Power generation type makes a difference
In Washington, D.C., decisions made by policymakers now will determine if reliable electricity remains a key advantage for America, or rolling blackouts become a way of life.
Currently, the policies requiring a speedy transition from reliable fossil fuel generation to weather-dependent renewable sources risk taking our nation down an energy path that prioritizes fast change over keeping the lights on.
So, what are the different types of generation and how do they ensure a reliable power supply for rural America? Let’s take a look at how your electricity is produced.
Baseload Generation: Backbone of reliability
Baseload generation refers to power plants that provide a steady and constant production of electricity to meet the minimum level of demand. Simply put, baseload generation is the backbone of the electricity supply. Baseload power plants, such as coal, natural gas or nuclear, operate continuously and provide a constant amount of electricity to the grid. They are dependable workhorses that generate power consistently, day and night, regardless of the fluctuations in electricity demand.
Intermediate Generation: Dovetailing with demand
Intermediate generation refers to power plants that can be ramped up or down relatively quickly to meet changes in electricity demand that go beyond the baseload. These power plants function as a bridge between constant baseload power and fluctuating demand. Natural gas power plants are often used for intermediate generation because they can start up and shut down quickly. They provide more electricity during periods of higher energy use.
Peaking Generation: Serving sudden surges
Peaking generation refers to power plants designed to meet the highest levels of electricity demand, typically during short periods of time. These power plants are called upon when there is a sudden surge in electricity use, such as during hot summer days when air conditioners are running at full capacity or freezing winter days when electric heating ramps up. Like intermediate generation, peaking power plants, often powered by natural gas or sometimes fuel oil, start up and shut down very quickly. However, peaking plants cost more to operate, so they provide the extra electricity needed during peak use periods to ensure a reliable supply.Renewable Generation: Electricity when the sun shines or wind blows
Renewable Generation: Electricity when the sun shines or wind blows
Renewable power generation, such as solar and wind power, has an intermittent nature. This means the amount of electricity they produce can vary depending on factors such as weather conditions.
Solar power relies on sunlight to generate electricity. It works best when the sun is shining directly on solar panels. On cloudy days, the amount of sunlight decreases, resulting in lower electricity production and no production takes place overnight. This is why solar power is considered intermittent — because it is not consistently available during the day, at night or in all weather conditions.
Wind power relies on wind blowing to spin the turbine blades and generate electricity. However, the wind does not always blow at a consistent speed. Sometimes it is strong, and other times it is weak or not present at all. Therefore, the amount of electricity generated by wind turbines can vary depending on the wind conditions. This makes wind power intermittent as well.
In contrast, baseload power generation, such as coal, natural gas or nuclear power, are more consistent and reliable in their electricity production. They can provide a steady and constant supply of electricity because they are not as dependent on weather conditions.
Hydropower generation is a way of producing electricity using the power of moving water, such as rivers, dams or waterfalls. It is a renewable energy source because water is continuously replenished by the water cycle.
What about batteries?
Advancements in energy storage technologies, like batteries, are being developed to store excess renewable energy when it is produced and release it later when there is high demand or when renewable sources are not producing electricity. However, the duration of stored power needed for a large electric system, at an affordable price, is not a reality now or near-term with current technologies.
A balance of energy supply sources delivers reliable power to members
To overcome the inconsistent production of renewable power generation, Associated Electric Cooperative and its member-owners incorporate a balance of different energy sources. By using traditional sources as the foundation, wind when it is producing electricity and hydropower, it creates a more reliable and balanced electricity supply.