I was communicating with a knowledgeable reader on the topic above and got the following response from him (with some minor editing to make it into a post not an email). I thought this was well worth posting as a guest article. He decided, in no need of ‘fame and fortune’, to remain anonymous. Check it out, drop extra comments below the post, and let me know if YOU are interested in guest posting here on CleanTechnica (I know we have many knowledgeable readers who could definitely offer some useful 2 cents.)
Were I making the decisions, we’d be pushing hard on storage and load-shifting strategies. But, we both know… the guys who are making the decisions at the utility company level have grown up in a world where we heat water, make steam, spin turbines, and generate electricity to sell. Aside from less than 20% from generating dams, it’s all about heat and spin. I don’t think they will give up the comfort of having the ability to light a fire and fill the grid easily.
Natural gas turbines give them that old familiar heat->spin formula. And since they can do math, they area realizing that wind turbines make electricity cheaper than gas turbines. So, they’ll install wind as long as they have ‘old familiar’ to fall back on.
Give them a few years and, my guess, they will be looking at natural gas generation not as an old friend, but as a drain on the bottom line. They’re going to look at that zero-fuel electricity coming from wind (and solar) and look at the money they spend at the gas well and wonder if there isn’t a better way.
In the meantime, some people are going to make storage real, and affordable.
As we build more storage, the price of storage will fall, and the current price of natural gas is currently abnormally low due to a drilling boom. Looking at the cost of fuel, I expect the decision makers to start installing storage, and as they get familiar with it, natural gas will get pushed to the end of the line, being there in the event that, say, a huge fire in Arizona blocks solar input for the eastern half of the US.
So, a long winded version of “wish we weren’t building it, but I see it as a temporary source of power which will get sidelined due to cost”.
The one good thing about natural gas generation is that it is highly dispatchable which means that it will get turned off when there is any zero-fuel electricity available. It’s so much better than coal as it can take eight hours to start up or stop a coal plant. One doesn’t shut down a coal plant because the wind is going to blow really hard for 2-3 hours, one shuts down the wind turbines and burns coal.
Related Stories on CleanTechnica:
- Largest Flywheel Energy Storage System (FESS) Almost Up in Stephentown, New York
- 14 GW Energy Storage Market by 2020 in US Says EPRI
- Natural Gas Complements Wind & Solar — Or Does It?
- Solar Power Almost as Cheap as Natural Gas in Six States
Photo via Yahohomimi
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