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It is a problem that shows up at 20% - if you have enough renewables to supply a fifth of all the kwh's you consume, then when high output and low consumption coincide, 100% of your current electricity production is renewable, and all else must be shut down.

Not really - this would be true if your 20% of renewables were all from one wind farm in one location. The reality is that, as noted, you have many different renewables with different production profiles (not to mention that demand itself is not flat over the day, so "100% of average demand" is actually much less than actual demand a lot of the time) - and even within wind you have different production regimes and thus it is actually quite hard to reach 100% capacity at any time in a wind system - and the larger your sample, the harder that gets.

Now, taking into account existing hydro storage, the difference between solar and wind, the fact that offshore wind is at 40% capacity factor with a production profile closer to that of demand, and so forth, and you get a much higher threshold...

Guess what: Germany is at 20% this year, and as far as I can tell, there were no big tensions in the system...


The vision most people here have of the future grid is one in which at least 90% of all electricity production is low carbon, and supply and demand is managed via a supergrid, storage and demand managment. This is a fair description, yes?

I don't know about 90% myself, but, yes, significantly above 50% should be a target for the next 20 years (in my case, but maybe I'm a minority there, I would not mind keeping a decent chunk of nuclear as base load).
And once this is achieved, we'll have much better visibility on what needs to be done for the rest. Why make that plan today when we don't have all the info?


Nobody is seriously investing in storage, nobody is working on the problem of continental scale grid interconnection.

That's simply not true. The EU has been busily pushing for grid integration and development of pan-European networks (not just for electricity), and the wind and solar industry are the biggest promoters of initiatives like the super grid or desertec. The unbundling of networks pushed by the EU is now almost complete and one does see that independent grid operators are much less hostile to renewable than their former utility owners, who were conflicted in that respect, and grid development is certainly happening more easily when the investor the grid company) is not the main obstacle...

And one other big shoe will be moving private transport to the grid, which will have a major positive impact on the reduction of our fossil fuel consumption as well.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 08:39:20 AM EST
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Further, the problem doesn't show up at 20% in any significant way. In fact, the entire business model is adjusting to variable generation, even if enhanced grid buildout is going slower than planned.

Curtailment is a fact of life in energy generation. There have been periods of wind curtailment in Texas and and the Pacific northwest even with minimal penetration. Mostly due to transmission issues, but in the Bonneville Power Administration, federal regulation just ruled that BPA must not curtail to the extent they have.

Germany has also had minor curtailment periods, and while companies may wish for better efficiency within the system, it gradually changes to meet the circumstances.

We've actually come a long way from 8-10 years ago, when utilities didn't want to hook up more than a few percent, because of perceived problems which turned out not to exist.


or that the entire project gets scubbered when people revolt against ever increasing electricity prices.

Latest surveys here show that Germans willingly would pay more to support a renewable-powered grid.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 09:10:59 AM EST
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Latest surveys here show that Germans willingly would pay more to support a renewable-powered grid.

Not to mention that wind actually lowers prices in Germany, thanks to the merit order effect.

And never mind that onshore wind is now cheaper than new built nukes, as far as can be ascertained by the cost of Flamanville... both technologies are in the 7c/kWh range cost now.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 09:19:52 AM EST
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Yes, but are they willing to pay increased prices for a natural gas grid? Which is where any actual increase in price is going to come from. Gas is expensive, and going to get more so - the price trend on wind goes the other way. If we fail at building enough storage and connections to phase gas out of the system, then it is a real possibility that the public will simply conclude that renewables are a stalking horse for the gas industry raping their pocket book and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
by Thomas on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:20:35 PM EST
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UPDATE 1-Storms produce record UK wind power output

LONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - British wind power production reached a record high just before the New Year as storms hit the British Isles and powered onshore and offshore wind turbines, data showed on Friday.

(...)

The storms earlier this week also more than doubled the average load factor -- the ratio of average output over maximum capacity over a period of time -- of wind turbines to up to 66 percent on Jan. 4, compared with an average of around 30 percent, Scottish Renewables figures showed on Friday.



Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 01:49:28 PM EST
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