Recently a large body of researchers, renewable energy professionals, and grid experts appealed to Energy Secretary Rick Perry in an attempt to convince him that renewable energy sources are not a threat to the reliability of the grid.
Secretary Perry ordered a 60-day long study to determine the impact of solar and wind technologies upon fossil baseload power plants, fearing that renewable energy sources might undermine the grid’s reliability.
The group who approached Perry was armed with a large amount of research, and real-world experience which shows that the various renewables do not compromise grid integrity. Amongst of those who made their opinions known were David Olsen of the California Independent System Operator Board of Governors and David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission.
The two energy experts recently wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, which referred to DOE worries about grid reliability as “nonsense”.
“In California, which has installed more clean energy than any other state, there have been no threats to the reliability of the electric grid caused by renewables. Instead, the three biggest threats to our grid over the last 20 years came from market manipulation (Enron et al., during the 2001 energy crisis), a nuclear plant failure (San Onofre, 2012), and the largest natural gas leak in history (Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, 2015),” wrote Olsen and Hochschild. “Rather than create these emergencies, renewable energy was part of the solution and continued to operate reliably and prevented these events from becoming worse”.
The duo also examined the reliability of renewable energy sources in other countries since, such as Denmark and Germany. Those two countries have some the highest levels of non-Hydro renewables in the world, and yet they have 10 times fewer minutes of outages than the United States each year.
Dan Shugar, CEO of NEXTracker, is responsible for the above graph and says that the facts do not support renewable energies being unreliable.
“We analyzed how the grid reliability, as measured by ‘customer outage minutes per year’ of countries with the highest renewable penetration (Denmark, Germany) compare with the USA,” wrote Shugar. “The result? Germany and Denmark have two to four times the renewables of the USA, but have much more reliable power — in fact, only 10% of the outages that U.S. customers do.”
There could be other reasons that Europe has a better outage record, such as a lack of spending on transmission and distribution infrastructure in the United States. However, at the very least the does not support the claim that renewable energy technologies alone make the grid less reliable.
The study from the DOE will release later this week and is likely to be heavily scrutinized from all sides.