As I first wrote here, managing intermittency of renewable energy through geographic diversification could be a key driver of large, utility-scale adoption of renewable power beyond the 10%-15% threshold typically assumed. It also featured in my predictions for 2008.
Now, the Combined Power Plant in Germany is putting all of the theory into practice. (via The Sietch Blog, h/t Gristmill)
In an pilot experiment featuring 36 renewable energy power sources (11 wind, 4 biogas CHP units, 20 solar systems and a pumped storage power plant) all linked by a central control unit, the Combined Power Plant project demonstrates that most, if not all energy demand can be met exclusively by renewable energy. From the background paper:
Wind turbines and solar modules help generate electricity in accordance with how much wind and sun is available. Biogas and hydropower are used to make up the difference: they are converted into electricity as needed in order to balance out short-term fluctuations, or are temporarily stored….The Technical Summary has more.
…Cutting edge technology is already able to forecast energy yields reliably. The Combined Renewable Energy Power Plant makes use of this technology and regulates electricity needs just as securely as conventional, largescale power stations…
...These power plants are intended to meet one ten-thousandth of Germany’s electricity needs – roughly equal to the electricity requirements of a small town with 12,000 households (such as Stade in Germany). The Combined Power Plant therefore shows in miniature what is also possible on a large scale: 100 per cent provision with renewable energy sources at all times.
I recommend first starting with the 7 minute video which does a wonderful job explaining the program and underlying reasoning.
Certainly, a national roll-out of this project would require the development of several enabling and ancillary technologies, including the build-out of an extensive high voltage power transmission infrastructure, and sophisticated demand response technology and networks. But coupled with improved energy efficiency and individual power management initiatives, this could potentially represent a quantum leap in a renewable energy powered future.