Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed a new catalyst for splitting water. Here’s why this is big news:
One of the great strengths of renewable energy is their consistency and predictability. Yes, wind and solar have periods when they’re not generating power (with some exceptions like certain solar thermal designs), but the sun is available for a set amount of time every day, and wind blows in predictable patterns where turbines are placed. These predictable patterns make it easy to balance the grid, and to calculate how many units are needed to meet demand.
But here’s a little secret. All sources of power are intermittent. There is no power plant, coal, nuclear, or gas, that is available 100 percent of the time. The electrical grid is built with this in mind.
A well functioning coal plant, will not be available 44 days of the year.
For nuclear, it’s 36 days, as well as 39 days for refueling every 17 months or so.
Wind power has a failure rate of only 2 percent, and units rarely go down all at once.