Solar Output Matches Peak Demand… Even Better In Australia
All distributed energy sources, such as wind, hydropower, tidal power, and solar, follow a general schedule in their respective power output. We often hear that wind tends to perform best at night, hydropower is relatively stable, tidal power follows the schedule of the tides, and solar generates during the day. Each of these resources will have an important part of a sustainable energy future, but there is one in particular that may play a more integral role in getting us there (Hint: It’s Solar).
Solar Correlates with Peak Demand
The fact that solar power generates all of its power during daytime hours is very important. Not only does this provide homes with solar panels plenty of power for the day, it also helps electric utilities significantly reduce operating costs. The reason for this is that solar power matches almost perfectly with the utility’s peak demand. This correlation with peak demand is important because of the way utilities operate. During regular, or off-peak, hours, utilities have what is called a baseload power source that generates a constant power output for average demand. When peak hours hit, such as when everyone wakes up in the morning or when everyone gets home from work, demand jumps to a much higher level and utilities must ramp up more expensive, short-term electricity plant to help supply the extra power. This is where solar power comes into play. When utilities would normally have to pay extra for peak generators to turn on, solar power can take over and provide the extra output.
This phenomenon occurs in all countries with sunshine, but the effects are amplified in Australia. There is such good solar power in Australia that during hours of high solar output, utilities may see a reversal in peak demand. Solar power is already showing the ability to make up for peak demand, and then some. If utilities take advantage of solar power in greater quantities, such as by building solar generating facilities themselves, the may eliminate their concerns over peak supply, and peak costs.
Why Utilities Should Like Solar
Australia’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) recently published a report showing just how much money solar power could potentially save utilities. As demand increases and the utility infrastructure ages, the RET estimates that around $17 billion will need to be spent building new power lines and generation plants just to meet increases in peak demand. Most of this investment could be deferred long-term, if not indefinitely, by increased utilization of solar power by the utilities.
- 31 Oct, 2013
- Kit Man Chan
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