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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

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. 

Summary

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 176 to 198 out of 198:

  1. 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.

    Can we agree that we are discussing the myth that largescale Variable RE sources by themselves are compatable with baseload requirements?

    If so then pursuant to this, comparisons with genuine baseload suppliers such as low carbon CCS- CCGT/OCGT gas, nuclear, hydro or biofuels are inevitable and have been made elsewhere on this thread without comment from any moderator.

    Even fusion has been discussed at length - not a peep. So I don't mean to pester, but is one rule for all really too much to expect?

     

    Back to the subject, has anyone got any citations that back up the contention that variable RE generators are baseload supplies?

    Accepting that they would require the addittion of grid storage and grid restructuring, is anyone aware of any costs applied to this - I cannot find a single country with that plan in the pipeline.

    If that is the case then surely it should be revisited as an idea, no?

    Response:

    [DB] Moderation complaints and off-topic snipped.

  2. Superposition,

    Here is a list of over 100 articles that referenced Budichak et al. 2103 (linked above).  Many of them will contain the information you claim you want.  The first one is Elliston et al 2013 , also linked above, which provides all the information you have asked for.  Since I have posted this information before and you have not read or responded to the information contained in them, why should I expect you to read them now?

    Since you have linked nothing but an outdated Wikipedia article from 2010 and a Der Speigel rag, why do you require me to provide peer reviewed data?  If you have nothing peer reviewed to contribute to the discusssion you need to stop wasting everyone elses time.  

    Since you are obviously just a troll I will no longer post any responses to you.

    Response:

    [RH] Let's try to keep the tone in check. Thx.

  3. Moderation Comment

    Superposition coninues to blatantly violate the SkS Comments Policy's prohibition of excessive repetition. Consequently his/her future comments on this thread will be summarily deleted. 

  4. Michael Sweet 177:: Here is a list of over 100 articles that referenced Budichak et al. 2103 (linked above). Many of them will contain the information you claim you want. The first one is Elliston et al 2013 , also linked above, which provides all the information you have asked for.

    I'm sorry Michael, but I looked and none of the ones I looked at say what you say they do. All you have done is google something and hoped that, statistically, one of those sites behind a paywall must concur with your view. That is not how it works.

    The one you specifically describe, Elliston et al 2013 does not say that or anything like it - perhaps you misread it, do you have a quote in context?

    Since you have linked nothing but an outdated Wikipedia article from 2010 and a Der Speigel rag.

    You have repeatedly made this claim and ignore the IPCC [144] et al which I posted - what is your problem with the IPCC? The IPCC is a trusted body that works to high standards, if you disagree with them then you should explain why you think that they are wrong. The two Der Speigel articles are also in world press/AP stories - whereas your rebuttal to the news was a RE trade magazine that supports the industry and even then it specifically did not say what you say it does.

    IPCC Glossary::

    ❝Load (electrical): The demand for electricity by (thousands to millions)
    power users at the same moment aggregated and raised by the losses in
    transport and delivery, and to be supplied by the integrated power supply
    system....//.... Base load is power continuously demanded over the period.❞

    A generator that only provides power intermittantly cannot supply the base load unless (a) it is only a minor component of your grid (b) you use spinning reserve (c) you use a method of storage and no grid operator has plans for this.

  5. SuperPosition 179. That is completely correct, to be fair the article does not specify variable RE, however it must be a given that most RE is of the variable variety so at best the strapline is misleading.

    There is an excellent explanation of the reasons behind this in Limitations of 'Renewable' Energy by Leo Smith MA (Electrical sciences)

    I don't necessarily agree with all (or strength) of the final conclusions but the core text is sound.

  6. Henchman21,

    Your link is to a white paper by Leo Smith who has a MA in electrical sciences.  Most of his references are to Wikipedia.  It is not peer reviewed, it is just a blog post.  In additon, it is dated 2012 and the cost of RE has plummetted since then.  At SkS we prefer to have peer reviewed papers.

     Can you find peer reviewed material to support your wild claim?

  7. Michael Sweet 181....... Your wild claims

    Calm down. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    Please reference all your claims and we can go from there.

    Response:

    [RH] You're a little late to the conversation. Michael Sweet has already cited his references. 

  8. Henchman21 @180 & michael sweet @181.
    That Leo Smith thesis has been addressed already up-thread having been introduced by SuperPosition @129. It didn't get a good reception. Indeed, it was introduced elsewhere on SkS back in 2012 but failed even to arrive at this thread. Myself, I don't think Leo Smith, MA. is at all worth citing on this issue.

    SuperPosition @179.
    Spinning reserve operates over a period of minutes. Base load applies to periods of hours. Your confusion does you no credit.
    Your objections about paywalls would be taken more seriously if you were attentive to the papers when initially provided.
    The abstract of the Elliston et al (2013) paper kicks off with the quote:-

    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.

    I would have thought that would satisfy your yearning to answer your question @176 "has anyone got any citations that back up the contention that variable RE generators are baseload supplies?"
    If not, perhaps Elliston et al (2012) would do it.

    This research demonstrates that 100% renewable electricity in the NEM, at the current reliability standard, would have been technically feasible for the year 2010 given some particular renewable energy generation mixes including high levels of variable resources such as wind and solar.

  9. MA Roger 183

    A master of arts isn't good enough now? Since when?

    There's a few people on SKS with MAs who may take exception to that view.

    By all means criticise the content but to attack the credentials and the person as a mechanism of slighting the paper should be beneath you.

    Response:

    [RH] Please accept the fact that the Leo Smith piece is a very weak citation and move on. We trust you can find stronger citations to support your arguments.

  10. 183

    Incidentally, your quote does not say that variable RE can supply a baseload.

  11. RH.

    Happily but I am concerned at the disparity.

    IPCC carries many non peer reviewed reports without objection... If Leo Smith MA is wrong then it should be for factual inaccuracy rather than by result. I hope  you agree.

    Response:

    [RH] I highly suggest you read through the commenting policy for this site. As a moderator here I'm asking you to move on from this track of the discussion, not perpetuate it.

  12. Henchman21 @185.

    Why do you say the quote(s) do(es)n't "say that variable RE can supply a baseload"? Is the 'RE' being mentioned not variable enough for you? Or is there some part of 'baseload' that you consider isn't supplied by providing "100% renewable elecrticity"? Do explain.

    Response:

    [JH] We have noted the similarity between Henchm21's postings and those of Superpoition. If there is only one person behind these two user names, the penalty of banishment will be imposed per the SkS Comments Policy. We have zero tolerence for sock puppetry.

  13. Moderation Comment:

    We are investigating whether or not Superposition and Henchman21 are sockpuppets. Until we complete our investion, please do not repond to any posts made by either Superposition and Henchman21.   

    Response:

    [DB] Henchman21 is confirmed as a sock puppet of SuperPosition.  Both user id's have had their posting rights rescinded.

  14. Kevin McKinney in a comment at Real Climate cited Jacobson et al 2015.  This paper presents a plan to convert 100% of all energy used in the USA to Renewable Energy  (not all electricity, all energy).  From the abstract:

    "This study presents roadmaps for each of the 50 United States to convert their all-purpose energy systems (for electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) to ones powered entirely by wind, water, and sunlight (WWS). The plans contemplate 80–85% of existing energy replaced by 2030 and 100% replaced by 2050. ...Year 2050 end-use U.S. all-purpose load would be met with 30.9% onshore wind, 19.1% offshore wind, 30.7% utility-scale photovoltaics (PV), 7.2% rooftop PV, 7.3% concentrated solar power (CSP) with storage, 1.25% geothermal power, 0.37% wave power, 0.14% tidal power, and 3.01% hydroelectric power. Based on a parallel grid integration study, an additional 4.4% and 7.2% of power beyond that needed for annual loads would be supplied by CSP with storage and solar thermal for heat, respectively, for peaking and grid stability. Over all 50 states, converting would provide 3.9 million 40-year construction jobs and 2.0 million 40-year operation jobs for the energy facilities alone, the sum of which would outweigh the 3.9 million jobs lost in the conventional energy sector. Converting would also eliminate 62 000 (19 000–115000) U.S. air pollution premature mortalities per year today and 46 000 (12000–104 000) in 2050, avoiding $600 ($85–$2400) bil. per year (2013 dollars) in 2050, equivalent to 3.6 (0.5–14.3) percent of the 2014 U.S. gross domestic product. Converting would further eliminate $3.3 (1.9–7.1) tril. per year in 2050 global warming costs to the world due to U.S. emissions. These plans will result in each person in the U.S. in 2050 saving $260 (190–320) per year in energy costs ($2013 dollars) and U.S. health and global climate costs per person decreasing by $1500 (210–6000) per year and $8300 (4700–17 600) per year, respectively. The new footprint over land required will be 0.42% of U.S. land. The spacing area between wind turbines, which can be used for multiple purposes, will be 1.6% of U.S. land. Thus, 100% conversions are technically and economically feasible with little downside. These roadmaps may therefore reduce social and political barriers to implementing clean-energy policies."

    It appears to me that scientists researching future energy supplies have moved way beyond the question of "Can RE supply baseload energy?" and are now planning how to power the entire civilization.  Their conclusion is that current technology is capable of powering all of civilization.  

    Their paper describes all states generating enough power to power that state.  Then interconnects betweeen states balance generation and demand (for example Florida has a lot of solar but no wind for night time generation).  If the system was optimized it would cost less (for example having Texas generate excess power using their large wind resource and exporting power to Florida all day long).  They consider all costs including building out the infrastructure and transmission lines.

    Response:

    [JH] Formatting glitch fixed.

  15. According to these researchers, renewables can provide all electricity needs (including baseload) around the world and they have built a simulation to make the point:

    http://www.lut.fi/web/en/news/-/asset_publisher/lGh4SAywhcPu/content/simulation-brings-global-100-renewable-electricity-system-alive-for-the-first-time

    Response:

    [GT Link activated]

  16. The proposition that 100 percent renewable energy is both possible and affordable is about to be tested in the way that really matters - in the Washington DC Superior Court. Mark Jacobson, who backs 100%, is suing Chris Clack, lead author of a paper claiming that for US electricity, 80% is an achievable figure, with the balance being legacy nuclear, biofuels, and  natural gas.                                                                                                       There's an interesting graph from the late David Mackay, plotting population density and energy consumption per head against the area required for various renewable technologies measured in watts per square metre. http://www.inference.org.uk/sustainable/data/powerd/HiRes/PPPersonVsPDen2WA.eps.png       A few countries in the 'low energy use' quadrant, and even fewer in the ' low population density ' area , actually do manage 100% renewable electricity, but that's mostly hydro. Denmark claims about 40% from wind. However the eastern and western sections of the Danish grid are actually more closely tied to, respectively, Norway and Sweden     ( with ten times the capacity of the whole Danish grid ) and Germany ( about twenty times as big ), than they are to each other. Energy flows, and CO2 produced by electricty generation, can be seen in real time here -https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=country&countryCode=DK                     The island of El Hierro, in the Canaries, also gets about 40% of its power from wind, using pumped hydro up to a handy volcanic crater to balance lulls.   http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-october-november-2017-performance-update/#more-20384                                                           Of countries invested heavily in solar, Italy and Greece manage about 8% of domestic generation, averaged over the year, much less in winter. Mark Jacobson's team has drawn up 100% renewable scenarios for fifty US states and about a hundred countries.   http://thesolutionsproject.org/why-clean-energy/                                   In nearly every simulated case, wind and solar make up about 90 to 95% of the total projected energy use, compared to about one percent worldwide today. Jacobson claims this is possible, at least in the US, with no energy crops and practically no additional hydro dams, just more grid interconnections and more generators on the existing dams. Clack says, a bit more circumlocuitously, that he's a halfwit.   http://www.vibrantcleanenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ReplyResponse.pdf

  17. John ONeill @ 191

    Courts are ill-equipped to deal with complex issues of science.  I can understand why Michael Mann may commence a libel or slander suit against a particular professor who effectively suggested that what Mann published was criminal. 

    But when two scientists like Jacobson and Clack (and the other authors on both sides) strongly disagree on questions of fact and science then the proper forum is peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals. 

    What really troubles me about these kind of cases is that I am quite sure that the massive legal costs involved are not really paid by the litigants but rather powerful interests behind each litigant.  The litigants themselves then become pawns in the chess game really directed by the money men on each side.

    This kind of litigation will only discourage other scientists from making honest criticisms of other papers for fear of finding themselves in court.  I truly hope that this case is thrown out of court for these reasons.

  18. Fossil fuels will have trouble supplying baseload heating power in Europe for a while after a severe fire in Austria's natural gas hub.  Fossil fuels frequently have trouble supplying constant power.

  19. The Burden of proof is solely on 100% renewables studies. To say we can do it through reducing energy usage is moulding the data to fit our ideals - not very skeptical. As a skeptical site you should really be taking the Jacobsen Study down as it has been firmly rebutted which he is now sueing over instead of correcting his work or replying in a scientific manner. And for a thorough look at what the Burden of Proof needs to be for 100% renewables I recommend the following (LINK)

    Response:

    [DB] Link breaking page formatting shortened.

    [PS] Given the authorship, I hope you are reading with the same skepticism you apply (rightly) to Jacobsen.

  20. Mjn,

    Fossil fuel cars are only 20% efficient while electric cars are 90% efficient.  If we all drive the same distance using renewable energy we will use only 25% of the energy required for fossil fuels.  If gobal transport is twice as far we will use half as much energy. Fossil power plants are less than 50% efficient while nulcear plants are only 30% efficient.  Renewable sources are 90+% efficient.  That alone reduces power usage substantially.  Insulating buildings better adds substantial energy savings. 

    The authors of your link do not understand this basic concept.  The consensus of research in the field is that your link is incorrect.  They have not met the burden of proof.  They additionally ask for proof that new technologies can perform claiming that historically it has not been used.  Of course all new technologies have no historical data, that is why they are new.

    The rest of your comment is also uninformed.  Try to raise your game.

  21. Some 7 years later from a very contentious discussion, I hestitate to post, but here goes!

    I feel the answer to the question of "Can renewables provide baseload power?" should be "No. However, renewable energy's deficiencies can be mitigated to provide baseload power using energy storage and overbuild." - which is they way the rest of the article reads.

    Storage and overbuild are mitigation strategies, not an inherent part of renewable's capabilities.

    Also, it is not a great service to a reader to paint a such a rosy picture. To get to 100% renewables a major amount of work has to be done (referencing the items in the description):

    • for scale, https://www.iea.org/world, 23,696 TWh electricity (not total energy) in 2017
    • storage is at 200 GW globally, relatively small to a baseload scenario
      • https://www.iea.org/articles/will-pumped-storage-hydropower-expand-more-quickly-than-stationary-battery-storage
      • note this makes a breakdown into pumped hydro/pumped thermal/batteries/caes irrelevant - altogether very small
      • good news VTG, but still somewhat small - https://irena.org/newsroom/articles/2019/May/Driving-a-Smarter-Future
    • https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/renewables
      • Renewable electricity generation by source (non-combustible), World 1990-2017
      • geothermal is an even smaller drop at 85 TWh (0.3%) globally
      • solar CSP is a tiny drop at 11 TWh (0.04%)

    Once we take into account overbuild of renewables, the overbuild of transmission to support previous, more storage, and demand management, it becomes a (doable) daunting task.

    I also feel the point about the renewables studies are a bit too optimistic. Jacobson's paper in particular has a number of refutations with just as well-reviewed papers as his - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2017.03.114 being an obvious starting point. My point isn't that 1 guy is correct and 1 guy is wrong - my point is that this is not a settled argument - and we can't bet our biosphere on optimism.

    I will say that if you want to quote a source, although not as optimistic, this is a much better paper than Jacobson: https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re-futures.html

    Casually reading this post I would conclude this is a done deal and we should all stop worrying about climate change. That is probably a bad message to take away.

  22. Preston Urka,

    Perhaps if you read more current articles you would be less skeptical.  This post from less than one month ago (Smart Energy Europe) here at Skeptical Science describes a 100% renewable energy system that delivers All Power at a comparable cost to fossil fuels.  They account for all storage costs.  They use only existing technology.  They use the total energy use of the EU.

    As for your response to Jacobson 2015, he has published a new paper, Jacobson 2018, that addresses all the issues raised about his original paper.  There has been plenty of time to write a response to his 2018 paper but ctritics obviously feel he has answered their questions.  I note that in his original paper he found many solutions to the problem and he only described one.  In addition, the Smart Energy Europe paper uses a completely different system than Jacobson does and finds essentially the same result.  That indicates that there are many paths to a completely renewable system.

    Perhaps you should read the Smart Energy Europe OP and describe your complaints there.  We certainly do not have a "done deal" and need to continue to worry about Climate Change.  That does not mean that there are not solutions at hand, it means that politicians are not taking the needed steps to solve the problem.

    A response to Burden of Proof, your reference to "refute" Jacobson is here.  Burden of Proof is shown to have no basis in fact.  I note that Burden of Proof is written by a group of nuclear no-hopers.  

    Perhaps you could tell us what you think needs to be done so different solutions can be compared.  Criticizing possible solutions without offering alternates is not very helpful.

    Vote Climate!

  23. Energy storage as one of the essential components in renewable power smart grid, many approaches were proposed and experimented as described in OP.

    Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) being one of them, suffered from temperature dropped and energy loss according to thermodynamic theory if air volume rapid expanding (used in energy storage and vehicle), what if replacing the "compressed air" with "high pressure water"? Would "hydraulic" be better than "thermodynamic"? How about an energy storage system made of a hydraulic accumulator and a power generator turbine driven by high pressure water jet? Just reading a motorcycle news about water power motorcycle the other day [water powered motorcycle concept drawings] [news about water powered concept motorcycle], I am not very interested in the said motorcycle (would it be better than current BEV?), but the water powered engine catches my eyes. If they can be used in vehicles and work (and if power almost lossless as claimed), why not scaled up and used in energy storage systems?

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