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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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.

Solar power costs closing in on wind: Wynn

May 16 (Reuters) – Solar panels were cheaper than wind turbines for the first time last year in certain markets, per unit of capacity, and are rapidly closing a remaining gap in the full cost of power generation.

Until now, wind power has been the leading low-carbon alternative to oil, coal and gas, outside large niche markets such as Germany, which has seen a huge ramp-up in installed solar.

But that could change, with deep implications for the health of both industries if one substitutes the other.

As soon as this year, solar could for the first time surpass wind in annual global installed capacity, given an expected contraction in the wind market.

Written by Gerard Wynn. To read the full article, click here

Solar Power to the People

At 9 o’clock Friday morning, some 20,000 people will start arriving at a vast field in Custer, Wis., to talk about wind power. No joke. Get this: Thousands of souls have been coming here every summer for 23 years to talk — really talk — about wind power.

Here is the Energy Fair, a three-day convergence of homesteaders, hippies, ecotopians and more than a few end-times enthusiasts, staged by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Beyond the lecture titled “MacGyver Windmills” (that is, devices fabricated from junk), a $15 day pass gets you admission to 200 other workshops. Would you like to learn about home algae cultivation and humane rabbit husbandry (for meat and wool)? How about advanced photovoltaic systems and D.I.Y. biodiesel?

Written by MICHAEL TORTORELLO. To read the full article, click here