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Germany Finances Major Push Into Home Battery Storage For Solar 282

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

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  • Bout time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:43AM (#45377197)

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

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

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

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

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @12:18PM (#45377381)

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

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

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

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

    • by Solandri (704621)
      The reason is pretty simple. It's because if you add up all the costs, every study done by someone other than an environmental wacko group says PV solar is 2-5x more expensive per kWh generated [wikipedia.org] than other energy sources. I wish it weren't so, but PV solar is very much a technology which needs further R&D before widescale adoption. There are a few locations (e.g. desert southwest U.S.) where the abundance of sunlight makes it more feasible (though still not advantageous). But in general, outside of a
      • by timeOday (582209)
        The problems now are pollution, resource scarcity, and unemployment. It makes sense to consider strategies that are more expensive but less resource-intensive.
      • Re:Bout time (Score:4, Informative)

        by Alomex (148003) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @01:39PM (#45377765) Homepage

        I wonder why you forgot to mention that solar is on a Moore's Law-like curve, and hence already cheaper today than some sources of energy in use today and expected to be cheaper than most sources of energy within a decade.

        http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/renewable-energy/important-graph-cost-solar-headed-parity-coal-and-gas/ [treehugger.com]

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        The problem with those stats is that they only look at the cost to build an operate each source, not the price that the consumer pays. In most countries solar is cheaper for the owner than electricity from the grid.

        Germans are currently trying to organize referendums on nationalizing the grid and some sources of production. Once they control it they can make it work better for solar, reducing the cost even further. It will make other forms of generation cheaper too because they can run them non-profit. Why

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:44AM (#45377205)

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

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

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

      Forcasting as you describe it is

      • On the other hand germany still can build more pumped storages by simply creating artificial lakes on top of hills

        Good time for it, the RAF's disbanding 617 Squadron.

    • Batteries are not likely to ever be cost competitive to pumped hydro for grid-scale energy storage. Although the initial capital costs can be similar (if we can get enough lead for multi-GWh battery banks), the overall operating cost over a >60 yeah life span is so much in favor of pumped hydro, it's not even a contest. I think it might be worthwhile to invest more into pumped hydro technology, for example to find economical ways of reducing land use for a given storage capacity. There's a somewhat in

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      For example, pumped-storage hydro is good for very large amounts. For medium-sized amounts, especially transient spikes, Denmark is experimenting with (PDF) dumping the excess production into district heating

      You're completely missing the point.
      You're advocating greater centralization of power storage/generation,
      they're advocating for decentralization of power storage/generation.

      The Big Idea is to reduce reliance on the power grid.
      It doesn't have to be the most efficient, as long as it's efficient enough.

  • by moteyalpha (1228680) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:46AM (#45377213) Homepage Journal
    Molten Batteries [wikipedia.org]
    I was surprised to learn that the concept behind molten batteries originated in Germany with the V1. MIT and Dr Sadoway have a battery system that is supposed to be available 2014. If it was invented in Germany and has since been used for ICBMs and ordinance. Seems odd that it has taken almost 70 years to come full circle.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:46AM (#45377215) Journal
    China will do what they did with solar, which is acquire western tech, and then subsidize and dump on Germany.

    If Germany really wants to do this right, they will block ALL energy storage from China. Heck, the fact that they manipulate their money against the Euro and USD should be more than enough of a subsidy to trigger this.
    • by twms2h (473383)

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

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

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

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

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Germany has more exports by value than China. People are surprised by that but actually it is simply because they didn't get into a race to the bottom. Germany knows how to complete with Chinese low cost manufacturing.

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

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

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

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

  • by guanxi (216397) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:53AM (#45377259)

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

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

    • by Solandri (704621)
      In the 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese were intent on being the world leaders in HDTV. They poured the equivalent of billions of dollars (which was a lot more money back then) into R&D of HDTV broadcast standards and transmission and display technologies. They showcased their impressive work at expos and technology conferences around the world. So what happened? Why aren't we all using Japanese HDTV standards?

      Like standard definition TV, the system they developed was analog. Around the 1990s, digi
      • by Jeremi (14640)

        Who knows, it could very much end up a repeat of HDTV, with some new photovoltaic chemistry coming out of some little lab which renders all previous PV technologies obsolete.

        That certainly could happen, but the HDTV comparison is misleading.

        With television, you have compatibility issues -- the receivers and the transmitters have to work together, otherwise the technology doesn't work. Therefore when the television stations decided to go with digital transmission, all of the analog gear became useless because it could only process analog signals that were no longer being transmitted by anyone.

        Solar panels, OTOH, don't need to be compatible with anything except the sun. If I bu

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:56AM (#45377275) Homepage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      There I agree with you. I defend batteries as not necessarily being the worst things, but hydro storage is better. Best is if you don't have to use pumped storage. You simply shut off (or at least cut back) hydro generation during the day and let the water build up in the reservoir, then use it at night or during unusually cloudy weather (a

      • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @01:28PM (#45377701) Homepage Journal

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

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

        • "balancing energy" (sorry, no dictionary has the right english term for "Regelenergie")

          Your English translation is close. We usually say "load balancing" [wikipedia.org].

          Before germany had "solar power" we used coal. That means Switzerland is losing nothing due to our switch to solar and wind.

          No, unless the economic arrangements have changed recently, the Swiss now sell balancing energy at night, when prices are lowest and solar production is nonexistent. Obviously with solar you don't need to buy much balancing energy during the day. Because coal plants can the same output day or night, in the past the Swiss would mostly sell balancing energy during the day, when demand and prices are highest.

          I'm not saying that Germany is doing

          • In older times, Switzerland did not sell any balancing energy to germany. As germany has a grid that can balance it self.
            And right now Switzerland is not really selling balancing energy ... they sell simply energy. Load balancing is done locally in the grid usually (that means in the german grid).

            Obviously with solar you don't need to buy much balancing energy during the day
            Ofc you do. The more "fluctuating" energy sources you have, the more demand for "load balancing" you have. That does not mean you need

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

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

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

      Distributed power storage makes a good bit less sense Ofc it makes sense. The po

  • house in Germany (Score:5, Informative)

    by bkmoore (1910118) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @12:49PM (#45377525)

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

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

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @03:35PM (#45378401) Journal

      And my house is barely 20 years old. I'm not against somebody who wants to put all these things into their home, but for this home owner, none of these things make any economic sense

      Germany has buildings that are a thousand years old.
      I'm sure there's enough buildings between 20 and 1000 years old such that a national program of improvements is a good idea

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @01:08PM (#45377617)
    I'll take my socialism in the form of corporate welfare for the oil companies, than you very much.
  • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @02:02PM (#45377939)

    I see unwelcome trends.

    Those who advocate taking energy storage down to the building or subscriber level are living in a dream. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful dream! But this €20,000 unit cost will not magically come into existence. Those who envision lithium or (eventually it comes down to) lead acid batteries to the point where their effect is even detectable at grid scales are proposing an environmental nightmare in the manufacture and mass deployment of such things. Which thankfully will not come to pass because the investment capital is not there.

    I go with solutions that are massive, central, run by the same people who (reliably) supply your electricity, and do not rely on evil large multipliers of objects constructed from rare earth elements or poisonous heavy metals.

    I'm talking about something simple and inherently non-toxic, stored kinetic energy and rotation of heavy balanced cylinders in a near-vacuum. I vote fewer that are really big rather than many. Hoover Dam tech. Despite Beacon's bankruptcy in 2011 [scientificamerican.com] there are players who hope to salvage the concept using gimbals for stabilization [scientificamerican.com].

    I like the idea of kinetic energy storage solutions because if they were massive, centrally located and well constructed, the components would be mechanical parts that might have a smaller replacement cost than an equivalent amount of battery technology, whose chemical composition changes with age. It also fits well with my assertion that we should convert our long haul energy corridors (and generation facilities along those corridors) to native HVDC for a true inter-connected continental (and ultimately global) grid.

    ___
    My letters on energy:
    To The Honorable James M. Inhofe, United States Senate [scribd.com]
    To whom it may concern, Halliburton Corporate [scribd.com]

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @02:36PM (#45378103)

    The German people deserve credit for what they get right. For some reason the Germans have always seemed able to unite and take on massive projects more quickly than other nations. And I suspect their technology will be first rate in this new adventure.
                              Now imagine how easily most of the US can do the same. We are drowning in sunlight over a great portion of our nation. The potential of states like Florida and Texas to gather sunlight is remarkable. Most days we wish we had a little less solar light here. And we have plenty of wind and tidal energy as well. But unlike Germany we are a people at war with ourselves and our institutions and we simply can not push forward at all compared to Germany. Common resources such as wind, solar and tide seem to be shunned while things that cripple common resources are highly sought after here.

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