How Europe Dithers

How Europe Dithers

While Europe fiddled with climate related renewable energy projects, it allowed itself to become dependent on Russian energy.

In spite of all that has happened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it appears as though Europe is still focused on battling climate change and eliminating fossil fuels. 

For example, the following statements were made after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Hans-Josef Fell, President of the Energy Watch Group and German MP from 1998 to 2013 said:

“A massive expansion of domestic Renewable energy stops wars, not just climate change.”

And, Oliver Krischer, member of the Green Party, said:

 “A draft law to ensure renewables will account for 100% of Germany’s power supply by 2035 already was completed.”

And, the head of Germany’s leading energy industry association, BDEW, Kerstin Andreae, said:

“In order to reduce this dependence [on fossil fuels] and at the same time achieve the climate targets, we must turbo-charge the expansion of renewables.

And, Steffi Lemke, Environment Minister of the Greens said:

“The new German government stands behind the [European] Commission’s draft and thus fully supports the end of the internal combustion engine [for cars and vans] in the EU from 2035.”

And how has the EU dithered? Here are a few examples.

This project, Energy Lift Vault, has been proposed to store energy produced by wind and solar.

Screen capture from Energy Vault System Web site

It uses excess wind and solar electricity to raise 35 ton weights, and store them at the top of the tower until needed, then lowering them, using gravity, to generate electricity.

Electric motors raise the weights, while the controlled fall of the weights generates electricity.

This diagram from Energy Vault shows the stacking and unstacking of the weights.

A prototype 5MW/35MWh unit has been built in Switzerland.

Picture these towers, that could reach 600 feet in height, spread across Europe, complementing all the wind turbines towering over villages and cities alike. 

But, Energy Vault  has an alternative in the form of 20-story resource modules.


Energy Vault Modules
Energy Vault Modules

The 35-ton blocks are stored in the same manner as are elevator weights, in vertical rows and perform as in the towers. 

These buildings would be far better esthetically than the towers.

The company recently announced that actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio had joined the company’s strategic advisory board.

There is no information as to cost, other than a claim that storage will cost $65/MWh, which is half that of Li-Ion battery storage.

Energy Vault claims each storage facility can provide electricity for up to 12 hours. 

But, from experience, this is inadequate for long-term storage.

It’s well documented that, at various times, the wind hasn’t blown and the sun hasn’t shined for several  consecutive days. As a result, long-term storage for as long as 240 hours may not be enough to guarantee reliability. 

While it’s conceptually possible to link multiple storage modules in series to provide long term storage, it would be a Herculean and extremely costly effort to provide enough storage to prevent blackouts.

Energy Vault isn’t alone among Europeans to make proposals supporting the elimination of fossil fuels.

  • A similar proposal, using gravity, in the UK uses weights in vertical mine shafts.
  • Another proposal called for blocking off unused horizontal coal mine tunnels to create caverns for water storage. Two tunnels would be sealed to allow water stored in an upper tunnel to flow to a cavern in a lower tunnel to generate electricity. This emulates pumped storage where valleys are dammed to create lakes for pumped storage.

There is no end to proposals for storing energy, but even Rube Goldberg would be aghast at some of them.

While Europe faces energy shortages, it continues down the foolish path of transitioning to renewables and barring fossil fuels.


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6 Replies to “How Europe Dithers”

  1. from WUWT article on the amount of storage needed to go full electric …

    “66,906 GWH for California, 56,160 GWH for Australia, and 38,880 GWH for New York. Price that out at current costs of Tesla-type lithium-ion (~$150/KWH) and you will get around $10 trillion for California, $8.4 trillion for Australia, and $5.8 trillion for New York.”

    so halve those numbers for this “big rocks” storage idea …

    fyi the ENTIRE GDP of California is 3 trillion …

  2. The biggest problem with the 240 hour long duration storage is that you only need it rarely. What market mechanism is going to be affordable for a huge capacity 2% capacity factor resource?

    • That’s part of the problem. First there is no battery storage that can provide back up power for that long. Second, no one will be willing to pay for it.
      The end result? It’s impossible to have wind and solar displace fossil fuels and still have a reliable grid without repetitive long-lasting blackouts.
      Thanks for your comment.