Maybe you’re having dinner with your family or friends when the topic of renewable energy comes up. Maybe it’s prompted by a stunning new study that maintains that it’s technically and economically achievable to convert New York State energy infrastructure (e.g. electricity, transportation, heating/cooling and industry) to wind, water and solar power. You start to wax poetic about the many environmental benefits of clean energy technologies when some Gloomy Gus blurts out “But what do we do when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing?”
After brandishing your finest Clint Eastwood squint at the Debby Downer, you rack your brain for the answer but it’s just not there. You start fumbling for the right words but they are nowhere to be found.
Cynical Sally is talking about the intermittent nature of some forms of renewable energy like solar and wind. Why are they considered intermittent? Because these two energy sources are variable and cannot ensure round-the-clock reliability without the help of energy storage,
which, by the way, is expected to grow by great amounts over the next several years.
While wind and solar energy are more intermittent than conventional power plants, no power source is available 100 percent of the time, which is why even nuclear, oil, coal and natural gas power plants can be considered intermittent sources.
The intermittency of wind and solar energy has some state regulators and energy companies a bit concerned, but they (along with that Nervous Nelly sitting across from you) should take comfort in the findings of a recent study that looked at the extent to which we can meet electricity demands in the lower 48 states over the next several decades with renewable energy.
According to the study, “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.”
So next time Billy Buzz-Kill, Dubious Diane or the Mayor of Naysayersville plays the intermittency card, you can tell them that more renewables, coupled with a smarter and more flexible grid, new transmission, large-scale energy storage and demand-side options are, in fact, without a doubt, the solution to the nation’s energy future.
Renewable energy (and energy efficiency) play a vital role in making our food, water and energy systems more sustainable, as well as reducing the strain between the three.
With renewables and energy efficiency, consumers can now play a greater role in how we use and produce energy in this country. Here are three ways to get informed and take action.