Despite the ravings of environmental whackos, there is no way renewable sources are going to reliably and inexpensively meet the energy needs of US consumers. And those renewable sources have their own environmental headaches, some really bad, like massive slaughter of birds by wind turbines and the hazardous waste produced by solar. And there is no way to create enough power storage capacity to cover for the wildly variable output of most renewable energy sources. These charts by Dave Dixon demonstrate that in the Midwest, including Minnesota, it would be lunacy to take traditional power-producing sources, like natural gas, coal and nuclear offline. But that is exactly what we are doing. Makes China and Russia really happy.
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes a wide variety of energy information. We were interested in the sources of electricity generation, and how they change on a daily or weekly basis. The EIA publishes data and charts for the Midwest Region here: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric_overview/regional/REG-MIDW . Note that the Midwest Region covers an area of the US from Louisiana to Michigan to North Dakota. This region is operated by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), and has a real time dashboard available here: https://www.misoenergy.org/markets-and-operations/real-time–market-data/operations-displays/ .
- One of the charts the EIA publishes on the page referenced above is “Midwest (MIDW) region electricity generation by energy source”. By clicking on the gear symbol on this chart we are able to select up to a 31 day time period, and then to download the data as a csv file. The data for the charts presented here was obtained in this manner. The charts match those published by the EIA, except that we have modified the colors used for clarity. The amounts data in Fig. 1 and Fig. 3 are directly from the EIA without modification. We are calculating the proportions in Fig. 2 and Fig. 4 from the amounts data.
- Fig. 1 shows the amounts of electricity generated by source each hour over a 7 day period. Note that coal and natural gas generation is highly cyclical, in order to match the daily demand cycle. Nuclear is almost perfectly constant, which must represent an optimum operating level for the reactors. Nuclear power plants are capable of ramping up and down, but since they generate a relatively small proportion of the total load it makes sense to run them at a constant output. Wind power has no apparent daily pattern, while solar and hydro do have daily cycles. Hydro power plants must be modulated to generate power during the higher demand periods of the day.
- Fig. 2 shows the amounts of electricity generated by each source each hour as a proportion of the hourly total over a 7 day period. In this chart it is more clear that natural gas is ramped down as wind power increases, and vice versa, while coal operates with relatively less variability in the hourly proportion.
- Fig. 3 shows the same hourly generation data as Fig. 1, but over a 30 day period. Wind generation is highly variable as expected, and in this chart we can see that coal is also ramped up and down to compensate when wind generation is low over longer periods.
- Fig. 4 shows the same hourly proportion data as Fig. 3, but over a 30 day period. It is noteworthy that wind power generation peaked at 24% on 6/30/2022, but that wind power generation also had several days-long periods at less than 10%, and at times dropped to nearly 0%. Since battery storage that is cost effective and sustainable is not currently available in scale, power generation has to meet instantaneous electrical demand. Since it is not politically viable to build coal power plants then the main backup for wind power going forward has to be natural gas power plants. If we want electricity on demand natural gas power plants must be built to back up 100% of wind power capacity.