Navigant Energy Director Rick Smead analyzes the opposing views stemming from a March 2011 study released by INGAA Foundation, “Firming Renewable Electric Power Generators: Opportunities and Challenges for Natural Gas Pipelines”, and draws some interesting conclusions in the June 2011 issue of Natural Gas & Electricity Journal.
This study examines the pipeline infrastructure requirements that might be needed to fuel gas-fired generation as a backup for wind and solar power when the availability of the power did not match the load depending on it. The American Wind Energy Association took issue with a number of the assumptions and findings of the study, and believes there was an overstatement of the degree that wind availability diverges from load patterns.
Without touching on the merits of either side of this debate, it is worth noting the implications for the long-standing assumed “partnership” between wind generation and natural gas. For a number of years, the two have been referred to by many as natural partners, for a variety of reasons. Assuming that wind generation needs some level of other generation that can respond quickly to fluctuations in the wind generation’s output, natural gas-fired generation offers several attractive characteristics.