Utility-scale renewable energy systems: spatial and storage requirements
Niet, Taco (Taco Niet (taco_niet)) (author)
Love, Murray (author)
Pitt, Lawrence (author)
McLean, Ged (author)
© 2015, M. Love, L. Pitt, T. Niet, G. McLean.
Renewable technologies such as solar or wind generation are favoured by many people concerned about the environmental and safety consequences of continued reliance on fossil-fuelled and nuclear generation. This paper focuses on two features of a societal move to renewable energy generation: their land area requirements, and the energy storage required to deliver energy services when wind and solar fluxes are inadequate. We use the IESVic Energy System Model to estimate the minimum land area and energy storage requirements for wind and solar photovoltaic generation to meet the entire 2000 US electrical demand. We model 13 locations for solar generation and 11 for wind, both singly and in various combinations, over several years of hourly climate data, and find that solar and wind generation facilities would require minimum land areas of 41,000 km2 and 193,000 km2 respectively. The smallest photovoltaic system requires storage equivalent to 76 days of average demand, while 108 days are required for wind. The generating area required by the smallest wind system is comparable to the total urbanized area of the contiguous United States, without considering land requirements for resource extraction, transmission, waste disposal, and energy storage.