Fact: Solar, other renewables make our electric grid more, not less, stable

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Myth: The grid can’t handle renewables’ variability effectively.

The Fallacy Explained:

No source of energy is more reliable than our sun, which is pretty much guaranteed to be around for the next few billion years. Indeed, our current fossil- and nuclear-fueled electric grid is prone to outages, both planned (e.g., maintenance and upgrades) and—sometimes catastrophically—unplanned.

The wind continues to blow at night, so clean, renewable energy can power your home even when the sun isn’t shining. Also, Germany found that adding wind and solar to its electric grid caused it to become morereliable, not less. According to the Financial Post, “Very high levels of variable renewable energy can be accommodated both technically and at low cost,” says Morgan Bazilian, lead energy specialist at the World Bank who has studied the issue for two decades.

The grid is already built to handle solar energy. In some remote places, network upgrades are required to handle solar but this is still a rare occasion. Most areas can handle a solar system connected to the grid without the need to upgrade the network. PJM Interconnection, the largest power transmission grid organization announced that wind and solar power could generate 30 percent of their total electricity for its territory by 2026 without “any significant issues.” Of course upgrades to the grid need to be made, such as more transmission lines. This addition of transmission lines is far less than projected energy savings. There is already proof that the grid is ready to handle high levels of renewable energy without compromising reliability and that comes from the grids located in the Midwest and Texas that have seen wind energy constitute a significant portion of power on the grid at a given amount of time.

“As conventional power sources become less of the total energy production mix, power markets will need to evolve to encourage the development of complementary conventional resources. This is a critical point. PJM’s study shows that existing coal and gas resources are going to suffer revenue losses; indeed, PJM even suggested that it might be necessary to consider raising energy prices to compensate for the lost revenue. No, no, no. A better way is to look into redesigning PJM’s existing long-term power supply market (called a ‘forward capacity market’) so that it, in combination with reasonable state power preferences, assures the right supply of conventional power sources are available to support renewable power.” Solarenergy.net explains.

Digging Deeper: