Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States

Matthew R. Shaner, Steven J. Davis, Nathan S Lewis, Ken Caldeira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We analyze 36 years of global, hourly weather data (1980-2015) to quantify the covariability of solar and wind resources as a function of time and location, over multi-decadal time scales and up to continental length scales. Assuming minimal excess generation, lossless transmission, and no other generation sources, the analysis indicates that wind-heavy or solar-heavy U.S.-scale power generation portfolios could in principle provide ∼80% of recent total annual U.S. electricity demand. However, to reliably meet 100% of total annual electricity demand, seasonal cycles and unpredictable weather events require several weeks' worth of energy storage and/or the installation of much more capacity of solar and wind power than is routinely necessary to meet peak demand. To obtain ∼80% reliability, solar-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require sufficient energy storage to overcome the daily solar cycle, whereas wind-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require continental-scale transmission to exploit the geographic diversity of wind. Policy and planning aimed at providing a reliable electricity supply must therefore rigorously consider constraints associated with the geophysical variability of the solar and wind resource - even over continental scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-925
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2018

Fingerprint

solar power
wind power
Solar energy
Wind power
Solar wind
Electricity
Energy storage
solar wind
electricity
weather
electricity supply
resource
power generation
solar cycle
Power generation
timescale
Planning
demand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Pollution

Cite this

Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States. / Shaner, Matthew R.; Davis, Steven J.; Lewis, Nathan S; Caldeira, Ken.

In: Energy and Environmental Science, Vol. 11, No. 4, 01.04.2018, p. 914-925.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Shaner, Matthew R. ; Davis, Steven J. ; Lewis, Nathan S ; Caldeira, Ken. / Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States. In: Energy and Environmental Science. 2018 ; Vol. 11, No. 4. pp. 914-925.
@article{17e8663c38154d47a41acd9a8fb8646e,
title = "Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States",
abstract = "We analyze 36 years of global, hourly weather data (1980-2015) to quantify the covariability of solar and wind resources as a function of time and location, over multi-decadal time scales and up to continental length scales. Assuming minimal excess generation, lossless transmission, and no other generation sources, the analysis indicates that wind-heavy or solar-heavy U.S.-scale power generation portfolios could in principle provide ∼80{\%} of recent total annual U.S. electricity demand. However, to reliably meet 100{\%} of total annual electricity demand, seasonal cycles and unpredictable weather events require several weeks' worth of energy storage and/or the installation of much more capacity of solar and wind power than is routinely necessary to meet peak demand. To obtain ∼80{\%} reliability, solar-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require sufficient energy storage to overcome the daily solar cycle, whereas wind-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require continental-scale transmission to exploit the geographic diversity of wind. Policy and planning aimed at providing a reliable electricity supply must therefore rigorously consider constraints associated with the geophysical variability of the solar and wind resource - even over continental scales.",
author = "Shaner, {Matthew R.} and Davis, {Steven J.} and Lewis, {Nathan S} and Ken Caldeira",
year = "2018",
month = "4",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1039/c7ee03029k",
language = "English",
volume = "11",
pages = "914--925",
journal = "Energy and Environmental Science",
issn = "1754-5692",
publisher = "Royal Society of Chemistry",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States

AU - Shaner, Matthew R.

AU - Davis, Steven J.

AU - Lewis, Nathan S

AU - Caldeira, Ken

PY - 2018/4/1

Y1 - 2018/4/1

N2 - We analyze 36 years of global, hourly weather data (1980-2015) to quantify the covariability of solar and wind resources as a function of time and location, over multi-decadal time scales and up to continental length scales. Assuming minimal excess generation, lossless transmission, and no other generation sources, the analysis indicates that wind-heavy or solar-heavy U.S.-scale power generation portfolios could in principle provide ∼80% of recent total annual U.S. electricity demand. However, to reliably meet 100% of total annual electricity demand, seasonal cycles and unpredictable weather events require several weeks' worth of energy storage and/or the installation of much more capacity of solar and wind power than is routinely necessary to meet peak demand. To obtain ∼80% reliability, solar-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require sufficient energy storage to overcome the daily solar cycle, whereas wind-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require continental-scale transmission to exploit the geographic diversity of wind. Policy and planning aimed at providing a reliable electricity supply must therefore rigorously consider constraints associated with the geophysical variability of the solar and wind resource - even over continental scales.

AB - We analyze 36 years of global, hourly weather data (1980-2015) to quantify the covariability of solar and wind resources as a function of time and location, over multi-decadal time scales and up to continental length scales. Assuming minimal excess generation, lossless transmission, and no other generation sources, the analysis indicates that wind-heavy or solar-heavy U.S.-scale power generation portfolios could in principle provide ∼80% of recent total annual U.S. electricity demand. However, to reliably meet 100% of total annual electricity demand, seasonal cycles and unpredictable weather events require several weeks' worth of energy storage and/or the installation of much more capacity of solar and wind power than is routinely necessary to meet peak demand. To obtain ∼80% reliability, solar-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require sufficient energy storage to overcome the daily solar cycle, whereas wind-heavy wind/solar generation mixes require continental-scale transmission to exploit the geographic diversity of wind. Policy and planning aimed at providing a reliable electricity supply must therefore rigorously consider constraints associated with the geophysical variability of the solar and wind resource - even over continental scales.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85045954559&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85045954559&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1039/c7ee03029k

DO - 10.1039/c7ee03029k

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85045954559

VL - 11

SP - 914

EP - 925

JO - Energy and Environmental Science

JF - Energy and Environmental Science

SN - 1754-5692

IS - 4

ER -