How many ways can you think of to deal with the intermittence of solar and wind, GW?

One major "skeptic" complaint about efforts to actually deal with AGW is that 2 major sources of alternate energy, wind and solar, are somewhat intermittent. Often *predictably* intermittent, at least for solar, but it is clear that no modern industrial nation would cope well with solar and wind used as the only source of power without some mechanism to deal with that intermittence.

So, how many methods can you list to deal with that, while still using solar and wind as (at a minimum) major components of the energy mix? Bonus points for specificity (eg listing different energy storage methods instead of just saying "storage")

12 Answers

  • 3 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The problem, as I see it, is that people have a somewhat distorted view of the role of solar and wind. The narrative being produced goes something like 'wind and solar are intermittent sources and are therefore unreliable in terms of providing a nation with power'. No one can argue with that. Except, it's a bit of a straw man argument that really isn't all that relevant.

    Every nation is going to need fossil fuel and/or nuclear and/or hydroelectric and/or geothermal stations to provide that constant uninterrupted power source. Wind and solar fit into that as fuel savers. When you are producing power by solar or wind, you don't have to use your fossil fuel stations. You're saving those resources and producing less CO2 as a result.

    Now, there are ways in which we can improve the effectiveness of wind and solar. One way would be to store energy and there are three ways in which you could do that. Firstly, you could have large-scale storage facilities such as those based on hydroelectric principles where you use wind and solar to pump water to high level reservoirs and then let the water flow back down to generate power during peak times. Secondly, you could have smaller scale battery systems in houses and industries that store some of that energy. This is what Tesla are looking at. And the third method would be to use the energy from wind and solar to charge electric vehicles. If you have large numbers of electric cars, buses, vans, etc then there will always be numbers connected to charging points at any given time of day. Solar and wind could be used to charge these mobile batteries.

    Another way of 'dealing' with the intermittent nature of wind and solar is to have smarter grids where surplus energy in one state or country can be transferred to another. Europe has lots of this type of grid. Ireland and the UK share an interconnect, as do countries throughout the mainland continent. And even without these fixed grids, there are potential ways in which power could be transmitted wirelessly using microwave transmission stations and satellite systems.

    There are also systems which do not need to run continuously which could be powered by wind or solar. For example, there may be industrial processes in which you store something for a long time, accumulate enough material, and then run a process on it requiring energy. Whether that happens on a windless Thursday or a high-wind Saturday, from a commercial point of view, may not matter.

  • 3 years ago

    You could store it in a big spring like a clockwork torch.

    Electrically, you could use batteries, capacitors and inductors.

    The main issue with all storage ideas is one of scale. Just saying "battery" is easy but if the battery turns out to be the size of Texas then you can see that there could still be issues that needed to be solved.

    When you factor in how long the battery will last and convert that into the number of component cells you need to make every week just to keep it working you have another problem.

    The best current solution is hydro. It pumps water to increase its potential energy. This tends to rely on having suitable mountains. If you have to build the storage tanks from scratch then it is not feasible.

    Electricity consumption is also intermittent. You get a big surge in consumption when people arrive home or when they get up in the middle of the "big match" to fix a snack. Grid operators already have to manage that. Currently, it is managed by orchestrating the power generators. If they could not be relied upon because they themselves were intermittent then that would create further issues.

    Basically, solar and wind are typical greenie solutions. They cannot be made to work without much more work being necessary which all their cost benefit analyses curiously omit: Batteries, battery factories, battery transport, battery installation and commissioning, battery maintenance, production of battery raw materials, disposal of used batteries, battery grid connections, battery control equipment, battery buildings

  • Elana
    Lv 7
    3 years ago

    Both wind and electricity can be used to pump up reservoirs that release water gradually turning water turbines to generate electricity when needed.

    There's all kinds of electrical battery technology out there.

    I've heard of people adding kinetic energy to a fly wheel with electric motors and having it turn a generator to discharge. Still not sure how Earth's rotation effects that.

  • Noah
    Lv 5
    3 years ago

    We have separate issues here. One is personal and the other commercial. Any home in most of the southwest USA could run mostly on solar/wind because most days we have both. Even the occasional overcast day produces enough light to produce an abundance of electricity. Modern batteries can easily take up the slack. For industrial purpose that burns through many Kwh daily gas backup is he general answer. 2/3 of this country could run on mostly wind and solar most of the year. Conservation, particularly at night is an we really need all that outdoor advertising? Short answer: Wind and solar isn't all that intermittent...there's always a lot to be tapped into...we should be moving in that direction.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Anonymous
    3 years ago

    There are in principle only five ways that generated electricity can be ‘stored’:

    Chemical energy storage

    Electrochemical (batteries)

    Electrostatic storage (capacitors)

    Kinetic energy storage (flywheels, rotors)

    Pumped hydro storage

    It is very unlikely that any grid storage solution could ever practically cover the intermittency of high penetration utility scale wind and solar.

  • S
    Lv 7
    3 years ago

    i suspect inventions beyond our current thinking. even with no storage, anytime solar or wind produces power, it is less coal being burned..a win in my book.

  • Anonymous
    3 years ago

    Too many.

    It looks like we are heading towards microgrids combined with conservation and demand response.

    A microgrid is a discrete energy system consisting of distributed energy sources (including demand management, storage, and generation) and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main power grid.

    Demand response provides an opportunity for consumers to play a significant role in the operation of the electric grid by reducing or shifting their electricity usage during peak periods in response to time-based rates or other forms of financial incentives. Demand response programs are being used by some electric system planners and operators as resource options for balancing supply and demand. Such programs can lower the cost of electricity in wholesale markets, and in turn, lead to lower retail rates.

    We already see large companies like Walmart and Amazon installing solar on their roofs because it is cheaper for them than buying it off the grid. The fact that it is "green" is just a coincidence. They currently rely on the grid for backup, but at some point, storage is going to become cost competitive. Microgrids could see similar cost benefits.

    There are hurdles to be overcome for sure, South Australia is an example how power companies can abuse the system when renewables are not supplying enough electricity. They will only make it more likely for people to go off-grid or towns to build resilient microgrids.

  • 3 years ago

    Nothing & no one originally from earth was & is the cause of Global Warming. The cause originated from a species NOT from our Universe that's been using earth's weather against all species as an invasion so those 3 can claim earth for their kind that's no longer alive. Their out in deep space looking for their counterparts now.. Mike

    Source(s): LOGICAL
  • JimZ
    Lv 7
    3 years ago

    You pretty much have to have a fully functioning non-solar /wing energy system to cope with those times that aren't sunny and windy. That means adding solar and wind is additional in cost, and not an alternative. You can have various batteries but they are enormously expensive or take a lot of land and natural resources. I know they sometime pump water uphill for example in times where energy is flowing (has to be in addition to what people are already using) and then at times when the wind or light is insufficient, they use generators such as those found in dams to change the potential energy back to electrical. It isn't 100% efficient, takes water and land resources and is expensive beyond what you need to pay for just the wind and solar. Some people like to distort the cost of solar and pretend it is cheaper than carbon based fuels but that is a load of biofuel.

  • 3 years ago

    A planet-wide power grid, with geothermal and tide integrated in, too, would wrap ALL those problems up in a nice neat package. But THAT would cross borders, trespassing on capitalism's Holy of Holys -- the nation-state.

    Solar power satellites with transfer of the power to the surface via maser would be an idea, too. Although I'm not too pleased with the resemblance to a particle weapon and the potential for misuse (what an understated way to say "blast a city down to the bedrock" lol), or the problems with wildlife getting in the beam. And what if it punched a hole in one of the atmospheric layers? Remember the ozone thing?

    And by the time we need massively more power than these things would provide, we should be able to make fusion reactors, and not have to rely on the giant one in the sky.

    Although, we HAVE been "almost there" on controlled fusion for over half a century (sigh). Just like the constant broken promises about space, it makes me feel like a kid being driven to Baskin-Robbins ("Are we there yet?")

    ADDED: Hey, it's YOU! Didn't see ya on Android, changed to "desktop view" for another reason, and saw ya. Greetings.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.