Wind and Solar Power Paired With Storage Could Power the Grid 99.9 Percent of the Time

And it wouldn’t cost more money than our current system.  Via ScienceDaily:

Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.

A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.

“These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive,” said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly.”

The authors developed a computer model to consider 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms, each tested over four years of historical hourly weather data and electricity demands. The model incorporated data from within a large regional grid called PJM Interconnection, which includes 13 states from New Jersey to Illinois and represents one-fifth of the United States’ total electric grid.

Unlike other studies, the model focused on minimizing costs instead of the traditional approach of matching generation to electricity use. The researchers found that generating more electricity than needed during average hours — in order to meet needs on high-demand but low-wind power hours — would be cheaper than storing excess power for later high demand.

Storage is relatively costly because the storage medium, batteries or hydrogen tanks, must be larger for each additional hour stored.

One of several new findings is that a very large electric system can be run almost entirely on renewable energy.

“For example, using hydrogen for storage, we can run an electric system that today would meeting a need of 72 GW, 99.9 percent of the time, using 17 GW of solar, 68 GW of offshore wind, and 115 GW of inland wind,” said co-author Cory Budischak, instructor in the Energy Management Department at Delaware Technical Community College and former UD student.

Read more here.

18 Comments on "Wind and Solar Power Paired With Storage Could Power the Grid 99.9 Percent of the Time"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Dec 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

    wind, solar & Bio-methane will NOT power the grid
    until every last drop of oil is pumped & sold

    the methane from the landfills & sewage plants
    is greater in volume than the mined gases used by the US
    that’s been known since the late 60’s
    Midwestern cow & pig farmers have been on this for decades
    and you never heard about it
    because there’s more money & profit for the Pigs in fracking & drilling

    • kowalityjesus | Dec 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm |

      internet transparency is our theoretical trump card for these predictable types of public unaccountability. Though as a prerequisite, how can we make people less concerned with vapid internet content?

      • BuzzCoastin | Dec 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm |

        > How can we make people less concerned with vapid internet content?

        in a post-information age (the age of information overload)
        the herd is already under the spell of the media
        so unless one can access the full mass media tool kit
        there’s no driving the herd with information
        if preaching could save us we’d be there by now

        as far as eye can tell
        a possible defense against mass media massage
        is hanging on the periphery of the herd
        and using the information to hack your own reality

    • Yeah, and the more people opt out and ride bikes, the cheaper oil gets for people driving hummers.

      • BuzzCoastin | Dec 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm |

        actually oil won’t become cheaper no matter what
        but if some alternative fuels come on line
        (hopefully, ones that don’t require mineral extraction)
        you’ll be able to drive a hummer if you like

        • What I meant was, that conserving on an individual level doesn’t solve the systemic problem.

          • BuzzCoastin | Dec 18, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

            right, individual efforts are helpful
            but don’t solve the problem
            but a grid fueled by alternative energy
            is not an individual solution but a collective solution
            which could solve the problems related to carbon fuels & fracking

          • Things don’t usually take off that way though. Usually something proves successful on a small scale and then spreads to a global level. That’s the conundrum.

          • BuzzCoastin | Dec 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm |

            the US is making some efforts
            about 30% of US landfills now collect methane
            15% of energy used in the US renewable energy
            but the amazing thing is
            that there is now the ability to live sustainably with renewable energy

            and baring some disaster
            everyone will be using sustainable energy within 100 years
            and my personal aim is to accomplish this within the next 5 years
            not for the betterment of humankind
            but for my own self-ish interests

          • David Howe | Dec 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm |

            but bikes are more fun than cars

          • And me not committing murder doesn’t solve the US’s violence problem.

  2. emperorreagan | Dec 18, 2012 at 8:50 am |

    ” The study used estimates of technology costs in 2030 without government subsidies, comparing them to costs of fossil fuel generation in wide use today. The cost of fossil fuels includes both the fuel cost itself and the documented external costs such as human health effects caused by power plant air pollution.”

    And that makes the study irrelevant.

    Not only are you making projections nearly 20 years down the road for capital costs on technology, you’re also projecting that political will to both stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and to force them to pay for their externalities exists at some point in the next 20 years.

    • Actually that makes the study even more relevant. The politics are what’s irrelevant.

      • emperorreagan | Dec 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

        They’re attempting to optimize a system for cost. The are making assumptions about political matters in their model. The politics are integral to the model. If the politics don’t change to include the external fossil fuel costs they mention, then the “comparable cost & economic savings” argument is invalid.

        • I get it. The politics are relevant in the way in the same way cancer is relevant to an AIDS patient.

    • kowalityjesus | Dec 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

      maybe when Miami and Venice Beach permanently flood, we will change the tune.

      I find it disappointing that the article did not discuss cheaper and more efficient forms of energy-storage like pumped-hydro storage ponds, flywheels, or deep-sea compressed air.

      Renewable energy is really quite feasible, and it is heartening to hear more discussion of it because of how important it will turn out to be. Most of the progress we can make to reduce energy demand will be efficiency and consumer conscientiousness. One of the best ways to increase conscientiousness of energy use is to make the energy more expensive, but with the US electorate this is ne’ery impossibly. What needs to happen is some clown like Obama needs to pull the red, foam nose off and tell Americans the truth, that we can be much better people with regards towards energy efficiency and resource use, and give an explicit list of some of the most heinous wastes perpetuated by Americans. This entire paragraph is pie in the sky, I know.

      • emperorreagan | Dec 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

        I think the push to turn all public goods into private, deregulated markets lies at the heart of the problem.

  3. Transition to renewables was always about politics, not technology. Transition requires writedown of fossil fuel-related assets owned by superwealthy for which there would no longer be a demand.

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