Why Don’t We Use More Renewable Energy

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, a global partnership with more than 250 newspapers to further disseminate climate information. This section was originally published in August and has been slightly updated.

Why Don’t We Use More Renewable Energy

One of the hottest and most interesting debates in the energy world today concerns how far the United States can go toward carbon neutrality.

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One group believes that renewables can provide 100 percent of America’s energy with enough support from affordable energy storage and prudent management.

Another group believes that renewables will eventually fail and calls for help from nuclear power and natural gas or biomass with carbon capture and storage.

This battle mostly takes place behind the scenes of the bid documents, but it is relevant to what is happening today, as many states and cities have passed laws aimed at “100% clean energy”. Some, like Hawaii, are focused on 100% renewable energy. Some, like Washington state, aim for 100% “quality,” leaving room for non-renewables.

The discussion is based on the simple premise that the two largest sources of renewable energy – wind and solar – are “changeable”. They come and go depending on the weather and time of day. It is not a “control room”, meaning it cannot be turned on and off or raised and lowered according to the needs of the network. They are not connected to the grid; network

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This means that large renewable energy will need many different, many different ways to facilitate and balance the fluctuations of wind and solar. When people predict that updates won’t reach 100%, they predict that we won’t have enough access to them (at least not fast enough). They will need a “reserve” for permanent management.

There are many sources of grid flexibility, but one that seems to hold the most potential and promise is energy storage. As a first approximation, the question of whether renewables can reach 100% is reduced to the question of whether storage is cheap enough. With cheap enough storage, we can add a ton of network traffic and change almost all the variables.

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This question is the subject of an interesting recent study conducted in the MIT laboratory led by researcher Jessica Tranchik (I have already written about Tranchik’s work), which was recently published in a journal.

Final damage: the answer is $20 per kilowatt-hour of energy. This is how cheap storage should be to achieve 100% renewal. This is 90 percent less than today’s prices. While this is all within the realm of possibility, there is great disagreement as to when this will happen; few expect that in 2030.

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However, there is a twist in this story, and a better ending than this summary might indicate. Let’s take a closer look.

In a deep dive into the traditional model of finding a cheap way to decarbonize given the demands and costs of the technology, Tranchik’s team is starting to build renewables and storage that supply 100 percent of the US. energy, then asks: Does storage have to be cheap to be a cheap option?

It did not make for an easy target. In most cases, potential energy projections compare the efficiency of a resource with one or two years of weather data on the availability of solar and wind energy in a given location. Tranchik’s team chose four locations (Arizona, Iowa, Massachusetts and Texas) and collected them

It is important to try renewable energy sources in the long term. In addition to daily and weekly fluctuations in solar and wind energy, there can be annual and multi-year fluctuations. In fact, looking back over 20 years, the team found many unusual cases where the wind and sun were unusually weak for an unusually long period of time. These quirks will overshadow the amount of memory required. Their planning significantly increases the cost of a system that works only with renewable energy sources.

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For each of the four provinces, the Tranchik group presented new energy and storage solutions with an “equivalent availability factor” (EAF) of 100%. This means that the system will adapt to the demand, providing basic, central and dynamic resources for every hour of every day for 20 years.

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This is a high bar: enough storage space to withstand all the possible changes of wind and sun for two decades.

The main result is that the cost of energy storage capacity must drop to about $20 per kilowatt hour to make the renewable energy system cost-effective to power 100% of the US.

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Cost-effective wind-solar hybrids with storage are becoming competitive with nuclear power plants offering baseload power of $0.075/kW and energy storage of $10-20/kW. To achieve cost competitiveness at the advanced natural gas plant of $0.077/kW, the cost of energy storage must instead fall below $5/kW (with an energy storage capacity of $1,000/kW). To provide basic, average, double-peak and power of 0.10 USD/kWh with a good combination of wind and solar energy, the cost of energy storage should reach about 30-70 USD/kWh, 30-90 USD/kWh, 10-30 USD . /kWh and $10-10.30/kwt.

These are very challenging goals for the price – not beyond reach, but well beyond expectations. (We will discuss conservation technologies that can meet this goal shortly.)

At first glance, this seems like a guarantee that all systems can be upgraded—save the impossibility that is due to the dramatic reduction in technology costs.

Graph paper (explains enough, I hope, why I don’t use more). Joule

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As I said, these researchers are setting a very high bar: a 100% renewable energy system with 100% energy efficiency sufficient to meet demand every hour of every day for 20 years.

If any of these limitations were slightly eased, the expected cost of the storage system would rise to an attractive level.

First, and most importantly, reduce the amount of time the system has to satisfy requests and you’ll be fine.

Easy to store. And 100 percent EAF is kind of crazy anyway; the existing power supply system is not working and is 100 percent available. At the end, there is immersion and extinction.

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The Transik team found that if the EAF target were reduced from 100 percent to 95 percent, then the storage price target would have to meet up to $150 per kilowatt. .

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Why does reducing EAF reduce the burden of less storage? The explanation lies in those long-term meteorological phenomena of the wind and the sun. It doesn’t happen often in 20 years, but building enough storage to handle it when it does makes the last few EAFs very expensive. Reducing the EAF to 95 percent is like saying, “Something else can solve this strange problem.” (What it can be, we will discuss later.)

Second, remember that the cluster represents a system where the storage is almost always the fastest. Of course, there are other sources of networking. A favorite dark-horse candidate for change is load-varying, program-demanding changes that can consume energy over time. Another source of conversion is enhanced long-distance power to bring extra energy from productive areas to areas that need it. Another area is managed by renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power plants and geothermal sources.

All of these sources of change will increase and help make updates easier. The store doesn’t have to do all the work on its own. This should also ease pressures.

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Get cheap The math Tranchik’s team uses for renewables is pretty good. . This, in turn, will reduce the burden on the warehouse.

In short, the energy storage target of 20 USD/kWh is certainly higher than the global demand. Even the target of $150/kWh required for an EAF of 95% is probably too high. In the real world, storage will be facilitated by other forms of grid integration such as long-distance transmission, load balancing and microgrids, as well as regulatory and regulatory reform.

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