Saturday, March 22, 2014

UNRELIABLE VS INTERMITTENT of the big arguments against renewables is that they are unreliable. The sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow, and that we need 24/7 base load from nuclear, coal, and gas.
Here are some ideas for thought.
  1. By law, and common sense, all utility system operations are required to have a 20-30% reserve of power available. A lot of times this is “peak generators” which can fire up within a few minutes and come on line quickly. Other units may already be warmed up, and ready to connect to the grid. The point is to have enough generation capacity to meet demand.
  2. A big argument against renewables is that they often require redundant systems to make up for what they don't produce at night, or during times when the resource is not generating electricity. These back ups are usually expensive because they only operate for short periods of time. Without storage, renewables can only produce electricity when they can...for solar, that is during the day when the largest demand is made, and for wind, at various times in the day.
  3. This does not mean these resources are unreliable...they are intermittent, and their availability can be predicted and compensated for with strategic planning.
  4. What is proving to be unreliable is our aging fleet of nuclear power baseload plants. What happens when a 1000MW, or a 1200MW plant suddenly goes off line? It is a huge scramble for the system operator to come up with enough of these back up peakers to continue to meet the demand. Much more of a problem than trying to match up producers for expected night time production, or period of low wind.
  5. Storage is the big new challenge and adventure. It will come in the next few years in the form of batteries, and what I still hold forth...hydrogen and fuel cells. Until then, there will continue to be a mix of renewables and natural gas.

In the first half of March 2014 alone, 4 large reactors experienced unplanned shutdowns! electricity! But the lights did not go out, and our power bills didn't go through the roof, as the diversity of our available generation resources meet our needs. This happens a lot, and is going to get worse, as our nuclear fleet reaches the point of no return (investment $$$S?), and just keeping them running will not be cost-effective.
It's all a matter of perspective and of course profit $$$$s, power, and control. The whole utility/independent producer role in supplying electricity is rapidly changing, and will lead to cheaper power, more individual freedoms and choices, less big government interference; and, of course, a cleaner sustainable environment.

Fermi shuts down. (1085MW)

Susquehanna shuts down  (1260MW)

Nine Mile Point shuts down again (1144MW)

Limmerick shut down  (1150MW)

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