Australia might be known as the Land Down Under, but these days another nickname might apply…
Like “the Blackouts Down Under”:
- South Australia: The state’s entire population of 1.7 million residents lost all power for hours on September 28 last year.
- Sydney: Its 5 million residents faced three days’ worth of rolling blackouts in February.
- Victoria and New South Wales: These states, with a combined population of more than 12 million — including Melbourne, the nation’s second-largest city — nearly went dark as well.
Experts are already warning to plan ahead for blackouts next summer. (Remember, it’s the Southern Hemisphere, so the hottest part of the year is generally December through February.)
So what gives?
In short, Australia has too much of a good thing going.
Renewables’ Dark Side
The country is far ahead of the United States in renewable electric power. Wind, solar and other forms of green energy will account for nearly 25% of Australia’s entire electric-generating capacity by 2022. Many coal-fired power plants have shut down as part of the same trend.
But wind and solar are intermittent forms of power. It’s a “use it or lose it” proposition.
As a result, on the hottest days of the year, when everyone sets their air conditioning units to max, there’s sometimes not quite enough power to go around.
Welcome to the downside of the renewable power revolution.
To add to the pressure, traditional power grids — the networks of transmission lines and equipment that transmit electricity and convert it to the right voltages for use by customers — always need to have a certain amount of power flowing through them.
Too little, and customers find their lights starting to flicker and dim.
Too much, and transformers blow. Wires melt.
Is there a solution?
Batteries to the Rescue?
I just added a new stock to the Total Wealth Insider portfolio that provides just such an answer.
In order to fulfill its true potential, solar- and wind-generated electrical power needs to be stored in some manner. So get ready for the battery boom for households — and even for entire utility electrical grids.
Experts say it’s likely to be the shape of things to come, not just for Australia, but for the U.S. and other economies becoming increasingly dependent on renewable power for larger amounts of energy.
For instance, nearly 2 million households in Australia have rooftop solar power systems. Analysts at Morgan Stanley predict the sale of nearly 1 million residential-sized batteries to store excess electrical power for later use — and that’s just for Australia’s east coast.
Manufacturers are already rushing to fill the vacuum. Mercedes-Benz recently pulled the wraps off its first home energy storage kits. In 2015, Tesla pulled the wraps off its similar Powerwall product.
But that’s just for starters.
Battery use is about to boom — big time. Thanks to large-scale factory investments by Tesla, LG Chem and others, battery costs have plummeted 80% in six years. The cheaper costs mean the ability of more industries and customers to use them.
In a world where renewables rule on a larger and larger scale, so will batteries on an increasingly bigger scale as well.
Jeff L. Yastine
Editor, Total Wealth Insider