The Energy Disruption Series is a new feature from A greener life, a greener world, in which we will shine a light on many of the disruptive forces underway in the energy and technology industries which are changing the way we use energy.
By Anders Lorenzen
I have previously written, that in order to optimise the use of renewables, baseload power is needed. To some degree, I still believe that to be true, and I believe in the UK we do need a certain proportion of gas power and nuclear to combine with renewables in the coming years. But in the coming decades that will become less and less necessary, and some recent trends are responsible for that positive change.
It is really a maths issue, as the need for baseload power is the simple issue of intermittent renewables. The generating levels of renewables can rapidly increase and decrease in the short space of an hour. Therefore the move towards an electricity system based on 100% renewables, needs energy storage and interconnector capacity. The easiest way to move one individual country towards renewables is of course storage. And with the rollout of interconnector collaboration between several countries, this can be a tricky process, to say the least.
I’m happy to say that remarkably both interconnectors and energy storage is rapidly moving forward in the UK. (I will start with energy storage, and move onto interconnectors in the next part).
What I’m talking about here is perhaps not the kind of energy storage we had expected but, nevertheless, it could present us with disruption on a mass scale. I had thought that to move forward on energy storage we would need mass industrial power plant storage. Centralised power plant energy storage is starting to happen, but is painfully slow with still very little capacity. So let’s forget about this for a while and instead turn our attention towards decentralised storage in the shape of Tesla’s Powerwall.
As more and more people in the UK have invested in solar panels, a second investment for instance, in a Tesla Powerwall, could in a significant way reduce their reliance on the national grid. And in some cases perhaps people could even become completely independent of the grid. The electric car enthusiast and geek, Robert Llewellyn, – yes, the one out of Red Dwarf – did an experiment in his home using his solar capacity, a Tesla Powerwall and his electric car featured on his YouTube show Fully Charged.
He explained that on some days he could charge the battery and his electric car during the day, while at night he would use the battery to power his home. This was obviously during the summer and would be different during the winter with fewer hours of sunshine, colder weather and more storms.
But here, in theory, the powerwall could have a different effect in balancing out the grid. In the evening and during the night, where electricity consumption is lower and where the generation share of wind power is likely to be higher, the powerwall could charge using the larger share of wind power. In the day both homes and businesses could use the charged powerwall to power homes and other operations at least for some of the time, taking pressure off the grid and making greater use of renewables. Due to sudden spikes in renewables generation, much capacity has been lost, because the grid has not been able to send it anywhere.
And on some occasions, wind turbines have had to be shut down which is a terrible waste of clean energy. At the moment, in the UK, not enough people own powerwalls to make a significant difference. But a large army of powerwall owners could play a huge role in acting as Britain’s battery, and in return reward themselves with more value for money.