Letter | Published:

Renewable energy sources and storage

Nature volume 272, pages 518521 (06 April 1978) | Download Citation



A FEATURE of wind, wave and solar energy sources is the unpredictable variability of the strength of the source due to the vagaries of the climate. There are two main ways of exploiting these sources. In the first a back-up supply is provided. Thus, with solar water heating, it is customary to rely on electrical immersion heaters or boilers burning gas, oil or solid fuel to supplement the solar energy input during the winter months and at other times when the insolation level is low. It is generally accepted that large wind generators would feed their electrical output into the national grid. On windy days the output would reduce the amount of electricity generated in conventional power stations, thereby saving fuel. The installation of a wind or solar power plant by itself, however, will save little, if any, conventional generating capacity, as there can be no guarantee of significant wind or solar generation at times of peak demand. The second way of exploiting renewable energy sources is to couple them with some form of storage. If the storage capacity is sufficient there is a guaranteed output from the renewable energy source plus storage system at the times when it is required. Ryle1 has suggested that a form of storage is available in connection with wind power. We analyse here the validity of this claim.

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  1. 1.

    Nature 267, 111–117 (1977).

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  1. Planning Department, CEGB, Laud House, Newgate Street, London EC1, UK

    • , V. G. NEWMAN
    •  & J. K. WRIGHT


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