Washington Post Discovers: Intermittency Bites Renewables and Boosts Gas

  • Date: 16/08/16
  • Kennedy Maize, Power Mag

Golly. Gosh. Gee whiz. Did you know you can’t just plug in wind and solar capacity to replace coal and nukes? Clean in, dirty out?

Of course, readers of this blog and POWER magazine understand the problem of renewable intermittency. Solar and wind MWs don’t equal coal, nuclear, or gas MWs. It’s been a topic for discussion, debate, and analysis for decades.

But suddenly the Washington Post and green energy reporter Chris Mooney have discovered the dirty little secret of wind and sun: it takes natural gas –gasp! — a fossil fuel to make wind and solar practical on a large scale today. The headline on the story last week tells all: “Turns out wind and solar have a secret friend: Natural gas.”

Citing a recent paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Mooney reports breathlessly, “Because of the particular nature of clean energy sources like solar and wind, you can’t simply add them to the grid in large volumes and think that’s the end of the story. Rather, because these sources of electricity generation are ‘intermittent’ — solar fluctuates with weather and the daily cycle, wind fluctuates with the wind — there has to be some means of continuing to provide electricity even when they go dark. And the more renewables you have, the bigger this problem can be.”

Welcome to the real world of electricity supply.

The intermittency answer today, because electricity storage at a large scale, other than pumped hydro, is still a pipe dream, is natural gas. We already knew that, right?

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