Extreme Weather Renewable Boost

Wednesday 8th January 2014

With the Polar Vortex holding a large chunk of the U.S. in its icy grip and storms and floods battering northern Europe, many are shocked at the on running intensity of these events. Many people, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, are suggesting that it may be due to Climate Change.

This is of interest to all of us involved in energy saving and efficiency, but another aspect regarding energy use has also come to the fore through these climatic challenges - energy supply and the reliability of renewables.

Pete Danko writing for earthtechling.com raised the subject of how critics of renewable energy highlight the variability of the wind and solar energy. However, through these hard hitting weather fronts we are experiencing the variability of grid power.

The holiday season was blighted for many in the States and Europe as they spent the Christmas and New Year with no electricity at all, with energy supply workers operating around the clock to get households back onto supply.

Danko quotes from Dallas News after the cold weather took out two power facilities - totalling 2,000 MW of capacity: “The decision Monday to issue a power conservation alert, asking Texans to lower their thermostats and avoid the use of major appliances, brought fears of a repeat of a 2011 ice storm during which close to a quarter of state’s power plants went out.”

He adds that yesterday afternoon, “RTO Insider reported that PJM – the mid-Atlantic power pool consisting of 13 states and Washington, D.C., and serving around 60 million customers – had some 36,000 MW of generation, a whopping 20 percent of its installed capacity, “unavailable due to forced outages.”

Reuters said the agency was citing “weather-related mechanical failures and natural gas supply problems, as well as normal generation issues, for power plants being knocked offline Tuesday.”

To score points for renewables the American Wind Energy Association quickly made it known that all that wind power capacity that has been added recently was certainly coming in handy, stating in a blog post: “As the cold and high winds first rolled into the Upper Midwest, the MISO grid operator saw very high wind energy output of around 8,000 MW, enough to supply 6 million average homes under typical conditions.”

Adding that in Texas, “the more than 2,000 MW of wind output on Monday morning was the critical difference keeping heaters running as the grid operator struggled with numerous outages at conventional power plants.”

So, whether in Europe or the U.S., renewable energy, wind and solar, when the heat hits the highs, is beginning to provide greater benefits than maybe is realised. Sustainable energy in more ways than one.

Picture of Fenton Wind Park, Minnesota - Windtech at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Categories: General, Renewable, Reviews

Wednesday 8th January 2014

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