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Can renewables provide baseload power?

What the science says...

Select a level... Intermediate Advanced

Although renewable energy does not necessarily need to provide baseload power in the short-term, there are several ways in which it can do so. For example, geothermal energy is available at all times, concentrated solar thermal energy has storage capability, and wind energy can be stored in compressed air.

Climate Myth...

Renewables can't provide baseload power

Does Renewable Energy Need to Provide Baseload Power?

A common myth is that because some types of renewable energy do not provide baseload power, they require an equivalent amount of backup power provided by fossil fuel plants.  However, this is simply untrue.  As wind production fluctuates, it can be supplemented if necessary by a form of baseload power which can start up or whose output can be changed in a relatively short period of time.  Hydroelectric and natural gas plants are common choices for this type of reserve power (AWEA 2008). Although a fossil fuel, combustion of natural gas emits only 45% as much carbon dioxide as combustion of coal, and hydroelectric is of course a very low-carbon energy source.

The current energy production structure consists primarily of coal and nuclear energy providing baseload power, while natural gas and hydroelectric power generally provide the variable reserves to meet peak demand. Coal is cheap, dirty, and the plant output cannot be varied easily.  It also has high initial investment cost and a long return on investment time.  Hydroelectric power is also cheap, clean, and good for both baseload and meeting peak demand, but limited by available natural sources.  Natural gas is less dirty than coal, more expensive and used for peak demand.  Nuclear power is a low-carbon power source, but with an extremely high investment cost and long return on investment time.

Renewable energy can be used to replace some higher-carbon sources of energy in the power grid and achieve a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, even if not used to provide baseload power.  Intermittent renewables can provide 10-20% of our electricity, with hydroelectric and other baseload renewable sources (see below) on top of that. Even if the rapid growth in wind and other intermittent renewable sources continues, it will be over a decade before storage of the intermittent sources becomes a necessity.

Renewable Baseload Energy Sources

Of course in an ideal world, renewable sources would meet all of our energy needs.  And there are several means by which renewable energy can indeed provide baseload power. 

Concentrated Solar Thermal

One of the more promising renewable energy technologies is concentrated solar thermal, which uses a system of mirrors or lenses to focus solar radiation on a collector.  This type of system can collect and store energy in pressurized steam, molten salt, phase change materials, or purified graphite.  

The first test of a large-scale thermal solar power tower plant was Solar One in the California Mojave Desert, constructed in 1981.  The project produced 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity using 1,818 mirrors, concentrating solar radiation onto a tower which used high-temperature heat transfer fluid to carry the energy to a boiler on the ground, where the steam was used to spin a series of turbines.  Water was used as an energy storage medium for Solar One.  The system was redesigned in 1995 and renamed Solar Two, which used molten salt as an energy storage medium.  In this type of system, molten salt at 290ºC is pumped from a cold storage tank through the receiver where it is heated to about 565ºC. The heated salt then moves on to the hot storage tank (Figure 1).  When power is needed from the plant, the hot salt is pumped to a generator that produces steam, which activates a turbine/generator system that creates electricity (NREL 2001).


Figure 1:  Solar Two Power Tower System Diagram (NREL 2001)

The Solar Two molten salt system was capable of storing enough energy to produce power three hours after the Sun had set.  By using thermal storage, power tower plants can potentially operate for 65 percent of the year without the need for a back-up fuel source. The first commercial concentrated solar thermal plant with molten salt storage - Andasol 1 - was completed in Spain in 2009.  Andasol 1 produces 50 MW of power and the molten salt storage can continue to power the plant for approximately 7.5 hours.

Abengoa Solar is building a 280 MW solar thermal plant in Arizona (the Solana Generating Station), scheduled to begin operation in 2013.  This plant will also have a molten salt system with up to 6 hours worth of storage.  The electrical utility Arizona Public Service has contracted to purchase the power from Solana station for approximately 14 cents per kilawatt-hour. 

Italian utility Enel recently unveiled "Archimede", the first concentrated solar thermal plant to use molten salts for both heat storage and heat transfer.  Molten salts can operate at higher temperatures than oils, which gives Archimede higher efficiency and power output.  With the higher temperature heat storage allowed by the direct use of salts, Archimede can extend its operating hours further than an oil-operated solar thermal plant with molten salt storage.  Archimede is a 5 MW plant with 8 hours of storage capacity.

In southern Spain, the Gemasolar plant opened in 2011.  It produces 19.9 MW, or approximately 110 gigawatt-hours per year.  Gemasolar stores energy in molten salt for up to 15 hours, and is thus able to provide energy 24 hours per day for a minimum of 270 days per year (74% of the year).

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides a long list of concentrated solar thermal plants in operation, under construction, and in development, many of which have energy storage systems.  In short, solar thermal molten salt power storage is already a reality, and a growing resource.


Geothermal systems extract energy from water exposed to hot rock deep beneath the earth's surface, and thus do not face the intermittency problems of other renewable energy sources like wind and solar.  An expert panel concluded that geothermal sources could produce approximately 100 gigawatts (GW) of baseload power to the USA by mid-century, which is approximately 10% of current US generating capacity (MIT 2006).  The panel also concluded that a research and development investment of less than $1 billion would make geothermal energy economically viable.

The MIT-led report focuses on a technology called enhanced or engineered geothermal systems (EGS), which doesn't require ideal subsurface conditions and could theoretically work anywhere.   installing an EGS plant typically involves drilling a 10- to 12-inch-wide, three- to four-kilometer-deep hole, expanding existing fractures in the rock at the bottom of the hole by pumping down water under high pressure, and drilling a second hole into those fractures.  Water pumped down one hole courses through the gaps in the rock, heats up, and flows back to the surface through the second hole. Finally, a plant harvests the heat and circulates the cooled water back down into the cracks (MIT 2007).

Currently there are 10.7 GW of geothermal power online globally, with a 20% increase in geothermal power online capacity since 2005.  The USA leads the world in geothermal production with 3.1 GW of installed capacity from 77 power plants (GEA 2010).

Wind Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)

Various methods of storing wind energy have been explored, including pumped hydroelectric storage, batteries, superconducting magnets, flywheels, regenerative fuel cells, and CAES.  CAES has been identified as the most promising technology for utility-scale bulk wind energy storage due to relatively low costs, environmental impacts, and high reliability (Cavallo 2005).  CAES plants are currently operational in Huntorf, Germany (290 MW, since 1978) and Macintosh, Alabama (110 MW, since 1991).  Recently this type of system has been considered to solve the intermittency difficulties associated with wind turbines.  It is estimated that more than 80% of the U.S. territory has geology suitable for such underground storage (Gardner and Haynes 2007).

The Iowa Stored Energy Park has been proposed to store air in an underground geologic structure during time periods of low customer electric demand and high wind.  The project is hoping to store a 20 week supply of compressed air and have approximately 270 MW of generating capacity.  The project is anticipated to be operational in 2015. 

A similar system has been proposed to create a wind turbine-air compressor.  Instead of generating electricity, each wind turbine will pump air into CAES. This approach has the potential for saving money and improving overall efficiency by eliminating the intermediate and unnecessary electrical generation between the turbine and the air compressor  (Gardner and Haynes 2007).

Pumped Heat Energy Storage

Another promising energy storage technology involves pumping heat between tanks containing hot and cold insulated gravel.  Electrical power is input to the system, which compresses/expands air to approximately 500°C on the hot side and -150°C on the cold side. The air is passed through the two piles of gravel where it gives up its heat/cold to the gravel. In order to regenerate the electricity, the cycle is simply reversed.  The benefits of this type of system are that it would take up relatively little space, the round-trip efficiency is approximately 75%, and gravel is a very cheap and abundant material.

Spent Electric Vehicle (EV) Battery Storage

As plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles become more commonplace, the possibility exists to utilize the spent EV batteries for power grid storage after their automotive life, at which point they will still have significant storage capacity.  General Motors has been examining this possibility, for example.  If a sufficiently large number of former EV batteries could be hooked up to the power grid, they could provide storage capacity for intermittent renewable energy sources.

100% Energy from Renewables Studies

A few studies have put forth plans detailing exactly how we can meet 100% of global energy needs from renewable sources.

Energy consulting firm Ecofys produced a report detailing how we can meet nearly 100% of global energy needs with renewable sources by 2050.  Approximately half of the goal is met through increased energy efficiency to first reduce energy demands, and the other half is achieved by switching to renewable energy sources for electricity production (Figure 2).

ecofys fig 1

Figure 2: Ecofys projected global energy consumption between 2000 and 2050

Stanford's Mark Jacobson and UC Davis' Mark Delucchi (J&D) recently published a study in the journal Energy Policy examining the possibility of meeting all global energy needs with wind, water, and solar (WWS) power.  They find that it would be plausible to produce all new energy from WWS in 2030, and replace all pre-existing energy with WWS by 2050

In Part I of their study, J&D examine the technologies, energy resources, infrastructure, and materials necessary to provide all energy from WWS sources.  In Part II of the study, J&D examine the variability of WWS energy, and the costs of their proposal.  J&D project that when accounting for the costs associated with air pollution and climate change, all the WWS technologies they consider will be cheaper than conventional energy sources (including coal) by 2020 or 2030, and in fact onshore wind is already cheaper. 


To sum up, there are several types of renewable energy which can provide baseload power.  It will be over a decade before we can produce sufficient intermittent renewable energy to require high levels of storage, and there are several promising energy storage technologies.  One study found that the UK power grid could accommodate approximately 10-20% of energy from intermittent renewable sources without a "significant issue" (Carbon Trust and DTI 2003).  By the time renewable energy sources begin to displace a significant part of hydrocarbon generation, there may even be new storage technologies coming into play.  The US Department of Energy has made large-scale energy storage one if its research priorities, recently awarding $24.7 million in research grants for Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage.  And several plans have been put forth to meet 100% of global energy needs from renewable sources by 2050.

Last updated on 4 November 2016 by dana1981. View Archives

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Comments 151 to 175 out of 199:

  1. ...moving back to what I was saying...

    Whilst it is gratifying that people seem to acknowledge to some degree or other  that the OP wording is incorrect, it is a shame that no one seems to want to change it given the given stated inention of SkS to attack incorrect or poorly applied science.

    To what standard should the reporting of fact be held on a site that prides itself in attacking misinformation?

    Many green groups have an 'RE or nothing' tenor to their agenda and I would expect that SkS and its followers would have an open mind to alternative low carbon energy (and industry) given that the intention is to effect a reduction of AGW/ACC.

    Most Green groups cite RE storage as the solution to variable RE, but I cannot find a single grid providor who has plans to deploy grid storage which seems to indicate that, beyond specialist applications for special regions, there is no grid deployment -  surely a pre-requisite to large scale RE rollout as championed by those bodies.

  2. SuperPosition @151:

    "I cannot find a single grid providor who has plans to deploy grid storage which seems to indicate that, beyond specialist applications for special regions, there is no grid deployment"

    Then you haven't even tried:

    Electric Mountain

    "Water is stored at a high altitude in Marchlyn Mawr reservoir and is discharged into Llyn Peris through the turbines during times of peak electricity demand. It is pumped back from Llyn Peris to Marchlyn Mawr during off-peak times. Although it uses more electricity to pump the water up than it generates on the way down, pumping is generally done at periods of low demand, when the energy is cheaper to consume.

    The power station comprises six 300MW GEC generator/motors coupled to Francis-type reversible turbines. The generators are vertical shaft, salient pole, air cooled units each having 12 electromagnetic poles weighing 10 tonnes each, producing a terminal voltage of 18 kV, synchronous speed is 500 rpm. From standstill, a single 450-tonne generator can synchronise and achieve full load in approximately 75 seconds. With all six units synchronised and spinning-in-air (Water is dispelled by compressed air and the unit draws a small amount of power to spin the shaft at full speed), 0 MW to 1800 MW load can be achieved in approximately 16 seconds.[18] Once running, the station can provide power for up to 6 hours before running out of water."

    >170 more additional storage systems currently operational (some, but not all are experimental)

    The list is not exhaustive, not including the commerical pumped hydro facility at Wivenhoe dam near Brisbane (for example), and presumably missing others as well.

  3. Tom Curtis 152

    Then you haven't even tried: Electric Mountain

    Actually I've been there - it is very impressive indeed.

    But I'm sorry but that is not national grid storage as it cannot be expanded to that function - it is 'operating reserve' pumped storage that even from full would only run for a maximum of 6 hours which takes longer to fill than it runs.

    Whilst the principle is completely valid, the reality is that it is not expandable to the UK grid - very few countries have the geology where that would be possible.

    I'll try to find it but I remeber a figure that the UK geology only had circa 2GW of additional potential hydro/storage and most of that was impractical to access.

    Incidentally For it to be true V-RE grid storage as per the OP, you would need sufficient excess RE to guarantee supply whilst simultaneously charging/pumping your system whilst accounting for a storage loss of 75%.

    Although Electric Mountain discharges for upto 6 hours it can take days to fill from empty depending on grid status/surplus and apparently often runs in the lower third of capacity so it would not be useful for much beyond covering peak loads and energy arbitrage -  which is what it does.

  4. The issue I raised was, the claim that "Renewables can't provide baseload power" as a "myth"

    It is true that otherwise variable RE generators can produce net baseload power when paired with spinning reserve or long term storage (n+ hours)

    Is it pedantic to say that such conditions render the terminology useless and thus the claim in OP as overstated and SkS is exceeding its brief in claiming otherwise?

    The fact remains that the RE and grid industry as a whole do not refer to variable RE as a baseload supply.


    [JH] You are now skating on the thin ice of excessive repetition which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Future repetitive comments may be summarily deleted.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site. 
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.


  5. Superposition,

    Do not blame me for your failed attempt to support nuclear.  Everyone else can read what we have both posted.

    You have not produced any peer reviewed data to back your wild claim that RE cannot generate baseload power.  On the other hand, I have referred to peer reviewed data that show RE can generate baseload power at a reasonable cost without spinning reserve or storage.  You have never mentioned that paper and its conclusions.  Budischak et al 2013, linked previously in this thread here and here, have demonstrated using data that it is more economical to overbuild RE to obtain baseload coverage.  Storage is not as economic.  Your long discussions about the cost of storage are moot because it is not economic.  Serious people looking at RE propose overbuilding generation and not storage.

    From Budischak 2014:

    " By looking at the results in Table 3, it is apparent that a 99.9%
    renewable electricity system with either GIV or hydrogen storage
    and using estimated 2030 costs will be cheaper than today’s
    current electricity price, if externalities are included.
    Furthermore, a 90% renewable electricity system with 2030 cost
    estimates can meet load at costs below today’s without

    The 90% figure is without storage.  They use about 7-72 hours of storage for 99.9% of power.  If they linked to nearby grids (Canada adjacent to the north has a lot of hydro that is cheap for storage and the US Midwest has excess wind) or used load shifting they might avoid any storage at all.  

    If you read Budischak you will find that they calculated the cost of power while spilling (wasting) the obvious excess power that they generate with their system.  I personally find it impossible to believe that engineers will not find a use for cheap power that is only  available part of the time.  A constructive use for the excess power will be found.  That will make the power even cheaper than Budischak estimate.  Backup power supplies for the rare occasions it is needed are already built to provide peak power, since baseload units cannot load follow and provide peak power.  Costs for RE have declined substantially since Budischak 2013 was written.

    Currently, wind and solar are not used for baseload because they only recently became economic and not enough wind and solar have been installed for them to be used for that purpose.  That does not mean that in the future more RE cannot be installed and then it will be used for baseload.  Meanwhile, every KW generated using RE is a kilowatt that was not generated using fossil fuels.

    Your claim that it is impossible for RE to provide baseload is false.  Your argument is based on a false premise.  The OP is correct and you are wrong.

  6. It would be interesting to look at the various places around the world that have achieved high renewable energy deployment (say >50% of electrical generation) to see how each of them has overcome the supposed 'baseload problem'.

    I know Iceland uses geothermal for baseload. Several other countries (e.g. Norway, Columbia, Austria, Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, etc) have large amounts of hydropower for baseload. Denmark is mostly wind power, but I think still using fossil fuels for baseload... though the fact that they've been able to rapidly scale back fossil fuels to a minority of total generation, which they plan to eliminate entirely in the next few decades, shows how small an issue 'baseload' really is.

    Conversely, many poor countries like Lesotho now have low cost variable wind and solar power as nearly their only forms of electrical generation. Giving them near 100% renewable electricity without worrying about baseload at all. Apparently not having electricity some of the time is still vastly better than never having electricity. Go figure.

  7. Do not blame me for your failed attempt to support nuclear. Everyone else can read what we have both posted.

    Well I'm certainly not anti solution - You raised the subject of nuclear in 137 -  I had not referred to it  - I honestly and politely responded to your comment. I certainly don't think it witchcraft or an instrument of Satan.

    If you feel so strongly against nuclear then I'm surprised you started a conversation about how clean, safe and inexpensive it is compared to most RE.

    I am pro a solution to AGW/ACC that is cheapest, safest and the lowest emissions available baseload capable grid ready technology applied as per the DDPP [SDSN & IDDRI 2014] plan. I am genuinely am sorry you disagree - I wish more people could get past their prejudices on this.

    You have not produced any peer reviewed data to back your wild claim that RE cannot generate baseload power.

    That is because that is not my position  - Some RE such as hydro is totally constant baseload capable -  Others such as wind, solar and tidal is variable and needs dynamic load matching/balancing to work on a grid.

    The most common definition of baseload is "the permanent minimum load that a power supply system is required to deliver." - Obviously a source that is variable does not conform to that definition.

    It is a noun - a matter of definition of technical parlance and thus requires no 'study' peer reviewed or not. Strange idea.

    Variable RE is currently accepted into grid architecture through load balancing the dispach to accomodate the variability of output - that is done because on its own it is NOT a baseload capable supply. The system accomodates it dynamically.

    If you read Budischak you will find that they calculated the cost of power while spilling (wasting) the obvious excess power that they generate with their system.

    I have read it and yes, if you read back you willsee that is what I said earlier. Thanks for paraphrasing me. I'm glad we agree on something.

    A constructive use for the excess power will be found. That will make the power even cheaper than Budischak estimate.

    I hope so and I appreciate your optimism, but we are talking about huge amounts of power and the grid has to remain finely balanced, hence the benefit of a constant energy baseload supply - In Denmark and Germany it is causing many grid stability problems and the the excesses are dumped onto neighbouring country grids which risks collapsing them - something that countries like the UK could not easily do.

    Currently, wind and solar are not used for baseload because they only recently became economic

    No, the reason is that the world is round, the Sun sets and it has weather.

    I hate quoting wiki, but firstly; this isn't contraversial to anyone and secondly; it actually contains an abundance of links for you to explore.

    "Base load power sources are power production plants which can consistently generate the power needed to satisfy minimum demand. That demand is called the base load requirement, it is the minimum level of demand on an electrical supply system over 24 hours."


    [JH] As noted on your prior comment, you are skating on the thin ice of excessive repetition which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Future repetitive comments will likely be summarily deleted.

    In other words, this discussion has run its course. 

  8. Apologies JH -  I will of course oblige, but I think it should be noted that I am the responder to the question/accusation.


    [JH] Which is why I let this comment stand.

    BTW, all commenters should abide by the SkS Comments Policy prohibition of excessive repeitition. 

    In addition, please avoid the temptation to post the "final word" because it rarely is.

  9. SuperPosition @158.

    In this tiff over who said what, to be fair, the mention @137 was only mentioning nuclear power as exemplars within explanation. It did not introduce it as an issue for discussion. That occurred @139 with an implicit comment that said:-

    "Why bother with all that infrastructure when you can build a simple base load supply, doesn't require interlinks and hugely costly (yet to be proven or deployable) storage at half the cost and at a smaller carbon footprint?"

    I would say it is entirely reasonable to consider that this quote is advocating nuclear power as an alternative to renewables, unless the author of the quote can explain how it is that this "simple base load supply" could be construed as something else.


    [JH] Please refrain from turning this discussion into an adversial courtroom exchange.

  10. It would be interesting to look at the various places around the world that have achieved high renewable energy deployment (say >50% of electrical generation) to see how each of them has overcome the supposed 'baseload problem'.

    I think that by definition they would have to have a large percentage of constant o/p (baseload) RE in the 50% such as hydro and geothermal, and you probably find very few countries with that mix available to them. 

    Variable o/p RE in Germany has grown massively but grid operators are having to balance its networks by 'dumping' the resultant large spikes on their neighbours grid supplies  - problems like these grow with the amount of variable generating output.

    I suspect it comes down to the following:

    >Amount of variable/non variable RE

    >Grid interlinks to other networks

    >Access to pumped storage


    The difficulties are exemplified by a grid like the UK wihich has limited interlinks, limited hydro, limited PS (pumped storage) lots of potential wind and tidal power.

    Figures vary but it seems to be circa 30% maximum for mix of variable RE without some sort of balancing mechanism plus grid reconfigurations and with current technology that has to be a lot of gas burning spinning reserve... so the actual savings will probably be less than it first looks.


    If RE were all baseload as stated in the OP then this would not be an issue.

  11. MA Rodger 159.

    Thanks for the ingenious quote~vs~paraphrase (where I only said baseload) but for me the subject is closed, you win, whatever.


    JH forgive me for asking in thread but I cannot sdee how else to ask:: can we perhaps discuss something offline?

    I'm new here and it the tenor of SKS so far seems quite anti N which is not what I was expecting from a site that lauds data and debunks science myth  - if so, fine. Just let me know off the record (email me) and I'll go -  I honestly have no interest in being railed at and I'm sure RH et al would be pleased to see me go.



    [RH] No one (including me) has any problem with you commenting here. But, as noted originally, SkS is definitely not the place for endless back and forth discussions that go nowhere. 

  12. Superposition @160:

    "I suspect it comes down to the following:

    >Amount of variable/non variable RE

    >Grid interlinks to other networks

    >Access to pumped storage"

    That sounds about right except that there is good reason to think that Pumped Heat Energy Storage (PHES) can substitute for pumped hydro storage, with approximately the same round trip efficiencies and no geographical limitation.  It does have the disadvantage that it will degrade over time so that long term storage is not viable, but that is likely to be an infrequent problem (particularly with some pumped hydro available).

    Further, you are ignoring the options make available through overbuild of renewable capacity with intermittent operations made possible by very cheap electricity supply when the generating network supplies in excess of demand.  In more arid areas of the world, I suspect that will make large scale desalinization economic.  In more temperate regions, electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen gas may become economic, and provide for long term energy storage.

  13. Like any community, you will find people have different stances on nuclear and many without strong opinions one way or the other. Brave New Climate is generally the forum where nuclear is discussed.

    The article was targeting proponents of fossil fuel who argue against the move to RE on grounds that you need FF to provide reliable power. Getting stuck on definitions of baseload etc is kind of missing the point which I thought was clear in the article if not necessarily in the title. I certainly do not see the article as anti-nuke.

    I am frankly all for further development on new nuclear technologies - I have been convinced by MacKay's book that this is best option in some countries. However, nuclear, at the moment, does look to have high levelized costs and a lot of trouble getting investors, especially if governments refuse to indemify operators against accidents.

    However, I live in a country generating 80% of electricity from renewables without subsidies and on track to lift that 90% by 2025 (thanks to small population and abundant hydro and geothermal). I am glad that I personally dont have to consider nuclear choices.

  14. This article (Elliston et al) from March 2013 gives an analysis of the system required to provide 100% renewable energy for the Australian grid.  From the abstract:

    "Least cost options are presented for supplying the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) with 100% renewable electricity using wind, photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage, hydroelectricity and biofuelled gas turbines. ...These scenarios maintain the NEM reliability standard, limit hydroelectricity generation to available rainfall, and limit bioenergy consumption. The lowest cost scenarios are dominated by wind power, with smaller contributions from photovoltaics and dispatchable generation: CST, hydro and gas turbines. The annual cost of a simplified transmission network to balance supply and demand across NEM regions is a small proportion of the annual cost of the generating system. Annual costs are compared with a scenario where fossil fuelled power stations in the NEM today are replaced with modern fossil substitutes at projected 2030 costs, and a carbon price is paid on all emissions. At moderate carbon prices, which appear required to address climate change, 100% renewable electricity would be cheaper on an annual basis than the replacement scenario." (my emphasis)

    They estimate that with a carbon tax of as low as $A50 ($US38) per ton of carbon dioxide renewable energy will be the cheapest option.  Australia has very cheap coal (!!) which requires a higher carbon fee to make RE the cheapest option.

    When I checked the papers that had referenced Budischak 2013 there were many that give similar results (Elliston references many).  They warn that costs of solar and wind are going down so fast that assessments quickly become overestimates.  Claims that the costs of RE are not known are simply false.  Claims that RE cannot supply cheap, reliable, baseload power to a grid are also simply false.

  15. Superposition,

    When you are hostile to RE and make repeated false, unsupported claims you should expect others to be hostile to your pet solution. You are incorrect when you claim that RE requires spinning reserve. I am not aware of any RE that requires spinning reserve for the entire amount of energy generated. I have asked you for a citation but you have not given one. Presumably you could not find a citation since you have not cited one. Nuclear requires constant, full spinning reserve because the plants shut down completely, instantly whenever they have an emergency. That type of emergency does not occur for RE, although the transmisson line might go out.

    According to this article, Der Speigel is a right wing rag that only reports bad things about wind and solar. In addition, in 2011, just before your Der Speigel article from 2012, the German Grid reliability set a record for most reliable. Maybe the RE helped in the record reliability. Or perhaps it is because they shut down nuclear. Perhaps if you start to cite peer reviewed references on RE, which you have not yet done, you will start to make less factual errors.

    I am agnostic about nuclear. I have become hostile to nuclear posters like you who come here and make repeated false claims about wind and solar. At the current time nuclear is uneconomic, demonstrated by the complete lack of investors willing to build a plant.


  16. Link for grid reliability of German grid

    Link for Der Speigel reliability

  17. SuperPosition - This particular subject, baseload power from RE, has been discussed on this and other threads (much more visited threads on this very subject here and here) repeatedly. I would suggest reading some of the exchanges before flatly stating that RE cannot supply reliable baseload.

    Keep in mind that in a large-scale interconnected grid single installations are not the limitiing factor due to variability. Rather, the entire grid and multiple sites are the factor, with even a moderate geographic spread of RE sites providing far more consistent power. Archer and Jacobson 2007 demonstrated that as few as 20 wind installations spread across the US MidWest could reliably provide a dependable baseload roughly 33% of average power, simply because the geographic spread was larger than the average weather system. More extensive geographic distribution combined with independent power mixes (wind plus solar, for example) raise that percentage considerably.

    Secondly, as noted previously, excess generation appears to be rather more economic than storage, meaning arguments about availability of hydro storage or battery costs are currently rather pointless. If regional baseload percentages are, for example, 60% of average power (quite achievable), overbuilding by a bit more than 50% gives you near 100% baseload, with multi-day weather predictions allowing planned backups of only a few percent. 

    I'll conclude with a NREL link indicating that 80% renewable baseload for the US could be readily achieved by 2050. Clearly, people who have looked at the issue in depth conclude that significant renewable baseload power is, indeed, achievable, varioius arguments from incredulity notwithstanding. 

  18. SuperPosition wrote: "I think that by definition they would have to have a large percentage of constant o/p (baseload) RE in the 50% such as hydro and geothermal, and you probably find very few countries with that mix available to them."

    Very few? Not really. I listed half a dozen in my previous note. In all there are more than 50 countries which generate >50% of their electricity from renewables. Given that there are only about 200 countries in the world, majority renewable power is not at all rare. Indeed, the way things are going, it will almost certainly be the case for a majority of the world's countries within a couple decades.

    "If RE were all baseload as stated in the OP..."

    This will continue being an obvious misrepresentation of the OP no matter how many times you repeat it.

    As to nuclear, as the technology has become less and less competitive many of its supporters have shifted to using less and less valid arguments. Yes, the safety issues with nuclear are overblown. Yes, it greatly reduces GHG emissions. However, nuclear is expensive and getting moreso. At this point I doubt there is anywhere on the planet where nuclear does not cost more than some form of renewable power. Thus, given that renewables cost less, deploy faster, have no fuel constraints, also vastly reduce GHG emissions, and are even safer... what exactly is the case for nuclear? You're going with the 'baseload problem'... but as has been shown, that is a myth. There are ways to supply baseload with RE and ways to implement RE where you don't need any baseload. Nuclear made sense 30 years ago. Had the nuclear industry been smart and stopped using old/unsafe plant designs they could have avoided Chernobyl and Fukushima and we might have majority nuclear power by now. Instead, they managed to keep public opposition high until the technology became economically obsolete. People observing this reality are not 'anti-nuclear' so much as 'pro-fact'. For example, I'd say that Germany and Japan would have been better served keeping most of their nuclear (after a thorough safety check)... with that and the huge RE buildout they've engaged in they'd be close to the >50% non-fossil electricity mark by now. Instead, they have basically replaced nuclear with RE and left their GHG emissions nearly unchanged. I'd say that view makes me 'pro-nuclear'... I support it to the extent it makes sense.

  19. Suggested supplemental reading:

    Why the solar-plus-battery revolution may be closer than you think by Chris Mooney, Energy & Climate, Washington Post, June 23, 2015

  20. "I suspect it comes down to the following:

    >Amount of variable/non variable RE

    >Grid interlinks to other networks

    >Access to pumped storage"

    Tom Curtic 162:: That sounds about right except that there is good reason to think that Pumped Heat Energy Storage (PHES) can substitute for pumped hydro storage, with approximately the same round trip efficiencies and no geographical limitation. It does have the disadvantage that it will degrade over time so that long term storage is not viable, but that is likely to be an infrequent problem (particularly with some pumped hydro available).

    Would that it were. I agree it is an exciting technology but as you say, limited in capacity so you would still need back up generation -  the main advantage is that you would know when your reserve was running low and start up your (CCS) gas plant instead of leaving it in spinning reserve. (Although an economist may say that if your CCS plants is efficient then why bother?) But yes, all things are technologically within our grasp - by 2050 we may have fusion.. Shell and BP may process and sell deuterium and H3 and my local plant sell waste helium for airships and party baloons - all so long as fusion is affordable - 

    The point is that 'can possibly', and 'will probably 'are fine statements for all of these technologies, but the point is that it is now that we should be acting.

    Trials and papers and funding begging letter aside I am not aware of one national grid operator that is deploying grid level storage and if that is the case then we will soon reach the capacity of our grids to accept variable RE.

    So whilst grid level storage is the logical answer for variable RE, the fact remains that RE is already extremely expensive - yes prices are dropping but then we do not know what the cost of storage and large scale grid restructuring will cost because no one is discussing it.

    The elephant in the room is 'How much'extra would storage add to the cost of RE'? It could very easily double or tripple the cost once you factor in grid changes and even then there are many countries that could not afford to deploy it.

    That's not being stingy or greedy, but the unnasailable logic is that a solution that is not affordable to most of the planet is not a solution.

    I suspect people have forgotten that the issue is to address AGW/ACC by curtailing our impact as much as we can.

    Variable RE like solar and wind is a fine adittion to the grid mix but is only A potential answer to the whole problem  - So as prosaic a solution as it seems, logically speaking we shouldn't be emotionally attached to it.

    The fact is that alternative technologies exist now that do the job faster, not require grid restructuring or storage and do the job just as well.

    Further, you are ignoring the options make available through overbuild of renewable capacity with intermittent operations made possible by very cheap electricity supply when the generating network supplies in excess of demand.

    Not at all, the issue of overbuild is central to the problem of storage. Storage is circa 75% efficient.

    If we had 100% renewables replacing current capacity then there would be only cance surplus to charge the storage and the system would fail - we would need a surplus of variable RE to supply demand whilst simultaneously charging the storage,,, and even then you would need a lot of backup generators for those times when you've got low wind and 2 feet of snow on your solar plant for the last month.

  21. Michael Sweet 165:: When you are hostile to RE and make repeated false, unsupported claims you should expect others to be hostile to your pet solution.

    I'm certainly not hostile to RE and I'm sorry if you actually thought that ...

    Variable RE has its place - but do I think it is pancea? No. It has it's place in the mix which at risk of being lambasted for repetition, is something outlined in the DDPP already linked to you with others.

    The thing I'm hostile to Micheal, is the bias, inflexibility, antiscientific scaremonguering and boorishness that you see most commonly, but not exclusively, amongst denialists.

    I'm pro a solution to AGW -  which I hope you agree with me is the actual issue. If you can also agree that the best solution to AGW/ACC is the one that is most efficient in purpose, time and cost (and therefore the one most likely to work) then I don't see a problem.

    As it stands today, I see a danger that with so many people emotionally invested in variable RE (to the exclusion of other technologies) backed by powerful lobbying groups then we are at risk of demanding that the policy makers act ineffectually, ignore the science and only do what the focus groupsm say to keep on being elected.... whilst the planet loses all its ice.

    I genuinely believe that is a risk.

    I strongly urge you to read the DDPP link plus the links to IPCC and all the links on cost, safety and CO2 which I put up earlier.


    [RH] Can we assume your reference to "denialists" is not in reference to those who deny AGW? Your meaning is not exactly clear in this comment.

  22. SuperPosition @170.

    You seem to be repeating your comment @139. I don't consider it in any way "ingenious" to do this, but I have to ask you what the devil you mean by:-

    "The fact is that alternative technologies (ie alternative to variable RE like solar and wind) exist now that do the job faster, not require grid restructuring or storage and do the job just as well."


    [PS] This discussion is rapidly veering offtopic. Please stick to the topic of the thread.

  23. [RH] Can we assume your reference to "denialists" is not in reference to those who deny AGW? Your meaning is not exactly clear in this comment.

    I'm sorry Rob I don't know what the current colective noun for AGW deniers is, but yes.

    It is a sort of stubborn ignorance and pseudo science where belief and consparacy theories trumps rational thought. Do we only see this in AGW denial? No. 

    Rob, you and I have discussed this at length and you already know my thoughts on the lobbyists from WWF, GreenPeace, FoE,Sierra Club, green Party (all 70 of them internationally and the 55 Green MEPs in the European parliament being against CCS and/or Nuclear.

    If SkS is prepared to fight pseudoscience and misguided belief whenn it affects the future of the planet then how can it not attack the irrationalism and anti-science of the other argument as well?

    par exemplar

    The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all
    George Monbiot::❝ I began to see the extent of the problem after a debate last week with Helen Caldicott. Dr Caldicott is the world's foremost anti-nuclear campaigner. She has received 21 honorary degrees and scores of awards, and was nominated for a Nobel peace prize. Like other greens, I was in awe of her. In the debate she made some striking statements about the dangers of radiation. So I did what anyone faced with questionable scientific claims should do: I asked for the sources. Caldicott's response has profoundly shaken me.... ❞ - read on



    [PS] This is a site devoted to debunking climate myths. There are other places more appropriate to discussing other anti-science issues. What next? evolution, AIDS, antivaxxers?  This is not the place for another round pro/anti nuclear debates. Take it to Brave New Climate.

    Any attempt to turn this thread into a discussion of nuclear options instead RE issues will be deleted. Posts must be on topic or they will be removed.

    Further note: This thread is about a specific myth. It is not a place to discuss RE or alternatives in general. Enough.

  24. Moderation Comment:

    Despite repeated warnings about engaging in excessive repitition, SuperPosition continues to drone on. His/her most recent comment was therefore deleted.

    Please do not respond to his comments. Doing so just gives him/her an excuse to regurtitate his prior statements.

    Thank you.

  25. @SuperPosition:

    Your most recent comemnt was deleted becuase it constituted a moderation complant which is forbidden by the SkS Comments Policy

    Given your repeated violations of SkS Comments Policy, you are on the cusp of relinquishing your privilege of posting comments on SkS.

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