Three stories of solar energy domination: Which outcome would YOU prefer?

(Updated, 2016-07-14)

See Shayle Kann’s great piece at GreenTech media. The choices:

  1. “Version one: Aimless transformation”
  2. “Version two: The balkanized grid”
  3. “Version three: Embracing the transformation”

In addition to solar PV, wind energy of all forms (especially underutilized local wind turbines), and energy storage, Kann is right on, in my opinion, emphasizing the great potential of blockchain technology. See here for a primer.

Also, the supposed need for base load is a chimera and just as mythical, and concerns about duck curves are misplaced. The grid is a network, and like any network, including the communications network known as the Internet, load needs to be shaped some times. That’s part of what demand response is about, but what some fail to see is that, on this point, a grid is better off having a large number of spatially separated, small generators than a few large generators, even if the large generators are all zero Carbon. This is particularly true if some of the generators have their own energy storage or are entirely energy storage centers.

Whatever you may think of nuclear power, an article from the Rocky Mountain Institute on the closing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant pointed out another thing I did not know about these large “base load” generation facilities:

As Germany found, integrating varying solar and wind power with steady “baseload” plants can present challenges for the opposite of the reason originally supposed: not because wind and solar power vary (demand varies even less predictably), but because “baseload” plants are too inflexible.


That’s interesting.

On the nuclear plant issue, I would personally vastly prefer keeping old and existing nuclear plants open for longer than bringing on new natural gas generation facilities and especially new natural gas pipelines. Admittedly, as noted, nuclear power cannot respond as quickly as can these “peaking gas plants”. However, I have never seen a convincing argument on why this is the only way this can be done, rather than using smart controls and allocation on the grid. We know the grid needs to be made smarter. Why does dumping billions of dollars into peaking plants and pipelines make sense, and not into modernizing a grid that needs to go there? I seriously doubt the reason is a technical one. I seriously suspect it has to do with business models, profitability, and policies people are comfortable with because that’s how they’ve always done them. They are squirrels who have crossed a road three-fourths of the way, and now that there’s an onrushing car, they turn around and want to go back to where they came from.

And, finally, whatever the road chosen on the grid, as I’ve emphasized here repeatedly, even the conservative (*) and Carbon worshipping U.S. Energy Information Administration is now projecting a great role for zero Carbon energy by 2030. And the news from REN continues to be excellent.

And remember, all forms of electrical energy are intermittent.


* By “conservative” I do not mean political conservativism but, rather, the tendency for the EIA to most reluctantly budge from extrapolation of past data onto what would be considered reasonable economic forecasting in nearly any other field.

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This entry was posted in adaptation, Anthropocene, biofuels, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, BNEF, bridge to somewhere, Buckminster Fuller, business, Chris Goodall, citizenship, civilization, clean disruption, conservation, consumption, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, demand-side solutions, destructive economic development, disruption, distributed generation, ecology, Ecology Action, economics, efficiency, electricity, electricity markets, energy, energy reduction, energy storage, energy utilities, engineering, environment, fossil fuel divestment, green tech, grid defection, Hermann Scheer, Hyper Anthropocene, Internet, investing, investment in wind and solar energy, ISO-NE, Joseph Schumpeter, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, local generation, microgrids, public utility commissions, PUCs, rationality, reasonableness, regime shifts, Sankey diagram, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, Spaceship Earth, stranded assets, the energy of the people, the green century, the right to know, the tragedy of our present civilization, the value of financial assets, Tony Seba, utility company death spiral, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Three stories of solar energy domination: Which outcome would YOU prefer?

  1. Pingback: 93% of year is free of cost, with heat, cooling, hot water, powered by free solar PHOTONS | Hypergeometric

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