Wind and Solar Could Power Grid 99.9% of the Time

Coupled with storage technologies, these energy sources could slash electricity costs

By on December 11th, 2012 07:24 GMT

It is quite often that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power are dismissed on account of their being unreliable, especially given the ever more unpredictable climate.

Still, the Journal of Power Sources has recently witnessed the publication of a new study stating that, given the right storage technologies, wind and solar power can potentially provide for the energy demands of a large electric grid roughly 99.9% of the time.

According to the researchers who looked into this issue, it might even happen that the electricity generated by harvesting these green energy sources would surpass demands.

Moreover, relying heavily on wind and solar power would significantly reduce electricity costs.

The specialists reached this conclusion with the help of a computer model that took into consideration records concerning hourly weather data and electricity demands collected over a period of four years.

Using this information, the computer model analyzed 28 billion combinations of renewable power sources and storage technologies, and found that large electric systems can potentially be kept up and running with the help of renewables alone.

“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,” explained researcher Cory Budischak from the Delaware Technical Community College.

As explained on the official website for the University of Delaware, the scenario put together by this computer model involves diversifying both the geographical areas in which renewables are harvested and the types of green power sources taken into consideration, using storage system to collect the excess electricity for later use, and burning fossil fuels every once in a while, as backup.

Willett Kempton, a professor presently working with the University of Delaware, made a case of how, “These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive.”

“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,” he went on to add.

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