23 Mar '12, 4am

How to get to a fully renewable power system

How to get to a fully renewable power system

There’s a certain amount of demand for electricity that is steady and reliable. Above that, there are fluctuating “peaks” of demand each day, usually evening, when everyone gets home and starts watching TV and running the dishwasher, or in hot areas, the afternoon. For that steady core of demand, we have “baseload” power plants — in the majority of cases, large coal or nuclear plants. Once they’re built they’re pretty cheap to operate and you can run them around the clock. In nerdspeak, they have a high “capacity factor.” However, they’re not well suited to ramping up and down in response to short-term fluctuations. (It takes days to turn a nuke plant off and back on.) To supply power during the fluctuating peaks, we have, appropriately enough, “peaker” plants, which can be turned on and off quickly. (Nerdspeak: they’re “dispatchable.”) Generally speaking, these are natura...

Full article: http://grist.org/renewable-energy/2011-05-26-how-to-get-t...

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