Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Renewable Solution to the Problem of Peak Power

Credit: Kletr/Adobe

Credit: Kletr/Adobe

By Andrew Blakers

Despite the rapid uptake of solar and wind energy worldwide, fossil fuels are still required when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. However, a cheap and proven storage option, in combination with wind and solar energy, could replace the need for fossil fuels within 15 years.

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A renewable energy revolution is in progress, driven by rapidly decreasing prices. Together, new photovoltaic (PV) and wind electricity generation capacity is being installed at a greater rate worldwide than the combined amount of new coal, gas, oil and nuclear (Fig. 1). Within a few years, new PV and wind generation capacity installed each year worldwide may each be larger than the rest of the electricity generation industry combined.

PV and wind constitute nearly all new generation capacity in Australia. Tasmania obtains all of its electricity from hydro and wind. South Australia obtains 40% of its electricity from wind and PV, and this figure will be above 50% by 2020. The ACT will source all of its electricity from wind and PV by 2025.

Figure 2 shows the retirement schedule for Australia’s fleet of coal-fired power stations, assuming a 50-year service life. PV and wind can be installed at a sufficient rate to yield a largely renewable Australian electricity...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.