An article in the New York Times last week suggested that a dearth of financing is holding back solar power in the United States. In particular, the authors note that “the country needs to build large plants covering hundreds of acres,” projects that can cost $1 billion. These large solar projects are languishing without financing, they assert, in part because of the lengthy process to claim federal government loan guarantees and because “Bankers generally prefer smaller, less risky projects and shorter-term loans than the 20-year terms solar plants typically need.” Continue reading
Viewing the Electricity tag archive Page 14 of 30
Term for Energy
A recent study in the journal Safety Science suggested that the most vulnerable parts of the grid were the smallest, like neighborhood substations.
“That’s a bunch of hooey,” says Seth Blumsack, Hines’s colleague at Penn State.
Hines and Blumsack’s recent study, published in the journal Chaos on Sept. 28, found just the opposite. Drawing on real-world data from the Eastern U.S. power grid and accounting for the two most important laws of physics governing the flow of electricity, they show that “the most vulnerable locations are the ones that have most flow through them,” Hines says. Think highly connected transformers and major power-generating stations. Score one point for common sense.
And score one point for distributed generation.
When author Michael Pollan spoke at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in mid-October, it’s a safe bet his hosts didn’t offer fresh cherries to the “local foods” advocate. As a locavore — someone who tries to eat only food grown within a 100-mile radius of them — Pollan would have likely reacted to cherries like a vampire reacts to garlic. At this time of year, any fresh cherries in northern California would most likely have come from orchards in Chile, roughly 6,000 miles to the southeast.
Yet, when Pollan was handed the microphone he probably did not turn to David Wehner, Dean of the college hosting the event, and ask, “By the way, Dean – Where did the electricity powering this thing come from?”
Maybe he should have.
At least some of that electricity had just completed a 1,000 mile journey. The energy was converted from wind to electricity at the Klondike generating facility just south of the Washington-Oregon border. The electricity traveled over power lines down the entire state of Oregon, then traversing three-quarters of the length of California to arrive at the microphone in Pollan’s hand at Cal Poly. So, does it matter that this electricity began life 1,000 miles from the microphone it powered?
That question is at the heart of the report, “Energy Self-Reliant States,” published in October by the New Rules Project. The report shows why “local energy” matters and then looks at the renewable energy potential of each state.
A nice, short comparison of the cost of electricity storage with pumped hydropower and batteries.
Using pumped hydro to store electricity costs less than $100 per kilowatt-hour and is highly efficient, Chu told his energy advisory board during a recent meeting. By contrast, he said, using sodium ion flow batteries — another option for storing large amounts of power — would cost $400 per kWh and have less than 1 percent of pumped hydro’s capacity.
Of course, you need to have a river with a likely reservoir location to have any significant quantity of pumped storage, making the article’s reference to Texas a bit ironic.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a nice diagram of pumped storage from Consumers Energy:
One of the keys to maximizing renewable energy production (decentralized or otherwise) is providing electricity storage to smooth out variabilities in wind and solar power production. Electric vehicles have a lot of promise, as the cars could provide roving storage and dispatchable power to help match supply and demand.
So could a large number of EVs actually help with the huge variations in wind that can occur? According to Claus Ekman, a researcher at the Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy in Frederiksborgvej, Denmark, it can, to an extent. Ekman recently published a paper in the journal Renewable Energy that modeled how well EVs could handle increasing wind power generation. He found that in a scenario involving 500,000 vehicles and 8 gigawatts of wind power, various strategies would reduce the excess, or lost, wind power by as much as 800 megawatts — enough to power more than 200,000 homes. Ekman calls this a “significant but not dramatic” effect on the grid. Scenarios involving 2.5 million vehicles and even more wind power show an even greater impact.
The U.S. currently has around 35 gigawatts of wind power, so it would take 2.1 million EVs to provide a similar effect in the U.S. (reducing the lost wind capacity by 10 percent of total installed capacity).
In mid October, Leon County, FL, joined Babylon, NY, Palm Desert, CA, and Sonoma County, CA, as well as the California Attorney General, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council in suing the Federal Housing Finance Agency over their opposition to the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) municipal energy financing program. These lawsuits were complemented… Continue reading
A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reinforces the findings of a 2009 report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). The ILSR report, Energy Self-Reliant States, concluded that all 50 states could generate at least 25 percent of their electricity needs from in-state renewable energy while 31 could generate over 100 percent. Continue reading
A legislative proposal in Connecticut would cut their existing renewable portfolio standard nearly in half but prioritize in-state generation. Backers of the rollback say that renewable energy is mainly bought from outside the state to meet the current standard. The change in the RPS boosts financing tools for in-state power as part of the plan. One interesting quote, "we want projects, not simply percentages."
Cap and Trade is one approach for limiting our global warming pollution but there is a different climate change proposal in Congress called the CLEAR Act. It’s simple, deserves to be looked at closely and looks to be the start of a winning alternative to the complicated system of cap and trade. Continue reading
This December 2009 report was prepared for the RE-AMP network (120+ organizations in eight Midwestern states). The scoping report outlines and makes recommendations on a variety of policy issues related to expanding electric vehicles. The report illustrates the relationships between electric vehicles and other GHG reduction strategies such as fuel economy standards (CAFE), low carbon fuel standards (LCFS) and efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled. Because of their energy storage capability, electrified vehicles will also play an increasingly important role in the expansion of renewable energy and the future elaboration of smart grid technologies.