The Intermittency of Wind and Solar: Is It Only Intermittently a Problem?

After having been in denial for some time, the oil firms are now at wit’s end, it seems. For years, they denied that any warming was underway at all. Then when some of them finally admitted it, they said, inaccurately, that scientists were still “unsure” of the cause. Now, perhaps, some of them are becoming too subtle for their own good, or even too clever by half. At times, what some of the oil firms are saying of late, particularly about the “intermittency of renewables,” may even be a little above the public’s head. The “perils of intermittency” may only be a viable argument for a “niche market” of global citizens who are somewhat informed about energy issues, yet not fully apprised. This is a good sign, it seems to me. The oil firms are apparently running out of ideas to try to convince us to move slowly on climate change, even before they run out of conventional oil and natural gas.

With the price of wind power falling more and more, and the price of solar PV falling sharply and enticingly, what other arguments will the big oil firms still have left to try to slow the transition to renewables when even the cost of natural gas may soon be unable to compete with the cost of wind in the Midwest or solar PV in the Southwest? The “risk of intermittency” may be one of the only “reasonable” arguments that Shell or Conoco will still be able to make. And yet, who will even care? Soon, the US energy market, with its focus on price points, may simply say to the oil giants, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about the ‘risk.’ ”

Written by Victor Provenzano. To read the full article, click here.

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Peru To Provide Free Solar Power To 2 Million Of Its Poorest Residents By 2016

Peru has initiated a program that will provide more than 2 million of its poorest residents with electricity — for free.

‘The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program’ began on July 8, when 1,601 solar panels were installed in the Contumaza province of the country, CleanTechnica.com reported. Those panels, part of the program’s first phase, will reportedly power 126 impoverished communities.

Jorge Merino, Energy and Mining Minister, told the Latin American Herald that the entire program will allow 95 percent of Peru to have access to electricity by the end of 2016. That will be done by installing a planned 12,500 solar (photovoltaic) systems, reaching 500,000 households, according to PlanetSave.com.

Currently, only about 66 percent of Peru’s population has access to electricity.

Written by Huffington Post. To read the full article, click here.

Tilting towards windmills

THE 1996 Olympics in Atlanta did not all go IBM’s way. For all its technical prowess, the computer giant managed to bungle the reporting of some competition results. On the plus side, it was at the Games that IBM first deployed Deep Thunder, a novel computer model which warned the organisers when and where to expect inclement weather—and correctly predicted that a thunderstorm forecast by other meteorologists would not affect the closing ceremony. Deep Thunder has since gone through countless iterations, or which the latest, called the Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecaster (HyREF) IBM unveiled on August 12th.

As its name suggests, HyREF is meant to make it easier to incorporate wind energy into the grid. Owing to Aeolian vagaries, it is hard for operators of wind farms to forecast output accurately—or indeed to work out where best to erect turbines in the first place. The ability to predict where wind will blow and how hard is therefore crucial if wind power is to live up to its boosters’ hopes.

IBM’s system increases this all-important predictability using a handful of sophisticated technologies. Clever sensors mounted on individual turbines gauge wind speed, temperature and direction. Their readings are combined with data from traditional measurement towers equipped with meteorological instruments, as well as past-weather data. Indeed, Brad Gammons, who runs IBM’s energy and utilities arm, says that most of the progress since Deep Thunder has taken place over the last two years, mainly thanks to the rapidly growing availability of information, both real-time and historical. In particular, Mr Gammons says, this is true for China, the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, but also its biggest investor in renewable energy.

Written by H.G. To read the full article, click here.

Hydropower: the unsung hero of renewable energy

Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar, wind, and geothermal combined, but gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. Still, hydropower will likely continue its leading role as the world’s most important producer of renewable electricity until well into the next decade.

This is the 2nd installment in a series that looks at the recently released 2013 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The previous post – Renewable Energy Status Update 2013 – focused mainly on wind and solar power. This post delves into hydropower and geothermal power. Some of the BP data is supplemented by REN21′s recently-released 2013 Renewables Global Status Report (GSR). (Disclosure: I have been a reviewer for the GSR for the past three years).

Hydropower

Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar PV, wind, and geothermal combined. In 2012, hydropower accounted for 16% of the world’s electricity production. However, hydropower gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. While solar PV increased capacity by an average of 60% per year over the past 5 years, new hydropower capacity increased at a much more modest annual rate of 3.3%.

Written by Robert Rapier. To read the full article, click here.

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.

Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up

Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest and northernmost island, is known for its beautiful wild nature, delicious seafood, and fresh produce. Now another specialty is taking root: Large-scale megasolar power plants that take advantage of the island’s unique geography.

A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, “Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan.”)

But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation.

Written by Yvonne Chang. To read the full article, click here.

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.