When most of us visualize clean energy the first things to come to mind are solar panels and wind turbines. Unfortunately, these forces of nature—the sun and wind—do not line up neatly with customer demand for electricity. Unlike traditional power plants that can be dispatched when needed, solar and wind generation are intermittent; they only have the ability to create electricity when the sun shines or the wind blows.
To solve the intermittency challenge of solar and wind, electric system operators have typically relied on flexible power plants, such as fast ramping natural gas-fired generation which can quickly fill the gaps between renewable output and customer demand. However, if an electricity grid seeks to meet net zero carbon targets, natural gas power plants, which emit carbon dioxide, are an imperfect solution to balancing the grid.
David Cherney is a US energy policy expert at PA Consulting