The Four Cornerstones of the Ideal 100% Renewable Power System
Both the path to 100% renewable power and the final power system itself will look different for every city, state, and country across the globe. That final system must secure electricity supply for our societies 24/7, regardless of the season. The power generation mix will be unique, however these future power systems will require each of these four cornerstones to maintain reliable power in the clean power system of the future.
The Renewable Energy Cornerstone
Producing electricity using
mainly wind & solar
Wind and solar farms will generate the majority of electricity in the 100% renewable power system. As the amount of wind and sunshine depend on the weather, there will be times when there is not enough power (at night or during calm winds) and times when we have more than we need – this excess power can be stored for future use. Due to these varying weather conditions the system must have an excess of wind and solar farms in place in order to reach and maintain the 100% renewable power system.
The Shifting Cornerstone
Storing excess electricity
and using when needed
Storing excess wind and solar electricity for future use is essential for avoiding energy wasting or curtailing during times of day when over generation occurs. The most accurately forecasted and cost effective method of electricity shifting is using the overbuilt solar power during the day to charge storage, and discharging it at night. The Shifting cornerstone will be made up of large energy storage assets that are intend to charge all day and discharge all night meaning they will typically be used once daily.
The Balancing Cornerstone
supply & power quality
It is essential at all times to maintain a balance between energy consumption and the generation of electricity. A system imbalance can cause electrical equipment and industrial processes to malfunction, lights to flicker, and sensitive electrical equipment can be damaged – all of which are things that society cannot tolerate. If the imbalance is significant enough the entire electric grid will fail causing black outs.
The consumption of electricity varies between day and night and depending on the season. At the same time the output of renewable generation fluctuates uncontrollably. This cornerstone maintains the balance between these two by storing and releasing electricity at all times – every second, minute, hour – to ensure stability.
The Critical Power Cornerstone
Ensuring system reliability during all weather conditions
Critical power is controlled and operated by the power system operator. It is a flexible power plant generating electricity and ensuring system operation during extended periods of rain, winter, overcast with poor solar conditions, calm periods for wind, and dry seasons for hydro. It is operated only when the storage is empty, on average twelve hours a week, and it is using synthetic or biofuels. This power plant is never used when there is electricity in the storage.
The Critical power cornerstone must be highly flexible as it has to operate efficiently at any output as it balances the difference between consumption and renewable generation. This cornerstone acts as the insurance for the 100% renewable power system, allowing the system operator to mitigate the weather condition, large or small.