Green Energy Fans Think 100% = 20%

solar-windSomeone quoted the following article at me: Did Germany Really Surpass 100% Renewable Power? They claimed this as evidence that its possible for the US to move to 100% wind and solar energy. But, if you look in this very article, you find this quote:

We still only have 20% wind and solar on the German grid

The report was merely that there was a peak in solar/wind generation that reached 100% of the load that the grid can carry. While this is a great achievement, and offers hope that, with buffering (e.g. giant battery farms), solar and wind may one day be able to sustain 100% of the German grid, it does not mean that 100% is anywhere close.

Another little hurdle to overcome: Germany is densely populated. One of the biggest loads on grids in North America is transmission. Sending power from places that have plenty of generation capacity (e.g. the Arizona desert) to places that need the power and can’t easily generate it (e.g. rainy Seattle) is not feasible without huge losses. So how will wind and solar ever power a place that isn’t windy or sunny? They probably won’t. Instead, hydro and geothermal (if available), natural gas and coal (for now), or nuclear will be used.

The best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize the number of nuclear power plants that will be built (and river valleys flooded for hydro) is to reduce power consumption. If Germany could become 80% more energy efficient (unlikely, but imagine), the entire grid really could be run with solar and wind power. Now suppose that they were to become 40% more efficient (seems possible), doubled the amount of solar and wind power generation, and made generation 50% more efficient with better technology. They’d be done.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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3 Responses to Green Energy Fans Think 100% = 20%

  1. You make a good point that the best solution is to lower consumption. Unfortunately electricity and energy is so wrapped up in convenience that this is unlikely to happen any time soon anywhere..

    • jimbelton says:

      Very true, especially now. Hopefully, as the grid gets more intelligent, there will be more incentive to conserve. O could imagine real time monitoring that shows you how much money you’re burning, and you can see the dollar figure go up and down as you turn stuff on and off. That would probably help a lot. There are a few bright lights like Elon Musk who are making things that people actually want that will help things. These are the kinds of things that will make a difference, not more taxes. In BC, we have a supposedly revenue neutral carbon tax that goes into general revenue. I don’t see that connecting with the average person. It certainly means nothing to me.

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