Anyone with ~1 week of honest research can understand why
What’s Up With Solar And Wind?
Not all renewables are created equal. Some are better than others. When looking for an energy source for power generation, the best form is a reliable one than can deliver large amount of power 24/7. For example, Hydro is a a renewable energy source that provides reliable baseload energy.
However, when it comes to some other forms of renewable energy, things become different, and reality strikes. Solar and wind energy are intermittent renewable energy sources. In layman’s terms, the wind may not blow all day, and the sun doesn’t shine all day.
If the world chooses to transition to being fully powered by renewable energy sources. This has to change with solar and wind to make them less intermittent and more reliable. The solution to this may end up being Energy Storage.
Store It When You Don’t Need It
The idea of energy storage is not new, not radical, not very innovative. It is actually plain simple: Always generate energy when you can generate energy, even when you have low demand for energy. The excess energy generated is stored until it is needed. This allows intermittent renewable energy systems such as solar and wind to provide energy at all times, so these systems can work 24/7. A bonus feature is that energy storage can allow systems to respond to high energy demands which increases resiliency.
Not All Storage Are Created Equal
Just like renewable energy sources, not all energy storage systems are created equal.
For example, Pumped hydro energy storage are reliable, cheap (cost per unit basis), and can provide long term and seasonal energy storage. However, this technology require certain geographies and require great capital investments.
Batteries are the new kind on the block. Lithium-ion grid scale batteries have good energy storage efficiency, and can be deployed anywhere. Their prices are falling dramatically and can be produced in any country. However, they have lower energy density and are not suitable for long term or seasonal energy storage.
Thermal energy storage is similar to batteries, but it usually applicable for heating and cooling applications.
Finally, hydrogen and ammonia are touted to be the new energy transition frontiers. However, such systems are significantly less efficient compared to other methods of storing energy. The diagram below explains the difference between these sources.
Solar and Wind + Storage is not a complete solution to a reliable sustainable energy world. Other low carbon energy sources will play significant role in complementing solar/wind plus storage.
Nuclear energy, for example, can play a significant role in a low carbon energy world by 2050. Nuclear energy is almost 3 times more reliable than wind and solar plants. [ 1 ] This makes Nuclear an ideal candidate to complement the future energy mix. However, a lot of work is required on nuclear regulation, technology, and public awareness.
Geothermal energy and tidal energy are other solutions that may be a part of the future energy mix. However, these solutions are not as developed as hydro and nuclear.
On the short term, we need energy storage now to accompany the rise of solar and wind energy. Until then, Net Zero by 2050 will be a really rocky road.
[ 1 ] Source: U.S. D.O.E. Office of Nuclear Energy