IER: Good post on the myth of “free” green energy

IER has a good post on the myth that wind and solar are “free” power sources (once you have accounted for the cost of renewable generation installations. They aren’t free for several reasons. Chief among those reasons is the fact that their ephemeral natures entails the presence of what is known as “spinning backup.” IER staff explain,

When the wind stops blowing or a cloud goes by a solar facility and it is during the afternoon when air conditioning demand is high, the back-up technologies must be up and spinning to provide electricity without disrupting the grid, i.e. to ensure there are no blackouts or other disruption of demand. Coal capacity, for example, was never planned to be used in this way. It is considered a base-load technology and was designed to run continuously. The greater the amount of wind and solar power on the electricity grid, the more severe the back-up problem becomes. …

But the grid stability issues the independent system operator fears are real. For example, one afternoon in November, a huge number of wind turbines in California stood still because the air was too calm to turn their blades. That afternoon, just 33 megawatts of wind power statewide were generating electricity from a total wind capacity of 4,000 megawatts. That’s less than one percent of the state’s potential wind capacity.  With intermittent sources of electricity, the difference between “installed capacity” and capacity at a given moment when the power is needed can be extreme. …

Take California’s situation and magnify it by the other 29 states with an RPS and one can see that grid reliability issues will be rampant in the next 5 or so years. Add to this the new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that are expected to close 30 or more gigawatts of coal-fired power plants throughout the country in the next few years and we are beginning to see an untenable situation surfacing nationwide. The judgment of politicians is making our electricity grid unreliable and only billions of dollars in future expenditures will make it work—a cost that struggling consumers and businesses will need to pay.

Check out the rest of this interesting and informative post on the IER website.

26. February 2013 by Jason Hayes
Categories: Energy, Marketplace Information, Power Generation, Utilities | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on IER: Good post on the myth of “free” green energy