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Wind farms can provide society a surplus of reliable clean energy, Stanford study finds
Date:3/20/2014

Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford. "They show that you could create a sustainable energy system that grows and maintains itself by combining wind and storage together. This depends on the growth rate of the industry, because the faster you grow, the more energy you need to build new turbines and batteries."

Solar industry

For the solar industry, the Stanford team found that more work is needed to make grid-scale storage energetically sustainable. The study revealed that some solar technologies, such as single-crystal silicon cells, are growing so fast that they are net energy sinks that is, they consume more power than they give back to the electrical grid. From an energetic standpoint, these industries "cannot support any level of storage," the study concluded.

"Our analysis showed that, from an energetic perspective, most photovoltaic technologies can only afford up to 24 hours of storage with an equal mix of battery and pumped hydropower," Dale said. "This suggests that solar photovoltaic systems could be deployed with enough storage to supply electricity at night, and the industry could still operate at a net energy surplus."

One advantage of wind over solar power is that it has an enormous energy return on investment, Benson explained. "Within a few months, a wind turbine generates enough electricity to pay back all of the energy it took to build it," she said. "But some photovoltaics have an energy payback time of almost two years. To sustainably support grid-scale storage will require continued reductions in the amount of fossil fuel used to manufacture photovoltaic cells."

Other costs

The Stanford team's primary focus was on the energetic cost of deploying storage on wind and solar farms. The researchers did not calculate how much energy would be required to build and replace grid-scale batteries every few years, nor did they consider the financial cost of building and in
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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