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They’ve had coal, gas and oil filling that requirement for many decades. But now they scratch their heads and look for viable alternatives, with nothing of note to show for their effort. Climate obsessions like the ‘net zero’ illusion can do strange things to people’s ability to think rationally. Throwing away something vital without a suitable replacement is asking for trouble.
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If the transition to renewables is to succeed, we will need a viable means of storing surplus heat and electricity, says TechXplore.
Globe spoke to experts from ETH Zurich about the promising technologies that could help us reach net zero.
Switzerland aims to transition to a net-zero energy system by 2050. To meet this goal, it will need to replace fossil fuels with renewables.
The Swiss government has also taken the decision to phase out nuclear power. As a result, its plans for carbon neutrality will require not only the electrification of transport and heating by means of electric vehicles and heat pumps, but also measures to compensate for the loss of nuclear generating capacity.
To meet increased energy demand, Switzerland will primarily rely on hydro and photovoltaic energy sources and, to a lesser extent, wind power.
But what about the times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? “The grid has to constantly smooth out fluctuations in renewable generation and match supply to demand,” says Gabriela Hug, a professor at the Power Systems Laboratory at ETH Zurich. Hug also heads up the ETH Energy Science Center (ESC), which recently released modeling showing that a renewable energy system is both technically feasible and economically viable.
“Obviously, it won’t be simple,” Hug acknowledges. “And without effective energy storage, the transition to renewables won’t even be possible.”
Energy storage systems stabilize the grid, providing the necessary capacity to offset the volatility of generation from renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro. This requires technologies that are able to efficiently convert electricity and heat into a form that can be stored and then released back into the grid when needed—whether on a seasonal or minute-by-minute basis.
If Switzerland starts investing more in photovoltaics, it will end up generating more power than it needs at noon on a summer’s day. To make that midday solar power available both day and night, it needs short-term storage solutions. “But Switzerland’s biggest challenge is actually long-term storage,” says Hug.
The country already produces too little electricity in the winter and relies on imports to cover increased demand—and this seasonal imbalance will only intensify as the transition to renewables gathers pace.
“Photovoltaic plants in particular generate surplus electricity in the summer,” says Gianfranco Guidati, an expert in energy system modeling at the ESC. “But in winter the sun is weaker and heat pumps are keeping people’s homes warm—that’s when we see a gap between energy supply and demand.”
The key question for Switzerland is how to store this excess solar power from the summer to the winter. With demand for storage systems clearly growing, Hug argues that the safest approach is to invest both in established and emerging technologies: “We still haven’t come up with the perfect energy storage solution.”
Full article here.
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