Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reading the Smart Grid Tea Leaves in the Era of Abundant Natural Gas, Falling Renewables Prices, and Perpetual Cyber Attack

Heck, these aren't tea leaves, these are clear direction signals, neon lights flashing what's coming in letters 100 feet high. The late-night rantings of some cellar dwelling blogger? Far from it, everything below was on the May 31, 2011 front page of the Wall Street Journal when I made my customary pilgrimage to wsj.com over the first coffee of the morning:
Renewables costs are falling and will continue to do so. For this we leave the Journal and turn to a guest blog at Scientific American:
The cost of solar, in the average location in the U.S., will cross the current average retail electricity price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour in around 2020, or 9 years from now. In fact, given that retail electricity prices are currently rising by a few percent per year, prices will probably cross earlier, around 2018 for the country as a whole, and as early as 2015 for the sunniest parts of America.
10 years later, in 2030, solar electricity is likely to cost half what coal electricity does today. Solar capacity is being built out at an exponential pace already. When the prices become so much more favorable than those of alternate energy sources, that pace will only accelerate.
This is even better, from ABC News in Australia: Renewable energy will only get cheaper: study.

Question 1: Can the current grids handle the projected levels of natural gas and intermittent renewable power in Germany and elsewhere? Part of the solution may be GE's new highly efficient and fast ramping turbine that should make natural gas a better renewables backstop. But surely it'll take more than this.

Question 2: Can we build out the new grid in ways that make it reliable and secure enough to handle all this change? That remains to be seen, and remains the ongoing subject of this blog.

OK, time for more coffee!

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