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Addressing intermittency issues for renewable energy resources in British Columbia from the supply and demand perspectives.

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
One of the greatest limitations of renewable sources of electricity is the intermittent nature of their supply. Addressing intermittency is fundamental in encouraging adoption of renewable sources of electricity, such as wind power and run-of-river hydropower and maximizing potential greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions. This thesis addresses intermittency from the supply side of renewable electricity - by identifying sites where wind power and hydropower resources are complementary - and from the demand side of renewable electricity - with case studies from British Columbia’s (BC) transportation sector and plug-in electric vehicle adoption. The supply and demand approaches present opportunities to mitigate intermittency in renewable electricity both separately and synergistically. From the supply side of complementarity, I demonstrate how complementarity (anti-correlation) between wind power and hydropower availability could provide a less intermittent supply of renewable electricity. I examine relationships between BC’s wind power and hydropower resources on intra-annual (seasonal) and long-term (multi-decadal) timescales. I demonstrate projected relationships between the supply of wind power and hydropower in BC between 1979 and 2099. On longer-term timescales, I identify southwestern BC and the US Pacific Northwest as regions where wind speeds are complementary to BC’s existing hydropower resources. Southwestern BC and the US Pacific Northwest show higher than average wind speeds during periods of low runoff (a proxy for hydropower), making these regions candidates for wind farms that may buffer intermittent renewable electricity. When considering the intra-annual behaviour the Stikine location in northwest BC shows promise for future wind power infrastructure because of complementary (anti-correlated) availability with hydropower and over the longer-term, increasing wind energy density. From the demand side of complementarity I investigate uptake and use of plug-in electric vehicle (PEVs) technologies. PEVs may represent a key technology in the successful transition toward reduced GHG emissions and can mitigate intermittency by being charged when excess renewable electricity is available. I demonstrate potential for acceptance of controlled PEV charging with the aim of increasing renewable electricity consumption and mitigating intermittency. I find that 63% to 78% of new car buyers may be open to controlled charging when offered a financial incentive. I also investigate how public charging infrastructure influences PEV adoption and demonstrate that public charger awareness is not a strong predictor of PEV interest and that, the availability of level 1 (110/120-volt) charging at home may be more important. In the four papers comprising this thesis, I demonstrate how complementarity between renewable electricity sources and control of renewable electricity demand are two approaches to mitigating intermittency in renewable electricity. Future complementarity of renewable electricity resources in British Columbia has not been examined previously, and thus provides insights into the long-term stability of these relationships. Furthermore, this thesis is the first to address consumer approaches to controlled charging of PEVs as a means to increasing the adoption of renewable electricity. These findings suggest that systematic planning of both the renewable energy and transportation sectors can reduce the need for electricity storage technologies, increase the use of renewable electricity and thereby reduce GHG emissions.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Kohfeld, Karen E.
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