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16 Comments

  1. They speak of a kWh the same as a barrel of oil, a pound of coal – stored energy. So when a solar installation has produced 1000 kWh during last month and your household consumed 1000 kWh, then “that’s it” you are 100% solar powered!!
    To squeeze some usefulness out of the renewables projects, we could have two power sockets eventually. One for reliable permanent electricity, the other for charging batteries. But to get people to use the second one, it would have to be very very cheap electricity – which it isn’t.
    Any storage solution they might come up with, such as a hydroelectric dam, will double or triple the (already high) cost of solar and wind power, since you need twice the generators, pumps, transmission lines, etc.

    1. Steve – yes that graph is always interesting. I sure wish that the people who publish it, however, would keep a key handy. I think I can figure out what each of the colors mean, but I am not quite sure. Green has to be total load and blue is wind, but which one of the other colors is hydro and which is thermal?

      1. Rod,
        Based on my understanding of BPA operations from one who does not work for them; the green line is supplied hydro to the entire BPA system which covers a multi-state area; the brown is supplied thermal; the blue is wind of course as it is the most variable; and the red is the balancing load required due to wind generation and variable demand across the whole system. Thermal includes nuclear and natural gas and so the natural gas plants in Eastern WA and OR are being used to balance wind since Columbia NPS is usually running at or near 100% (although it has been held at 85% at times due to wind and demand as the NRC daily operating reports indicate, another anti-nuclear claim refuted that large nuclear cannot be used to balance load and demand).
        It is my understanding BPA wind power distribution area is different from its total area of responsibility which makes sense from a transmission standpoint since wind generated electrons are indistinguishable from nuclear, hydro or natural gas generated electrons and so cannot be told where to go. Wind displaces other power generation sources; it does not transmit point to point as the renewable advocates keep trying to claim. If my understanding of BPA operations is correct then the balancing authority load is the load balancing BPA is required to do in the area where wind power is supplied in addition to the demand balancing BPA must do over their entire area of responsibility as part of their routine operations.
        Despite the claims that all the wind power generated by BPA is transmitted to CA, it is not. More and more just the renewable energy credits for the wind are transferred due to transmission choke points (bundled versus unbundled REC’s). This is why at the times when storms are brewing off the coast of OR and Northern CA, it is becoming more challenging to balance the Pacific Northwest grid especially when Canadian hydro and wind generation is mixed in.
        Here is a report just recently submitted by BPA to the California Utilities Commission discussing the unbundling of REC’s from the actual power produced and how the continued use of unbundled REC’s will lead to BPA knocking wind generation off the grid in the future to maintain load balancing requirements and meet environmental issues related to fish runs. This means CA utilities may not be able to meet CA politician’s future requirements of 30% renewable energy .
        http://www.bpa.gov/corporate/WindPower/docs/BPA_5-12-10-Post-WorkshopReplyComments(2).pdf
        If someone has a more accurate description of BPA operations, I would be glad to be educated.
        Final comment. If we engineers weren’t so damm conservative in designing the grid and power production facilities as was recently implied in a National Geographic article then we could just go crazy with wind and solar development plus the smart grid implemenation plans and all our power production problems would magically be solved. It is only a matter of time before AWEA, NREL (which is marketing arm for AWEA and solar companies funded by the US taxpayer through DOE) as well as others will jump on the “blame the utility engineer” bandwagon.

        1. BPA has some sort of requirement to “balance” hydro power with Columbia NPS. It has something to do with river flow requirements, making Columbia cycle to achieve this end rather than being “base loaded.”

  2. the European Wind Energy Association should be interpreted as the European Hot Air Association.

  3. Hydro still makes up the lion’s share of renewable energy. Something the wind and solar folks forget to mention. Just as they forget to mention that their installations cause more fossil fuels to be burned.

  4. I just did some back-of-the-envelope math. 44 acres of ground should intercept about 200 MW of incoming solar power (peak). 7800 MWHrs of energy spread over a year comes out to somewhat under 1 MW average power. So the “energy utilization capability” (a term invented by Michael Keller in a comment over at EnergyPulse) is about

    1. @donb — This is the exact conundrum I was in recently regarding off-grid applications in 3rd world countries. Ethically, I am troubled by the comparatively high cost of solar and wind (with or without battery back-up). Morally, I am troubled by the long-term lack of any form of electricity – reliable or intermittent – in those areas that may not see a power source for the next 20-30 years.
      What I came to realize is there is a place for these intermittent sources, for the time being, as a place-holder. See http://www.self.org – the “Projects” tab for examples of where this may make sense. I am hopeful that the mini-nukes and SMRs can be brought to market by 2015 or 2020, but even if they are there is a time-lag between manufacturing scale-up and actual deployment and the areas served will be placed in a priority hierarchy within each country or region.

    2. I keep forgetting to add that one must intercept a large amount of diffuse power. It is one thing to stick a small generator in the rapids of river to capture a bit of power (at decent efficiency for the part of the flow that is intercepted, and possibly year-round depending on the river). It is quite another to capture solar flux at the earth’s surface.

      1. @donb — Yes, the ‘diffuse’ nature inherent in solar, along with both the ‘capacity factor’ and the ‘availability factor’, contribute to their serious shortcomings. But even if we stipulate those shortcomings, what do we do for those for whom electricity for even a single light bulb may not reach them via costly transmission lines over the next 20-30 years?

  5. This is why they will need a “Smart grid.” What they haven’t told you is that it will not just shut of your hot-water heater, it will shut off your refrigerator, it will shut off your air conditioner, your heat pump, your washer, your dryer, your furnace, your TV, your lights, your radio, etc, as one of these clouds goes over the local solar collector or the wind quits blowing. It will stay off until they start up the NG peaking unit, assuming they have any “carbon credits” left.
    Theoretically, they will “selectively” shut off the biggest energy hogs first and cycle down to the lower ones. Supposedly, they will cycle through different equipment at different homes to “minimize the disruption.” Proposals I have read (for the energy bill) indicated that federally backed home loans will require major appliances in your home have this feature – or no loan. Consider how much this is going to cost the utilities/homeowners to implement. How much would it cost you to replace these appliances before you sell your home? (is this where allthe “Green Jobs” come from?)
    And you thought the Super Bowl add about the green police was a joke.

    1. When it comes to the smart grid, i’ve never heard them mention the impact on factories and businesses. Say there is an industrial zone in your city that consumes 200 MW. With “demand response” (euphemism for rationing) compromising the quality of life in private households, there will be calls to shut down factories instead, especially on hot days when people need air conditioning, cold days when they need heating etc. etc. It could lead to a fight over who gets the energy when there’s not enough for everybody. Even if there is no actual control of “smart” appliances but only dynamic prices, there will be calls to shut down factories to ease the financial pain of private energy consumers.

  6. What is the real power delivered to the grid?
    I have read the article several times and looked over the links, including the ones in the comments and I have noticed a huge gap. I seriously doubt that the numbers quoted in any of the data provided on any of the links subtract the power needed to generate the power. You cannot generate power without expending power!
    When your local electric company tells you that XZZY Power station makes “123 Megawatts” they are quoting the power generated by the generator. They rarely tell you that 16 to 20% of that generated power is used up in what they call “hotel loads.” That is the power needed to run the feadwater pumps, oil pumps, cooling water pumps, control/computer systems, air-conditioning, security lighting, etc., etc. Many actually hook the generator up directly to the grid and buy the electricity back! Meter readers com around and read the meters. There is some kind of tax incentive in this process, that is why companies form subsidiaries and then buy their supplies from them.
    Photovoltaic power generation requires lots of control systems that use power. Each panel will have a controller (think microcomputer) that analyzes data and controls motors, stepper motors, synchro/servos, and data displays. From the pictures there looks to be about 26000 individual small panels that would need a controller. Let’s assume 10 Watts for each panel (Ridiculous, as the motor is about the size of a desk-fan motor, but it proves a point. A night light amount of power) That gives us: 10 times 26000, or 260,000 watts. Note that the plant only generates 235, Mwh (average, cumulative per month) (http://www.tucsonelectric.com/Green/GreenWatts/solaroutput.asp) 235 Mwh divided by 30 days per month and 12 hours per day gives you an average of 653 Kwh for each daylight hour. Subtract the 260 and that leaves you with eave you with 393 Kwh average (hourly) daily output. But wait, every power plant I have ever worked at never shut down the control station at night, and there are 24 hours in a day not 24 so you need to subtract the 260 Kwh again, leaving you with 133 Kwh average (hourly) daily output!
    Use your own “guestimates” and see how much is delivered/taken from the grid.
    So how much power is this facility really putting on the grid?

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