The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

Many people still think that it will not be long before renewable energy such as solar and wind becomes outright cheaper than fossil fuels, thereby leading to a rapid expansion of the thin orange slither in the graph below. This is an ideologically very attractive notion, but, as discussed in this article, it is questionable whether this is in fact physically possible.

So, what does renewable energy have to accomplish before it can compete with fossil fuels in an open market? Well, in short, we will have to overcome the diffuse and intermittent nature of renewable energy more efficiently than we can overcome the declining reserve qualities and unrefined nature of fossil fuels.

In other words, renewables need to overcome the following two challenges in order to displace fossil fuels in a fair market:

Solar panels and wind turbines need to become cheaper than raw fossil fuels. This is the challenge posed by the diffuse nature of renewables.
Storage solutions need to become cheaper than fossil fuel refineries (e.g. power plants). This is the challenge posed by the intermittent nature of renewables.

Written by Schalk Cloete. To read the full article, click here.

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The sunny side of solar power

If solar were fashion, we’d say it was having a moment. Over the past few years we’ve gone from near zero solar photovoltaic panels to 2.5GW of capacity. Of this 1.9GW is installed on rooftops and 0.6GW on giant solar farms, with planning secured for a further 0.9GW of utility scale projects.

Ordinarily, I’d greet these farms supplying renewable energy with a cheery, “Welcome to the grid!” Unfortunately, my real response on seeing one on a beloved rolling south Devon hillside was more profane. Developers tend to say they’re of “low visual impact”. Actually they’re positively industrial, guaranteed to bring out your inner Nimby.

Why now? Solar panels (produced in the Far East) cost a third of what they did three years ago. And there’s been a change with Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), too. Generators used to get two ROCs for every MWh of solar-produced electricity. They can be bought and traded among energy suppliers. But in March 2013 these were scaled down to 1.6 ROCs per MWh. Cue a scramble to generate more capacity.

Written by  Lucy Siegle. To read the full article, click here.

DWP will buy excess solar energy

“Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers for the first time will be able to sell back excess solar energy created on rooftops and parking lots under a new program approved Friday by the city utility’s board of commissioners.

Described as the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation, the so-called feed-in-tariff program would pay customers 17 cents per kilowatt hour for energy produced on their own equipment. The DWP has already accepted more than a dozen applicants and will be taking dozens more as it accepts contracts for up to 100 megawatts of solar power through 2016.”

Written By: Catherine Saillant To read full article click here