Composed by Galina Vitkova
The Renewables-Grid-Initiative (RGI) promotes effective integration of 100% electricity produced from renewable energy sources.
I do not believe in this statement RGI. I am sure that it is impossible from technical and technological points of view. Simply remind the very low share of renewables in entire production of world electricity (3% without hydroelectricity), very high investment costs and very high prices of electricity produced from renewables nowadays.
Concerns about climate and energy security (especially, in the case of nuclear power plants) are reasons supporting the efforts for a quick transformation towards a largely renewable power sector. The European emissions reduction targets to keep temperature increase below 2°C require the power sector to be fully decarbonised by 2050. Large parts of society demand that the decarbonisation is achieved predominantly with renewable energy sources.
Renewables advocates do not speak much about real solutions of real greatly complex problems of renewable sources. Very often they are not aware of them. Even if renewable energy technologies are now established and appreciated by officials and green activists as a key means of producing electricity in a climate and environment friendly way, many crucial problems remain unsolved. Additional power lines, which are needed for transporting electricity from new renewable generation sites to users, raise negative impact on the environment, including biodiversity, ecosystems and the landscape. Furthermore, electricity surpluses, produced by renewables when electricity consumption is very low, causes enormous problems with storage of these surpluses. Besides, there are serious problems with dispatch controlling of a power system with the great penetration (see Variability and intermittency of wind energy in Number 31 – Giving a definition / July 2011) of renewables. On the whole, three the most important problems are waiting to be solved and each of them demands massive investments:
Thus, concerns about the impacts of renewables integration in European power systems need to be carefully studied, fully understood and addressed.
Let us closely consider the issues of building new transmission lines. In the coming decade thousands of kilometers of new lines should be built acrossEurope. Renewable energy sources are abundant and vary, but they are mostly available in remote areas where demand is low and economic activities infrequent. Therefore, thorough strategic planning is required to realise a new grid infrastructure that meets the electricity needs of the next 50-70 years. The new grid architecture is supposed to enable the integration of all renewable energy sources – independently from where and when they are generated – to expand the possibility for distributed generation and demand-side management.
Grid expansion is inevitable but often controversial. The transmission system operators (TSOs) need to accommodate not only the 2020 targets but also to prepare for the more challenging full decarbonisation of the power sector by 2050. The non-governmental organisations (NGO Global Network) community is still not united with respect to supporting or opposing the grid expansion. A number of technical, environmental and health questions need to be addressed and clarified to improve a shared understanding among and across TSOs and NGOs. RGI is trying to bring together cooperating TSOs and NGOs.
The grid expansion could be accomplished by means of overhead lines and underground cables. Both of them may transmit alternative current (AC) and direct current (DC). In the past it was relatively easy to select between lines and cables:
Cables mainly used in the grid for shorter distances mostly due to being more expensive and shorter technical lifetime (50% of overhead lines) whereas overhead lines were used in another cases. Nowadays the situation is more complex since more options and more parameters should be considered. In the future cables will prospectively be even more utilised as development is going towards higher power levels.
Cables have higher public acceptance because of their lower disturbance of natural scenery, lower electromagnetic radiation, avoidance of wildlife, higher weather tolerance. The overhead lines unfortunately disturb the scenery and seriously influence wildlife and protected areas.
The grid development for expanding the renewables by means of overhead lines endangers bird populations inEurope. High and large-scale bird mortality from aboveground power lines progresses due to:
And that all makes up a significant threat to birds and other wildlife. For these reasons Standards to protect birds (Habitats and Birds Directives) are being worked out.
Moreover, the European Commission is currently working on a new legislation to ensure that the energy infrastructure needed for implementing the EU climate and energy targets will be built in time.
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