Saturday , August 17 2019
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California’s Solar Energy Problem

Summary:
I’m sticking out my neck a bit in commenting on this detailed analysis of California’s current and likely future energy mix, and why its heavy emphasis on solar is not a good idea. The video is short and information-rich, making good use of graphics, and a lot of the data displays would be lost in a transcript, so it’s worth watching. However, because it is so data driven, it buries its conclusions. The video shows that over-reliance on solar undermines its economic attractiveness because it requires too much in the way of storage, both to shift supply to peak demand times during the day, as well as over the course of the year. A second issue is that the lack of enough in the way of a steady base supply. That results from the planned phase-out of nuclear, which currently supplies about 15%

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I’m sticking out my neck a bit in commenting on this detailed analysis of California’s current and likely future energy mix, and why its heavy emphasis on solar is not a good idea. The video is short and information-rich, making good use of graphics, and a lot of the data displays would be lost in a transcript, so it’s worth watching.

However, because it is so data driven, it buries its conclusions. The video shows that over-reliance on solar undermines its economic attractiveness because it requires too much in the way of storage, both to shift supply to peak demand times during the day, as well as over the course of the year. A second issue is that the lack of enough in the way of a steady base supply. That results from the planned phase-out of nuclear, which currently supplies about 15% of California’s power, and antipathy for the environmental costs of large-scale hydro. That means that solar capacity will be overbuilt, due to the need to provide sufficient supply in the winter and to allow for long stretches of cloudy days. That means at times where there is a lot of sun, the panels won’t be collecting energy anywhere near their capacity (the video also stresses that batteries can’t store energy over long periods of time and this is a critically important area for further development).

Comments on YouTube pointed out an error at 2:20. Per David Hermes:

556 MW is NOT a storage capacity. It’s the power the facility is able to provide. Rated at four hours, the total capacity is 2,27 GWh.

That means the cost of storage would be much higher than the $3 trillion estimated. It would be over four times as costly.

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