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Why baseload power is doomed

Chris Nelder, Smartplanet
A persistent myth about the challenges of integrating renewable power into the grid is that because solar and wind are intermittent, grid operators need to maintain full generation capacity from “baseload” plants powered by coal and nuclear. Recent real-world data and research shows that not only is this not true, but that baseload capacity is fundamentally incompatible with renewables, and that as renewables provide a greater portion of the grid’s power, baseload generation will need to be phased out.

But before we get into the details, some background information is in order…

The baseload fallacy

The notion that renewables cannot provide baseload power is really an artifact of the way the grid and its regulators have evolved. If all generators were able to ramp up and down on demand, and if grid operators were able to predict reliably when and where the sun would be shining and the wind would be blowing, accommodating any amount of power from renewables would be no problem.

A 2010 study called “The Base Load Fallacy” by Australian researcher Dr. Mark Diesendorf, an expert on integrating wind into power grids, fingers the “operational inflexibility of base-load power stations” as the main obstacle to further integration of renewables. “The renewable electricity system could be just as reliable as the dirty, fossil-fuelled system that it replaces,” he observes, if demand were more efficient and intelligent, and supply were made up of a wide variety of renewable sources plus a small amount of gas-fired capacity to cover the peaks. The perpetrators of the baseload fallacy, he argues, are mainly the industries who benefit from the status quo: coal, oil and gas companies, the nuclear industry, power generators, and industries who depend on them like aluminum and cement manufacturers.

Claims that renewables could never generate more than a few percent of grid power without taking down the grid have been given the lie by the real-world experience of areas that deliberately adapted their grids…
(28 March 2012)

For New Generation of Power Plants, a New Emission Rule From the E.P.A.

Felicity Barringer, New York Times
The Obama administration’s proposed rule to control greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants — the first ever — could go far toward closing out the era of old-fashioned coal-burning power generation.

The draft rule, unveiled on Tuesday by Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, would limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour.

Recently built power plants fired by natural gas already easily meet the new standards, so the rule presents little obstacle for new gas plants. But coal-fired plants face a far greater challenge, since no easily accessible technology can bring their emissions under the limit. Coal-fired plants are a major source of emissions associated with global warming. The new rules do not apply to existing plants.,,

Germany’s $263 Billion Renewables Shift Biggest Since War

Stefan Nicola, Bloomberg
Not since the allies leveled Germany in World War II has Europe’s biggest economy undertaken a reconstruction of its energy market on this scale.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to build offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and erect power lines that could stretch from London to Baghdad. The program will cost 200 billion euros ($263 billion), about 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2011, according to the DIW economic institute in Berlin…

“If Germany succeeds, it could be a role model for economies all over the world,” said Claudia Kemfert, DIW’s senior energy expert. “If it fails, it will be a disaster for Germany’s politicians, society and economy.”
Germany’s efforts in the industry are sending shocks through European power markets. When it’s windy and sunny, turbines and solar cells flood the grid with electricity, undermining the economics of natural-gas fired generators, since clean energy has supply priority over fossil fuels…
(19 March 2012)

Renewables LinkedIn to growth surge

Will Nichols, Business Green
You may know LinkedIn as an excellent way to network/waste time, but those lunch hours spent trawling the business social networking site looking for a new job or connecting with old school friends have also resulted in some fascinating data on the size and shape of the US economy.

By tracking the jobs and job changes of its 150 million members between 2007 and 2011, LinkedIn has been able to calculate which industries are on the up and which are in decline.

And yes, you’ve guessed it: top of the pile is renewable energy and environmental roles. These grew more than 49 per cent over the four-year period, exactly double those of the second-highest risers, internet and online publishing.

More encouraging still, the sector performed equally impressively when LinkedIn moved beyond percentage terms to examine the volume of jobs gained and lost…
(14 March 2012)

Japan faces nuclear-free summer, power shortage risks

Yoko Kubota, Reuters
The possibility of a nuclear power-free summer in Japan draws closer when one of two remaining reactors shuts down for on Monday for maintenance, raising concerns about a power crunch if none of those taken off-line after the Fukushima crisis is restarted.

Anti-nuclear activists may applaud the prospect that the reactors that supplied nearly 30 percent of Japan’s electricity before the March 2011 disaster will be shut down. But experts say firms will have to bear a costly burden and that mandatory limits on power use may be necessary to avoid blackouts.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the Fukushima plant, will shut down its last running reactor, the No. 6 unit at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, leaving online just one of Japan’s 54 reactors.

The one remaining reactor, Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari No.3, is scheduled to go off line on May 5 for maintenance, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Sunday…
(25 March 2012)