IEA: Wind and Solar Intermittency NOT a Big Deal!

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Following up on a great guest post by Chris Varrone on wind intermittency and why it’s not a big deal, apparently the International Energy Agency (IEA) now has a new book and report out, Harnessing Variable Renewables: a Guide to the Balancing Challenge, that tells us the same thing that Chris was explaining.

“The report, which features case studies of eight geographic regions with sharply different power attributes, shows that there is a greater technical potential for balancing variable renewable energy output than is commonly assumed,” IEA IEA press release states.

The report was launched at EREC 2011, Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy Conference, last week in Brussels.

Of course, as wind and solar continue to grow in leaps and bounds, the flexibility of the grid will be critical to using their produced power and using it efficiently. Harnessing Variable Renewables “provides a tool to assess this flexibility, and in the process serves to reassure policy makers that the challenges of integrating large shares of variable renewables in power systems are far from insurmountable.”

Here’s a little more on what the book includes:

Assessing flexible resources

Harnessing Variable Renewables: a Guide to the Balancing Challenge lays out a four-step method for assessing existing flexible resources, which can then be used to balance increasingly variable supply and demand. Step one of this Flexibility Assessment (FAST) method assesses the ability of the different flexible resources to change their production or consumption; step two examines the aspects of the power system that will constrain them from doing so; step three calculates the maximum requirement for flexibility of a given system resulting from fluctuating demand and output from wind plants and the like; and step four identifies how much more variability can be balanced with existing flexible resources.

The book features eight case studies in which the FAST Method is applied to eight geographic areas with very different characteristics. The resulting analysis shows that each region has the technical resources to balance large shares of variable renewable energy.

Potentials range from 19% in the least flexible area assessed (Japan) to 63% in the most flexible area (Denmark). The IEA also assessed the resources of the British Isles (Great Britain and Ireland together), 31%; the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal together), 27%; Mexico, 29%; the Nordic Power Market (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), 48%; the Western Interconnection of the United States, 45%; and the area operated by the New Brunswick System Operator in Eastern Canada, 37%.

Now, the IEA does a good job of acknowledging, as everyone should, that we need massive deployment of clean, renewable energy and we need it now. I think it’s critical to mention that renewable energy deployment is needed to minimize the effects of global warming on the world (including humanity). I know many who are concerned about telling the world the truth, or even admitting the truth, on this matter, but it’s nice to see the IEA isn’t in that group. Here’s the IEA’s great statement on the matter:

Wind and solar energy have been growing at double-digit rates for at least five years – a trend that must continue if a more secure, diverse and sustainable energy mix is to be achieved. The  IEA World Energy Outlook, for example, foresees that 45% of global electricity supply will need to come from renewable sources by 2035 if the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to be limited to 450 parts per million – roughly consistent with a global temperature rise of no more than 2 degrees C. Under this scenario, around 17% of electricity would need to come from variable renewables, up from 1% in 2008.

I wrote a few weeks ago, before the news broke, that a historic new report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that we can get 77% of our power from renewables by 2050, and others have shown that we could actually get 100%. It is not a matter of the technology any more, it is all about policy. This new IEA book reaffirms that.

While some areas are clearly more flexible than others, all power areas assessed show that greater technical potential for balancing variable renewable energy output exists than is commonly supposed,” said Richard Jones, the IEA Deputy Executive Director.

“The results from these case studies demonstrate that variability needs not be an impediment to deployment,” Ambassador Jones said. “As long as power systems and markets are properly configured so they can get the best use of their flexible resources, large shares of variable renewables are entirely feasible from the balancing perspective.”

Exactly! So, let’s get on it!

Related Stories:

  1. Cleantech’s Revolutionary Growth & Expectations for Coming 10 Years
  2. Why Wind Intermittency is NOT a Big Deal
  3. Unprecedented UN Report: Renewable Energy Costs to Drop, Use to Grow Substantially by 2030, but…

Image: screenshot of IEA website

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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