The energy crisis in Europe, the deadly winter in Texas and the collapse of the energy system in Japan that nearly happened earlier this year play into the hands of skeptics who do not believe in the possibility of “green” energy. A breath of fresh air in an atmosphere of despair was the new calculations, which showed that the transition to the sun and wind as the main sources of electricity generation is difficult, but possible.
In a journal article Nature Communications experts from China’s Tsinghua University, Carnegie Institute of Science and California Institute of Technology reportedthat most of the current demand for electricity in developed industrial countries can be met by some combination of wind and solar energy. But there is a caveat: additional efforts are needed to fully meet the needs of countries in electricity.
“Wind and sun can meet more than 80% of demand in many places without insane amounts of storage or excess generating capacity, which is critical. – said study co-author Steve Davis, UCI professor of earth systems science. “But depending on the country, there may be periods of many days throughout the year when demand will have to be met with energy storage and other non-fossil energy sources.”
Researchers looked at 39-year hourly data on electricity demand in 42 major countries around the world to estimate the sufficiency of wind and solar energy resources to meet their needs. They found that a complete transition to sustainable energy sources may be easier for large countries located in lower latitudes, where there are more sunny days per year. In high latitudes (for example, Germany) this is more difficult and there may be periods of “dark calm” when the wind and sun do not generate energy for weeks. In October, there was just a two-week “dark calm”, which forced Germany to reactivate coal-fired power plants.
But for such cases there is a solution – this is a unified power system. It is easier for a united Europe to create one when the southern countries of the union – Spain, Italy and Greece – share solar generation, and the northern ones – Norway, Denmark and others – share wind power.
In general, the study showed that systems with a predominance of wind generation are able to meet the electricity needs of large countries by 72-91%. Systems with predominantly solar generation, provided a 12-hour energy storage is available, can meet electricity demand 83 to 94% of the time.
To fully cover the requirements, it is necessary to carry out a certain amount of work, which can be difficult, but completely feasible. For example, to create excess renewable energy capacities in excess of the usual annual demand, create energy storage facilities and take care of the flow of electricity over large areas from a variety of sources.
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