Demand-side management could beat fluctuations in renewable energy supply

An article in the Guardian discusses the potential for rapid real-time adjustments in demand for electricity to compensate for fluctuations in electricity supplied by wind and solar power. On the face of it, this sounds like a recipe for brown outs. Enter the humble water heater:

Dr Barrett says the [water] heaters could be switched on and off rapidly to compensate for the erratic output of wind turbines and solar panels, each heater controlled by a gadget that responds to signals sent through the electricity grid – a system used since the second world war. "Everybody is always looking for a shiny new silver-bullet solution" says Dr Barrett, "but this idea is cheap, safe, and based on technology that's been around for decades".

He says it is vital the new "smart meters" the government plans to install in every home by 2020 should be capable of controlling hot-water storage. "But this isn't rocket science," says Dr Barrett. "It is quite clear we can go hell for leather installing renewables because we can deal with intermittency using heat storage."