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Thursday, April 16, 2015
Going 100% renewable
Georgetown, Texas, has gone 100% renewable:
Georgetown didn’t pursue renewable energy for environmental reasons, but simply because it was the best investment for their customers. The 150 megawatts of solar PV and 145 megawatts of wind power will supply as much as double the town’s annual electricity use, ensuring sufficient supply year round even with fluctuations in sunshine and wind, and allow the town to sell the excess into Texas electricity markets. As attractive as the price—which was lower than the town’s current wholesale electricity costs—the solar and wind contracts have zero volatility because they have zero fuel cost, insulating Georgetown electric customers from rising fossil fuel prices.
It’s worth noting that the solar and wind contracts don’t mean that Georgetown will be completely reliant on the sun and wind. Their grid remains interconnected to the rest of the Texas electricity system, so in periods of zero wind and zero sun, the town can still tap into the ERCOT spot market for power. However, the wind and solar resource tend to balance one another. As the city’s press release notes, “This means that wind power can most often fill power demand when the sun isn’t shining.”
This study suggests that municipalities across the US could switch to renewables without increasing costs. [Read more here] And it implies that the only thing stopping that happening is vested interests. Note also that they have no batteries. They are achieving grid stability in their town by relying on the larger grid, in their case ERCOT, the Texas grid. But the variability of wind and solar offset each other, which is enough for a small plaey within a bigger sustem, but as more and more do this, battery storage will become more and more important. Fortunately, battery costs continue to decline.
But the really important thing is that switching to 100% renewables can be done; it's no longer more expensive than coal-fired power; and it won't reduce growth or living standards.