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Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy? 442

mdsolar writes Physicist and energy expert Amory Lovins, chief scientist at The Rocky Mountain Institute, recently released a video in which he claims that renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs without the need for a fossil fuel or nuclear baseload generation. There's nothing unusual about that — many people have made that claim — but he also suggests that this can be done without a lot of grid-level storage. Instead, Lovins describes a "choreography" between supply and demand, using predictive computer models models to anticipate production and consumption, and intelligent routing to deliver power where it's needed. This "energy dance," combined with advances in energy efficiency, will allow us to meet all of our energy needs without sacrificing reliability.
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Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

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  • by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @03:26PM (#47690203)

    I think you missed the point of the article. Demand is far easier to manipulate. Cost incentives that match demand to supply will work if you scale the cost dynamically to match the instantaneous capacity of the grid. Turn a factory on full power when the wind is blowing and slow it down when the wind isn't.

  • Re:Lovins is a crank (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @03:32PM (#47690235)
    ^LOL. That qualifies him for authoring mdsolar submissions, but not much else.
  • Cheap grid storage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @04:44PM (#47690569) Homepage Journal

    Keep saving those AA's. Your gonna need them.

    Heh, I laughed at this because one of my ideas is to use old but still viable EV batteries as grid storage devices, and the Model S, with the biggest batteries, uses the Lithium-Ion equivalent of a AA.

    If you figure that the battery is retired from the car at 70% capacity and kept as a grid device until it's around 40% capacity this would give you massive storage capacity if only 10% of people drive a Tesla type car.

    Of course, this would be a 30 year solution - 5-10 years for the batteries to degrade to the point they're no longer useful in a car, plus 20 years for EVs to actually penetrate the market enough to provide enough batteries.

  • Re:Expert?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rhywden ( 1940872 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @05:36PM (#47690829)

    Yeah, I just read that rubbish. Numbers which appear from thin air, false causal relations and shoddy reasoning. I didn't enjoy that at all.

  • Law of Large Numbers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by floobedy ( 3470583 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @06:04PM (#47690991)

    I think the biggest mistake of the video, is when Lovins says that renewables are no different from baseload power plants, because baseload plants are down some fraction of the time also. He claims that power companies already compensate for downtime of baseload power plants by just having a few extra power plants. He claims that the same thing could be done with renewables.

    That's just all wrong, in my opinion. It's a statistical error. Although baseload power plants are down 10-20% of the time, they are down at random. The downtime of any one plant is not correlated with the downtime of any other. As a result, if you have enough plants, then 10-20% of power generation is offline at any given time, as a result of the law of large numbers. That can be compensated for by building a few extra power plants.

    With renewables, their downtime is not random. Their downtime is correlated with that of the other plants. For example, when the sun goes down, all solar panels stop working at the same time in a geographic region. Also, when the wind stops blowing (which can happen over a wide area), all windmills in that region will stop working at the same time. This is a much bigger problem than randomly distributed downtime.

    If solar panels had randomly distributed downtime, and were as likely to generate power during winter nights as during summer days, then no storage would be required. We could just build more solar panels. This is because the randomly distributed periods of downtime of the solar panels would "cancel out" each other. However, it does not help to build more solar panels for the night time.

    That is why renewables require storage.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @06:57PM (#47691325)

    .. is still storage.

    Lets say the grid operator detects an impending mismatch between supply and demand and they want me to shut down my refrigerator. So now I have to size my refrigerator such that it will 'carry through' such an outage without my food spoiling. That's just another form of storage. But now you've come up with a sneaky way for me to pay for it. And subsidize the renewable energy producers.

    Will I get a tax credit for my extra large freezer? My oversized hot water tank? The extra capacity air conditioning unit I put in?

  • Re:Expert?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Monday August 18, 2014 @11:18AM (#47695381) Homepage Journal

    The misogyny arises from the implied assumption that the woman is just the object of men's desire, that she has no will of her own or ability to act, except to comply with the wishes of whichever man reaches her. The story doesn't actually say any of that, but it is pretty strongly implied. There's also the implication that the physicist and engineer are male, but that's the lesser issue.

    It's interesting to note that merely reversing the gender roles in the story causes the perceived problem to disappear, but doesn't address the real issue. This is because it's not the story itself that implies the misogyny, but the cultural subtext, and since that subtext assumes that men are actors and initiators that the man has decided to go along with the game. You can truly eliminate the problem by modifying the story to make the woman the organizer of the little game, which puts all three on equal footing. She's acting by setting the scenario up, the men are acting by deciding whether or not they wish to participate and if so, how.

    The difference is subtle, but such subtle, unconscious biases in many different areas can and do often combine into significant -- though often completely unintentional -- bias against women.

    As an aside, when we speak of the "objectification" of women, the original use of that word in that context means not object as in "thing", but object as in "direct object", from grammatical structure. The objectified person is one who is always acted upon rather than acting upon others. This story clearly indicates both meanings of the word: The woman in the story is an object of desire, in this case sexual. That's actually perfectly fine. Men and women both can be objects of sexual desire, and as long as the desire doesn't translate into unwelcome advances or into other negative effects, everyone appreciates being thought desirable. But the woman is also and object upon which the physicist or engineer will get to enact their will, and her will isn't relevant. That is the way in which objectification is negative.

    Revising the story to make the woman the initiator of the game, while not removing the ability of the physicist and engineer to choose, makes all of the participants actors and none of them pure objects.

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