Busting the baseload power myth

Baseload power is not a fundamental requirement of modern energy production, argues Dr David Mills.

This piece, from the ABC tackles the old question of base load and renewables. It comes from Dr David Mills, who is known worldwide for his work in solar thermal energy, and photovoltaic systems over 32 years.

He says that for years, opponents of renewable energy have argued that traditional energy technologies — coal, gas and nuclear — are essential because they provide continuous baseload power.

Baseload sources of power operate day and night for most of the year, and this efficient use of turbines and generators reduces the cost of energy production.

Many traditional engineers insist that baseload is an absolute requirement for a comprehensive and cheap system, complemented by intermediate peaking and fast peaking plants to meet demand throughout the day.

But Dr Mills says that baseload output is not a fundamental requirement of modern energy production. It is rather a characteristic of certain fossil, geothermal and nuclear plants that are operated continuously to lower their relative capital expenditure versus fuel cost.

More fundamental to meeting our energy demands is the ability to match inflexible sources of power — those that can only generate energy at certain times such as wind — with flexible sources of power — those that can generate and store energy such as solar.

He says that with his colleagues, Weili Cheng and Phillippe Larochelle, David recently showed that 100 per cent of the 2006 USA electrical load could have been covered on an hour-by-hour basis for the whole year solely from wind and solar energy. No baseload power is required required.

You can read the whole article here.

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