gatesnotes
The blog of Bill Gates

It Is Surprisingly Hard to Store Energy

Sign In
 
My Profile & Settings
Log out
GO
Your search for "", with selected filters, does not match any posts. Please try again with a different search term or reset filters.

Popular searches include: Books, Malaria, and Future of Food.
RELATED ARTICLES ON
Logout:


Become a Gates Notes Insider
- or - Sign up with email
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Send me updates from Bill Gates
Sign Up
Join the Gates Notes community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, subscribe to your favorite topics and more. We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Sign Up" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
Account Settings
VIEW & EDIT PROFILE
Your Information
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Password
Save
Cancel
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Your Interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Deactivate Account
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process. Deactivate account If you want to permanently delete your account and remove its content, please send us a request here.
Ok
Gates Notes Insider Sign Up FAQ

Q. How do I create a Gates Notes account?

A. There are three ways you can create a Gates Notes account:

  • Sign up with Facebook. We’ll never post to your Facebook account without your permission.
  • Sign up with Twitter. We’ll never post to your Twitter account without your permission.
  • Sign up with your email. Enter your email address during sign up. We’ll email you a link for verification.

Q. Will you ever post to my Facebook or Twitter accounts without my permission?

A. No, never.

Q. How do I sign up to receive email communications from my Gates Notes account?

A. In Account Settings, click the toggle switch next to “Send me updates from Bill Gates.”

Q. How will you use the Interests I select in Account Settings?

A. We will use them to choose the Suggested Reads that appear on your profile page.

Forgot your password?
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Reset Password
Change your header photo
your image
 
Change
your image
Uh Oh!

The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.

Ok
First name
Last name
Enter a first and last name. For example, "Richard Feynman"
Bio
0/160 characters
Edit Profile
Account Settings
Save
Cancel
Suggested Reads
Reset your password.
Set New Password
Your password has been reset. You will now be redirected to the sign in page, or you can click here
Ok
Get emails from Bill Gates
Send me updates from Bill
You must provide an email
This email is already registered
Continue
We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Continue" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
 
your image
Uh Oh!
The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.
Ok
Welcome FirstName!
You are now a Gates Notes Insider
Update Your Profile Information
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Select Your Interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Continue
Confirm
Are you sure you want to
deactivate your account?
Deactivating your account will unsubscribe you from Gates Notes emails, and will remove your profile and account information from public view on the Gates Notes. Please allow for 24 hours for the deactivation to fully process. You can sign back in at any time to reactivate your account and restore its content.
Deactivate My Acccount
Go Back
Your Gates Notes account has been deactivated.
Come back anytime.
Welcome back
In order to unsubscribe you will need to sign-in to your Gates Notes Insider account
Once signed in just go to your Account Settings page and set your subscription options as desired.
Sign In
Request account deletion
We’re sorry to see you go. Your request may take a few days to process; we want to double check things before hitting the big red button. Requesting an account deletion will permanently remove all of your profile content. If you’ve changed your mind about deleting your account, you can always hit cancel and deactivate instead.
Submit
Cancel
Thank You! Your request has been sent
Become a Gates Notes Insider for access to exclusive content and personalized reading suggestions
Sign up to receive occasional updates from the Gates Notes
Sign Up
Privacy Policy
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
This verification token has expired.
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
Your account has been deactivated. Sign up to re-activate your account.
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
It Is Surprisingly Hard to Store Energy
 
Hello, . . My Profile & Settings
Log out
FOLLOW ME
It looks like you're using an older version of Internet Explorer which may not display all the features on this site. Upgrade Now » close
Better Batteries  

It Is Surprisingly Hard to Store Energy

I have learned a lot about energy storage by investing in companies that are making batteries better and more affordable. There is some fantastic research going on and some fantastic companies being built, but we need even more innovation.

Why? Because although solar and wind power are great sources of low-carbon energy, they also have their downsides. One is that they’re not constant sources. With solar, it’s not just that the sun goes away at night; cloudy days also make it hard for some places to use solar year-round. According to this list from NOAA, my hometown of Seattle gets less sun than all but 9 cities in the United States.

When you hear about this problem with wind and solar, it is tempting to ask: Can’t we generate extra energy on days when the sun and wind are strong, and store it for those days when they’re not?

Here’s the problem: Storing energy turns out to be surprisingly hard and expensive.

As I wrote in this year’s Annual Letter: “If you wanted to store enough electricity to run everything in your house for a week, you would need a huge battery—and it would triple your electric bill.” Let’s break that sentence down.

“If you wanted to store enough electricity to run everything in your house for a week, you would need a huge battery …”

According to this U.S. Energy Information Administration fact sheet, in 2014 the typical U.S. household used 911 kilowatt-hours a month, which works out to roughly 210 kilowatt-hours per week (911 per month / 30 days per month x 7 days per week).  The best lithium-ion batteries store less than 0.2 kilowatt-hours per kilogram.

So a lithium-ion battery large enough to store 210 kilowatt-hours would weigh at least 210 / 0.2, or 1050 kg. 1050 kg is about 2314 pounds, or more than one ton.

“…and it would triple your electric bill.”

This figure is based on the capital cost of a lithium-ion battery amortized over the useful life of the battery. For example, a battery that costs $150 per kilowatt-hour of capacity with a life cycle of 500 charges would, over its lifetime, cost $150 / 500, or $0.30 per kilowatt-hour.

So if a consumer tried to store enough electricity in this lithium-ion battery to run her house, she would be paying at least $0.30 per kilowatt-hour for the battery.

According to the EIA, the average price of electricity for consumers in the United States is around $0.10 per kilowatt-hour. The European Union, where prices average 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, and India, where they range from 2 to 15 cents, would see similarly dramatic increases.

This is one of the reasons why we need new inventions that improve our ability to store energy cheaply and efficiently. Getting them will make it easier for solar and wind to be a big part of our zero-carbon future.

Become a Gates Notes Insider for access to exclusive content and personalized reading suggestions

Read previous versions of the Annual Letter

Filed Under

Discussion
comments powered by Disqus