On conferences or in meetings, energy experts sometimes tell me that it is impossible to run a power system with only renewable energy, because renewable energy is not able to provide baseload for power grids. Of course many other experts have already countered this argument in several ways. It requires some knowledge on grids to either agree with one side or the other.
Usually, in a power grid there are a lot of consumers in all different sizes like lights, computers, machines, etc. A subway uses more power than a laptop. Appliances are switched on and off at different times. Grid operators therefore try to sum up all the energy need from all the appliances to estimate the total demand in their grid. Then they try to satisfy that need with all kinds of power plants. Their special challenge is to provide exactly the amount of power that is needed to fulfill the demand. Not more and not less. Otherwise they will face major issues. Production of all power plants must match the consumption of all appliances at every point in time.
When we look at the total demand in a large power grid, usually there is always someone and something that uses energy. So there is some sort of minimum power consumption the whole time. In conventional energy supply, there are usually baseload plants which run 24 hours a day and there are peakload plants which are started during daytime. During the day people are awake and use more power at work and at home than during night. Experts often discuss if and how solar and wind power are able to replace baseload plants.
But does it make sense to think in the same vocabulary and theory that helped cause the problem? Why are we looking for a solution to a problem, that is specific to conventional energy supply? Can we look at the whole thing a little bit more out of the box?
Lets put the discussion into a different perspective. On Wikipedia we find a definition for base energy.
Base load power sources are power stations which can consistently generate the electrical power needed to satisfy minimum demand.
First things conventional experts think of are coal or nuclear plants. But we could also consider the needed power for a light bulb as minimum demand. Or for smart phones, fridges and computers. Those appliances do only need little power to operate and still give us outstanding value. Light is especially great. It is like an artificial sun that helps us being safe and productive.
When looking at base energy from another perspective, it becomes clear that we do not need nuclear power plants to run light bulbs and smart phones. Solar power is a smart, easy and low cost way to cover our minimum demand.