The Challenges Behind Using Renewable Energy to Supply Electricity

Moksha D -

Hi everyone! Welcome back to my blog! This week I was focused on analyzing the challenges with the three types of renewable energy I studied last week. 

The main issue that engineers are facing in harnessing renewable energy is that solar, hydro, and wind are all weather dependent. This creates an inconsistency in the ability to use it making it an unreliable way to provide power in its original form. 

I was able to discuss why implementing renewable energy, while highly important, is very difficult to match consumers needs. If we solely go to renewable energy, in the night when there is no sun and hypothetically no wind, where will the electricity come from?

Hydro is highly dependent on the location that it is built in because of the upper and lower reservoir needed; flat land won’t work. I was able to see the initial costs of building infrastructures like the Hoover Dam and it can go as high as $800 million. The other issue is droughts which is what places like SRP see. Because of how dry Arizona is, a pumped hydro may not even have enough water.

In Arizona, there are many solar panels on residential homes and parking lots but solar panel farms need acres of land which can only be built outside the city. The problem with solar is that in the night or on a cloudy day when there is no sun, how can solar provide power? On a normal sunny day, the sun peaks at around 3pm/4pm but according to SRP data, the most load is needed at 5pm/6pm when people come home from work. 

An interesting concept that engineers at SRP use is known as the “Duck Curve”. It shows how at 6pm when the solar energy is decreasing and demand for power is increasing, they must ramp up the supply of other forms of generation like coal to compensate. 

Wind turbines are also both weather and location dependent. It may not always be windy and wind turbines cannot be built in cities because of the amount of space they take. For example, in Texas, the main cities are in the south and east but the wind turbines need to be in a location where there is actually wind which unfortunately is in the north and west. 

Thank you for reading! In the next week, I will be proposing solutions to these inconsistencies in renewable energy.


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    Hey Moksha! This is really insightful and interesting. I was wondering how the "Duck Curve" affects SRP's operations and what they do to deal with it. Thanks!
    Moksha Dalal
    Hi Akhil! The "Duck Curve" essentially shows that the time consumers need energy the most does not correlate with the time that solar energy is the strongest (the sun is the brightest basically). So when this happens, SRP had to ramp up the production of their coal and nuclear plants, which are forms of non-renewable energy, to ensure that consumers are still receiving power. This is the challenge that I will be researching further and proposing solutions for!
    Hi Moksha! This is great info. Is the Duck Curve impacted by factors other than work schedules? Such as seasonal time changes and weather?
    Moksha Dalal
    Work schedules are the primary reason! Around 5pm/6pm when employees go home, they turn on the AC or heater, the stove, etc. Seasonal changes and weather have a significant impact on solar energy. However, they are not considered for the "Duck Curve".
    Alana Rothschild
    Wow- such interesting information. My mom has solar panels on her roof and has to have them cleaned a few times a year (when they are dirty, they can't do their job). I thought I would share that fun fact. Thank you for being so detailed- keep up the good work!
    Moksha Dalal
    Thank you Mrs. Rothschild!
    Hi Moksha! This is super interesting information. Have you found in your research if there is a geographical. skew in regards to numbers of solar panels and wind turbines? Does urban planning affect how renewable energy can be harvested?
    Hi Moksha, are you planning to look at storage for renewables like batteries?
    Moksha Dalal
    Hi Kashish! Yes, there certainly is a geographical skew because wind turbines and solar panel fields can only be built in certain regions due to weather and the type of land that exists. I hope that answers your question!
    Moksha Dalal
    Hi Nick! Yes, I will be looking into the different types of storage and my main focus will be lithium-ion batteries and proving how that is the most efficient way of storing renewable energy.
    Snehal Dalal
    Great work Moksha, keep it up.
    Hello Moksha! I think your discussion about some of the difficulties of renewable energy because of their weather dependence is really significant because it highlights some issues scientists need to overcome before society starts implementing a move towards renewable energy. I was curious as to whether or not you believe current renewable energy profit overcomes the investment and expense individual households need to put in, for example the cost of solar panels or whether we should wait until it becomes more efficient and these obstacles are overcome.

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