Coal never picks up the peak demand - we had the great blackout as a consequence of that. During a long hot summer in California, a large enough quantity of solar would meet most of the peak. While natural gas is the most frequently used peak and spinning reserve power, California also has a lot of congestion in the NG system during peak demand. Meeting even a piece of the peak demand with solar would knock down the delivered price of natural gas as well as the price of gas generated power which would make peak NG power generation cheaper. Supplying peak demand with solar and average demand with wind would reduce the basic demand for hydro which. being dispatchable, could then be used to provide a larger portion of peak generation and spinning reserves.
The storage issue is a made up thing more egregious than range anxiety. California is a classic example: peak demand is roughly twice base demand while the demand peak is synchronous with insolation as so much of it is driven by HVAC; until California solar approaches 50% of peak capacity, storage doesn't even make sense. But you can already see a miniature version of that in Germany - miniature because Germany still doesn't have all that much solar and because it doesn't have the same degree of sun driven capacity or demand; but even then, there is a knock-on effect of meeting some peak demand using solar which has a nearly 0 incremental cost: rates which are normally driven up by competition for scare supply during peak hours, are instead driven down with the new supply having a dispoportionate effect on pricing.
Base load capacity is whatever generation that is the cheapest and is logically purchased before anything else. Since it is the cheapest, it is typically used around the clock. The paradox with coal is that it is cheap when operated 24/7 but not when operated cyclically so it can supply base load but isn't able to compete as peak capacity. The consequence is that coal forces the use of natural gas peakers, pumped hydro, etc which operate intermittantly and are therefore more expensive so that, even though coal power is sold cheaply, the aggregate cost of power is much higher. As can already be seen in some markets, wind with near zero incremental cost can outcompete coal when available depriving it of its ability to run 24/7 and ultimately driving it out of the market if it becomes more expensive than natural gas. Again, the strength of this effect relative to the penetration of wind in a market is quite large. A moderate proportion of wind power causes fossil fuel capacity to switch from coal to natural gas - half a step in the right direction.
Thanks alot for such informative post, You are absolutely correct that green power is breaking records in west and it will be the major source of power in near future but the only hinderance that is comming is of cost it is too expensive as compared to the power generated by coal and feul.
It is not only growing in West but China is also working alot in its development in 2012 China installed 13000 MW of winds which is considered to be less as compared to pevious years but then also china is leading with 75,000 megwatts wind capachity more than quarter of the whole word.
This is really promising news! Would be great if the rest of the country could follow, especially Midwestern states where there is a lot of wind, as well. California and Arizona are lucky to get so much sunshine, but in the summer months much of the rest of the country could really harness solar power more as well, and as storage improves, that energy could be stored up to use in the darker months. Thanks for covering this, Ann! It's great to see the adoption of alternative energy on the rise in these places.
This is my last post on this blog topics discussion thread, but it's not the end of the discussion, which will be moved to another venue. This is clearly the wrong forum for moving forward technical solutions that advance the state of the art toward the goal of reducing fossil fuel death and illness.
Until the storage problem is fixed, base line coal will continued to be required, and peak gas plants will continue to be required.
The current policy will sooner or later, cause base line coal and peak gas plants not to be built with population growth.
There will come a hot summer day that is cloudy and still, without solar/wind power, and there will be rolling blackouts.
If they do somehow keep building base/peak plants to meet worst case loads, then the people of Calif will be paying triple or worse for their power.
Calif solar/wind is expensive ... building base/peak to match population growth is expensive.
Until the cheap storage problem is fixed ... the renewable incentives are just going to keep charging Calif rate payers triple for infrastructure that does only half the job.
And if solar and wind carry the load successfully for some entire summer ... the folks working the coal/gas plants are going to be laid off and find some other job ... and when the still cloudy days arrive, the coal/gas plants will be cold and unstaffed.
Or rate payers are going to have to pay for an idle plant with full staff salaries on top of expensive renewables.
the coal and gas produce CO2 for global warming, and particulates that cause health problems. Babies die, children die, adults die. Add to that the mess for fossil fuel transportation, and more people die.
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