According to a report by Chauncey Davis at Ars Technica, a study at the University of Delaware authored by C. Budischak et al. concludes that:
renewable energy sources can, with the help of storage, power a large regional grid for up to 99.9 percent of the time using current technology. By 2030, the cost of doing so will hit parity with current methods. Further, if you can live with renewables meeting your energy needs for only 90 percent of the time, the economics become positively compelling.
While getting to 90% requires large scale, the basic strategy can be implemented at a very local scale, even at a single rural property:
- When there’s enough renewable energy direct from source to meet demand, use it. Store any surplus.
- When there is not enough renewable energy direct from source, meet the shortfall with the stored energy.
- When there is not enough renewable energy direct from source, and the stored energy reserves are insufficient to bridge the shortfall, top up the remaining few percent of the demand with fossil fuels.
Ars Technica should be commended for avoiding the contemptible journalistic practice of not linking to the study. They also link to the press release. Both the article and the press release mention Willett Kempton, who is a coauthor but not the first author, though. Go figure.
I saw a demonstration site in Columbus Texas last week, Industrial Country Market, which runs a sprawling if somewhat peculiar store (this is Texas and people will not shop at a store that is not air-conditioned) and a substantial eclectic hydroponics operation entirely off the grid, mostly with a few yards of solar panels and backup batteries, and a backup generator. Solar panels scale very smoothly and appeal to the redneck self-reliant mentality; the bumper stickers among the shoppers were not particularly left-leaning to say the least.
Take the detour if you’re passing Columbus on I-10, by the way. These guys are a hoot and a half!