- Wind and Solar Energy Require Always-ready Fossil Fuel Backup - January 30, 2017
Regarding Nick Stockton’s piece in Wired, from January 5 titled “No Matter What Trump Does, Green Energy Will Prevail” …
Renewable and dispersed generation such as wind and solar are intermittent and cannot be depended on as reliable sources of supply. Typically, wind and solar generators have effective capacity factors of only 15 to 25 percent – or less. However, some generating baseload plants have capacity factors in excess of 90 percent, and some gas fired plants have 100 percent availability. Even if there were available cost effective electric storage technologies, at least three or four times the capacity of wind would be required to generate the same amount of electric power as a baseload plant.
Actual wind capacity factors are typically low, especially when power is needed on peak. During peak demand periods wind capacity can be five percent or less.
The New York State experience demonstrates this. Average annual capacity factors for New York’s wind projects range between 14 percent and 22 percent. Therefore, generation must be spinning and capable of picking up the load that a wind turbine has shed when the wind turbine shuts down due to insufficient wind velocities or wind velocity that is too high. Further, the performance and capacity factors of wind turbines deteriorate over time, compounding the need for operating reserve and available capacity to be utilized when an ever expanding set of intermittent resources are added to the energy delivery system.
Renewable energy generation is simply not dispatchable and requires near 100 percent backup by power plants that are reliable and dispatchable. These backup plants must be capable of quickly ramping up or down to compensate for wind variations so as to provide power-on-demand.