I’ve blogged many times about the clean energy policies California has in place that have made it a leader. The state is well on its way to supplying 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and now, in a visionary step to dramatically reduce global warming emissions, is considering ways to increase that amount to 50 percent by 2030.
Meeting half of California’s electricity needs with renewables will transform its electricity grid and pave the way for other states and countries to do the same. But with anything transformational, there are new challenges to overcome. Perhaps the most exciting part is that the solutions to integrating large quantities of renewable electricity are actually at hand. Renewable grid integration is not a technical challenge but an economic one; to maximize our future renewable investments, we must deploy technologies that provide grid reliability services while not causing us to waste significant amounts of clean energy. A quick summary of how to do this is explained below, but for additional detail, check out the fact sheet UCS just released.
Making room for renewables on the grid
The challenge grid operators face is to not waste energy created by renewables when the supply of electricity exceeds demand. “Overgeneration,”as energy geeks call it, is most likely to occur in the middle of the day when California’s world-class solar resources really start firing up. To avoid overgeneration, grid operators can curtail the output of renewable energy facilities to reestablish the supply/demand balance. But this option should not be overused. After all, once a renewable generation facility is built, the marginal cost of that generation is very low and we want to use that electricity, not dump it. To minimize curtailment, we need to determine whether it’s possible to turn down other forms of generation instead of renewables.