Portugal runs for four days straight on renewables: US anywhere close?

I didn’t know things had developed like this:

As Joe Biden might say … it’s a big fucking deal. Is the US gearing up, is Obamapower on the way?

I am curious about the practicality of this as a short term stunt. Isn’t it very inefficient to power down coal/gas/nuclear plants completely?

These are not stunts. The article mentions Germany’s similar peak achievement. Denmark has also done the same.

As to the US, it happens by region. The PNW has a lot of hydro and wind energy. When the dams on the Columbia are running at a peak, there’s too much energy being produced for the system to handle and many windmills are shut down.

Note: There is the Intertie system between the PNW and energy hungry California, but it can’t handle such high production peaks.

Currently, this is the major bottleneck on increasing renewable sources: There isn’t enough long distance line capacity. Texas, in particular, is a problem. It’s isolated from the national grid, has lots of wind potential, but poor intrastate infrastructure to handle it, let alone sell excess power to other states which is the big win financially.

If we had the electric equivalent of the Interstate Highway System, you’d see even more major shifts towards renewables.

Shutting down fossil fuel plants for a modest amount of time isn’t that bad, especially if you’re winning by buying cheap surplus renewable power and selling it at fossil fuel prices to consumers. But if the plants get shut down too often, then the owners have to consider the costs of mothballing the plants.

Our grid is currently terrible, 2-13% of energy produced is lost in transmission. That is a hard percentage to make up. We lost 69 trillion Btu in transmission loss in 2013

Some datas :

Denmark has no nuclear plant. 40% of its electricity consumption comes from wind turbines, and it should be 60% within ten years. About 5% is solar, about 5% imported. I guess it leaves about half produced in regular power plants, which should soon be reduced to 1/3rd.

Portugal has no nuclear plants, either. Electricity production is apparently already 61% renewable (45% of it hydro, 37% wind : I would point out that being able to cover 1/3 of your electricty consumption with hydro plants is quite extraordinary. It must be a matter of geography).

Germany is shuting down its nuclear plants. But contrarily to the two previous countries, only about one third of its electricity production is renewable and it seems to rely primarily on coal plants.
I note that I found significantly different figures on wikipedia, especially regarding Portugal.
In any case, it seems that in the case of Denmark and Portugal at least, it’s less of a stunt and more of a demonstration of their future capacity to rely mostly on clean energy for electricity production.

It may be weasel words. Or the author has a poor understanding. In fact, the author has a major glitch in their meanings …
previously “Half from fossil fuel”
"There’s been a major flip "… its now half from renewable.

Ummm, what sort of flip is that ? before: half renewable, half fossil
after the “flip”… half renewable, half fossil

The flip is that the author of the article went from being a critical thinker to being unable to do simple maths.

It may be a weather report… “due to windy weather, we had lots of wind power generated in the last four days”.
Seems to me they sold the equivalent of their fossil fuel power to Spain.
“due to the windy weather in the last four days, we blame Spain for forcing us to burn fossil fuels.”

That is not to say they would sell it to spain still if the wind stopped…They were running the fossil fuel plants FOR THEMSELVES TOO.

According to your article, Portugal added:

So, yeah…the US is somewhere in the ball park. :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s the thing. You are comparing a country that has population of 10 million to a country that has over 300 million and is the size of a continent compared to a country that is the size of one of our states.

In the US the answer is no. Renewables provide about 13.5% of electrical energy in the US. Wind power produces about 4.5% of the electrical energy.

Am I expected to believe Portugal lasted four days without burning one drop of gasoline?

Not if you’ve read the OP. We’re talking about Portugal’s mains electricity consumption here, not its total energy consumption.

13.5% of 365 is 49, so the US uses 100% renewable energy for 49 days a year.

But is that relevant? Granted, the country with a larger population needs to generate a correspondingly larger amount of electricity. But I don’t see that they necessarily need to generate a higher proportion of it from non-renewable sources.

The country with a much larger population also has much larger tracts of unoccupied land, or of farmed land where one may insert the occasional windmill (they take up quite a chunk of space but less than solar - and you can even put solar panels on the side of the mill or on its foot).

Well, on the one hand that should give greater capacity for wind/solar genaration, which would suggest that we should expect the US to have a greater proportion of its energy generated from renewable sources, rather than a lesser. On the other hand, generating capacity constructed in “large tracts of unoccupied land” would tend to be a long way away from the population centres needing power, and there are inefficiencies and losses involved in transmitting power over long distances.

My hunch is that the populations of the two countries are irrelevant to the comparison.

ISTR a lot of desert real close to Vegas?

Why did they stop?


Lots of desert. Means bupkis for wind generation. For that to be really efficient you need to site your turbines in passes that get sustained, fairly high winds. Like about 20 miles down the road from me. For Vegas you need solar. When I drove by Ivanpah day before yesterday they were in the midst of installing a 4th system. Plenty of room for more. Too bad it isn’t anywhere near what it needs to be, production-wise.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t proposing desert for wind but I see where I wasn’t clear. Desert for solar; areas where the land is already in agricultural use (therefore not usable for solar) you may still be able to set up windmills.


That as strangely interesting :slight_smile:

It’s relevant to the OP, yes. It’s like asking why a small town can do X while a huge nation can’t. When you have a small, concentrated population it’s easier to do a stunt like this than when you have a huge population spread out over a nation the size of a continent. Portugal added 550 MW of wind power to their grid over 3 years. That’s impressive. But when you look at the US adding an order of magnitude more IN ONE QUARTER, and that this amount didn’t even shift our energy mix by a percentage point it puts this all into some sort of perspective.