IEA Argues We Are Approaching New Generation Of Wind & Solar Deployment

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

A new paper published by the International Energy Agency argues that we are approaching a new generation of wind and solar PV deployment.

The International Energy Agency published a new paper this week, entitled Next Generation Wind and Solar Power: From cost to value, which argues that we are approaching a new phase of deployment of wind and solar PV in which the two technologies are technologically mature and economically affordable. Already the two fastest-growing sources of electricity globally, until the two technologies represent a significant portion of the global share of electricity generation there will be no real issue with integrating these technologies into the existing grids. Currently, the total share of renewable energy in the global energy mix is 23.7%, which is dominated by hydropower. Of the global share, wind only adds 3.7% (433 GW), and solar PV only 1.2% (227 GW).


However, if, as the IEA believes, wind and solar are to enter a new phase of deployment — which is increasingly likely, as we see the technology mature and costs continue to drop — these shares of the global energy pie are only going to increase, which will in turn increase the challenges inherent in variable renewable energy technologies — summed up with the simple mantra, ‘the wind don’t always blow, and the sun don’t always shine.’


Subsequently, the issue of integrating these technologies into existing electricity grids is going to become a critical priority for renewables policy and feature more broadly in energy policy. The authors of the report therefore believe that a “comprehensive and systematic approach is the appropriate answer to system integration,” and are looking for a “transformation of the overall power system.” Strategic action is thus required across three areas:

  • System-friendly deployment, aiming to maximize the net benefit of wind and solar power for the entire system
  • Improved operating strategies, such as advanced renewable energy forecasting and enhanced scheduling of power plants
  • Investment in additional flexible resources, comprising demand-side resources, electricity storage, grid infrastructure and flexible generation

The difficulty or ease of increasing the share of variable generation technologies such as wind and solar depends on the interaction of two main factors:


“The interaction between the two factors differs from system to system as a result of technical variation as well as the influence of policy and market frameworks,” the authors of the paper noted. “However, a growing body of experience across a diverse range of power systems shows a common pattern of challenges. This allows for the development of best practice principles for policy and market frameworks – principles that can be applied in a wide range of circumstances.”

The paper also argues for a paradigm shift in the economic assessment of wind and solar paper. According to the authors, the current and traditional focus on the levelized cost of electricity, or LCOE, is no longer sufficient, and next generation approaches need to take into account the system value of electricity from wind and solar, determined by the interplay of positives and negatives such as reduced fuel costs, reduced carbon dioxide emissions, etc.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

Joshua S Hill has 4403 posts and counting. See all posts by Joshua S Hill

17 thoughts on “IEA Argues We Are Approaching New Generation Of Wind & Solar Deployment

  • They are actually beginning to sound rational. They are taking “other” factors into account than the cost of a kwh. “Side effects” (like frying the planet), are actually on the agenda. Good.

  • Everything I’ve seen indicates that more solar and more wind distributed geographically across a large grid *decreases* the problems with variable production, because “the sun is always shining somewhere, and the wind is always blowing somewhere”.

    • I imagine the data that shows increasing grid area lowers variability is being looked at by someone but it isn’t, as far as I can tell, being shared at our level. The ‘ordinary person’ level.

      We’ve got solar and wind farms operating all over the Lower 48 and western Europe. Those sites are collecting data, minute by minute. We need someone gathering up a bunch of that data and showing us the extent that larger collection areas lower variability.

      (I’ve been poking at Zach to see if he can find some data for us.)

        • Can you point me to the volume and page you have in mind?

      • Check this site how interconnections of Denmark with neighbours allows it to integrate a lot of variable solar and wind.
        I have observed all from 10% to 50% wind and solar being integrated with variable import and export. Neat if such a map exists for lower 48 and Europe.

        • Yeh, but that’ a really small area covered. Bring in Scotland wind, Spanish and Greek solar, early morning solar from eastern Turkey, etc.

          The EU27 covers 1.7 million square miles. That’s sort of half of the US Lower 48 at 3 million square miles. We aren’t too far from having a unified grid for the ‘east of the Rockies’ and ‘west of the Rockies’ halves of the US. We can move electricity around those areas but not yet in large quantities.

      • Studies such as EWITS have examined this. They used to have a wonderful simulation that showed how the various renewable sources contributed but, unfortunately they took it down. Later studies, still with conservative assumptions such as 80m hub heights showed 80% penetration feasible. With >60% CF turbines on the horizon (140m towers) and distributed load side storage looking promising (EVs as dispatchable loads) it looks like 100% penetration is doable.

        • What we (I?) need is some graphic stuff that I can use to show doubters how the intermediate nature of wind and solar is less than what some assume it to be.

          • NREL used to have a nice strip chart simulation modeling all power sources based upon technology available in 2012. It offered a nice lower bound. No storage (EV or otherwise), mostly 80m towers for wind and no load shifting. Renewables came out looking pretty good. NREL pulled the simulation off of their web site. I hope to have time in June or July to contact them and see what happened and if they have upgraded it with 100m towers or 140m towers.

          • Found it – But they took the simulator down and only have Youtube video but it may help with explaining to people. Click on the maps on the right of the page

          • I’m not seeing what I’m after there.

            I’m envisioning a graph of daily output for a wind farm off the UK coast (US Midwest). Then adding in the output from a solar farm in Greece (Florida). And then more wind and solar farms throughout the region added in.

            Do that and what’s the longest multi day low wind/solar period? How often do those periods occur? How often would we really need storage for more than a single day?

          • click on the thing to the right that says hourly operation and this pops up. It has a strip chart (to the right of the map) that shows the contribution of each energy type stacked to provide total generation. It shows each hour of the day. On the map it shows circles whose size is proportional to the generation at that spot. The Youtube animation goes from July 28 to Aug 13. The simulation did a full year. So from this animation you can see the the generation, by source type, stacked to equal total demand. Then you can see geographically where the the generation is occurring and what type. This is the best graphic I have seen for conveying how aggregation works. What is shown here models 2050 with 80% renewables using technology that was available in 2012 (if my memory serves me). I think it used only 80 m towers so the CF for wind is comparatively low to what it would be with 140m or even 120m towers.

            When the simulation was available you could then scroll through the simulation and visually find the low production periods by observing the bottom of the strip chart (coal) and where it was the highest. My recollection is that it occurred in late September.

            Hope this helps.

  • No one cares about solar and wind price anymore. The only thing that matters is the price of storage. The is point in producing electricity at 3 cents per kwh if storage costs 20 cents per kwh.

    • That’s not true. Lots of people care a lot about the cost of wind and solar. As they continue to drop they push fossil fuels off the grid.

      And storage doesn’t cost 20c/kWh. Pump-up hydro, for example, is around 10c/kWh, perhaps lower.

    • Storage isn’t needed much until the last few Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plants stop making enough money to stay open.

Comments are closed.