Conservatives go completely nuts over battery storage

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The Tesla big battery storage array in South Australia signals a major pivot point for Australia’s energy future, but the response of conservatives shows they are not having a bar of it, and their renewable energy target remains 100 per cent ignorance.

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First they disputed the need to even have clean energy. Then they disputed the costs. Now, faced with the growing reality that renewables and storage are going to be cheaper, cleaner, and smarter and more reliable, conservatives are turning to the one mechanism still at their disposal: To shout very loudly.

The announcement of the Tesla big battery storage array to be built in South Australia by December 1 signals a major pivot point for the energy future in this country, as we point out in detail in our explainer here.

Conservatives, however, are not having a bar of it. Acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce came up with a folksy rejoinder that confirmed that his renewable energy target remains 100 per cent ignorance. But should we have expected better from federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg?

weatherill frydenberg

Let’s recall that Frydenberg went all the way to Adelaide early this year to sing the praises of the 5MW “virtual power plant” being put together by AGL Energy, only to get a slap down by Premier Jay Weatherill in the process.

Now, when Weatherill and Elon Musk, the world’s most popular and click-baiting tech nerd, announced the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery storage – some 20 times bigger than the one that Frydenberg was willing to fly 1,000kms for – all he could do was reply with a churlish put-down.

But let’s run with the nutty ones first.

Far Right commentator Andrew Bolt titled his post on the story: “The fraud of Weatherill’s battery”, and went on to quote Frydenberg saying the battery capacity amounted to just one per cent of the potential daily wind farm output in the state.


National Party MP George Christensen followed up by wondering: “How many of these 100MW batteries would the state need to meet current maximum demand, which (according to last year’s South Australian Electricity Report) is around 3000MW?”

Our answer. Not many George. South Australia already has more than 3,000MW of gas and diesel fired generators, not to mention 1,650MW of wind and 744MW of rooftop solar, so even if the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow, there should be enough capacity.

The problem arises when, as occurred this year, a big gas plant sits idle while its customers go without power, or when two big gas units trip due to a fault. Or if there are transmission faults which set the frequency and voltage wobbling. That’s what this storage array is designed to address.

Indeed, if the Australian Energy Market Operator is worried about anything this year, it is not the amount of variable renewables, but the performance of the big gas and coal generators in the middle of the heat-wave.

The term “baseload” is being thrown around by conservatives as a proxy for “reliability”, but it is anything but. “Baseload” does, however, go hand in hand with inflexibility. Battery storage, and other forms of storage, are designed to make the system more flexible.

Christensen doubled down, estimating that the battery array was equivalent to power for 45,000 homes: “Maybe Jay (Weatherill, the SA Premier) should just go to Bunnings and place an order for some generators – they could probably deliver in 5 days.”

Well, that would be about as dumb as Christensen’s idea for a new coal fired generator in Queensland. It would be polluting and expensive.

But you know the irony of it all? Using a petrol generator in a household would probably be cheaper than using power from the fossil fuel dominated grid. That’s how “cheap”, Australia’s coal dominated grid has become. Households are paying 40c/kWh, and not just in South Australia, and that’s ridiculous.

Joyce, the acting prime minister, also ran the line that the Tesla battery storage was too small to make much difference.

“It’s a good idea but the capacity is not there,” Joyce told ABC TV on Sunday. “You know, a grain of sugar is an advantage to a teaspoon, but it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference.”

Anyone who has had a flat tire knows that you don’t have to buy a new car to fix the problem. And anyone who knows anything about grid security and the operation of the wholesale markets, and how fossil fuel generators have been rorting it for years, will know that a few megawatts here and there will make a big difference.

After all, the shortfall in the load-shedding in February was not 3,000MW, the capacity of the fossil fuel generators, it was 90MW. Just one more grain of sugar – like this battery – would have kept the lights on.

This storage installation is also just the first of many. The first mobile phones didn’t suddenly enable 10 million people to ring each other  on the move, but it did make it clear the direction we were heading.

It seems conservatives don’t want to acknowledge that this is the start of a Really Big Thing, one that requires them to think differently about climate science, coal-fired generators, baseload power, market manipulation and consumer prices.

Joyce was also putting his efforts behind new coal fired generators. He’s the sort of guy that might have bought Kodak shares when digital photography took off, or signed up for a 10 year supply of hay bales when it looked like motor cars would replace the horse and cart.

The strategy now is not jut to shout at climate science, renewable energy and battery storage, but anyone who represents what they see as a dangerous thought process. That was the basis for Murdoch commentator Piers Akerman’s attack on Alan Finkel on Sunday.

“The Finkel report is a blueprint for destruction — of the Australian economy and destruction of the Liberal Party,” he wrote. What followed was a repeat of just about every talking point and myth perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry and the gullible right – and about a curiously unambitious energy blueprint.

“How did we get so stupid?” Akerman concluded. Good question.

tesla storage south australia

Frydenberg’s response to the Tesla announcement was classic male locker room boastfulness: the mine is bigger than yours assertion that never quite clarifies whether it is functional or not.

When he visited Adelaide for AGL’s 5MW battery storage promotion in March, he wrote on his blog: “This battery storage project is a great example of flexible capacity solutions and large-scale storage projects that secure energy supply, integrate renewable energy sources and enhance grid stability.”

Quite so.

But when responding to Tesla’s 100MW/129MWh battery storage installation, Frydenberg said it was “small compared to the scale of the problem the (State) Government created.” In other words, it wasn’t his idea.

“The lithium ion battery is a lot of sizzle for very little sausage, as it will provide only 129 MWh of storage, compared with 1000 MWh of storage at the potential Cultana pumped hydro project in the Upper Spencer Gulf, and the 350,000 MWh of storage from Snowy Hydro 2.0,” he wrote in his blog.

Um, yes, and apart from addressing a completely different energy system need to those big projects, it will be delivered by December 1 this year, about 10 years before Snowy Hydro 2.0 (which will be little or no use to South Australia anyway) and at least 5 years before Cultana.

“On any one day, wind in South Australia can provide about 13,000MWh of generation, of which the new battery project can barely store 1 per cent,” Frydenberg wrote.

Yes, and that compares to the 0.05 per cent that inspired you to fly to Adelaide. But that is not what this new storage facility is designed to do, minister, as you well know. Much of it is there to deal with network failures and large gas plants tripping.

But Frydenberg appears to have another thing on his agenda – to try turn wind and solar farms into “baseload”, and force new wind and solar farms to have an equivalent amount of storage as their capacity.

It is a thinking-process locked in the past, not in the future of flexible generation, or what new AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman describes as smarter, cheaper, cleaner, faster and more reliable generation supply.

We should hope for better from the country’s energy minister than this. At Barnaby and the Murdoch mad-hatters, we can just laugh or cry. With the energy minister, who can’t get excited about the world’s biggest lithium ion battery, we can but shake our head.


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  1. DJR96 3 years ago

    The concept of “change management” seems to be the antithesis of conservatives. Who desperately need to embrace it to reform their own way of thinking.

    When 20th century models no longer work, they need 21st century solutions.

    It is ironic that the NEM/industry has the same problem as conservatives.
    Shouldn’t be surprising really, the latter is partly responsible for the former getting to where it is now.

  2. john 3 years ago

    The 2 politicians and the various media shrills have a track record of disingenuous statements.
    There are several others who could be mentioned the whole idea is to cloud the issue in the public eye as most will not delve into the detail their understanding is rather akin to solar panels do not work because they do not work at night or some simplistic analogy.
    The new coal generator in North Queensland is being strongly pushed as the solution to high electricity costs just how that works is hard to see as the cost of its power will have to bring north of 8c for a poor station and north of 12c kWh for a more efficient station.
    These costs will render it as a dud as an investment, however that is being smoked over by spreading FUD.

  3. trackdaze 3 years ago

    Doing is ten times better than talking.

    SA is doing. The Feds are talking.

    • Marg1 3 years ago

      Spot on

  4. Brunel 3 years ago

    I hate coal, but how would a new coal power station in QLD help SA unless a UHVDC transmission line is built from SA to QLD?

    And building such a line would allow wind farms in SA to export electrons to NSW and QLD.

    • john 3 years ago

      There was and article here Transmission: we need.

      A new interconnector linking South Australia with either New South Wales or Victoria from 2021.
      Augmenting existing interconnection linking New South Wales with both Queensland and Victoria in the mid to late 2020s.
      A second Bass Strait interconnector from 2025, when combined with augmented interconnector capacity linking New South Wales identified above, although the benefits are only marginally greater than the costs.

      So yes transmission is very important to connect the areas of production of energy west to east to lower that evening peak north to south especially in winter.
      This together with PHES be in salt water or fresh using existing dams in some cases as in the Snowy.

      • Brunel 3 years ago

        SA already has an interconnector to Vic. The next one should connect to NSW or WA.

        • My_Oath 3 years ago

          Pretty sure WA wouldn’t touch the NEM with a ten foot barge pole.

          • Brunel 3 years ago

            Especially if the times are given in “NEM time” rather than UTC time.

            But solar panels in WA can power NSW after sunset. Could be a nice money spinner for WA.

          • Trent Deverell 3 years ago

            Why not given with solar energy you got two hours of time shift corresponding with morning peaks periods and there exists a bi-directional market opportunity ….and plenty of real estate along the way to install additional assets…. It wouldn’t hurt to do the numbers on DC link, but perhaps not an immediate priority..

          • neroden 3 years ago

            Well, maybe WA wil consider it AFTER WA is 100% renewable and is definitively a net exporter of power forever.

        • Matthew Wright 3 years ago

          two interconnectors actually Heywood and Murraylink

        • firedingo 3 years ago

          Already set for NSW. Previous Premier Mike Baird committed to it before buggering off to a cushy job with a bank. Voters got sick of him

      • joono 3 years ago

        Two interconnections I can see coming sooner or later are Tennant Ck to Mt Isa, and the other Tennant Ck to China. The China State Grid already own the corridor from the NT to QLD.
        China State Grid have already announced their intentions to run UHVDV from Darwin to Malaysia or China.
        Once the sellout of Australia to Chinese interests is completely sorted and the Indigenous and white people are dispossessed from their lands, the Chinese will build mega solar facilities in Australia (100GWs) to send the energy generated to China for a pittance.

        • nakedChimp 3 years ago


      • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

        at last PHES gets a mention! Thanks John. Sad that there is so much heat in the conversation. One thing all the allegedly “stupid” #auspol pollies know is that the voters hate power blackouts. Blackouts are a great way to lose power —– at the next election!

        The semantic misuse and abuse of “baseload” has got to stop. BaseLOAD is simply the minimum system demand over a period, usually 24 hours. Even with cheap off-peak tariffs, under-utilised smart meters cannot fill the dip in demand. Cheap bulk storage is essential to fast-track to zero-carbon, no-nukes clean power. The RWNJs are clearly defending the Incumbents market dominance. If only all sides of politics formed a credible plan to URGENTLY deal with the climate emergency we would see governments declaring #ForceMajeure and banging the industry’s heads together to make them do the needful: i.e. Enough wind solar and CHEAP BULK STORAGE — dedicated exclusively to those renewable sources — in order to keep the lights on, and manage the urgent “transition” (actually a revolution) to keep electricity prices affordable for both industry and households,

        It would all be so much simpler if it was back in public ownership, so if nobody has the guts to #renationalise then the planet-saving fallback position might come to a declaration of #ForceMajeure.

  5. George Darroch 3 years ago

    The reactionary side of politics in Australia is very shouty about any evidence in any area they don’t like.

    They started out years ago by printing these things for the working man with a high school education, and started believing them themselves.

  6. Rob G 3 years ago

    Let’s be honest, Barnyard Choice has absolutely no authority or knowledge to make judgements on electrical technology. Nobody should listen to him…. isn’t he an accountant by background? If I am sick do I go and visit my coffee guy for advice? Really no one should listen to this small minded man, who just happens to have friends in the coal industry.

    • john 3 years ago

      Yes he was an Accountant.

      • phred01 3 years ago

        failed @ that that’s why he is a pollie notice another mob are failed lawyers who create loopholes in laws

  7. matthew 3 years ago

    In the event that the grid has frequency issues or voltage issues, it is most likely that the batteries will disconnect themselves from the grid, just like the wind and gas generators did during our last black out. The battery storage does not fix the main issue, which is………an aging electrical grid! this is a political stunt in kicking the can further down the road……….someone else problem in the next political cycle. Why do we always allow politicians to spend millions of our tax payer funds to appear to fix things. The conservatives may just be working on a real long term solution and are not engaging the political rubbish we see atm.

    • Nick Thiwerspoon 3 years ago

      In the event that the grid has frequency issues or voltage issues, it is most likely that the batteries will disconnect themselves from the grid, just like the wind and gas generators did during our last black out.

      And you know this how?

      • daroiD8ungais7 3 years ago

        Second that. Matthew, they are essentially contracted to do exactly the opposite. It’s called the FCAS market and there is a lot of $ in it.

        Granted, I’ve read a bunch of these articles on RenewEconomy about this SA battery and none have really explained how this battery is going to operate on FCAS and estimated income from that, even though competing for FCAS seems to be an essential part of the business case. So understand the confusion.

        • Matthew Wright 3 years ago

          They will disconnect only within the limits imposed on them by the regulator. If they want to them to stay on line they will stay on line as they are more than capable.

          • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

            ..even so it would be great to see independent modelling that showed on 28th Sept 2016 that injecting 100MW as the EHV towers blew down, would have stabilised the SA grid enough not to trip the Heywood interconnector.

            If the rate of frequency drop was slow enough — thanks to Tesla’s 100MW emergency FCAS support — to allow load shedding this raises two further questions: 1. How many disgruntled voters would have been subjected to load shedding in order to avert system black? and 2. How many hours would those customers have remained in blackout? Every hour is more lost votes for whoever’s in govt.

            If SA was “system black” despite the best efforts and best timing of 100MW extra FCAS support, there must be a point at which the Tesla battery still trying to feed 100MW into a super-low-impedance dead or dying grid, will only succeed in melting the interface conductors, transformers or power electronics, so that’s not really the sort of capability we want to see. There has to be fault levels set with safe trigger points that prevent a meltdown of the interface, destruction of the power electronics or a Lithium-ion battery fire/explosion.

          • matthew 3 years ago

            Hi Michael. That would be great to see. agreed.

      • matthew 3 years ago

        I am an electrician. The last major blackout, which i was referring to was obviously caused by the poles and wires (i was not clear on this, my apologies. I was speaking from the context of the following). When the poles fell over the wires shorted out between phases and to earth. Nothing will stay connected in this event without causing further damage. I also know trades who cleaned up the mess and what they found were towers installed in late 1950’s with no maintenance with under sized and eroded footings. Also missing bolts in sections and corrosion in failed sections.

        I am frustrated that this is a band-aide that does not address the root cause, yes many billions have been spent and likely many billions more. Does it provide cheaper electricity, probably not. There have been many old sections just left alone to be responded to in a reactive manner. Yes, there are regulations and specific markets for short quick response peaking. But were are making the electrical markets and networks way to complicated and this will be its undoing.

        I hope i can stimulate further discussions, leave you with this thought. When super capacitors last much longer and space is not so much an issue and $$ are not much an issue due to specific market it would be operating in. Why would this not be considered as a long term more environmentally sustainable option.

        Look SA is a huge experiment, it is. it is also one of the most politically motivated states. There is no long term plan, Alinta pulled out years ago and the SA Government were well aware. AGL is installing very expensive carbon capture at Torrens Island and it will push prices up further (if they haven’t already attempted to do so)

        Scaling up and scaling down of batteries is great but its not the best answer, it is just the answer that sells news papers.

        • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

          (choosing my words carefully here) yeah we heard a lot about Victoria’s need for RCM at the Bushfires Royal Commission and later at the two big class actions against SP Ausnet, now Ausnet Services. The plaintiffs in the class actions, in their Supreme Court writs alleged corporate negligence. Of the 173 deaths on Black Saturday, 161 were eventually proven to be traceable back to power line faults: Kilmore East was a rusty frayed SWER line that broke in winds gusting to only slightly over 100km/hr: 119 deaths. Murrindindi firestorm (40 deaths) was according to the Coroner’s official findings due to a 22kV single phase earth fault to an incorrectly configured stay_cable/flute_insulator combination. I suspect there might have been a screw pile low-impedance fault path to cause an enormous fault current out of the adjacent MDI ZSS. The coroner’s finding was lamentably short on technical detail and had no diagrams at all —might be worth an FOI request to get at the VicPol report-to-Coroner

          161 =/= 119 + 40 so the other two powerline-firestorm deaths were from the Beechworth-Mudgegonga fire where a 22kV feeder between Myrtleford and Beechworth was hit by a falling bifurcated tree, which the plaintiffs alleged should have been spotted by the line inspectors and chopped down before it blew down.

          • matthew 3 years ago

            Thanks Michael. Its a shame these things happen. Hence my frustrations.

    • Phil 3 years ago

      Battery Farms of this size have VERY LOW IMPEDANCE. Which means they can support frequency and voltage control of the network virtually instantly. Similar to the FLYWHEEL effect of large turbine generators.

      So not only do they smooth the wind or solar farm outputs (light discharge) , they also act as a Base Load when needed (heavy discharge) giving ample time to fire up additional base load power sources.

      The GREATEST thing is the ability to scale up or down the installation to suit the demand. Think of lots of batteries in Parallel and you can see the why the power output is Massive. In this case at least 100 Megawatts for 1 hour.

      • K-man 3 years ago

        Both AEMO and AER agree that you must have a base level of inertia provided by spinning machines, that cannot be provided by batteries or wind… a new market is being proposed by AER for inertia as even the fast response of batteries will not handle the large frequency changes that occur. So, old thermals and hydro are required to support the penetration of renewables. Who knew the conservatives may actually have a point? (Even though they don’t really understand why!)

        • Greg Clitheroe 3 years ago

          Batteries make the very best spinning reserve. A mechanical flywheel can only absorb or provide power by changing speed, hence quickly going out of sync and losing its ability to contribute stability.

          The battery backed inverter is electronically synced and can continue to stabilise over an arbitrary frequency range until the battery reaches either full or empty.

          Those who say otherwise should shut up because they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

          • matthew 3 years ago

            Very narrow view, your talking about a minor element of the overall pros and cons. Also not appropriate comments for a lack of detailed explanation. Batteries max 10yrs, actual baseload spinning reserve 50yrs+ and they have other benefits of being an inductive spinning reserve that assist with the harmonic challenges of high powered inverters.

          • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

            >>…and they have other benefits of being an inductive spinning reserve that assist with the harmonic challenges of high powered inverters.<<
            I'm not buying. You can't fix that with digital signal compensation, same as they are already doing from Batteries or Wind Turbines for phase compensation?
            I remain skeptical of the old school not being open minded to solutions involving the new school. Seen it too many times before. Knee jerk reaction of the old dogs: "That won't work. It's painted the wrong color."

          • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

            Exactly correct!

        • matthew 3 years ago

          lol, some of them do understand why. But we tend only to really fix things properly when it all falls in a hole.

      • matthew 3 years ago

        Hi Phil, I agree mostly with you. The only item i disagree with is “act like Base Load” they are fundamentally two very different things. That is base load and batteries are very different from one another. They very much have different influences on the over all electrical phenomena of the networks. Traditional base load spinning reserve will outlast batteries. I expect to see batteries replaced before the Torrens Island Power Station moth balled. Throwing more good money after bad.

        • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

          >>base load and batteries are very different from one another<>I expect to see batteries replaced before the Torrens Island Power Station moth balled.<<
          Nope. Batteries can provide enough time for CCNG plant to power up, making the hideous inefficiency of "spinning reserves" obsolete.
          A complaint wrt intermittent renewables is they will require duplicate fossil fuel generator capacity when not available. Firstly, this is proportionally far less true in actual practice, than what is often stated. Secondly, the current practice of using "spinning reserves" is already the same thing. Thirdly, it can be done much more efficiently using battery powered transition than is done now in current practice.
          The old paradigm of operation is wrong. It is not as good as what we can do now.

          • matthew 3 years ago

            Hi Mike, its not just the duration although it important, its the physical form. for example a copper wire spinning in a magnetic field will outlast a battery every day of the year. A battery is not generation or a base load form of power. its just a form of energy storage.

    • Chris Fraser 3 years ago

      We didn’t understand your perceived issue of aging electrical grid. Taxpayers just spent $50 billion on it between 2007 and 2012. If the energy generation or storage capacity existed, would the grid not be able to transmit it ?

      • matthew 3 years ago

        We didnt replace the whole grid, we just extended, upgraded what was needed in areas of growth and in doing so replaced some aged assest.

    • Gregory Black 3 years ago

      I see you are pro gas solution Matthew. Still another finite fuel

      • matthew 3 years ago

        It very much depends on your perspective of what the fuel is, scroll a little past half way though, there are some images of a house, city and industry. Its about Solar Energy in a different form. It is where Solar is weak and this is strong. #hydrogen but this Solar Hydrogen.

    • nakedChimp 3 years ago

      You have no clue, but of that you got a lot.

      • matthew 3 years ago

        Thanks NakedChimp. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

        • nakedChimp 3 years ago

          What do you expect for a comment like that?
          The batteries are brought in because of their FCAS abilities. The windfarms decoupled back then, because the network controllers ‘didn’t know’ that they could ride through ‘frequency/voltage issues’, but were instead set to disconnect in that case.
          If they did teach you that as electricians I don’t know what to say. Why I might not have been the best electronics student in the classes I took for my Master, I’m sure as hell wouldn’t state such oblivious false claims.

          That there is aging infrastructure all over the place, which you are concerned about, wasn’t in that reply of yours.

          I’m involved with a steel-lattice tower and we’re supposed to check on it every year for those kind of issues you mention. If they didn’t do that for those there should be legal consequences for the people making those ‘cost-saving’ decisions.

    • Peter Campbell 3 years ago

      Wind should not disconnect now after a software tweak.

      • matthew 3 years ago

        If the power lines near by fall over again, they will be turned off through fault current protection. Just like if you cut through a cable at home.

        • Peter Campbell 3 years ago

          Yes, that was the main effect. However, I thought it was also made worse when some wind farms that could have stayed connected disconnected due to an overly sensitive fault detection setting, which has now been corrected.

          • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

            You are exactly correct. They tripped off long before they needed to. They could have continued to provide power to the area on their side of the power line fault.
            It was not a “software tweak”. It was an operational setting already provided by the software, but set incorrectly by the operators, the Utility.

            Let’s see:
            1. The Utility set the Wind turbines incorrectly.
            2. They knew a record wind storm was coming days in advance, but did nothing to plan for it …like planned curtailment in case of a major line fault …that is normally done in such circumstances.
            3. They made no effort to ensure their existing NG plant was ready to go on line. (In fact they’ve helped influence use of a power charging scheme that enriches them, to the detriment of grid operation.)
            Smell a rat at all here yet?
            …but we should listen to matthew, a power guy, about how batteries won’t help the grid operate better?
            Pull the other one!

    • PilbyCrow 3 years ago

      In fact this battery will act as “Spinning reserve”. something that was lacking in SA during the blackout. Spinning reserve is the method used to ensure Frequency and voltage remain regular. So I really don’t understand your argument. It is not designed to replace power stations and does not do so as there is a plan already in place to build a gas fired power station to also add energy security to SA’s network as it appears the connectors are not reliable. Can we thank private enterprise for that??

      • matthew 3 years ago

        Agreed, but they only act partially as a spinning reserve it does not replicate real spinning reserve electrical properties. The nature of the inductive spinning reserve has very different properties to an inverter. The entire network works in relationship with each element. Private enterprise has been force to align with International agreements that our Governments signed (willy Nilly) without pragmatic planning being in place to ensure a secure transition of energy generation. I expect that were told by there advisers that the electrical grid is secure and will operate without problems. Otherwise, why didn’t they plan properly, the same Government has been in power for 15yrs. Not to mention, the government were the ones that sold the assets off to begin with. Also for the record, i do not align myself with a specific Government Party, they all have pros and cons depending on the weather.

        • nakedChimp 3 years ago

          Please elaborate on the ‘two sets’ of electrical properties of grid battery backup vs inductive spinning reserve.

          • matthew 3 years ago

            nakedChimp, not sure i follow you enquire. There are are several sets of electrical properties. The main difference between the two would be spinning reserve is Electro-mechanical where batteries are a combination of Electronic and Electro-chemical. Obviously this is very high level physical differences and there are three sets. Although you seem to have a good grasp on electrical properties. it is the holistic infrastructure that needs to be considered right back to the materials for manufacture. Please consider that these batteries are rated as a class 1 catagory by our national fire services. I have worked on installation, commissioning and repairs of 11kv 1M VVVF Drives. SCGT gates are not as bullet proof as a piece of rotation copper wire and never will be……. Again thanks for your comments nakedChimp.

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            In all earnest.. you really think there is a difference for the user of a diesel gen set (mechanical) vs a battery bank+ inverter (electronic/chemical) in regards to what happens at the socket?
            Why do you think, that the scale up of the technology should only be possible for the mechanical way?
            If the stuff is not available now it will be in future. The demand is already here. It’s just a matter of time.

            PS: I treat charged batteries like I treat a can of gas. 😉

          • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

            >>Please consider that these batteries are rated as a class 1 catagory by our national fire services.<>SCGT gates are not as bullet proof as a piece of rotation copper wire and never will be…<<
            Never? "If man were meant to fly he'd have wings!" ???

            You seem to have a poor grasp. Electrical inverters can be built to do just about any signal compensation you need. AFAIK this preference for synchronous motors (Gods gift to power generation for decades now), over compensation capabilities to be derived from inverters is just resistance to change away from a long held paradigm of power control.

        • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

          >>Private enterprise has been force to align with International agreements that our Governments signed (willy Nilly) without pragmatic planning being in place to ensure a secure transition of energy generation.<>…force to align with International agreements that our Governments signed (willy Nilly) without pragmatic planning being in place to ensure a secure transition of energy generation.<<
          Australia is not making much, if any, effort to abide by any International Agreements on energy. It's just goofy to even say such a thing. The only reason more Wind and Solar are being used in Australia now, is because they have become the lower cost alternative …and the majority of people are figuring this out.
          Go ahead. Deny that.

    • neroden 3 years ago

      Bullshit. Batteries aren’t bothered by frequency variation or voltage variation. They can take any messed-up frequency/voltage status and *fix* the frequency and voltage on the grid.

      That’s why they’re being installed, dumbass! They’re being installed *specifically* because they can correct frequency and voltage problems!

      • matthew 3 years ago

        The frequency and voltage issue we had during the big black out was shorted cables. The only thing that can be done is automatic fault protection trips just like the wind farms did. The batteries would do the same in the same situation. Truth, if the batteries wouldn’t disconnect (lets say you correct and they are not bother with freq or volt issues) they would catch on fire and be fU&KD for good.

        • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

          If AEMO modelled all available data on SA blackout, factoring in a hypothetical 100MW of extra FCAS at Jamestown, they can assign a credible probability to the rate of freq drop; whether enough load shedding could have averted SysBlack; whether the Heywood interconnector would have kept on chugging. Maybe they’re doing the modelling, hope so cos we need answers.

        • nakedChimp 3 years ago

          The batteries won’t catch fire, just because the wires are shortened.
          There are controllers and transformers/converters between them and the grid.
          You really have no clue how that works, do you?

          Please short a bench-top power supply in constant current mode and report back.

          These things will work up to spec and deliver the voltage/frequency for as long as they can drive their specified continuous load. To the batteries and windfarms it doesn’t matter if the wires are shortened or not, they just keep ‘working’.
          They don’t care if the ‘load’ is a couple of thousand cattles boiling water or a short in one of the lines leading to those cattles. That’s for the network to decide.

          Naturally if you get a hard short that stays closed with a source connected that is working at it’s max continuous deliver ability, and the network detected a fault because of the voltage/frequency not staying within specifications, they will shut down. But that’s a question of the automatic settings and the manual decisions by humans.

        • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

          You’re dodging the issue. If what you say is true here, then synchronous generation would have been in the same situation. Not better!

          In fact, synchronous generators are worse …if you know at all what you’re talking about. Synchronous generators can go into interdependent oscillations when a large fault occurs (large transmission line drops or large thermal plant trips off). Those oscillations can cause cascading dropouts to occur. This has historically been responsible the many of the largest area blackouts.
          Phase compensation from inverters used with Batteries or Wind Turbines will NOT do that.

      • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

        Ah, finally got to this. I should have read ahead. Right ON! Thank you!

    • Alan S 3 years ago

      ‘…it is most likely…’ do you have some base for that assumption? Are you privy to the SA network design and protection strategy?

      • itdoesntaddup 3 years ago

        You haven’t done the arithmetic. It couldn’t support the network at all in the event of a blackout.

    • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

      Wind generators dropped out because their dropout settings were too sensitive, operator error only! Storage to provide time for NG generators to come up, NG generators on standby at reasonable price, and Demand Response (DR) that can go off line when needed …all combined could have eliminated the 50 year storm failure that occurred. That is what is being done.

      Wind generators are properly set to drop out after 8 power glitches instead of 2 now. Phase compensation can and should be added to Battery band and to Wind Turbines. Better than momentum used from synchronous generators.

    • Be 3 years ago

      The batteries are designed to reinforce the grid., They will supply the power needed, or take the excess to the limit of their capacity. Only when everybody is disconnecting will they do so. This has already been demonstrated by the Tesla battery farm.

  8. Graham 3 years ago

    Joshy is probably better going back on the tennis circuit than playing with grown up stuff

    • john 3 years ago

      Do you mean Joshy the minister who is acting PM he played Rugby I very much doubt is much good at tennis.

      • Graham 3 years ago

        Frydenberg is the Federal Member for Kooyong and the Minister for the
        Environment and Energy. He was elected to the Australian House of
        Representatives at the 2010 federal election and re-elected in 2013. He
        is the seventh person since Federation to hold this seat.

        was born in 1971 and raised in Kew, where he spent many of his
        formative years and where his grandparents lived for more than 30 years.

        a primary school student Josh attended Bialik College in Hawthorn and
        then completed his secondary schooling at Mt Scopus College in Burwood.

        completing the HSC, Josh deferred the start of his university studies
        by a year to play tennis full time. During this period he trained at a
        tennis academy in Queensland and competed at satellite tournaments
        throughout Australia as well as other tournaments in Switzerland and

        Returning to Australia, Josh began his
        tertiary studies at Monash University where he undertook Law and
        Economics degrees, graduating with Honours in both. During his time at
        Monash, Josh was an active member of the student body and was elected to
        the Presidency of the Law Students Society. He was also chosen to
        represent Australia in tennis at the World University Games, in 1991 in
        Sheffield, England and again in 1993 in Buffalo, United States.

        • Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

          As energy minister he seems to have caught a dose of the ‘Tomic’s… — It’s all too tough, stuff ya’s all, I give up —

          • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

            oh i dunno. He sounded quite sensible on ABC’s the world today Thursday (yesterday). It seems he is better across the technical imperatives of keeping the lights on than some of my greenie/enviro/climate friends. Sadly very many in the “progressives” camp haven’t got a clue, just like the MSM they cannot explain diff between a MW and a MWh. Some ppl talk of “megawatts-per-hour” #INSANE

            Frydenberg’s big question mark from me is whether he understands the fatal flaw of imagining that “zero net emissions” carbon accounting will ever get Planet Earth to true, absolute zero (operating) emissions stationary energy (no nukes preferably). It will not and cannot. To talk and think in terms of “zero net” as being adequate in 2017 is to seriously delay the urgent need for cheap reliable bulk energy storage of excess wind- and solar-generated energy. We need wind and PHES and photovoltaics, with a demonstration project for CST+storage to show it’s capacity factor will be poor midwinter, poor on any day of high-thin cloud, and so nowhere near as good as offshore wind farms feeding big off-river hydro.

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            A guy who studied economics and law is not the right dude to comment on MWh or MW either.
            He’s a bean counter first and foremost.

          • Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

            Well I saw him in an interview yesterday say he “doesn’t accept” Craig Kelly’s hysterical outburst, so at least Frydenberg’s not ‘out there’ with the mouthbreathing right wing scaremongers. The question is what will that party do about a hysterical nut like Kelly in their midst spreading misinformation and panic? I’ve got a few suggestions for them, including this


            …..or at the very least relegation to the backbench.

        • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

          Excellent credentials as the Minister for fracking and fossils.

  9. Chris Fraser 3 years ago

    The outrage coming from the right wing is telling in the sheer level of panic being exhibited. Of course it’s not really conservative politicians and media talking – it’s their generous patrons The Incumbents, who are looking to lose this energy transformation.If they were so certain that chemical storage in batteries were not part of the solution, why would they not just sit back and predict doom ?

    • MrMauricio 3 years ago

      Its the same response they had to rooftop solar-at first tolerated it as an amusing toy for the eco-nuts but then as it enabled their hapless victims(households) to see possible energy independence and as their peak power consumption exhibited the duck curve die-off they became hysterical.Instead of seeing themselves as purveyors of electrons,however generated,they simply went to their “power ” base-an accommodating regulator and pulled their conservative government political donations for favours relationship to resist change and progress. They are now doomed to be victims as relentless oligarchic price increases push consumers to more extreme responses

    • Be 3 years ago

      The gas cartel loved those absurd high peak rates! You bet they will dump tons of cash stopping them.

  10. Niuveve 3 years ago


  11. bedlambay 3 years ago

    Team Turnbull appears to have kicked the weak Finkel proposal down the road. Patriot Turnbull is now totally beholden to the mad right.

  12. Cooma Doug 3 years ago

    If you guys are interested, I can answer a key question, explain and present simply the maths.
    The question; If the largest SA generator set at Pelican Point tripped on full load in a heat wave,
    what impact would this battery storage system have on the system stability?

    • daroiD8ungais7 3 years ago

      Cooma. Yeah go on, do it please.

    • Matthew Wright 3 years ago

      If a 165MW unit at Pelican point tripped then this battery would be able to take up a significant proportion of the load it was serving instantly. The rest would be contributed from other sources including other spinning reserve and the interconnector. So a big deal in strengthening the grid. Also this is only the first at 100MW it will be followed by upto 7 200MW batteries and there will no longer be an instant capacity problem in South Australia what so ever.

      • Cooma Doug 3 years ago

        Matthew Wright
        I am asking if the whole site went down. Ie 487 mw. We can talk about the maths if a discussion starts here. Also important to describe a situation of price split where SA is at voll price and Vic normal, say $70 and the interconnecter is on full load.
        Its important to understand that the frequency in both states remain the same. The interconnector may be on full load but there will be power swings that sustain the states synchronism during the fault otherwise the transmission line will trip.

        So as the loading approaches the critical levels, the way things allign in FCAS and spot market will depend on the market rules. I would anticipate, given the very reliable load and weather forcasting available, the forcasting would be accurate enough to enable the battery to be effectively a 200mw contribution in the event of a large loss. The battery being on charge and rewarded by market rules to provide that buffer as the peaks are approached. The battery would be still on charge as the interconnector hits full load. The battery charge would be the last thing to back off as the peak hits. So in the event of a unit tripping in this volatile time the battery could effectively contribute 200mw.

        The market is very detailed and complex in the annalysis and signals that emerge each 5 min. With this complexity and detail and rules designed to encourage optimum provision of security the things that happen can be surprising. It must be designed to seek out the most secure journey to and from these load peaks.

        Having said all this, if SA lost 487 mw approaching the peak and at a time when the interconnector was on full load, assuming a peak of 2800 mw the frequecy would fall to 49.86 hz. That is if the battery was on charge and immediately goes to 100mw out put.
        The interconnector would then contribute 100mw in the immediate power swing and before you could raise your eyes to look at a frequency meter it would be 49.93hz.

        Within a year, there will be load side response in these moments that assist. Eventually a million homes could respond and provide a half gwatt of load shift. Again home batteries going from charging to discharge, making considerable impact.

        • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

          @CoomaDoug, why are you worried about milliwatts (mw). We’re trying to have discussion with the big boys about MegaWatts (MW).

        • Steven Gannon 3 years ago

          Very illuminating CD.

        • neroden 3 years ago

          Ah. Great point. So currently, when *one* generator goes down, a bunch of other generators trip due to the frequency changes.

          With batteries in place, the frequency will stay solid over the millisecond time period, and so only the generator which *actually failed* will go down; the others will stay up.

          Do I have that correct?

          • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago


        • matthew 3 years ago

          Batteries are not the best answer. I encourage you to keep looking.

      • firedingo 3 years ago

        Plus another interconnector is being built to NSW. Funny how people hound SA yet NSW had to force an aluminium smelter to shut down for two days straight because its power requirements were pushing the network to the limit. In the end sections of Sydney were blacked out. But of course a failure in a coal loving state is not as much of a problem to the nutter right as it is in renewable SA.

        • Peter 3 years ago

          An aluminium smelter can tolerate power loss for a certain period – I do not know if it is hours or as long as a day. But, after long enough, the electrolyte solidifies and its curtains.

          • firedingo 3 years ago

            Yeah. But think about the loss is productivity or profits. Still not ideal. They also only told them to shut down because otherwise the whole state would have gone under.

          • Peter 3 years ago

            But, the losses only happen if the plant is already running at 100% of capacity. They can catch up when the restriction is removed.

          • itdoesntaddup 3 years ago

            About 4 hours a day is acceptable e.g. to cover a regular rush hour demand peak. Much beyond that, and you are looking at an accelerated shutdown to completely replace the pots.

        • Joe 3 years ago

          …and it was Household Solar PV that limited the extent of those blackouts. If the blackouts and load shedding that happened in Sydney ( caused by the “Untouchable Baseload Fossil Fuel Plants” going down ), happened in SA you wouldn’t have been able to stop The Minerals Council, Turnbull, Joshie F and Murdochs newspapers getting stuck in for another round of politicking and going anti RE. But because it was NSW where we are Coal Powered we heard nothing from Turnbull and the rest of the Coalers gang. But in a recent talk NSW Minister Dan Harwin has started to put things right…oh my, what an annoying disappointment he must be to the Fossil Foolers!

      • solarguy 3 years ago

        And even 1400MW won’t be the end of the investment either.

      • itdoesntaddup 3 years ago

        The problem comes when you have built out wind to double present capacity and there is an almost windless period. Take a look at what happened in June. The next problem is when rooftop solar is sufficient to meet the entire grid minimum summer demand (forecast for about 2026). What are you going to curtail? What rate can you store surplus generation at? How much can you store?

        • Matthew Wright 3 years ago

          umm not necessarily. Future wind turbines are trending towards 200m hub height and 200m rotor diameter. And they’re doing this while maintaining the generator at 4MW. This is a case of massive oversizing. So what was a 30 or 40% wind site becomes a 70% annual capacity wind site. You have to look at what can and will be installed -not what was installed in 2006. We can’t base our predictions of what’s possible and what can be done based on the old dated information of looking in the rear vision mirror.

          • itdoesntaddup 3 years ago

            You can’t turn South Australia into Shetland (where the highest capacity factor wind farms are found). I’d have thought you’d have been more concerned by climate change:

            Darren Ray, a senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said the low winds had been caused by a high pressure system over the Bight. … Global warming was making the high pressure systems more common.

            “There is a long-term trend linking it (high pressure systems in the Bight) to climate change,” Mr Ray said.

            “The tropics expand as the planet warms and that sees high pressure systems staying through­out the south longer than they used to.”

            ~200m high turbines are already in operation at Burbo Bank Extension, off the coast of North Wales. They certainly aren’t achieving a 70% capacity factor. They’re hoping for 50%.

          • Matthew Wright 3 years ago

            You seem to be unclear on what raisin the hub height from 60m (2008 era wind turbines) which is what all the present day assumptions are based on to now 165m (current production models from Vestas and Enercon) to 200m (future models). And the massive increase in low wind performance when you increase the blade diameter from 80m to 200m and retain the same generator ie 4.3MW. (previously a scaling like that would have resulted in a 10-15MW generator on top) but instead you’re saying ok we don’t need all this production in super windy periods. We need it in low wind periods. By being up high you remove the problem of friction from the ground as well, you’re operating in a different part of the atmosphere. These are real commercial turbines available now and the bigger versions will be available soon as testing facilities have already moved to 100m for blades.

    • PilbyCrow 3 years ago

      CD maybe you could enlighten us on how many times this has happened in the past and why the transition to renewable energy has anything to do with any power station tripping for a multitude of reasons? I guess as with any trip of that magnitude it would cause a significant upset. Why would that have anything to do with a battery designed to even out fluctuations in renewable energy sources attached to the grid???

      • neroden 3 years ago

        I think Cooma Doug’s point is that batteries can prevent most of the causes of tripping. So batteries are awesome.

  13. Warwick Johnston 3 years ago

    Geez, what a take down, GIles! Chris Uhlman learn from you?

  14. Peter 3 years ago

    This is the kind of or an offshoot of the denialism seen in Global Warming circles. It can’t be changed by argument, insults or belittling. It can only be changed by a change of personnel. So we will be hearing this for a long time despite the evidence. See for more. Look at how they treat the myths: “what the science is”, “what the myth is” and a rebuttal of the myth.

    There are several myths: “Batteries are too expensive”, “Batteries are too small to do the job”, “Reliability requires Baseload”. etc. etc.

    • Steven Gannon 3 years ago

      Apparently the Heartland Institute issued a memo on Xmas eve 2014 announcing to the faithful that they had “lost the debate” on AGW and would now refocus. Same game, same tactics, both here and in the US three years later. Lucky us.

    • matthew 3 years ago

      Sorry, i am electrician. not discussing myths.

      • Peter 3 years ago

        Neither was I

        • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

          I think matthew is spot on technical issues, though I’m not so keen on petromethane or hydrogen-by-hydrolysis (from water, using solar or wind energy). AFAIK matthew’s necessary inductive inertia can be provided by off-river pumped hydro at a reasonable cost. let’s get on with it for goodness sake #PHES in beautiful harmony with wind and solar #fossilfree #nonukes #hope (or pray for a miracle at today’s COAG energy council mtg in Brisbane)

          • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

            Well I can agree with the PHES use. Matthew is only right about longer term storage being needed …in addition to batteries for short term storage.

          • itdoesntaddup 3 years ago

            Have you tried working out the requirements for a 100% renewables grid? Or the economics of storage that only turns over once per year, or once in a few years when the weather happens to be particularly unfavourable?

  15. Mark Roest 3 years ago

    Akerman is absolutely right! “and destruction of the Liberal Party” — but they made it so by committing to coal instead of saving the planet. Now everyone will see what they could have had all along, and be royally angry at the Coalition for stealing from the poor and giving to the rich for so long. Too bad!

    • neroden 3 years ago

      Indeed. If the Liberal Party continues on its present course, of rejection of reality, rejection of science, and promoting high prices for consumers and unreliable, failing electric grids, in order to kowtow to their funders in the fossil fuel industry, then yes we will see the destruction of the Liberal Party.

      • Marg1 3 years ago

        Agreed, they look like has beens and out of touch

  16. Robin_Harrison 3 years ago

    Fossil fool owned politicians are inevitably sounding ever more ridiculous.

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Just as ridiculous are the morons that believe their bullshit. Hear em on the radio every day.

      • Robin_Harrison 3 years ago

        The morons on the radio are even cheaper than the politicians.

  17. John Saint-Smith 3 years ago

    If this mob had been in charge a hundred years ago we wouldn’t have made it this far. Why work cooperatively and intelligently at finding solutions to national problems when shouting ignorant derisory comments from the side-line is so much easier- so Tony phoney.

  18. Ken Dyer 3 years ago

    You are wasting your time, Giles, (not really), with your excellent articles attacking the conservative troglodytes and fossil fuel luddites. They really are squealing aren’t they? Elon Musk has thrown the gauntlet down and Australian voters are excited.

    I know I am. Now all we need are more electric vehicles – 46 for sale in today – hanging out for my new VEV (Volvo Electric Vehicle).

    • Ajay 3 years ago

      Yes fueled by burning coal or solar that has to have a fossil fuel backup

      • Brian Tehan 3 years ago

        Fuelled by a combination of coal, gas, hydro, wind and solar. The emissions per MWh are obviously reduced by all the non-polluting sources. As the proportion of renewables increases, the emissions go down further. The electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engines. If you do the calculations, EVs charged off normal grid electricity produce significantly less emissions, not to mention zero other pollutants in our city centres.

        • Rod 3 years ago

          Some detractors are only motivated by economics.
          The way I see it, Tesla 3, 65kWh x 20c (off peak) = $13 for 500km. I guess extra PV on your roof would also come in around 20c
          Then include the greatly reduced maintenance costs.

          • wholisticguy 3 years ago

            Rooftop PV is close to 10c / kWh.

      • RobSa 3 years ago

        By 2050 any and all remaining fossil fuel infrastructure will be the target of intense bombardment in a worldwide military campaign. This is part III of the great fossil fuel phase out. A completely decarbonised grid by 2040 and zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 are the other major components.

        • itdoesntaddup 3 years ago

          Do you plan using nuclear weapons? /sarc

  19. onesecond 3 years ago

    The problem is not that people as stupid as those conservative politicians exist. The problem is that those people get voted into power somehow.

  20. ed 3 years ago

    …Musk is GIGA-This & GIGA-That…what happened down-unda
    ?…Shuda-Dunna- GAGA!…

  21. K-man 3 years ago

    Some of the points made are reasonable, but what strikes me, is that the commentary is all based on “political” views and doesn’t address the system security question “what is actually needed by the system to support renewables?” Batteries alone will not do it… Some inertia is needed in the system to manage the ROCOF (Rate of Change of Frequency) and neither batteries nor wind supply this… So from a purely technical standpoint, the conservatives actually have a point.

    • matthew 3 years ago

      Storage that would be so large its would not be practical with batteries. But with Solar Hydrogen Stored in the gas networks, just happens the spinning reserve can consume this to reduce their carbon emissions. We to do the opposites of what conservatives are know for, a complete rethink of energy storage and transportation. SA will do it first.

      • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

        SA has H2 generation and storage?

    • nakedChimp 3 years ago

      Inverters can do ROCOF just fine.
      Computer controlled power inverters can react in milliseconds to adjust/steer the frequency and voltage to where it should be.
      Man, they switch internally at kHz to create the slow 50Hz grid frequency.
      If your solar inverter wouldn’t be able to do it, it wouldn’t be allowed to connect to the grid..

      Stop spouting nonsense.

      • K-man 3 years ago

        Hmmm…nonsense you say. It seems that you are not an expert in power system engineering, so I suggest you study up before coming on so strong. Check this out… you may find it helpful.

        • nakedChimp 3 years ago

          Page 16 in that paper.. right bottom.. solution in regards to RE:
          “Fast Frequency Response (FFR) from batteries, wind, PV, demand, etc.”

          So again, modern inverters can do this stuff just fine.
          The old age stuff has got problems.

          And page 21 makes it 100% clear, the less intertia you have (less old) the more FFR you need to keep the system within spec.

          Pages 26 on wards essentially tell you that this FFR should be distributed over the grid, to avoid dynamic effects that come to be if you try to control a very large system from just a couple of feeders.
          Distributed generation and FFR/FCAS will make this a breeze.

          And on page 35 we find that batteries will become the go to solution for this.. as in the case of PV or wind the FCAS/FFR ability is similar to a FF plant running in reserve.

    • Mike Shurtleff 3 years ago

      No, you’re wrong. They are wrong. The correct inverters used with Batteries and Wind Turbines can do this. They can do this better than synchronous generators.

      • K-man 3 years ago

        It is disappointing that we cannot have a meaningful debate about an important topic. This is the problem with the current political discourse. We cannot politic our way out of a technical problem.

  22. Alan S 3 years ago

    As well as the excellent explanation in RenewEconomy of how the battery would operate there’s another in The Conversation.

  23. drchemy 3 years ago

    It all comes down to cost. If it is close to the same cost as typical baseload energy they should go for it. The problem with the powerwall is the number of charge cycles is lower than what can be obtained with LiFePO4 batteries. It’s going to end up being a costly solution to their problem. Cost for the powerwall per usable kwh is 15 cents . This would be over a 10 year period and I am not including any interest expenses for the purchase.

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