Reports Warn: Electric Grids Based on Renewables Don’t Need Bad Weather to Fail | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the John Locke Foundation. The author of this post is Jon Sanders.

    It seems like just a few days ago that The News & Observer (N&O) was running banner headlines and filing multiple stories about how bad power outages are for people.

    Now, even as North Carolina braces for a winter "bomb cyclone" with Duke Energy warning of potential power outages amid below-freezing temperatures and dangerous winds, the N&O's associate opinion editor wants the North Carolina Utilities Commission to ensure North Carolina power outages don't have to wait for bad weather:

    The trend toward renewables as cleaner and cheaper sources of energy is inexorable and the need for a rapid transition is undeniable. The commission must offer a plan that goes all the way - not halfway - to embracing renewable energy in all of its growing promise.

    Solar's "maximum dependable capacity is 0 MW"

    Even with the nonsense about the "growing promise" of "inexorably" "cheaper" renewable energy, there's not one word about wind and solar being reliable. That's because there can't be.

    Despite his advocacy of (and executive orders pushing) wind and solar, Gov. Roy Cooper knows it. The application by the company that built a five-megawatt (MW) solar facility on the governor's Nash County property noted the following in its application: "Solar is an intermittent energy source, and therefore the maximum dependable capacity is 0 MW." In other words, the most electricity generation the governor or anyone else could expect at any given time is nothing.

    "Very benign or very boring weather, where you have just persistent cloud coverage and really no wind, that's actually going to pose the most significant threat"

    The environmentalist vision of energy embraced by Cooper, the N&O, et al. is exactly one where the greatest threat of power outages comes from dull days. As I explained in my recent column for the American Institute for Economic Research, "Reddy or Not, Winter Is Coming":

    The looming threat of a dull day is something warned about in a new report from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. It's what would critically disrupt an electric system made to rely on weather-dependent renewable energy sources instead of traditional energy sources (coal, natural gas, and nuclear).

    As reported by Colorado Public Radio, more solar and wind facilities on the grid would mean that "long periods of still, overcast weather," rather than extreme temperature events, pose the greatest challenge. As report author Nicholas Garza put it, "What we would think of as very benign or very boring weather, where you have just persistent cloud coverage and really no wind, that's actually going to pose the most significant threat."

    Making it worse, those times are most likely to occur in the winter, when people will especially be relying on electricity for heat to survive.


    "Peak demand is no longer the only time of clear risk to grid reliability"

    It wasn't just the Colorado Public Utilities Commission issuing such a warning, either:

    The 2022 State of Reliability report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) highlighted fast emerging threats to grid reliability outside of peak demand. As to those, the Institute for Energy Research discussed several of NERC's key findings regarding renewable resources and grid reliability. They included that peak demand is no longer the only time of clear risk to grid reliability, it's also "when weather-dependent generation is impacted by abnormal atmospheric conditions or when extreme conditions disrupt fuel supplies."

    Furthermore, there is a greater risk of energy shortfalls (blackouts) thanks to "the resource mix evolv[ing] toward renewable energy," which means "less flexible generation that is fuel-assured, weatherized and dispatchable."


    As the Institute for Energy Research explained, "Wind and solar are making the grid more unreliable as they gain share."

    North Carolinians expect better from their power suppliers. Importantly, so does North Carolina law. Our standard in law, even now, is least-cost and reliable electricity. Anything less causes intolerable hardships for people. A few short days ago, even the N&O knew that to be true.
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