Solar energy is a flexible energy technology: it can be built as distributed generation (located at or near the point of use) or as a central-station, utility-scale solar power plant (similar to traditional power plants). Both of these methods can also store the energy they produce for distribution after the sun sets, using cutting edge solar + storage technologies.
Renewable energy power plants do provide a steady flow of energy. For example, hydropower plants, ocean thermal plants, osmotic power plants all provide power at a regulated pace, and are thus available power sources at any given moment (even at night, windstill moments etc.). At present however, the number of steady-flow renewable energy plants alone is still too small to meet energy demands at the times of the day when the irregular producing renewable energy plants cannot produce power.
Jump up ^ Schröder, K.-P.; Smith, R.C. (2008). "Distant future of the Sun and Earth revisited". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 386 (1): 155–163. arXiv:0801.4031. Bibcode:2008MNRAS.386..155S. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13022.x. See also Palmer, J. (2008). "Hope dims that Earth will survive Sun's death". New Scientist. Retrieved 24 March 2008.
Any solar PV system that’s tied to the grid will use a bi-directional meter. When you use electricity from the grid, you’ll see your meter move forward. But when your solar PV system produces electricity, any excess will go back into the grid and your meter will move backward. This is called “net metering,” and the utility company will credit your bill for the excess electricity generated.
Usually however, renewable energy is derived from the mains electricity grid. This means that energy storage is mostly not used, as the mains electricity grid is organised to produce the exact amount of energy being consumed at that particular moment. Energy production on the mains electricity grid is always set up as a combination of (large-scale) renewable energy plants, as well as other power plants as fossil-fuel power plants and nuclear power. This combination however, which is essential for this type of energy supply (as e.g. wind turbines, solar power plants etc.) can only produce when the wind blows and the sun shines. This is also one of the main drawbacks of the system as fossil fuel powerplants are polluting and are a main cause of global warming (nuclear power being an exception). Although fossil fuel power plants too can be made emissionless (through carbon capture and storage), as well as renewable (if the plants are converted to e.g. biomass) the best solution is still to phase out the latter power plants over time. Nuclear power plants too can be more or less eliminated from their problem of nuclear waste through the use of nuclear reprocessing and newer plants as fast breeder and nuclear fusion plants.
If you regularly find your lawn furniture blown over, or have to collect it from the neighbour’s yard, your house needs to be repainted every year or two because it constantly gets sand-blasted, and where the trees have funny shapes (and not because your power company has been doing the pruning), that is when you know you live in a windy place where a wind turbine is likely to make economic sense.
This is a wind map of the lands south of the border (the US) for 30 meters (100′) height, a very common height for small wind turbine installations. Anything green or yellow is not a good wind resource location. Here in Canada the distribution is similar, in that the good places are in the mid-west and very close to the shores of the great lakes and oceans.
Since you are working hard to read this rather lengthy article, here is some entertainment. The ‘intermission’ if you like. So, put your feet up and enjoy the next picture: It’s a prime example of much that is wrong with the small wind world. The fact that an installer would even consider installing in a place like that. Customers that are too uninformed to know better (and their installer clearly is not interested in educating them). Turbine manufacturers that deliver standard towers that are much too short to be effective; this tower plus turbine is just 23 feet tall! Then there is the claim by the manufacturer (dutifully parroted by the installer) that this turbine will offset “up to 30%” of their electricity bill. The last one is not really a lie I suppose: If in reality it offsets just 2% of the owners bill, technically that still falls within that “up to 30%”…
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Solar electricity is inherently variable and predictable by time of day, location, and seasons. In addition solar is intermittent due to day/night cycles and unpredictable weather. How much of a special challenge solar power is in any given electric utility varies significantly. In a summer peak utility, solar is well matched to daytime cooling demands. In winter peak utilities, solar displaces other forms of generation, reducing their capacity factors.
Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.