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Renewables and storage could power grid 99.9 percent of the time
Date:12/10/2012

Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today's electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.

A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.

"These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive," said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage which we did by an exhaustive search and to calculate costs correctly."

The authors developed a computer model to consider 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms, each tested over four years of historical hourly weather data and electricity demands. The model incorporated data from within a large regional grid called PJM Interconnection, which includes 13 states from New Jersey to Illinois and represents one-fifth of the United States' total electric grid.

Unlike other studies, the model focused on minimizing costs instead of the traditional approach of matching generation to electricity use. The researchers found that generating more electricity than needed during average hours in order to meet needs on high-demand but low-wind power hours would be cheaper than storing excess power for later high demand.

Storage is relatively costly because the storage medium, batteries or hydrogen tanks, must be larger for each additional hour stored.

One of several new findings is that a very large electric system can be run almost entirely on renewable energy.

"For example, using hydrogen for storage, we can run an electric system that today wou
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Contact: Andrea Boyle Tippett
aboyle@udel.edu
302-831-1421
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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