There are times when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers. Solar and wind power are emissions-free and renewable, but depend on sunlight or wind to operate.
For the grid to function efficiently, power supply needs to match power demand at all times, but with renewables, that’s not always the case. For example, wind farms sometimes produce too much electricity at night when demand is low. That excess energy has to be stored or used elsewhere. Otherwise it will be lost. However, the U.S. grid has very limited storage capacity.
The researchers calculated that the amount of energy required to create a solar farm is comparable to the energy used to build each of the five battery technologies. Using batteries to store solar power during periods of low demand would, therefore, be energetically favorable. Ideally, the energetic cost of curtailing a resource should at least equal the amount of energy it cost to store it. for wind farms, the energetic cost of curtailment is much lower than for battery storage. Therefore, it would actually be more energetically efficient to shut down a wind turbine than to store the surplus electricity it generates.
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