One of the chief criticisms fossil fuel narks level against solar power is its alleged inability to provide baseload power. This is defined as the minimum amount of energy needed over a 24 hour period to satisfy the utility’s customers. What about cloud cover? This is the critics’ plaintive cry and rallying point as they call for further subsidies for their beloved, earth-destroying coal and oil fuelled energy sources.
They have a point though, what of cloud cover (known as solar intermittency) reducing solar’s effectiveness? According to the aforementioned narks, solar power is unable to provide energy reliability due to this factor preventing the full exploitation of the sun’s energy potential and therefore cannot be considered a reliable form of energy.
However to the narks’ surprise and great concern, a new, landmark CSIRO report Solar intermittency: Australia’s clean energy challenge, has said solar power intermittency can be successfully managed and by doing so will play a major role in the country’s future energy needs.
The management techniques suggested in the study are:
• using short-term energy storage systems
• strengthening the electricity network so effects are not
• controlling loads in response to network requirements
• deploying additional ancillary services
• curtailing the output of renewable generators.
The study went on to criticise the lack of takeup of solar systems in some parts of the country as a “conservative response to a lack of information about network problems intermittent renewable generation might cause.”
Quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, Glenn Platt, a senior researcher in local energy systems at the CSIRO and co-author of the report, said that while “solar intermittency is not an issue at the moment… when it does…there are solutions available to deal with it.”
So there you have it solar fans, a major report saying that, not only can solar intermittency be successfully managed for the benefit of our country’s power grid, but that various forms of solar power has the potential to supply around 40 percent of the nation’s energy in the near future. All it takes is good, old-fashioned management. Download the full report, summary and even an mp3 interview here at the CSIRO website and enjoy the sound of narks’ gnashing teeth.