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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Green Spot: How High Can You Go?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 30, 2009

In the world of power generation some renewables, like wind and solar, hold a special place of fear for grid managers.  You see it adds some highly variable generation to your fleet which requires some flexible dispatching power like natural gas to cover the gaps when it is on and some fairly robust computer managing to make sure no one loses power when the wind suddenly drops off.

Yet the more I was thinking about it, if you put more power on the grid in that form in a large amount you would likely get a more stable power generation.  For example, if you put 20% wind/solar in Saskatchewan you would be hard pressed to find a day in this province when you are not going to get some power from this facilities if you spread them over a larger area.  The key would be to spread them around.

Common wisdom to date was most grids likely could not hanlde more than 20% renewables without having to modify the grid.  That’s why I like this article, which points out to some work by a graduate student in the US that shows in theory you could push it to 70%.  To date the work is limited, but if nothing else it is showing some thinking outside the box.  I wonder what would happen if more people did that?

Comments

3 Responses to “Green Spot: How High Can You Go?”
  1. Traciatim says:

    “I wonder what would happen if more people did that?” . . . you mean have 70% of our energy from solar and wind distributed around the grid? Our energy prices would spike to twice what they are now, that’s what would happen.

    I think a much better idea is simply mandate all new building must have 30% of their total energy generated with ‘green’ sources on site (Solar Heat, Wind Energy, Whatever). The big problem is distribution, this solves that.

  2. Potato says:

    For example, if you put 20% wind/solar in Saskatchewan you would be hard pressed to find a day in this province when you are not going to get some power from this facilities if you spread them over a larger area. The key would be to spread them around.

    I would tend to agree in general, but you have to be careful of the correlations — Saskatchewan isn’t so big that the whole province couldn’t be hit by a calm spell… someone just has to do the study for Saskatchewan in particular.

    Another idea is buffering of the variable loads (wind in particular) somehow. One option is with batteries (possibly distributed around the grid as part of a PHEV revolution)/capacitors, but a neat idea I heard recently was to buffer in the form of wind-hydroelectric combination projects. You have the wind turbines pump water uphill at night/off-peak/when there’s excess wind, and then you can control the release of the water to the hydroelectric site to manage peak loads, or to provide generation in a calm.

    In both cases you’re looking at the excess cost of storage losses and having to overbuild, but it might allow the use of a greater portion of renewables.

  3. Canadian Dream says:

    Trac,

    Actually I was thinking more about thinking a little outside the box. The power industry is highly change resistant.

    Not a bad idea about new buildings. Thanks.

    Potato,

    Actually I asked about the water storage idea. It’s been looked at and it won’t work. Too many loses and SK’s Hydro is ‘run of the river’ style so we can’t just bank up much water without causing flooding.

    Tim

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