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Energies 2014, 7(1), 150-172; doi:10.3390/en7010150
Article

The Influence of Output Variability from Renewable Electricity Generation on Net Energy Calculations

1
, 2
 and 3,*
1 Institute for Integrated Economic Research, P.O. Box 506, Meilen CH-8706, Switzerland 2 Institute for Integrated Economic Research, P.O. Box 44, Bay City, WI 54723, USA 3 College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, 301 Illick Hall, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 October 2013 / Revised: 9 December 2013 / Accepted: 17 December 2013 / Published: 6 January 2014
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Abstract

One key approach to analyzing the feasibility of energy extraction and generation technologies is to understand the net energy they contribute to society. These analyses most commonly focus on a simple comparison of a source’s expected energy outputs to the required energy inputs, measured in the form of energy return on investment (EROI). What is not typically factored into net energy analysis is the influence of output variability. This omission ignores a key attribute of biological organisms and societies alike: the preference for stable returns with low dispersion versus equivalent returns that are intermittent or variable. This biologic predilection for stability, observed and refined in academic financial literature, has a direct relationship to many new energy technologies whose outputs are much more variable than traditional energy sources. We investigate the impact of variability on net energy metrics and develop a theoretical framework to evaluate energy systems based on existing financial and biological risk models. We then illustrate the impact of variability on nominal energy return using representative technologies in electricity generation, with a more detailed analysis on wind power, where intermittence and stochastic availability of hard-to-store electricity will be factored into theoretical returns.
Keywords: variability; EROI; net energy; renewable energy; electricity; risk variability; EROI; net energy; renewable energy; electricity; risk
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Kunz, H.; Hagens, N.J.; Balogh, S.B. The Influence of Output Variability from Renewable Electricity Generation on Net Energy Calculations. Energies 2014, 7, 150-172.

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