Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy – Imagine powering your entire civilization with renewable energy: wind, sun, water (hydro), natural heat (geothermal) and plants.

There are no coal mines, oil wells, pipelines or coal trains. No greenhouse gas emissions, car emissions or waste streams. There are no oil wars, no dependence on foreign suppliers or shortages of raw materials.

Renewable Energy

More and more activists say it can be achieved. The idea has inspired many cities, including Madison, Wisconsin, San Diego and Salt Lake City, to make ambitious commitments. Advocates pressure countries to support the policy.

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Clean energy enthusiasts often say that we can grow, that the whole world can use renewable energy – what we need is “political will”.

Not yet. Not really. Current models strongly suggest that we will need a wide range of low-carbon options, including nuclear power and possibly coal or natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) to achieve deep carbon reductions.

However, this is just the current model. There are many reasons to ask what the models tell us about the next three, four and fifty years. They often underestimated renewable energy and probably still do. There is much debate, not just about what models are shown, but what lessons we should learn from them and how we should approach the task of decarbonisation.

But everything is small in the weeds. Before we get to the criminal back and forth – as I’ll explain in the next post – let’s take a step back.

World Heritage Centre

In this post, I want to bring the discussion about 100% renewable energy closer to those who are not familiar with it. Think of it as a basic place to get your bearings.

The most important political divide in the world of climate change concerns those who recognize the urgency of the problem and those who do not. Those who are not are now accountable to the federal government. Their energy systems are a celebration of fossil fuels.

The debate about 100% renewable energy is not that distraction. It is controversial among people who accept the need to rapidly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, enough to keep global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Achieving these internationally agreed targets requires “deep decarbonisation” – reducing total carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 100 percent – globally by mid-century or shortly thereafter.

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Both sides of the argument agree that any deep decarbonization scenario will electrify everything. In particular, this will mean two things at once: a) eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector and b) shifting as many other energy resources (transportation, heat and industry) to electricity as possible.

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(Yes, I realize that “everything” is an overstatement – there will almost always be jobs that involve burning liquid fuels – but this, as my grandfather used to say, is close enough to working for the government .)

Doing so – using electricity to move around, heat buildings and run factories – will increase demand for energy. Different models predict different things, but ultimately we’re talking about an increase in energy demand of 150 percent or more by mid-century.

This means that the power grid must be larger, more complex, more efficient and more reliable –

This is where the conflict arises. On the other hand, those who argue that we should transition to an electricity system powered entirely by renewable energy sources, notably the Solutions Project, based on the work of Stanford’s Mark Jacobson, are supported by high-level administration. vegetables including Van Jones, Mark Ruffalo and Jacobson himself.

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However, there are those who argue that the main goal should be zero carbon emissions and not 100% renewable energy. They say that in addition to the wind, solar and other technologies favored by the climate hawks, we also need large amounts of nuclear and fossil fuels for CCS.

This is an argument. Some climate hawks oppose nuclear power and CCS. Others – with attitudes ranging from enthusiasm to resignation – believe they will be necessary to reverse deep carbonation.

(If you shrug your shoulders and say “it’s too early to know,” you’re right, but it’s no fun arguing with yourself.)

The whole debate revolves around a simple fact: the vast majority of zero-emission energy sources, wind and solar, are variable. The sun does not always shine; the wind doesn’t always blow.

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– people using the power grid cannot turn them on and off when needed. Power comes when it comes, not when it doesn’t. Phone companies adapt to them, not the other way around.

As more grid power comes from Variable Renewable Energy (VRE), two kinds of problems are starting to emerge.

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One set of problems is technical (explained in detail here). As VRE efficiency increases, grid companies increasingly experience large spikes (eg on a windy sunny day), sometimes exceeding 100 percent of demand. If this remaining energy cannot be absorbed, it is “limited”, i.e. she is a waste.

They also have to deal with huge dips in VRE. This occurs every day at sunset, but fluctuations in VRE availability can occur weekly, monthly, seasonally, or even annually.

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Finally, grid companies have to deal with peaks, which means that VRE goes from almost no capacity to producing tons or vice versa in a short period of time. This requires fast and flexible temporary resources that can be scaled up or down in response.

Much discussed (among electrical geeks) is the “duck curve” – ​​the demand for grid power in a single day in CA with the increase of VRE. CAISO

As each new megawatt (MW) of VRE comes online, the value of the network gradually decreases

MW VRE. A new MW of wind power will only produce power if the other wind power produces power. Same with solar energy.

What Is Renewable Energy?

As more wind and solar energy enters the grid, the number of resources that can provide energy there is VRE

Productivity will increase; accordingly, the marginal value of the next unit of VRE will decrease. This means that especially solar energy must overcome high efficiency.

Now, to be clear: there are tools to solve these technical and economic problems. Many, many tools every day. There is a thriving, vibrant body of research and innovation in this field. (More on that here.)

Much can be achieved by replacing coal-fired power plants with gas-fired power plants. During this time, you develop renewable energy sources and maintain your existing nuclear and hydropower fleets. This is how the United States has reduced carbon emissions in recent years.

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The strategy works well for a while. Natural gas plants are more flexible than coal-fired power plants and are therefore well suited to VRE, which measures variability.

But when it comes to deep carbon emissions, the trend eventually bottoms out. Natural gas is cleaner than coal (about half, depending on how methane emissions are measured), but it’s still a fossil fuel. At least without CCS, it is not compatible with carbon emissions of more than 60 percent.

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Resistance. This is just one example of a path dependent on power – a choice once made is often reinforced by inertia. Heavy reliance on natural gas over the next 20 years will make it difficult to phase out over the next 20 years.

Avoiding this impasse means thinking, from now on, about how to replace all that natural gas with other, non-carbon-emitting metering resources.

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As we noted earlier, “unauthorized” means VRE – onshore and offshore wind, photovoltaics, solar thermal, river water, depending on the weather – that can be turned on and off.

VRE can be made more flexible by pooling resources over a large area with multiple transmission lines. It is usually sun or wind for a large enough area. However, in a constrained network, unmanaged resources often need to be balanced with available resources.

Disposable is a broad (and increasingly broad) category – it means anything that grid companies can use to fully manage the balance of electricity supply and demand.

Within these three categories, resources range from high capacity (enough power to meet demand for weeks or months) to low (hours or minutes) and from fast (response or seconds) to slow (hours or days).

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Each service offered will have a slightly different price from the carrier, depending on the situation and time of day.

Demand is still in its infancy, growing rapidly, and at least for now it is slow and yielding little, but that will change; it will be done soon, although the question of how big is still open.

The largest energy storage currently in use (pumped hydro) can typically cover only a few hours of demand, while smaller storage can cover hourly or minute fluctuations in VRE.

This is where we come into conflict. Do we need nuclear power and CCS in balance or can we do without them?

Canada’s Race To Net Zero And The Role Of Renewable Energy

The people in the solution project say that we can – and with full reason

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