We don’t need no stinkin’ baseload

Since I wrote the story about an environmentalist who wants more green power in order to have less black-outs and the one that claimed that there were absolutely no issues with wind and solar energy, some words kept on resonating in my head. I found it really strange that two, I think, intelligent persons who should have some insight in the Belgian energy production situation, (mis)represent their case in such a way by stating that the base load of our nuclear plants was the cause of the near black-out that we had last year. That seems putting the reality upside down.

They should know that we have a nuclear base load. My thought was that they probably didn’t really accept the concept of base load and that their reactions came from this. I became curious how they looked at it, so I fired up Google and searched for instances where they talked about base load. I started with Chris Derde and in no time I found his twitter account. His tweets were as one-sided as his comment on the VRT opinion blog. I would have material enough for a separate blog…

On it I found a retweet of a tweet by Chris Nelder with a link to the blogpost Why baseload power is doomed.

Bingo.

I heard such things before, that continuous electricity production is possible with only wind, solar and initially some biomass. What I remembered about this is that it was based on a radical change in society, how we work and live. Not exactly realistic. This was no different in the blogpost. This is how they put it:

The notion that renewables cannot provide baseload power is really an artifact of the way the grid and its regulators have evolved. If all generators were able to ramp up and down on demand, and if grid operators were able to predict reliably when and where the sun would be shining and the wind would be blowing, accommodating any amount of power from renewables would be no problem.

Sounds very nice of course. IF, and only IF, they really can ramp up and down on demand.

They give a example of how a grid should work with wind and solar energy: Texas. They called it the “best example in the United States”. Surprising for me. I associate Texas with oil and gas, not with green sources. But indeed, when googling it, it showed a lot of links to sites that glorify the Texan power grid for its large contribution of wind and solar.

In a way I could see this work in Texas, at least more than here. Texas is situated much more south, there is more sun & wind there and peak demand might be closer to peak production. Compare that to our cold and rainy Belgium in which production of wind and solar is the lowest when demand is highest. So, even if this is a good example of integrating green power in a grid, I am not really sure if the Texan example could be made to work here in Belgium.

Coming back to the idea of those who blame the base load power for destabilizing our grid. They don’t seem to realize that we have an old-style grid and we will have to play with the rules of that old-style grid. However superior their ideology might be, however good their proposed solution might be, in the CURRENT grid it is THEY who are making the grid unstable by adding an variable amount of power on a grid that is not adapted to take this.

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