Backups like Snowy 2.0 Would Work Better with Conventional Power Plants not Wind/Solar


By Howard “Cork” Hayden

Dr. Howard Hayden is Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut. He is the editor of “The Energy Advocate” a pro-energy, pro-science, and pro-technology newsletter. www.energyadvocate.com

We have about a dozen pumped-hydro plants in the US. In some places (that’s why they’re not abundant) it is economically feasible to store energy by pumping water uphill to a higher reservoir, and then release it when demand is high.

Hydro has the advantage of being a system that can turn on or off in a hurry. Typically, a dam has a lot of independent water turbines. So you can turn on (say) 50 MW, 100 MW, and so on.

Greenies look at storage systems as their salvation. (Indeed, solar and wind are nearly worthless without back-up.) What they fail to realize is that back-up is far better used with conventional power.

If a back-up system (of whatever type you care to mention) is used with wind or solar, it has to have enough storage to last for days — possibly even weeks — to keep the grid from going down.

Now look what happens in you increase conventional baseload power (the cheapest, most reliable) beyond the actual baseload demand. During times of low demand, you store the excess energy, and then release it during times of high demand. The upshot is that you need to store only something like 20% of one day’s energy rather than 100% energy for many days. (Even a greenie ought to be able to see that 3 or 4 or 5 or … is greater than 0.2.

As to the Australian Snowy 2.0 project, I have no idea whether it makes any sense or not. But if it does, it makes far more sense for conventional power than wind and solar.

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