Monday, March 12, 2012

Treating the Power Grid as a Dumping Ground: Green Intermittency Costs

In April of 2011, the MIT Energy Initiative held a symposium on the challenges of integrating green intermittent power sources into power grids. Today, the PDF report from that symposium was released for public download.

The images below were taken from the MIT report. The full report is downloadable at the link above.
Large electrical power grids are complex systems which help make modern affluent societies possible. Common tells us that we should not put undue stress on systems which are that important.
Intermittent power sources such as big wind and big solar cannot be controlled, because the wind and the sunshine cannot be controlled. This means that if power grids attempt to integrate these unreliable power sources, they will be forced to pay a number of costs on several levels. The cost of maintaining grid stability and reliability will rise. The cost of maintaining existing power plants will rise appreciably. The cost of supporting structures -- such as backup power sources, large-scale energy storage facilities, new grid infrastructures, new power management technologies, etc. is likely to prove enormous.
Environmentalists would like to shut down hydrocarbon and nuclear based power plants and replace them with wind and solar. Making an attempt to do so would prove an unmitigated catastrophe. But even the partial replacement of coal, gas, and nuclear by wind and solar could easily prove disastrous, if the integration of wind and solar were pushed too far, and too fast.
Frequent shut downs and startups of power plants is costly -- both short-term and long-term. Keeping personnel and machine systems on a hair-trigger, just in case wind and solar should pick up or slow down unexpectedly, is ludicrous.
As intermittency takes its toll on machinery and economies, wise and prudent observers should begin to question the rationale for pushing intermittency onto the power grid in the first place.
The "cure" for intermittency is thought to be new energy storage technologies at utility scales. But how long before such technologies become economically feasible?

Again, wise persons are forced to question the underlying rationale behind forcing destructive intermittencies onto the power grid.

You may think that only politicians could be so stupid as to quickly push ahead with intermittent sources long before the problems associated with intermittency have been solved. But that is not quite right. Academics and journalists are every bit as stupid as politicians, on that score, as are government bureaucrats -- and especially environmentalists. There has never been a shortage of stupidity.

There has always been a relative shortage of workable human ingenuity paired with wisdom.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts