Wait a minute. Power the grid with 100% renewables?
Quick Take: I like to think I'm a good clean, green citizen. But I just can't agree with the University of Delaware that we could or should be fully powering the grid with renewable energy by 2030. The challenges of dealing with highly variable renewable energy are just too great. And too costly to overcome, despite claims from the researchers that they factored in the expense of energy storage.
How far do YOU think we should go? Use the QuickPoll to record your opinion. - By Jesse Berst
With the right combination of resources and energy storage, renewables could provide all the electricity the U.S. electric grid needs 99.9% of the time by 2030. And according to a University of Delaware study, it could be done at costs comparable to today's.
That conclusion was the result of an immense amount of computer modeling and searching, researchers explained in a Sustainable Business article. University researchers used a computer model of the PJM Interconnection, which accounts for 20% of the U.S. grid system, to evaluate billions of combinations of renewable energy sources and storage systems. Those models were tested for four years of electricity demand and hourly weather data.
One key to their approach was concentrating on keeping costs at a minimum, instead of trying to match power production with demand â€“ and acknowledging that it is less expensive to generate more power than is needed over periods of average demand than to store excess power against times of peak demand. Storage, after all, is still expensive despite advances in a variety of technologies.
The researchers also addressed the issue of reliability of renewables, a concern because of the intermittent availability of adequate wind and solar resources. They found that using a variety of sources over a broader geographic area, along with storage, all but solved the problem. Fossil fuel backup was required just a few percent of the time.
The study report's authors were quoted as saying "Aiming for 90% or more renewable energy in 2030, in order to achieve climate change targets of 80-90% reduction of the greenhouse carbon dioxide from the power sector, leads to economic savings." They also said projected capital costs for wind and solar in 2030 will be roughly half what they are now.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.
|This study was *&^%$#$%|
|The study has no concept of the horrendous cost and ignores the reality of a high pressure cell settling over a region of the US meaning there will be little or no wind generation for a couple of days. |
|Byron Wooldridge - 12/19/2012 - 07:28|
|Obviously an academic report. Wonder where the funding came from?|
|Lois Johnson - 12/19/2012 - 07:41|
|Please explain further your comment that we should not be powering the grid with 100% renewable power if it is an economically viable option. I think a 100% renewable future is the long term goal, whether that means 2030, 2050, or 2080. The sooner we get there, the less we have to worry about pollution, climate change, and other externalities. |
|Philip Jonat - 12/19/2012 - 08:22|
|'Generating more power than is needed'|
|The problem with this contention is that because of the merchant generation industry - which includes wind generators - and production tax credits, it is hard to imagine that "it is less expensive to generate more power than is needed over periods". Under the historical vertically integrated utility construct, utility operators were in a better position to accommodate maintaining excessive generation at low costs: think large thermal resources generating overnight, even with no appreciable loads to be ready for th morning peak. Fuel and operating costs were 'blended' into the overall rates. Today merchant CCT operators respond to the utility posting of needed gen for the next hour. But big wind operates to a differnet paradigm: production tax credits. Their incentive is to make as much power as they can whenever they can with the incentive that they will be paid. There is no incentive to match gen with loads, or to respond to a dispatch or next hour market. This construct makes big wind a hoge challenge to integrate into the grid since they in effect are playing by a different set of rules (and therefore incentives) than the rest of the industry.|
|Gordon Matthews - 12/19/2012 - 08:26|
|Because of the cost of dealing with intermittency|
|Philip - Because renewables are highly variable. You need baseload power that does not fluctuate (nat gas, coal, nuclear), then you can layer in some variable renewables.|
|Jesse Berst - 12/19/2012 - 08:40|
|This is not so far fetched as links to the first two of three patents this year that should resolve these issues were published in Power engineering for patents issued May 1st and September 7th. These first generation patents filed four years ago along with design considerations for second generation patent have been selected by DOE/EEI/EPRI for presentation at the EUEC conference in Phoenix January 29th 2013. |
|Edward Hinders - 12/19/2012 - 09:20|
|Storage by 2080? Jesse forgot about that.|
|Regarding Philip Jonat on 100% Renewables by 2080 as an economically viable option and the reply by Jesse Berst that even by 2080 you need baseload power from nat gas, coal, or nuclear.|
Gee Jesse! Are you saying that energy storage will not be ready by 2080? The energy storage folks may have a different opinion. I hope they are right.
|Jamie Patterson - 12/19/2012 - 10:22|
|RE:Wait a minute|
|It is probably possible, the real question is do we have the will and 'energy' to make implement it.|
1. DOE studied 80,000 non-powered dams across the US and released a report in April 2012 that shows that we could gain 12GW of hydro from dams that already exist (mostly in midwest and east coast). The dams already exist and have low heads but are capable of producing electricity in addition to their current flood control and navigation operations.
2. As we slowly transition to more efficient energy devices, appliances, light bulbs, TV, computers, street lights, large industrial (VFD) motors -- the demand for electricity should slow and flatten out. Even with population growth and economic growth in the countries industrial base. My first PC cost about $2000 in the 80's, it was an energy hog AND slow by todays standards. I can buy a general use desktop for under $500 that uses a quarter of the power of the 80's machine and is 100x faster. We will see the same types of improvements for lights, electronics in general and industrial motors.
3. The LCOE for wind is coming down. It is nearly comparable to low cost shale natural gas (NG). As the US producers begins to export more NG outside the country -- the US available supply will shrink and the price will climb. Meanwhile the price/watt for wind turbine installations will continue to drop and they will compete without tax credits.
4. The plain states (WY, MT, NB, etc) have a large capacity for adding wind. Not just a GW or two but possibly 100-200 GW. Off shore there is significant potential for wind generation. And eventually sea wave motion generation. The missing link for all this at the present time is a good cross country HVDC transmission network that will allow the energy in one part of the country to move to another part as needed to fill in the "intermittency of renewables". The pieces for a HVDC network are coming together, ABB, KEMA, GE, and others have devices announced or in work. Twenty years from now we could see the large deployment of HVDC.
4. Solar, while still expensive is dropping fast. China is now going to focus building out solar within their country - the goal to build out 20GW+ by 2015. Long term that means that the $/watt for solar will continue to drop. It is currently just below $1/W for modules, in ten years you can expect it to be at $0.20/W. Like wind a HVDC grid is needed to move power from large solar farms across the country.
|Dennis Heidner - 12/19/2012 - 10:42|
|I realize that the people int eh electric utility don't always keep up with what happens in the oil&gas and petrochemical industry but important parts have been available since 1982 for hydrogen storage. Chevron Phillips has multiple cavers at Clemens Dome that one cavern can store 100 GWH of H2. These caverns have been operating since 1982 with a less than 1% loss rate over a 6 month period and Praxair has a storage cavern hooked to their Texas City to Lake Charles H2 line for 5 years now. Refine5ry swings on H2 are no different than system swings on generation, only the annual load factor is better. You have large bodies of salt from Carlsbad NM to WichitaKS, in the lower peninsula of MI,In Ohio Pa and NY, the Bakken Trend, and in the Canadian Maritime. Storage in those areas should store several years worth of H2 to make electricity for the US and Canada. |
Texasgulf built a Brayton cycle cogen unit that produced 80mw if base load power sold to TXU
at Newgulf in the 1980's. It operated at 4875BTU/KWH until the sulfur was depleted. Sandia National Labs has built a Brayton Cycle supercritical CO2 nuke unit with a 50% thermal efficiency compared to 30% efficiency for a Rankine cycle nuke. NERL Morgantown built a combined cycle plant that was 72.8% efficient in 1995.The Technology is already here and proven in the oil&gas industry, the utilities just need to wake up and come to the party.
|Edward Hinders - 12/19/2012 - 13:04|
|Let's do it|
|It's going to happen eventually anyways, so why not go for it? Our planet (and species, and economy) is facing impending peril caused by climate change. And fossil fuels are unsustainable. So why not aim for more renewables in the mix? |
At least let's try. If we can't manage that many in such a short amount of time, then we still have fossil fuels and nuclear to fall back on (while the earth still has available stock). However, we should definitely aim for more clean, renewable, independent energy.
|Philippe Lyon, Powerhouse - 12/20/2012 - 03:48|
|In order to achieve these goals, we need to test and validate such interconnection channels.|
OPAL-RT provides such a solution. We perform a vital test known as Hardware-in-the-Loop simulation. HIL is a technique used in the development and testing of complex real-time embedded systems. HIL simulation provides an effective virtual environment by connecting the complexity of the plant being designed to the development and test platform. Our simulators will have the smart/micro grid thinking that it is connected to the transmission grid, thus allowing an abundant series of tests to ensure the conducive islanding operation, protection coordination, reliability and power quality liability, cost development in the needed interconnection technologies and restoration from scheduled and unscheduled shut downs.
|Darcy La Ronde - 12/20/2012 - 07:40|
|My experience curve research is in full agreement with this study. We will certainly get the vast majority of our energy from renewables before 2030. The installed cost of distributed solar and storage are coming down just as sure as the cost of the new 55" flat panel you purchased for Christmas. Remember what that cost about 5 years ago?|
We will still use limited amounts of fossil fuel for high density urban and industrial areas, but even that will be of the locally produced variety.
For those that are paying attention,; the tipping point has already happened. :-)
|Bert Haskell - 01/02/2013 - 12:58||