UNC white paper aims to help utilities understand renewable energy intermittency

Wind and solar power offer many advantages, and are among the fastest-growing sources of energy in the world. But to successfully integrate these renewables into the nation’s power grid, utilities companies need to understand one of their biggest — and most costly — drawbacks: the intermittent nature of their availability.

A new white paper from the UNC Energy Center and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, “Meeting the Renewables Intermittency Challenge,” examines the often overlooked costs of renewables integration. The white paper is the product of a conference hosted by both organizations that gathered senior executives from major utilities and renewal energy companies, consultants and academic researchers to seek cost-effective ways to integrate renewable energy sources into the electric grid.

Among the findings:

  • Renewables’ intermittency and integration costs take several forms. Time of day, weather and seasonality all impact solar and wind power availability and cost, as do short-term variations in power quality, fluctuating electricity demands, and storage capacity.
  • Although a grid built to anticipate renewables intermittency by featuring more storage capacity would conceivably lower the cost of further increases in wind and solar power generation, it would also likely generate higher average electricity costs.
  • The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) approach to quantifying energy costs over a source’s lifetime is difficult to apply to renewables. These studies frequently leave out intermittency costs, and often fail to adequately or consistently account for other factors that impact cost.
  • Promising low-cost options for integrating renewables into the grid include wide-area energy markets, compressed air and pumped hydroelectric storage, power curtailment, time-of-use pricing and diversification of renewable energy types.

The white paper can be found here: http://www.energyatkenanflagler.unc.edu/index.php/publication/meeting-the-challenge-of-renewables-general-audience-report/
A longer version is also available here: http://www.energyatkenanflagler.unc.edu/index.php/publication/meeting-the-challenges-of-renewables-intermittency-conference-report/

News item from the UNC Energy Center

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