Storage for Germany's energy transition: A critical assessment of the costs

The topic of accumulators as battery storage for Germany and its energy transition is almost a daily topic on Linkedin, and so it recently came to a discussion on LinkedIn again, based on my post from a youtube video from VattenfallWhen the audience heard that the pumped storage in Germany can only supply Germany for 30 minutes, the topic of battery storage came up again, and that Germany could then be operated with it during dark periods.

I did the math:

The calculation

150g lithium per kWh (Source)
150g cobalt per kWh

1000kg cobalt = 33,582 USD

1000kg Lithium = 37.000 USD

1GWh = 1000000 kWh

150g x 1,000,000 (kWh) = 150,000,000 g lithium = 150 tons lithium per GWh
150g x 1,000,000 (kWh) = 150,000,000 g of cobalt = 150 tons of cobalt per GWh.

1GWh = 300 tons of lithium and cobalt

150 tons lithium x 37,000 USD / ton lithium = USD 5,550,000
150 tons cobalt x 33,582 USD / ton Cobalt = USD 5,037,300

1GWh cost for raw materials only = 10,587,300 USD

53.5GW per hour that would need to be covered on average.

Battery price
53.5 GWh x 10,587,300 USD / GWh = 566,420,550 USD

Material requirement for battery per GWh, 1 GWh = 300 tons of lithium and cobalt
53.5 GWh x 300 tons(150 tons each of lithium and cobalt) = 16,050 tons

08.05.2023 (energy-charts.info)
Minimum load: 35,711.40 MW ~ 36 GW
Maximum load: 70,845.70 MW ~ 71 GW
Average load: 53.5 GW ((minimum load + maximum load) / 2 = average load)

To put all these formulas and calculations into words, I asked ChatGPT (GPT-3.5) to do it for me (I don't get paid for writing them^^).

ChatGPT evaluation

Based on the given data and formulas, we can make an explanation and analysis:

To produce one kilowatt hour (kWh), 150 grams of lithium and 150 grams of cobalt are needed. Assuming we have a quantity of 1 gigawatt hour (GWh), which is equivalent to one million kilowatt hours, we would need 150 tons of lithium and 150 tons of cobalt for this quantity.

Assume that the price of 1,000 kilograms (one ton) of cobalt is 33,582 US dollars and for 1,000 kilograms of lithium it is 37,000 US dollars. Then the pure raw material cost for 150 tons of lithium would be US$5,550,000 and for 150 tons of cobalt it would be US$5,037,300. In total, the raw material costs for the battery of one GWh amount to 10,587,300 US dollars.

Assume that we need to cover a load of 53.5 gigawatts (GW) per hour on average. The cost of the battery based on raw material costs would then be calculated as follows: 53.5 GWh multiplied by $10,587,300 per GWh equals $566,420,550.

In addition, 16,050 tons of material (150 tons each of lithium and cobalt) would be needed to manufacture the battery for this amount of energy.

In summary, the raw material cost alone for a GWh battery would be $10,587,300. At an average load of 53.5 GW, the battery would have to cost US$566,420,550. The material requirement for the battery would be 16,050 tons. These calculations are based on the given data and formulas and are used to analyze the costs and material requirements for battery production.

Assuming we have a quantity of 1 gigawatt hour (GWh), this corresponds to 0.001 terrawatt hours (TWh). To calculate the total amount in terrawatt hours, we multiply the given amount of 53.5 gigawatt hours by 0.001. This gives:

53.5 GWh x 0.001 = 0.0535 TWh

Therefore, the given amount of 53.5 gigawatt hours corresponds to about 0.0535 terawatt hours.

Evaluation of the calculation by ChatGPT (GPT3.5)

So just to be able to cover Germany for 1 day only the average load, the battery would be equivalent to 566,420,550 US dollars, as of May 14, 2023, this would be 517,765,024 euros. To supply Germany with 0.053 TWh per day, we would have to spend 517 million euros in Germany.

TWh storage

Now some even talk about needing a storage capacity of 2-digit TWh for Germany. 53,5 GWh correspond to 0,053 TWh, that means, we need, 53500 GWh, to come to 53,5 TWh, and because ChatGPT can put that so nicely into words and structure, here is the answer:

To calculate the cost and material requirements to cover 53 terawatt hours (TWh), we can use the information given previously.

Assume that the price of a gigawatt-hour (GWh) of battery is $10,587,300. To calculate the cost of 53 TWh, we multiply the price per GWh by the amount of energy:

10,587,300 USD/GWh x 53,000 GWh = 561,126,900,000 USD ~ 512,926,099,290 Euro ~ 512 billion 926 million 99 thousand 290 Euro

So the cost of the battery to cover 53 TWh would be about $512,926,099,290.

For the material requirement, we assume that 16,050 tons of material (150 tons each of lithium and cobalt) are needed for each GWh of battery. To calculate the material requirement for 53 TWh, we multiply the amount of material per GWh by the amount of energy:

16,050 tons/GWh x 53,000 GWh = 850,650,000 tons

Thus, to cover 53 TWh, about 850,650,000 tons of lithium and cobalt would be required as material.

In summary, the cost of the battery to cover 53 TWh would be about 561,126,900,000 USD ~ 512,926,099,290 Euro. The material requirement for this amount of energy would be about 850,650,000 tons. Please note that this is based on the given information and assumptions.

These calculations are based on the assumption that costs and material requirements change proportionally to the amount of energy covered. Please note that these are theoretical calculations and other factors such as production capacities, technological advances and market dynamics may also play a role.

Evaluation of the calculation by ChatGPT (GPT3.5)

And we're not even talking about land consumption for such an accumulator size, or rather volume consumption for this size:

300 kWh lithium ion battery has a volume requirement of 1 cubic meter m³.
1 kWh Lithium Ion battery would therefore be 0.003 m³
1TWh = 1,000,000,000 kWh
0.003 m³ x 1,000,000 kWh = 3,333,333.33 m³ ~ 3 million 333 thousand 333.33 cubic meters per terawatt hour

0.003 m³ x 53.5 TWh (53,000,000 kWh) = 159,000,000 m³ (Here is a list to classify the size)

Area calculation

And for comparison, the lithium battery in Australia, which was built by Elon Musk's company, has a capacity of 120 MWh, which is 0.12 GWh. To cover 53.5 GWh, we would need 53.5 GWh / 0.12 GWh = 445.8 ~ 446 batteries like in Australia. In Japan, a 300 MWh storage facility was installed, where an area was specified, with these data I calculate here:

14,000 m² for 300 MWh = 14000 m² / 300 MWh = 46.66 m²/MWh

So, according to these figures, roughly and due to Bautypische deviations, the storage in Australia has estimated:

46.66 m² / MWh x 120 MWh = 5,600 m² of space required.

For Germany we need 446 x the area of the battery in Australia.

5,600 m² x 446 = 2,497,600 m² ~ 2.49 km² (Here area comparisons) to hold one day of Germany's average load.

 

If we want to keep 53.5 TWh, that is 53,500 GWh:

53,5000 GWh / 0.12 GWh (Australia battery size) = 445,833 Australia batteries.

5,600 m² (rough area requirement battery Australia) x 445,833 = 2,496,666,666 m² ~ 2496.66 km² (So in terms of area between Tenerife and Moscow)

Summary

You see, we would need so much money and so much material where you have to ask yourself, do we really want that? Do we need that much money going away? And then the battery must also be recharged, only with what? Already Germany is since mid-April, after the shutdown of the last 3 nuclear power plants, on electricity imports instructed. How should such a large battery be charged? And how many cycles does it last until it has to be replaced, i.e. annually.

The Federal budget 2023 spends 412.73 billion euros on various areas without which Germany would be nothing but a wasteland. The area of labor and social affairs alone consumes 163 billion euros. So even if we were to cut only this area, we would need 512,926,099,290 euros / 163 billion euros = 3.14 years to finance the battery, and that's ONLY the raw material costs, there's not even the question of whether the mines around the world can extract it at all, how high the manufacturing costs are, how high the manpower requirements will be, etc.

And when you see the numbers like this, you don't have to be surprised if green musings remain just that, musings. Without nuclear power Germany's energy supply still at the limit run and further one will have to burn brown coal.

 

So if someone tells you that we just need some batteries in Germany, please send them this article.

If you think there are any errors in the article, please contact me by comment.

The calculation here is based on lithium ion batteries, since most data is available here and this is cheaper. Lithium, iron phosphate and co. are either weaker in terms of performance or are more expensive.

 

Further sources:

With megapacks: Tesla builds the next record-breaking battery in Australia

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Petr Kirpeit

All articles are my personal opinion and are written in German. In order to offer English-speaking readers access to the article, they are automatically translated via DeepL. Facts and sources will be added where possible. Unless there is clear evidence, the respective article is considered to be my personal opinion at the time of publication. This opinion may change over time. Friends, partners, companies and others do not have to share this position.