Oaks, there’s more to it, your understanding lacks imagination.
With respect to wind, you are right, all mills don’t operate at their rated output all the time. It’s variable. But when you connect them to a grid, if you have thousands of them over a wide enough geographical area and years of statistics then you can calculate how much power as a group they can supply. In other words, let’s just say that all the windmills in a geographically connected area of the grid are capable of producing 1GW, but each unit, when moving only supplies 70% of its rated-power on average. And then within that is only moving 50% of the time.
So as a group, they make the 700MW peak, but can only be relied upon to make 350MW sustained. That’s 350MW of other power sources that can be taken offline IF the money spent to create 350MW is cost effective.
(Please don’t guy hung up on the numbers I pulled them out of thin air, they aren’t meant to represent reality, rather just explain the concept in principle).
And I agree, with you. Windmills that, as a group that can make 1GW of power has a hefty price tag if they can only be relied on to make 1/3 of that.
Battery tech will play a HUGE role. If each windmill could save up its surplus power and feed it into the grid while it wasn’t spinning or was spinning slowly, that would solve the problem.
As far as solar, I agree that solar has the limitations you speak of. Solar only works if it creates more power that is needed during the day with the surplus supplied at night. But there are many specialized applications where solar will be a good fit. Many businesses operate during daylight and if they have a building large enough, covering it with solar may be cost-effective (vs solar supplied by an energy producer). When enough people and businesses invest in renewables the effect on the grid is the same. Some minimum amount of power will be made by renewables. This means that other sources can be scaled by at least that amount.
This means batteries must get better AND cheaper.
This is where we are today.
A 3000mHh (3ah) battery that weighs 1.5oz that can be discharged at a 20amp rate.
Put 10 in parallel and you get 30ah @20ah rate at 15.5 ounces? Or 20 and get 60ah for just over 2lbs?
Dunno about you, but I fish in a few lakes with electric motor restrictions (they are reservoirs) and carrying 2 - 5lb batteries (with case and wiring and such) will be better than the two 60lb behemoths I carry now.
I’ve never argued that we’re ready to go solar or wind today, but the theoretical limits of solar, wind and battery tech are there.
To be honest. I’d like to see money put into molten salt nuclear reactors. I think they’d provide the bridge between now and the time it takes to develop reliable cost-effective renewable technologies.
Molten salt nuclear’s advantages (Source Wikipedia)
*MSR offers many potential advantages over current light water reactors:
Inherently safe design (safety by passive components and the strong negative temperature coefficient of reactivity of some designs). In some designs, the fuel and the coolant are the same fluid, so a loss of coolant removes the reactor’s fuel. Unlike steam, fluoride salts dissolve poorly in water and do not form burnable hydrogen. Unlike steel and solid uranium oxide, molten salts are not damaged by the core’s neutron bombardment.
A low-pressure MSR lacks an LWR’s high-pressure radioactive steam and therefore do not experience leaks of radioactive steam and cooling water, and the expensive containment, steel core vessel, piping, and safety equipment needed to contain radioactive steam.
MSRs make closed nuclear fuel cycles cheaper and more practical. If fully implemented, a closed nuclear fuel cycle reduces environmental impacts: The chemical separation makes long-lived actinides back into reactor fuel. The discharged wastes are mostly fission products (nuclear ashes) with short half-lives. This reduces the needed geologic containment to 300 years rather than the tens of thousands of years needed for a light-water reactor’s spent nuclear fuel. It also permits society to use more-abundant nuclear fuels.
The fuel’s liquid phase might be pyroprocessed to separate fission products (nuclear ashes) from actinide fuels. This may have advantages over conventional reprocessing, though much development is still needed.
Fuel rods are not required.
In new solid-fueled reactor designs, the longest-lead item is the safety testing of fuel element designs. Fuel tests usually must cover several three-year refueling cycles. However, several molten salt fuels have already been validated.
Some designs can “burn” problematic transuranic elements from traditional solid-fuel nuclear reactors. (That’s a HUGE advantage!! I’ve read that MSR’s can use spent fuel as a fuel source reducing it’s size and volume by 100 times.)
An MSR can react to load changes in less than 60 seconds (unlike “traditional” solid-fuel nuclear power plants that suffer from xenon poisoning).
Molten salt reactors can run at high temperatures, yielding high production efficiency. This reduces the size, expense and environmental impacts of a power plant.
MSRs can offer a high “specific power,” that is high power at a low mass as demonstrated by the ARE. Simplified * *
MSR power plants may be suitable for ships.
A possibly good neutron economy makes the MSR attractive for the neutron poor thorium fuel cycle.
LWR’s (and most other solid-fuel reactors) have no fundamental “off switch”, but once the initial criticality is overcome, an MSR is comparatively easy and fast to turn off by letting the freeze plug melt.
And like other kinds of nuclear does not burn carbon based fuels. IT’s GREEN