Can the grid handle renewables?

“The grid was not built for renewables,” said Trieu Mai, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Even the LA Times has discovered that the renewables lobby is not telling the whole truth:

Minders of a fragile national power grid say the rush to renewable energy might actually make it harder to keep the lights on.

By Evan Halper

7:57 PM PST, December 2, 2013

WASHINGTON — In a sprawling complex of laboratories and futuristic gadgets in Golden, Colo., a supercomputer named Peregrinedoes a quadrillion calculations per second to help scientistsfigure out how to keep the lights on.

Peregrine was turned on this year by the U.S. Energy Department.It has the world’s largest “petascale” computing capability. It is the size of a Mack truck.

Its job is to figure out how to cope with a risk from something the public generally thinks of as benign — renewable energy.

Energy officials worry a lot these days about the stability of the massive patchwork of wires, substations and algorithms that keeps electricity flowing. They rattle off several scenarios that could lead to a collapse of the power grid — a well-executed cyberattack, a freak storm, sabotage.

But as states, led by California, race to bring more wind, solar and geothermal power online, those and other forms of alternative energy have become a new source of anxiety. The problem is that renewable energy adds unprecedented levels of stress to a grid designed for the previous century.

Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don’t.

 (…snip…)

Back in Colorado, Peregrine is furiously working to map out grid scenarios involving wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. Sharing space with Peregrine at the Energy Systems Integration Facility is a “visualization room” with a 16-foot screen that creates 3-D images of how different wind patterns interact with turbines, or how molecules interact inside a solar cell.

More…

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