There’s a huge problem with renewables
It’s called Curtailment and to put it simply it’s when we produce too much wind or solar at certain times of the day and we have to just shut it down. Texas ¼ of energy is produced by wind but when curtailment happens the wind power shuts down and Texas has to use non renewable like natural gas power plants.
The problem is the energy produced cannot be stored as the batteries to store them are too expensive and battery prices need to half in price just to be competitive with natural gas plants. Currently less than 1/10 of 1% of global energy spends any time in batteries.
But consider the experience curve, the idea that as a company produces more units, the individual cost per unit becomes cheaper. The experience curve happens for a few reasons
- As workers make more of a product they become more efficient at making them
- Production processes become standardised to be as efficient as possible
- Products can become specialised to fit specific needs (Different types for industrial, transport, consumer markets)
- Better use of technology as a result of automation
- Products are redesigned and improved due to consumer feedback
The more we use solar panels the better we get and making them. Every time the amount of solar panels double the cost reduces 28%. Solar energy is now the cheapest energy in the world and it’s only going to get cheaper. What’s even better is the same thing is happening with batteries.
Growing demand for electric cars and electric storage is making battery production cheaper and battery price has dropped 80% in the last decade alone and renewable energy stored in batteries is becoming increasingly economically viable.
In some places it’s already happening. The Hawaiian rainforest island Kauai, they have already swapped fossil fuel power for solar plus batteries, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the island and the cost of energy from 15.5 cents to 13.9 cents per KwH. The Hawaiian installation is Tesla’s third project. Elon Musk’s company has previously installed a solar panel and battery grid on the American Samoan island of Ta’u, as well as a battery farm in California in 2017.
Tesla’s founder says his newly built gig factory will single handily double global supply of batteries. Musk is not alone he is in an arms race with Chinese companies who claim they will build capacity for 3 giga factories by 2021. With Samsung and other big names are joining in, the race is getting more and more competitive. There are also other technologies like silicon anodes, solid state batteries and lithium air that could skip us ahead on the experience curve by more than a decade. These developments could make battery powered ships, trains and even airplanes possible.
It’s not just Tesla that are changing the world we live in. Green start up companies like Ripple and Hyperloop Poland raising money on Seedrs.com and if you invest £150 within 30 days using this link you will get £25 in investment credit.