The Problem with Batteries (Big Batteries)

By H. Sterling Burnett

These days we may be distracted by the COVID-19 virus, but climate issues move on. Recently, Wired magazine published an article about big batteries, or more precisely linked battery packs located in enormous battery farms. They will be needed if we want to generate energy from sources that emit no carbon dioxide.

Batteries store energy. They can be small—like the one inside your cell phone. But when it comes to storing solar or wind energy—sources that produce electricity intermittently—they must be huge. The batteries store the energy that these somewhat unreliable sources of energy produce so it can be used when needed.

Wired cites the example of San Diego Gas & Electric, the state’s third-largest private utility, which installed a pair of batteries that can store enough energy to power just 1,000 homes for four hours. Think about it. To power just 1,000 homes for four hours, each battery “consists of five shipping containers’ worth of equipment, eight 10,000-gallon tanks of electrolyte solution (the stuff that holds the charge), and a maze of wires, pumps, switches, and PVC piping. They sit in corrosion-resistant concrete safety pits that are large enough, in case of a leak, to hold all 80,000 gallons of electrolyte plus all the water from the county’s worst day of rain in the past 100 years. Rain! Being in California, I want to know if they are safe from cracking during earthquakes, or how they might be affected by wildfires or mudslides? Continue reading “The Problem with Batteries (Big Batteries)”