Wind and solar resource droughts in California

I am glad to say that a paper led by Katherine Z. Rinaldi, which I helped contribute to, was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology. Like most places, California is susceptible to multi-day low wind or cloudy events. These events, if not properly planned for could have dire consequences for the electricity grid.

The paper studies the frequency and duration of severe weather events, specifically wind and solar resource droughts, and their impact on a 100% wind and solar powered electricity grid. We studied how the frequency and duration of these events changes when wind and solar generation resources are spread over larger or smaller geographic regions.

In short, a more geographically dispersed system has fewer resource droughts and those that happen as shorter. This suggests that integrating electricity systems over larger distances will be increasingly beneficial as the fraction of power supplied by wind and solar increases.

We hope this paper will aid policy makers, utilities, and others whom are building California’s clean energy transition towards a net-zero carbon system.