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At The Moment Renewable Energy Resources Generate – California Breaks Renewable Energy Record, But Fossil Fuels Are Not Going Away California has broken a renewable energy record when solar and wind power provide enough to meet consumers’ needs. At the time, natural gas power plants were still operating, a requirement for the grid.
Solar and wind projects are growing rapidly in California, such as the Pine Tree Wind Farm and the Tehachapi Mountains Solar Power Plant, but that doesn’t mean fossil fuels are going away. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times cover captions via Getty Images
At The Moment Renewable Energy Resources Generate
Solar and wind projects are growing rapidly in California, such as the Pine Tree Wind Farm and the Tehachapi Mountains Solar Power Plant, but that doesn’t mean fossil fuels are going away.
California Is Breaking Renewable Energy Records, But Fossil Fuels Aren’t Fading
On Sunday afternoon, California set a historic milestone in its pursuit of clean energy. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and on May 8, the state generated enough renewable electricity to meet 103% of consumer demand. This number beat the previous record of 99.9% a week ago.
Energy experts see this decline as a sign of the great progress that renewables have made. But that doesn’t mean fossil fuels aren’t in the picture.
Because despite the strong growth of renewable energy, shutting down natural gas power is still unlikely in California. This is due to the difficult time of day: when the sun goes down and the solar farms stop producing. California needs to quickly and seamlessly replace this electricity with other sources such as hydropower and natural gas.
The government is rapidly building large battery projects for this purpose, so that energy produced during the day can be stored for use in the evening. But so far, it is still only a fraction of what is needed.
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It’s a sign that even as California and more than a dozen other states move toward long-term goals of 100% clean energy throughout the year, weaning off fossil fuels is no easy feat.
“Their role won’t go away until we have an alternative to natural gas generation services,” said Arn Olson, senior fellow at Energy + Environmental Economics, an energy research organization. “The good news is that you can go a long way by just adding wind, solar and batteries to our existing grid.”
Spring is the perfect time of year for renewable energy in California. The days are getting longer, so the sun is rising. Wind and hydropower from the dams are running at full capacity, and the mild temperatures mean that air conditioners are not running, so electricity demand is relatively low.
For about an hour on April 30, grid operators at California’s Independent System Operator (ISO), which serves about 80% of the state, had enough power from solar, wind and solar dams, geothermal and small hydropower. Satisfy all their needs. . Electricity was produced more than needed at that time, so some of it was exported to other western countries.
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“It’s a huge achievement because it proves that if you can do it in an hour, you can do it in a lot of time,” said Mark Rothleider, senior vice president at the California ISO.
For the past few years, records have been continuously falling due to the dramatic expansion of solar farms in the spring. Renewable energy, including rooftop solar panels, has tripled in the state since 2005. In 2019, 63% of the state’s energy was from carbon-free sources, including renewable energy, hydropower and nuclear.
At a time of record declines, however, natural gas power plants generate about 10% of the electricity on California’s ISO grid, including electricity exported out of state. This is because power plants are still important to keep the lights on later in the day.
As the sun goes down, solar energy quickly disappears from the grid, meaning grid operators must use other sources of electricity. Supply and demand must be delicately balanced so that the entire system does not fail.
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To replace solar power in the evening, California typically uses hydroelectric power, imports from other states, and natural gas power plants. But most large natural gas plants are large industrial facilities that are not designed to operate quickly. Most of them take 4 to 8 hours to activate, so for use in the evening, they must be running during the day.
“We support them as much as we can,” Rothelder says. “Anything below that, we’ll shut it down. But the bottom line is if you shut it down, you might not have it when you need it hours later.”
This means that even with plenty of solar power during the day, natural gas power is still part of the energy mix. In fact, on some days, solar farms are told to shut down because there is simply too much electricity on the grid.
California is working to store more renewable energy produced during the day so it can be made available later in the evening. Major battery projects are springing up across the state, and in the past two and a half years alone, energy storage in California has increased 20-fold.
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Shannon Eddy, CEO of the giant company, said: “The more storage we can access online that can be charged with solar energy, the better our chances are to ensure that when the state needs power the most, That’s how clean it is,” said Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-Scale Solar Association.
However, the battery takes only a small fraction of the energy needed when the sun goes down, a few percent. So even with the government’s climate change goals, the natural gas industry isn’t going away anytime soon.
“We are very supportive of new technology and innovation.” Calpin Corporation operates several natural gas plants in California, said Alex Mackler, senior vice president of the western region. “But there is certainty that the natural gas fleet is doing very well and cannot be easily or economically displaced at this stage.”
An old natural gas power station, the Scattergood Generating Station in Southern California, could become a renewable hydrogen project. Fossil fuel companies are looking for ways to stay afloat as California transitions to clean energy. Mario Tama/Getty Images Hide captions
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An old natural gas power station, the Scattergood Generating Station in Southern California, could become a renewable hydrogen project. Fossil fuel companies are looking for ways to stay afloat as California transitions to clean energy.
Research on California achieving 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045 suggests that natural gas will play a role for several more decades. According to the government’s own analysis, many natural gas-fired power plants will still be operating until 2045, even if that goal is assumed to be met.
This is because the law states that 100% of retail electricity sales must be carbon-free, including only electricity delivered to customers. California produces more electricity than that, as about 15% of the electricity produced is wasted in transmission before it is sold.
This means that natural gas power plants can technically continue to operate in 2045 when the state reaches 100%, because being inefficient means generating about 15% of the electricity, not necessarily which is carbon free.
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Today, natural gas power plants are underutilized as renewables grow in California, which means less revenue for these companies. But in the state’s energy market, power plants get paid not just for the power they produce, but only for being there when the state needs it. Natural gas plants are increasingly dependent on the revenue stream.
“We expect the role of natural gas generators to grow,” says Mackler. “This is where they go from providing a lot of electricity to providing an insurance product – there’s a capacity to ensure reliability.”
However, fossil fuel companies in California know their time is running out. At Calpin, Meckler says they are working on projects that could make natural gas projects like carbon-free power sources. An experimental project would heat carbon emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. They are looking to use renewable hydrogen fuel in some of their facilities in addition to natural gas.
Energy experts say renewables and energy storage will help California and other states move toward zero-carbon electricity supply.
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“We have to do everything we can to generate large amounts of solar, large amounts of wind, large amounts of energy storage, and it has to take at least 90 minutes,” says Mark Specht. There is a clean grid on the way. Energy Manager of the Association of Allied Scientists. “It actually stretched 5 to 10 percent when it started to get really rough.”
To completely phase out fossil fuels, California may need new technologies. Energy storage projects may require days instead of hours in the absence of prolonged cloudy weather or wind. Wind power can play a big role, as it produces more reliable electricity in the evening.
However, to achieve the goal, California needs to
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