Why renewable energies are not base load capable

One discussion that comes up again and again is that renewable energies are not base load capable, or are they? Well, as it always is, it is not easy to answer and is a question of definition.

Proponents of renewables say they are base-load capable, through storage technologies.

What is there to this statement?

The statement is true and not true, because renewable energies belong to the volatile energy sources and that means that they cannot be base load capable by definition:

As Base load capability is the ability of a power plant or types of power plants to provide electrical energy on a continuous basis without frequent or prolonged interruptions.
- Source: Wikipedia Base load capability, May 12, 2023

Let's break down the terms and how they relate to each other:

Power plant types for permanent provision", solar, wind, hydropower, etc., i.e. all volatile energy sources, by definition, cannot be considered power plant types that can provide a permanent supply of energy, and are therefore also volatile and dependent on external environmental factors that cannot be controlled by humans.

without frequent or prolonged interruptions", this statement also fits to volatile energy sources, that sun and wind are not permanently in a stable amount, the sun radiates and the wind blows (weather and clouds), and these are thereby worse controllable, and can only be switched off if just too much energy is produced, which is consequently bad, because energy is lost, because you can not store it, if times but surplus is, so much wind and much sun.

It can therefore be said that renewable energy sources, due to their volatility, By definition, are not base load capable.

But base load capable? Yes

Proponents of renewable energy argue that renewable energy is base-load capable, and that through the use of storage. According to previous, this statement is not correct, because through storage, not the base load capability of these energy sources is created, but their volatility is reduced, because the storage facilities absorb the energy and then release it when there is little energy from renewable sources. Volatility is reduced.

As an electronics engineer, I also use technical jargon: Smoothing.

In the case of an unstable energy supply of electronic components, one must take care that these components nevertheless reliably receive a stable DC voltage, with as little fluctuation as possible. Depending on the frequency, high-frequency DC/DC voltage converters or B2U bridge rectifiers are used to generate a rectified voltage from an AC voltage, which must be smoothed and stabilized via capacitors.

The regenerative energies would be here the voltage without smoothing, if no sun or no wind, then the power goes down and only if again what is there, here it is an alternating voltage in millisecond change, the smoothing ensures that the power of this energy source, then does not go to 0, and that would be then scaled to Germany, large storage which can take up and deliver flexible energy. This smoothes the volatility of renewable energy sources, but cannot replace base-load capable and controllable energy sources such as nuclear power. Controllable, because they can adjust the power via control rods and the large storage units can also not replace the flywheel mass of the generators of the power plants, which are important for the stable 50Hz grid frequency, because thereby the frequency does not collapse due to fluctuations, this flywheel mass, a storage unit can not replace.


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Posted by Petr Kirpeit

All articles are my personal opinion and are written in German. In order to offer English-speaking readers access to the article, they are automatically translated via DeepL. Facts and sources will be added where possible. Unless there is clear evidence, the respective article is considered to be my personal opinion at the time of publication. This opinion may change over time. Friends, partners, companies and others do not have to share this position.