"Whenever we came up with this term clean energy, I think it screwed up people's minds"...................."What battery solution is going to sit there and provide that power?"............."It does not solve the reliability problem"......................"Do planes fly through the sky because of some number you put on a spreadsheet"?...................."There is no substitute for how the industrial economy runs today"...........................
Give Vaclav Smil 5 minutes and he'll pick apart one cherished scenario after another. Germany's solar revolution as an example for the world to follow? An extraordinarily inefficient approach, given how little sunlight the country receives, that hasn't reduced that nation's reliance on fossil fuels. Electric semitrailers? Good for little more than hauling the weight of their own batteries. Wind turbines as the embodiment of a low-carbon future? Heavy equipment powered by oil had to dig their foundations, Smil notes, and kilns fired with natural gas baked the concrete. And their steel towers, gleaming in the sun? Forged with coal.
"There's a lot of hopey-feely going on in the energy policy community," says David Victor, an expert on international climate policy at the University of California, San Diego. And Smil "revels in the capability to show those falsehoods."
Vaclav Smil on the gross inadequacies of grid scale electricity storage
Think about an Asian megacity hit by a typhoon for a day or two. Even if long-distance lines could supply more than half of the city’s temporarily lowered demand, it would still need many gigawatt-hours from storage to tide it over until intermittent generation could be restored (or use fossil fuel backup—the very thing we’re trying to get away from). Li-ion batteries, today’s storage workhorses in both stationary and mobile applications, are quite inadequate to meet those needs. The largest announced storage system, comprising more than 18,000 Li-ion batteries, is being built in Long Beach for Southern California Edison by AES Corp. When it’s completed, in 2021, it will be capable of running at 100 megawatts for 4 hours. But that energy total of 400 megawatt-hours is still two orders of magnitude lower than what a large Asian city would need if deprived of its intermittent supply. For example, just 2 GW for two days comes to 96 gigawatt-hours.