When we said the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always gust, we weren’t just blowing hot air, so to speak. We really meant that with the current lack of technology to store the electricity generated from wind and solar that you better have a good back up system in place for when you don’t have the resources to create power from the sun and wind. The power plants operators in San Diego, Cali. are finding this out now and keeping natural gas a vital part of their power mix.
A recent story in the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that only 14 percent of the region’s power comes from renewables such as wind and solar. The rest is created from fossil fuels, mostly natural gas. And, local environmental officials are okay with this.
Here’s what one said in the Union-Tribune story:
“Natural gas ought to be viewed as complementary, and not competing with renewables,” said Jim Marston, director of energy program for the Environmental Defense Fund.
The state of California is also working to make its natural gas power plant technology more eco-friendly and more efficient. Old power plants along the coast used mass amounts of seawater for cooling. The new ones do not. The new gas turbines are also more efficient and create twice as much power from the same amount of natural gas as the old turbines.
Still, more and more renewable energy, by California state mandate, is being forced on line. The goal is to have 33 percent of electricity produced from non-fossil fuels by 2020. And, believe it or not, that goal actually increases the need for natural gas.
Again, from the Union-Tribune:
“People need to understand the intermittency challenge we have. The wind comes and goes, and on the hottest days of the year, there’s no wind, and you still need to provide power to your customers. These resources are not under our control, but under the control of nature,” said San Diego Gas and Electric’s president Michael Niggli.
That’s when your gas plant kicks in to save the day. And, if more and more of your power is generated from wind and solar, that means more and more often your gas plants kicks in to cover that intermittency.