In a study funded by Bill Gates it was argued that massive deployment of storage not needed for renewable sources to play large ‘decarbonization’ role. I agree.
It may be some years before we have an economically effective storage solution for electric cars and the grid. In the case of the grid load balancing is still needed. However using cleaner and responsive generation methods like gas turbines rather than coal makes a lot of sense. It is really a hybrid or compromise solution , but if it enables a greater portion of our electricity needs to be generated by renewables it is an important step.
A great example of this is in my home state in South Australia . The renewables now provide over 30% of the electric grid needs. They have both gas fired powered stations and coal. They have decided to retire the coal. On some days they are already achieving up to 1005%of the grid needs by renewables and only have to idle the gas generators.
Gas fired turbines are a lot easier to fire up in a shorter time than lighting up the boilers of a coal fired station. Think of it like starting a jet engine and takes minutes rather than hours to begin generation. It is very easy to adjust according to the load. Taking the carbon agument out of it, coal makes for far more smoke or smog than coal.
The Following is the report
Cambridge, Mass. – September 21, 2015 – Much of the nation’s energy policy is premised on the assumption that clean renewable sources like wind and solar will require huge quantities of storage before they can make a significant dent in the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. A new Harvard study pokes holes in that conventional wisdom. The analysis published today in the journal Energy & Environmental Science finds that the supply of wind and solar power could be increased tenfold without additional storage.
“There’s no question that it would be better to have more and better storage and a sensible long-term strategy for the grid will have much more storage than today,” said coauthor David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard John and Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “But you don’t have to wait for that before deploying more variable renewables.”
The parametric study conducted by Keith and SEAS graduate student Hossein Safaei asked: In order to drastically reduce planet-warming carbon emissions from electricity generation, what amount of “bulk electricity storage” – technologies that can store electricity for hours at a time, such as pumped hydroelectric facilities or flow batteries – is economically efficient?
Since the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine at the time that energy is needed, many assume that bulk storage technologies are essential in order for wind turbines and solar farms to contribute a larger share of the nation’s electricity demand.
But storage “is not the only strategy to achieve a low-carbon electricity grid,” according to Safaei. “Low capital cost in addition to good emissions performance make gas turbines cost-effective carbon mitigation candidates. Moreover, dispatchable zero-carbon generation technologies such as hydropower, nuclear, and biomass can be deployed instead of, or in conjunction with, the intermittent renewables.”
The finding that widespread deployment of batteries for grid-scale storage is not a prerequisite for dramatically increasing the amount of renewable energy we use is “good news,” said Sally M. Benson, professor of energy resources engineering and executive director of Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project. That’s because “more time and R&D is needed to decrease the cost of [bulk electricity story] and to scale-up production,” said Benson, who was not involved with the research.
Another independent observer, Jay Apt, professor of engineering and public policy and co-director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, added that the Harvard study makes clear that “the cost of removing pollution from electric generation is lowest when an all-of-the-above strategy is used.”
Keith and Safaei hope that their analysis will inform both R&D investment decisions and government policy directions.
“We’re trying to knock out a salient policy meme that says that you can’t grow variable renewables without a proportionate increase in storage,” Keith said. “We could cut electric-sector carbon emissions to less than a third their current levels using variable renewables with natural gas to manage the intermittency, but this will requires us to keep growing the electricity transmission infrastructure.” Keith added, “There is a saw-off between transmission and storage, if siting battles stop new transmission then we must increase storage.”
The study was funded by Bill Gates through the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research.