What Would the CA Grid Be Like at 60% Renewables - And How Do We Make It Work?

April 10, 2012 - 12:00pm
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The fundamental challenge in achieving deep penetration of renewable sources is maintaining the match between supply and demand when much of the supply is governed by mother nature, rather than by a dispatcher.  Today, we see a narrow form of this challenge, even with only dispatchable supplies, in dealing with critical peak summer demand.  Forward looking studies, such as "California's Energy Future - The View to 2050," have identified the broader problem of Zero Emissions Load Balancing as the primary technical challenge to achieving deep reductions in GHG emissions.  Such studies have sought to size the problem based on stastistical characterizations of the demand or of the availability.  Other efforts have sought to develop mechanisms for achieving balance, including grid storage, supply-following loads, portfolio integration, and curtailment.  Recently, relatively detailed, long term measurements of the California supply portfolio have been released, allowing us to study the temporal dynamics of these resources and of the balancing problem.  By scaling aspects of the supply trace, we can create approximations of what the CA grid would look at deep renewable penetration.  Using this, we can characterize the potential gains from balancing mechanisms, and also their inherent limitations.  It becomes clear that the critical challenges in the 60% grid are quite different from where most effort is focused today, an "all of the above" approach is required, and (coming full circle) managing the peak in the duration curve for fuel-based generation is even more critical in a deep renewables grid, but it is not primarily a summer cooling problem. A recording of this talk is available at:  https://vimeo.com/40165118

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