Tag Archives: Grid Management

Solar is Generation of Choice in California

By Robert Mullin, RTO Insider

California’s second-largest publicly owned utility is “not buying anything other than solar right now,” said Arlen Orchard, CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). Orchard’s comment reflected prevailing opinion at the Infocast California Energy Summit last week: Solar is the generation of choice now in California — and its role will only grow.

For SMUD, the decision to go with solar is a financial one. Despite historically low natural gas prices, California’s environmental mandates — such as emissions caps and a ban on once-through cooling — make investment in even the most efficient new gas-fired generation less attractive than solar, even in the resource-constrained Los Angeles basin. “It sounds like for a lot of reasons, building more gas-fired generation in L.A. is not going to happen,” said Charles Adamson, principal manager with Southern California Edison, also pointing out the political unpopularity of building new gas generation in the state.

In Northern California, the alternatives to solar are other — more expensive — renewable resources. “Solar was once the most expensive — now it’s the lowest cost,” said Jan Smutny-Jones, CEO of the Independent Energy Producers Association, whose membership includes gas-fired and renewable merchant generators.

Declining solar costs are attracting the interest of more than just traditional utilities, according to Mark Fillinger, director of project development for First Solar. California’s investor-owned utilities have effectively met the state’s 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard. Fillinger said his company is now seeing a “huge shift” in demand from those customers to large “direct access” commercial and industrial clients who choose to purchase power from an independent electricity supplier rather than a regulated utility.

Read full article from RTO Insider

California Has Too Much Solar Power — And That’s a Good Thing

By Travis Hoium, The Motley Fool

No business wants to create a solution in search of a problem, particularly in the slow-changing energy industry. Instead, businesses want to find solutions for problems that exist and create ways to make money off their solutions.

Enter the exigent problem California is facing: it has too much solar energy. First, who thought that would be a problem in the country’s largest state? Second, why isn’t there a solution if utilities and regulators knew this problem was coming? The short answer is that energy innovators weren’t going to create and install solutions for solar energy’s variability until they knew the utilities and regulators had recognized the problem.

California has made a big push into renewable energy in an effort to meet a 50% renewable energy goal by 2030. It’s built wind and solar plants rapidly over the past decade, which combines with hydropower to provide clean energy to the state. The problem is that solar energy, in particular, isn’t created evenly throughout the day or year and that’s a challenge for the grid.

In March, before peak air conditioner season in the state, there was so much solar energy on the grid that the California Independent System Operator had to tell some solar farms to shut down because there was too much energy for the grid to handle. And that could lead to a blackout.

Read full article from The Motley Fool

How California Blackouts Will Make Solar and Batteries A National Story

By Bill Roth, Triple Pundit

California again faces potential blackouts. This time it is tied to a natural gas storage facility called Aliso Canyon owned by Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas. The site’s ability to deliver energy was crippled by a natural gas leak described as an ecological disaster comparable to the BP oil rig explosion. State officials worry that this key facility will not be able to deliver sufficient supplies to California’s natural gas generating plants during summer peak electricity demands.

Here’s how solar and distributed generation could become national news this summer. It is 7 p.m., and Los Angeles is blacked out. It’s the third day of a blistering heat wave made more intense by global warming. People cut back on their air conditioning in the first two days in response to public service announcements to “save the grid.” But on that third evening, it was still over a 100 degrees from the valley to the beaches. Everyone decided they had to get cooler. Collectively they only moved their thermostats back down just a couple of degrees. But that was enough. The increased draw of electricity overwhelmed the grid. It automatically shut down because it just could not produce and deliver any more electricity.

But across LA, there are customers with power. They have lights. Even more importantly, they have air conditioning. Customers flock to these businesses. Neighbors walk over to ask their solar-powered neighbor about how they still have electricity.

The press see a media opportunity. Camera crews show up in front of the homes and businesses that have electricity because of solar systems connected to batteries. They ask questions about cost and find that these customers are actually saving money too. Then the reporters turn to the camera and ask, “Could this be the next iPhone-like technology breakthrough that California creates for all of us?”

Read full article from Triple Pundit

Too Much Solar in California? Not If You Bottle It

By Lauren Sommer, KQED

The cost of solar power has plummeted in recent years, which has led to a renewable energy boom in California.

But there’s a big hang-up: solar energy doesn’t provide a 24-hour supply. When the sun sets, the power from solar farms drops off, just as California needs it most. That’s sparked new interest in technology that stores electricity. And the energy storage technology race is going far beyond your typical battery.

Solar Peaking

“Pretty much everyday, we hit peak output,” says Michael Wheeler, a vice president at Recurrent Energy in San Francisco, looking at a screen showing the solar farms his company manages. But earlier this spring, something happened that, at first, doesn’t seem to make sense.

It was the middle of the day, when one of the solar farms was cranking out electricity, and his company got a message. There was too much electricity on the grid. The electric grid managers were telling solar farms to shut down. “The project went from almost peak output to zero for about two hours,” he says.

This happens on sunny, spring days when there is plenty of solar power but Californians aren’t using a lot of air conditioning yet, so demand for power is low. The solar and wind power comes in on top of what natural gas power plants are generating. Because renewable energy production goes up and down with passing clouds and wind conditions, grid operators say they need the continuous supply from natural gas to make up for those fluctuations.

Shutting down natural gas would leave the power supply less stable. Many gas plants can take between four and eight hours to restart, once they’re turned off. As more solar farms come online, the pressure to shut them down on mild, sunny days is only expected to become greater. California plans to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Read full article from KQED

Related article: What will California do with too much solar? (KQED) – April 4, 2016

Study: California could get 74% of power from rooftop solar

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

Rooftop solar panels could meet three-quarters of California’s electricity needs and about 40 percent of the country’s electricity needs, according to a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Researchers at the federally funded lab, which is based in Colorado, had estimated in 2008 that rooftop solar could generate 800 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, supplying about 21 percent of the country’s current electricity demand. Now they’ve upped their estimate to 39 percent, in an analysis sure to be embraced by clean-energy advocates who see solar power as critical to fighting climate change.

It’s unlikely the United States will tap all the sunlight at its disposal, at least not soon. The study focuses only on rooftop solar’s theoretical potential, without considering which systems would make financial sense for the owners of homes, businesses and other commercial buildings. Dramatically scaling up rooftop solar would also require big investments in the electric grid, which was built to accommodate large, centralized power plants.

The research lab was particularly bullish on California, which has a lot of sunlight, many large buildings and low per-person energy use. Researchers estimated that California could generate 74 percent of its electricity from rooftop solar — far more than any other state. The next-highest percentages came from the six states of New England, which get relatively little sunlight but don’t use much energy to begin with. Unsurprisingly, large, sunny states such as California, Texas and Florida have the greatest overall generation potential.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

 

San Francisco braces for the Big One with microgrids

By Laurie Guevara-Stone, RMI Outlet

In 2008 the U.S. Geological Survey reported that California has a 99 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years. Just last year, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake knocked out power to more than 40,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area. This was the fourth earthquake of magnitude 6 or greater to hit the Bay Area since 1979, including the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in 1989 that knocked out power to 1.4 million people. So the city of San Francisco is not taking any chances—it’s preparing for the (next) big one with microgrids.

“The whole western side of the city is built on sand; if we have a massive earthquake, the gas infrastructure will be shot, and we could face an extended power outage,” said Cal Broomhead, energy and climate program manager for San Francisco’s Department of the Environment (SF Environment). If the gas pipeline infrastructure is destroyed, it knocks out the natural gas-fired central thermal plants and prevents the use of distributed natural gas generators, so the city wanted to find a distributed solution to provide backup emergency power, one that didn’t rely on diesel.

In 2015 the city received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Market Pathways Program to integrate solar and energy storage into San Francisco’s emergency response plans. SF Environment is leading the project with the engineering firm ARUP acting as the primary subcontractor, and several consultants providing technical support and expertise. The local utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, one of California’s three major investor-owned utilities, is part of the grant as well.

Read full article from RMI Outlet

The California ‘Duck Curve’ That Will Jolt Its Power Grid

By Jonathan Crawford, Bloomberg Business

When the sun starts to set in California, there’s one thing you can count on: thousands of megawatts of natural gas-fired power plants quickly firing up to keep the state lit.

It’s a daily phenomenon that will become more pronounced than ever this winter as California’s ambitious clean energy goals have boosted the state’s use of renewables. The surge in intermittent solar power will test the statewide electricity grid because it exacerbates the need for alternative sources such as gas outside of daylight hours. Regulators have warned it’ll make California more vulnerable to price spikes and power disruptions.

It works like this: As the day begins to wane in the Golden State, generation from solar panels drops off. That occurs just when consumers returning home from work turn on appliances and flip on lights, driving up electricity consumption. Other power supplies are needed to fill the gap and the need is more urgent in winter when days are shorter. The phenomenon known as the “duck curve” is so named for the resemblance of the demand slope to the profile of a water fowl. The California grid’s need to call on gas-fired plants to balance shifts in demand and supply shows the potential hazards of tying more renewable generation to power networks.

Read full article from Bloomberg Business

Tesla batteries to power office buildings in California

By Katie Fehrenbacher, Fortune

Tesla’s batteries aren’t just for cars anymore. They’ll be used in battery farms at buildings around California. A big real estate developer and a well-connected tech startup have a plan to install batteries from electric car company Tesla at office buildings in a Los Angeles suburb.

On Monday, developer The Irvine Company and startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions announced that they plan to build large battery farms —each the size of about five parking spaces—at buildings in Irvine, Calif. The startup’s software can switch the buildings to battery power when electricity demand on the power grid is high like during hot summer afternoons when air conditioners are blasting. This relieves some of the stress on the power grid during peak times.

The deal is part of Advanced Microgrid Solution’s work with the local utility Southern California Edison to provide it with the equivalent of 50 megawatts of battery systems. As part of that, Advanced Microgrid Solutions plans to install about 10 megawatts of batteries in Irvine in 2016. Ten megawatts is enough energy to power about 10,000 homes.

Read full article from Fortune

Battery-stored electricity could reduce power use and save money, report says

By Ivan Penn, The Los Angeles Times

Utilities would save consumers money and help support the electric grid if the companies tapped unused power stored in existing home and business batteries, according to a report released Thursday by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The report, titled “The Economics of Battery Energy Storage,” states that most batteries already in use serve only as backup power when other electricity isn’t available. Instead, the electricity in the batteries could help reduce congestion over power lines as utilities work to send power from various plants during high demand. The battery-stored electricity also could immediately provide support to the grid in an emergency. And for customers, the batteries could help them better manage their electricity use and reduce their costs. Consumers could tap the stored power during times when electricity costs are high rather than buying from the grid, reducing their electric bills beyond the use of solar panels alone.

In particular, California already is seeking to employ more energy storage along with increasing use of renewable sources such as solar and wind to help reduce pollution, said Jesse Morris and Garrett Fitzgerald, the authors of the report. The mandates from state regulators largely target the utilities, but Morris and Fitzgerald said the existing storage in homes and businesses creates another opportunity for the state, the utilities and consumers.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Inside Southern California Edison’s energy storage strategy

By Gavin Bade, Utility Dive

Last winter, Southern California Edison (SCE) sent the U.S. energy storage sector into a frenzy with a single announcement: It would purchase over 250 MW of energy storage in one fell swoop — more than five times the amount California regulators required it to do at the time, and easily the biggest single storage procurement to date.

That purchase was brought on by a landmark mandate from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Passed in 2013, the order requires the state’s three big investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to put 1.3 GW of storage on the grid by the end of the decade.

As a first step in that process, the regulators stipulated that the IOUs had to contract for 50 MW of storage by the end of 2014. But as a part of a larger request for proposals, SCE elected to contract for 264 MW of diverse energy storage technologies, including utility-scale batteries, behind-the-meter resources, and non-battery storage alternatives. That giant storage procurement puts the company in uncharted territory for an American utility, forcing it to grapple with valuation and operational issues involving storage that other power companies have only imagined.

Nearly one year on from that historic proposal, what has SCE learned about storage—and what is its outlook for the future? Utility Dive spoke with SCE President Pedro Pizarro to find out…

Read full article from Utility Dive