One of the first technical issues to address is how we ensure the power grid is reliable. To do this, the grid needs to maintain what is called firm capacity and it cannot go below a minimum level of capacity. If it dips below its minimum, the system can become unstable – risking potential power outages. This is one of the biggest issues with renewable energy sources like wind and solar: They are dependent on environmental factors and not always consistent, creating difficulties in maintaining a reliable power grid.
This is where pumped hydro and battery storage come into the energy equation. As part of an integrated renewable energy solution, they provide that level of certainty so the system can maintain a baseline – independent of weather conditions.
Ben McQueen, WSP’s Director of Energy, Central Region, describes the situation, “The legacy generation fleet of coal and gas doesn’t have this capacity issue. They aren’t reliant on the wind blowing or the sun shining. Meaning, whenever you need them, you turn them on and they’re available. This provides the reliability and certainty needed to manage the power system.
“The main challenge in transitioning to renewable energy is around the power system’s dispatch and control and how it effectively stores the energy from wind and solar.
“To make sure there is an ability to generate energy when we need it, providers are now supplementing the system with batteries and hydro power, because they give you that certainty of capacity.
“However, a big challenge for the market, and engineers, is the fairly aggressive timeframe needed to make all this happen. And on a social level, is there going to be equal access to renewables like expensive residential solar panels?”