Why Wind and Solar won't save California from black outs

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dan_s
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Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:22 am

Why Wind and Solar won't save California from black outs

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An interesting note below from one of our members.

By Oscar Martin, VP of Engineering and Technology, BRS Aerospace

Early adopters of solar and wind such as Texas or California are starting to see alarming signs of saturation even when the total energy production of intermittent sources barely reaches 24% of the total in those areas. Basically the dream of solar and wind is collapsing very quickly as they are only profitable in a low penetration context.

The image below shows the percentage of annual production curtailed from solar and wind farms in Texas in the last 12 months, ranging from 10 to 30 percent of the total production, and growing year over year.

Another example is the exponential growth of the curtailed percentage in California, an underdeveloped grid that needs to import almost 1/3 of its energy. In this state, the curtailed renewable energy was 0.75% in 2015, 1.1% in 2018, 3.1% in 2021, and skyrocketing to 4.5% in 2022. In the past 12 months, 2.6 TWh were curtailed in California, equivalent to the energy consumed by 300,000 homes in a year. When the amount of curtailed energy grows faster than the installed capacity the signs of saturation are starting to be relevant, showing that the cost of additional solar and wind will be more and more expensive as they won't be as productive as before and will increase even more the total cost of energy for the end user.

How is this possible in a region such as California with a deficit in energy production? Solar and wind are notorious for failing to generate when they are most needed, and flooding the grid when they are not. For instance, electric car charging peaks at night, when solar energy is absent. And the wind speed drops significantly in summer and winter when electricity demand is highest. The consequence is a daily excess of discarded energy that worsens during the spring and fall seasons. The more renewables, the more curtailment, and lower returns for renewable farm owners but the same high fixed cost for the end user.

While solar and wind receive huge subsidies, the end user pays for the party. Is there any other alternative? Of course, instead of using clean intermittent sources that are destabilizing the grid and making it more expensive for the end user, the use of clean but dispatchable energy sources such as nuclear, geothermal, or hydroelectric have demonstrated they result in lower overall energy cost, lower emissions, lower rate of blackouts, lower waste, and lower impact on the environment.

The dream of a solar and wind grid is collapsing very quickly as they are only profitable in a low penetration context.
Dan Steffens
Energy Prospectus Group
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