The energy storage myth May 28, 2012Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid, solar.
Tags: energy storage, solar power, water power
One of the decrepit arguments the “big power” supporters -which basically means nuclear- love to wheel out at every possibility is the “problem” of energy storage. It comes up over and over and over again.
They say that renewables don’t deliver power 24/7, so if you want to use them, you have to be able to store it somewhere. And -they continue- since we don’t have this storage, what we really have to do build backup systems, like gas plants. So renewables increase CO2.
Oh, there’s a problem all right, a problem with the argument. Quite simply, the storage problem doesn’t exist.
I love numbers
I was reading a recent interview with Thierry Vandal, President and CEO of Hydro-Quebec. In the interview he lets slip an interesting statistic, “We can store a lot of power, in fact more power than the state of New York consumes in an entire year.”
Ok, so time to apply a little Google-Fu. Over on the EIA website we find that New York State uses about 144 TWh of power a year. But this is a Canadian blog, so let’s convert. Over on the CIA World Factbook, we find that Canada, as a whole, uses about 345 TWh a year.
So that means that as I write this, Hydro Quebec has enough power stored up to power all of Canada for half the year.
Does that sound like we have a problem? Exactly. Energy storage for renewables is talked about in terms of hours, days or weeks. Not months. We have months. Now. Sitting idle.
Think about it this way…
Hydro Quebec’s peak power capacity is about 40 GW. So lets say we build 40 GW of wind and another 40 GW of PV. You see, wind is great in the winter and not so hot in the summer, and PV’s exactly the other way around. So far so good? Whenever we do have those sources coming in, which is about 40% of the time (20% wind, 20% PV) we turn off the taps in James Bay.
So just how much is 40 GW? Well it’s more than enough to power all of Ontario and Quebec, put together. Ontario’s all-time peak was on 1 August 2006 when it hit 27 GW, but averages are closer to 20. Quebec peaks in the winter (they convinced everyone to use electrical heating – suckers) and it hits as much as 35 GW. The beauty is that they never peak at the same time.
So basically Ontario can take all their power during the summer, offsetting everything we can with PV. Quebec can use it all during the winter, offsetting it with wind. There’s more than enough in total to power both, 100% renewable, 0 carbon, and with six months backup supply.
Problem? What problem?