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Dead Power Grid Revived with Solar and Wind, Not Diesel


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A renewable grid failed then started itself up again without diesel or coal - an amazing first. Instead of weeks to bring it up safely, after taking a week and a half to develop new safety and checklists they brought it back up.This is a first, and a scientific fact, so let's not get involved in pro renewables and anti renewables. This is an easily overlooked, but giant first step for renewable grids because we are dealing with crazy new weather patterns and need new ways to deal with them that don't freeze up production and pipelines or cause fires under high demand stress, and can start back up faster than traditional grids. Here is one step just taken because of a chance outage. 

Excerpt:

"An unexpected outage in Colorado allowed engineers to test whether renewable energy and batteries can quickly restart an electric grid By John Fialka, E&E News on March 25, 2021

A funny thing happened as the U.S. prepared to launch an experiment to protect the nation's future electric grids.

It turned into a real-world test.

Rising amounts of renewable energy will reduce greenhouse gases, but engineers worry about restoring wind- and solar-rich grids after blackouts.

So in August, Dan Brouillette, then the secretary of Energy, visited the department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., to mark the pending launch of an experiment. It would use a model of a futuristic grid to test federal efforts to "de-risk" the nation's electricity supply, Brouillette said.

The test was still months away. The model was being assembled at a nearby 300-acre facility called the Flatirons Campus, which is equipped with wind turbines, a solar array and a big lithium-ion battery. Researchers at the lab were preparing to add a hydrogen energy storage system and electric vehicle charging stations to reflect a future "hybrid" power grid.

Then a transformer blew up.

It plunged Flatirons into darkness and set the stage for a riskier test.

"People were saying, 'Hey, we have to get a big [diesel-powered] generator in here, it will take weeks to fix the substation,'" explained Ben Kroposki, director of power system engineering at NREL.

"And the researchers were like, 'Hey, we have all these renewable assets here. Can we use those instead of just running on diesel fuel?'"

Kroposki is among the experts who have been studying this question for years. When an electric power grid runs with more than 80% renewable energy, they worry that it could behave differently. No one had tried to restart a large power system like that after a blackout without bringing in outside power.

But the falling prices of solar and wind power and the fact that utilities are responding by rapidly deploying more of it, is a sign that future grids may arrive sooner than anticipated, Kroposki said.

The diesel generator arrived at NREL, but the agency decided to see if the model grid could be restarted without it. Researchers began by reviving a small piece of the model, a practice called "islanding."

"We've always talked about islanding, but no one had asked us to do it," explained Robb Wallen, lead engineer of the experiment.

There were unknown safety issues, and it took a week and a half to develop an approach to minimize them. "Most of the discussion was certainly on the front end of this, of really being sure we could do all of this safely without jeopardizing any of the staff," explained Daniel Laird, who directs NREL's wind power center.

They started by bringing in smaller batteries to recharge the Flatirons lithium-ion battery. That provided enough power to turn on the computers in the campus control room, which allowed the engineers to restart the solar array.

They also had enough juice to activate the wind turbines, but for better than two days the wind was "negligible," said Laird, the lab's wind expert.

Then, after long hours of tension and trial and error, power at Flatirons was restored without using the generator.

Laird explained that the data from the unexpected experiment is still being analyzed. "But what we've done here can really be a good blueprint for cyberattacks, extreme weather, equipment failure events of various kinds and, you know, how do you get the system back up quickly," he said.

"Doing that at this scale was sort of exciting," added Laird.

Of course, power grids are thousands of times larger than the renewable-dominated grid assembled at Flatirons. "But what we did was develop a foundational control that could be used if you deployed renewable energy at a much larger scale," said Kroposki.

Researchers said the key was reprogramming electronic devices called "inverters" that connect renewable energy sources to the grid. In today's blackouts, renewable power sources are customarily shut down and the system is restarted with outside power from traditional generators. The "smarter" inverters allowed the renewable-heavy model grid to repower itself.

Power pitfalls

The growth of renewable energy on the nation's three power grids is accelerating more quickly than many people think. According to the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, renewable energy from utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal on 131 days during the first 10 months of 2020.

The U.S. now has 108 gigawatts of installed wind capacity, a 10% increase from a year ago. It also has more than 40 gigawatts of utility-scale solar, up 25% from 2019.

Erik Ela is a principal project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), whose members recently approved a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production to zero or near zero by 2050. EPRI's utility members account for about 90% of the electricity revenue in the U.S.

Ela noted that there is "a potential lack of confidence from [grid] operators that the resource [renewable energy] will be able to respond when needed."

Part of the problem, he explained in a statement, is that there is a need for more accurate weather forecasting to predict the output of wind and solar power.

"Better forecasts can improve this," he said, along with more financial incentives for solar and wind facilities to store energy when it exceeds their needs. That will help them respond to a loss in power elsewhere in their grids, a job that is usually filled by fossil-fueled power plants.

In preparation for its goal-setting deliberations for 2050, EPRI invited 56 experts from around the world to Denver in May 2019. Cautionary thoughts emerged from the meeting.

They warned about illusions, noting in their written conclusions that 100% renewables is an admirable goal but one that is presently "easily achieved at a high cost and/or a low level of reliability."

Among the challenges facing the U.S. are efforts to enlarge the electric power system to give it the capacity to heat more buildings and to supply fuel for a majority of vehicles expected to be fueled by electricity.

There are lots of novel experiments underway. In Austin, Texas, a group called Pecan Street Inc. is launching a global competition for university students. There will be a $2,500 prize to develop an algorithm that describes how communities might organize fleets of electric vehicles in residential neighborhoods to send power back to the local grid when it needs help.

To keep track of experiments like this, EPRI has formed a new group called the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative. It will operate in tandem with the Gas Technology Institute, a nonprofit that works with the natural gas, biogas, pipeline systems and emerging hydrogen industries.

Jeffery Preece, a spokesman for the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative, said its job will be to look at emerging technologies to see which ones may be ready by 2030 to help EPRI reach its 2050 goal.

"We're going to have to come up with a lot of clean electrons," he said.

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dead-power-grid-revived-with-solar-and-wind-not-diesel/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=today-in-science&utm_content=link&utm_term=2021-03-25_top-stories&spMailingID=69875788&spUserID=NTAzMDg3NDk0MDIzS0&spJobID=2082829336&spReportId=MjA4MjgyOTMzNgS2

100% renewable grids are not five years away, but this step showed they are achievable in addition to nuclear and I hope Fusion too. Fusion has never had as much activity as now with more than a few commercial firms and scientists predicting to have it running by 2025. I know not today and there are lots of challenges to overcome, but I do believe (my opinion only, not yet fact) that we will crack the technology to bring fusion into the mix too.

 

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I drove up the 95 into Boulder City NV last week.  My goodness.. you should see the solar they're putting in out there.  They've had a big array there for many years, but it's expanding to what looks like thousands of acres.

I wonder if the water levels of Lake Mead are starting to get very worrisome.

Edited by hemsteadc
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1 hour ago, hemsteadc said:

I wonder if the water levels of Lake Mead are starting to get very worrisome.

We spend at least a few days at Lake Mead twice a year -- once on  our way down to Arizona for the winter, and again in the spring when going home.  It seems that each time we're there, the water level has gone down.  Yet, they're busy building houses -- lots of houses.  One of these days -- probably sooner rather than later -- the lake level is going to be so low, it won't be able to generate electricity, not to mention provide the surrounding area with water.

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When I drove back on US 93 past Hoover Dam a couple of weeks ago, only one of the turbine outlets was creating any disturbance in the outlet pond.  They recently replaced the power turbines with ones that will work at lower lake levels, now it should continue generating power until the lake falls to 950 ft. - previously the cutoff was 1050 ft.  The current lake level is 1084 ft. or 40% full with the 100% level at 1229 ft. AMSL.  

Of greater worry is the lake is below the level that triggers widespread cutbacks in water delivery to AZ, NV and CA.  Normally the level of Lake Powell is lowered to send more water down to Lake Mead but it's also at historic lows.  

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-environment/2020/08/15/lake-mead-low-arizona-nevada-water-cutbacks/5584993002/

Edited by Lou Schneider
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36 minutes ago, Lou Schneider said:

Normally the level of Lake Powell is lowered to send more water down to Lake Mead but it's also at historic lows.  

From USBR.gov

Quote

Last Updated: March 15, 2021

The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell during February was 201 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (51% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in February was 675 kaf. The end of February elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3571.46 feet (128 feet from full pool) and 9.64 million acre-feet (maf) (39 %o of live capacity), respectively.

The six-month period from April to December 2020 is one of the driest periods on record. Current conditions resemble 2002, 2012, 2013 and the beginning of 2018, four out of the five driest years on record.

 

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I just read read that Germany gets more then half of its energy from renewables. I have also asked my son-in-law, who is an engineer with Exxon, when they announced a lay off why didn't the just transfer then to their renewable department. He responded that Exxon didn't have a renewable department. He added that they don't think it would make enough money.

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12 hours ago, whj469 said:

I just read read that Germany gets more then half of its energy from renewables. I have also asked my son-in-law, who is an engineer with Exxon, when they announced a lay off why didn't the just transfer then to their renewable department. He responded that Exxon didn't have a renewable department. He added that they don't think it would make enough money.

My wife worked for an Exxon subsidiary for many years, which Exxon sold to someone else and then it started making money.  At the time Exxon had one business model and when they bought into other businesses they tried to run them like an oil company, and often failed.  They tried office equipment, computers, nuclear fuel (where my wife worked), and many others.  Admittedly her experience was many decades ago, but I am not surprised Exxon would have the view that a different business would not make enough money since the company has lots of experience not making money on anything but oil.  

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Yeah whj, a Paradigm shift this disruptive sets everyone, except the disrupters, back to zero. I am an Industrial Engineer and watched the Germans when they started to make the shift. The fossil fueled power production companies took either an "Ignore them it will go away" and a few saw the writing on the wall, and started working on renewables hoping to scale up as they scaled down fossil fueled plants. A very good thing is we have their research and tips and tricks for starting to switch. The companies that chose to ignore it are on the way out of business or already out of business. It's a tough transition no doubt but it is also plagued by misinformation intentionally put out by big oil money. They count on folks not wanting to read or work a bit to learn what is going on. And you know the old saw, There are three kinds of people in the world Those that make things happen, those that watch things happening, and those that don't know what's happening.

Here's a perfect example. Fox news in 2013 when Germany had already gotten a lot of solar up and running reported that Germany which is on the same latitudes as Canada, gets more sun and that is why their solar program is better than ours:

See, they really did say that. Never a retraction.

To make it perfectly clear here is a site that puts US and Canadian cities on a map of Europe, and a second map that shows European cities on a map of the US:

kWo4FoJl.jpg

PkpYkKul.jpg

Maps source: https://a.wholelottanothing.org/2011/03/07/north-america-western-europe-equivalent-latitude-maps/

So if anyone believes that happy horse manure that Europe has an advantage in sun over US,(and some will) it makes it easier to hold us back from solving our own energy problems. The Europeans, Arabs, and Asian countries are in the lead and we are just now wising up as a nation.

However you have to remember Germany is no larger than most US states, and a lot smaller than many of them. They have hit some big bumps in their energy road with the combined little sun in Germany compared to us, and that they jumped in when costs were 70% higher than today. However, Europe and the US  that I know of have tariffs in place that allows our manufacturers to compete. Remove the tariffs and solar companies could use cheap Chinese PV solar panels.

Here is a longish article on the state of Germany's renewables today. If they had our sun they would be much better off. But it can work there too as it is, but they need more panels for the same yield as me in sunny Colorado.  And the South gets even more sun than Colorado. The below article has a world map with solar intensities, and other great charts to make it crystal clear.

Excerpt:

"Solar power has become the cheapest mode of power generation in Germany, according to research institute Fraunhofer ISE. Depending on the type of installation and the sun's intensity, generating one kilowatt hour (kWh) with solar panels can cost no more than 3.7 eurocents, it says. Costs for equipment and installation, the biggest factor for investors, fell by 75 percent between 2006 and 2017. An analysis by British climate NGO Sandbag found that costs fell so much that new solar (and wind power) installations in German auctions are not only cheaper than new hard coal and gas plants, but also undercut the operation costs of existing fossil power plants.

However, support payments for existing and new solar power installations still carry substantial costs for German power customers, amounting to over 10.3 billion euros in 2018 alone, according to the economy and energy ministry (BMWi). Average support for solar power installations in Germany’s February 2018 auction stood at 4.33 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared 4.6 ct/kWh for onshore wind power.

Storage and innovation could bolster German companies

Solar panel manufacturers in Germany have gone through difficult times and the lifting of EU tariffs on Chinese imports is likely to make things even harder for hardware-producing companies. On the other hand, the expected further drop in costs could inject new life in other sectors of the solar power industry. Market observers estimate that the removal of trade barriers will substantially lower systemic solar power costs and lead to a boost in European demand by up to 40 percent in 2019. Solar power companies that offer technical and digital services or who are pressing ahead with development of complementary technologies like home storages could turn out to be the new trade regime’s great beneficiaries.

While German solar power companies struggle to compete with Asian manufacturers, they retain an edge when it comes to research on the modules’ system integration and the implementation of innovative applications. Foreign market leaders are often focussed on large-scale projects that yield high returns but will likely only account for a part of future growth, where small-scale prosumers are expected to play an important role as well.

Companies like Solarwatt or sonnen offer integrated solutions that allow for storing surplus solar energy at home and also sharing or trading it with neighbours and other prosumers around the clock. As prices for home storage technology have fallen sharply over the past years, they are set to benefit from a trend towards self-supply and decentralised production that makes them less reliant on support rates and could soon initiate a new wave of solar power investments in the country."

Source: 16 Apr 2020, 14:30

Solar power in Germany – output, business & perspectives

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/solar-power-germany-output-business-perspectives

 

 

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6 hours ago, Bill Joyce said:

My wife worked for an Exxon subsidiary for many years, which Exxon sold to someone else and then it started making money.  At the time Exxon had one business model and when they bought into other businesses they tried to run them like an oil company, and often failed.  They tried office equipment, computers, nuclear fuel (where my wife worked), and many others.  Admittedly her experience was many decades ago, but I am not surprised Exxon would have the view that a different business would not make enough money since the company has lots of experience not making money on anything but oil.  

Yep Bill, read the article above on Germany's trials and tribulations, some CEOs made the same mistakes. Toyoda head of Toyota, failed in five years (2014-2019) of trying, to design an EV, Exxon and the other oil guys contrast Germany in the opposite direction. Canada is growing their own solar and doing the R&D to winterize their wind turbines and develop storage strategies for renewables.

We can benefit if we develop a national renewable strategy and policy as pretty much all other first world nations have.

And smart money CEOs in oil should have been first out of the gate as they have lots of fossil fuel income all through the R&D process of becoming the renewable energy companies too.

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