"Capacity factor" is an energy measure that can be used to decide whether renewable energy sources are more cost-effective and efficient than traditional "peaker plants" that run on coal, natural gas and other nonrenewable fuels, Jeff St. John writes. "[S]olar and wind power have to find ways to mitigate their own intermittency, so that they don't force even more gas-fired power plants to start revving up and down to cover their own unpredictable generation patterns," he writes.

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