The sun shines until clouds move in or night falls. The wind blows until it doesn't. How can utilities working to harness these sources of renewable energy account for their variability?
The obvious answer is batteries. In a piece posted on theconversation.com, Sean Meyn, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Florida, offers another approach:
"California plans to spend billions of dollars for batteries to even out the flow of power from solar and wind, much the way shock absorbers smooth out bumps on the road. But do they need to? Not at all!
"In my research, I’ve found that we can accommodate a grid powered 50% by renewable energy without the use of batteries.
"Systems flexible enough to accommodate the ups and downs of solar and wind production can be made by adjusting the power at millions of homes and businesses on a minute-by-minute or even second-by-second basis. This approach requires no new hardware, some control software and a bit of consumer engagement."