construction video) I expect having sufficient quantities of anything to use as coolant (to prevent fire spreading), means there isn't much those 20 units can do other than to stand around and watch...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Absence of fire suppression - reminds me of OVH...

      Isn't sand sometimes used to kill fire? Plenty of that lying around over there.

  13. Trollslayer
    Flame

    Elon Mask and safety

    Let me put it this way.

    Arizona has the most lax certification in the US.

    Guess where Tesla carry out road tests.

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