Wind and Solar Power: Complementary Energy Resources

Pairing Solar and Wind Power in the Southeast, Solar Power International, 2017

Pairing Solar and Wind Power in the Southeast, Solar Power International, 2017

Here at Solar Power International, a number of attendees have openly wondered: how can wind power and solar power work better, together? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two resources pair together quite nicely, naturally.

With nearly 3.5 gigawatts of wind power purchase agreements, and over 5 GW of installed solar power, the South has begun to embrace renewable energy. Pairing utility scale wind and solar power in the South could improve renewable energy market share as well as relieve potential integration issues. For example, as higher levels of solar power penetration occur, several utilities have noted a trend moving towards higher winter peak generation demand.

Several utilities throughout the region are already winter-peaking. Diurnal patterns indicate wind power resources tend to be strongest at nighttime, tapering off mid-day. Alternatively, solar power resources are strongest mid-day, with no output at nighttime. As such, wind power and solar power resources are naturally complementary diurnally (each day).

Seasonal patterns indicate wind power resources tend to be strongest at wintertime, tapering off during summertime. Alternatively, solar power resources are strongest during summertime, with less output during wintertime. As such, wind power and solar power resources are naturally seasonally complementary.

With good complementarity between diurnal and seasonal patterns, wind power and solar power resources are likely to work well, together. Granted, this is oversimplifying some of the more complex issues specific utilities may have to handle during particularly unusual times (after all, we had an eclipse a few weeks ago, and back-to-back Category 4+ hurricanes). But on balance, renewable energy resources are much, much more resilient than some people may anticipate.

Be sure to stay tuned for our “wrap-up” blog, highlighting some of the major issues discussed at Solar Power International 2017!

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