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KIUC lineman and truck
Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Mar 21, 2014

A Perfect Storm for Renewables – Episode 18 of Local Energy Rules

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/perfect-storm-renewables-episode-18-local-energy-rules/

“We have a perfect storm for renewables,” says Jan TenBruggencate, second-term board member of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. The Hawaiian utility, made local when the investor-owned utility left the business a decade ago, is surging toward 40% renewable energy in the next year, with a third of that total from customer-generated solar. Half its… Continue reading

800px-Energy_density.svg
Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by admin | 7 Comments | Updated on May 21, 2012

Technological Complications of Energy Storage

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/technological-complications-energy-storage/

In the long run, there’s no avoiding energy storage for a 100% renewable energy society.  The two major sources of renewable power are wind and sun, and they are either fickle or reliably not available at night. The problem is that the simplest energy storage option for electricity is batteries, and this image from Wikipedia… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jan 20, 2012

Distributed Renewable Energy as the 3rd Industrial Revolution

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/distributed-renewable-energy-3rd-industrial-revolution/

I just came across an interesting interview that radio host Diane Rehm did with Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution.  The excerpts below lay out his vision for an energy future that is decentralized and democratized. (He also notes that this vision has just emerged in the past two to four years, but we’ve been around since 1974…).

The book is organized around five pillars of the third industrial revolution:

Pillar one, renewable energy. Pillar two, your buildings become your own power plants. Pillar three, you have to store it with hydrogen. And then Pillar four…the internet communication revolution completely merges with new distributing energies to create a nervous system…Pillar five is electric plug-in transport…

when distributed Internet communication starts to organize distributed energies, we have a very powerful third industrial revolution that could change everything…

You can find some renewable energy in every square inch of the world. So how do we collect them? … If renewable energies are found in every square inch of the world in some frequency or proportion, why would we only collect them in a few central points? …

[it] jump starts the European economy, that’s the idea. Millions and millions and millions of jobs. Thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises have to convert 190 million buildings to power plants over the next 40 years…

That’s the vision: a decentralized energy system can be democratized with local ownership, spreading the production of energy and the economic benefits as widely as the renewable energy resource itself.

 

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Solar Thermal Parabolic Trough
Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 2 Comments | Updated on Jan 3, 2012

Some Skepticism on Solar Thermal Power’s Storage Potential

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/some-skepticism-solar-thermal-powers-storage-potential/

Yesterday New York Times reporter Matt Wald had a piece on the role of energy storage in supporting the expansion of renewable energy.  However, his specific focus on solar thermal power generation overlooks the potentially high costs of relying on solar thermal power as well as the potential for distributed “storehousing” of renewable energy. Solar… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 4 Comments | Updated on Oct 4, 2011

With Electric Cars, U.S. States Can Boost Energy Self-Reliance

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/electric-cars-us-states-can-boost-energy-self-reliance/

The U.S. Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if 1 in 8 of the region’s cars used batteries. 

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system.

The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area  encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest.  With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, the grid could support an additional 10 gigawatts of wind power.  With electricity demand from those seven states of about 250 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, the additional 10 gigawatts of wind would provide 12 percent of the annual electricity demand (roughly 30 billion kilowatt-hours per year).

The results are no doubt applicable to other regions of the country.  In fact, at least 33 states have enough wind power to meet 10 percent or more of their electricity needs and if the same portion of vehicles (13%) were electrified in those 33 states, it would allow them to add a collective 100 gigawatts of wind power, meeting nearly 14% of their electricity needs. 

Northwest Power Pool

In the long-run, a fully electrified vehicle fleet would theoretically – just do the math! – provide enough balancing power for a 100% renewable electricity system.  And since the large majority of those vehicle trips would be made on batteries alone, it would be a significant dent in American reliance on foreign oil for transportation. 

Further reading: learn a bit more about electric vehicles helping wind power in Denmark, too.

Hat tip to Midwest Energy News for the original story.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 1 Comment | Updated on Jul 28, 2011

Does Energy Storage Compensate for Thirsty Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Plants?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/does-energy-storage-compensate-thirsty-concentrating-solar-thermal-power-plants/

Concentrating solar thermal power has promised big additions to renewable energy production with the additional benefit of energy storage.  But with significant water consumption in desert locations, is the energy storage benefit of concentrating solar enough to compete with the dramatically falling cost of solar PV?

In May, I compared the water consumption of fossil fuel power plants to various solar technologies, noting that wet-cooled concentrating solar thermal power (think big mirrors) uses more water per megawatt-hour (MWh) than any other technology.  The following chart, from the earlier post, illustrates the amount of water used to produce power from various technologies. 

Water consumption can be cut dramatically by using “dry-cooling,” but this change increases the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of power generated from concentrating solar power (CSP).  In the 2009 report Juice from Concentrate, the World Resources Institute reports that the reduction in water consumption adds 2-10 percent to levelized costs and reduces the power plant’s efficiency by up to 5 percent. 

Let’s see how that changes our original levelized cost comparison between CSP and solar PV.  First, here’s the original chart comparing PV projects to CSP projects, with no discussion of water use or energy storage.

To make the comparison tighter, we’ll hypothetically transform the CSP plants from wet-cooled to dry-cooled, adjusting the levelized cost of power.

Using the midpoint of each estimate from Juice from Concentrate (6 percent increase to levelized costs and 2.5 percent efficiency reduction), the change in the cost per kWh for dry-cooling instead of wet-cooling is small but significant.  For example, all three concentrating solar power projects listed in the chart are wet-cooled power plants.  With a 6% increase in costs from dry cooling and a 2.5% reduction in efficiency, the delivered cost of electricity would rise by approximately 1.7 cents per kWh.

The following chart, modified from our earlier post, illustrates the comparison.

With the increased costs to reduce water consumption, CSP’s price is much less competitive with PV.  In our May post, we noted that a distributed solar PV program by Southern California Edison has projected levelized costs of 17 cents per kWh for 1-2 MW solar arrays, and that a group purchase program for residential solar in Los Angeles has a levelized cost of just 20 cents per kWh.

In other words, while wet-cooled CSP already struggles to compete with low-cost, distributed PV, using dry cooling technology makes residential-scale PV competitive with CSP.

But there’s one more piece: storage.

Storage

While Nevada Solar One was built without storage, the PS10 and PS20 solar towers were built with 1 hour of thermal energy storage.  Let’s see how that changes the economics. 

To make the comparison comparable, we’ll add the cost of 1 hour of storage to our two PV projects, a cost of approximately $0.50 per Watt, or 2.4 cents per kWh.  The following chart illustrates a comparison of PV to CSP, with all projects having 1 hour of storage (Nevada Solar One has been removed as it does not have storage). 

When comparing CSP with storage (and lower water use) to PV with battery storage, we have a comparison that is remarkably similar to our first chart.  Distributed PV at a commercial scale (1-2 MW) is still cheaper than CSP, but residential PV is more expensive. 

Even though dry-cooled CSP competes favorably on price, it still uses much more water than PV.  That issue is probably why many solar project developers are switching from CSP to PV technology for their large-scale desert projects.

Without a significant cost advantage, the water use of CSP may mean an increasing shift to PV technology.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Mar 10, 2011

U.S Grid Can Handle Lots of Solar PV with Low Integration Costs

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/us-grid-can-handle-lots-solar-pv-low-integration-costs/

A state such as New York should be capable of absorbing and benefiting from well over 7 GW of high- value PV without having to incur significant integration costs beyond the cost of PV itself, further noting that the storage sizes involved could well be met with a smart deployment of interactive plug-in transportation...the low-cost penetration potential is large enough to allow for the development of a considerable localized, high-value PV generation market worth 100’s of GW in the US.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 16, 2010

A Blueprint for a 100% Renewable Utah

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/blueprint-100-renewable-utah/

The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah just released the eUtah Blueprint illustrating how Utah could reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 95% by 2050 and could meet electricity demand reliably with a combination of wind, solar, geothermal, and compressed air storage (with some natural gas backups).  The report – written by Arjun Makhijani… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 22, 2010

Increasing On-Site Consumption of Distributed Solar

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/increasing-site-consumption-distributed-solar/

It’s rarely mentioned that a home with a solar array still gets most of its electricity from the grid.  In fact, without storage, a typical home solar array might only serve one-third of a home’s electricity use, even if the system is big enough to meet the home’s peak needs. The problem is a mis-match… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Oct 19, 2010

Will Solar PV Kill Concentrating Solar Thermal Power?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/will-solar-pv-kill-concentrating-solar-thermal-power/

The boon of concentrating solar thermal power plants is their ability to deliver more consistent electricity, and to offer thermal storage (cheaper than batteries) to expand their daily coverage. 

But it might be in serious trouble. And this time the culprit is not cheap natural gas, the Koch Brothers, nor the desert tortoise advocates.

…The relentless price declines of PV panels allows developers to build PV plants at a lower cost than their [concentrating solar thermal] CST cousins. This issue is illustrated in the following Capital Cost per watt chart (an excerpt from the upcoming GTM Research “CSP Report”). In 2010, the price to build a CSP park run by Troughs, Power Towers or Dish-Engines will cost between $5.00 and $6.55 per watt (AC). On the other hand, utility-scale PV projects can limbo below $3.50 a watt (DC).

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