Three Myths About Renewable Energy and the Grid, Debunked
Renewable energy skeptics argue that because of their variability, wind and solar cannot be the foundation of a dependable electricity grid. But the expansion of renewables and new methods of energy management and storage can lead to a grid that is reliable and clean.
By Y Amory, B. Lovins and M. V. Ramana
As wind and solar power have become dramatically cheaper, and their share of electricity generation grows, skeptics of these technologies are propagating several myths about renewable energy and the electrical grid. The myths boil down to this: Relying on renewable sources of energy will make the electricity supply undependable.
Last summer, some commentators argued that blackouts in California were due to the “intermittency” of renewable energy sources, when in fact the chief causes were a combination of an extreme heat wave probably induced by climate change, faulty planning, and the lack of flexible generation sources and sufficient electricity storage. During a brutal Texas cold snap last winter, Gov. Greg Abbott wrongly blamed wind and solar power for the state’s massive grid failure, which was vastly larger than California’s. In fact, renewables outperformed the grid operator’s forecast during 90 percent of the blackout, and in the rest, fell short by at most one-fifteenth as much as gas plants. Instead, other causes — such as inadequately weatherized power plants and natural gas shutting down because of frozen equipment — led to most of the state’s electricity shortages.
Myth No. 1: A grid that increasingly relies on renewable energy is an unreliable grid.
Myth No. 2: Countries like Germany must continue to rely on fossil fuels to stabilize the grid and back up variable wind and solar power.
Myth No. 3: Because solar and wind energy can be generated only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, they cannot be the basis of a grid that has to provide electricity 24/7, year-round.
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