Could The U.S. Automobile Fleet Run On Wind And Solar Power?

on September 2, 2020

I like doing thought experiments. I often use them to help me envision the parameters of a complex problem. For example, a dozen years ago I attempted to calculate the area required to supply the entire U.S. with electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) power.

Admittedly, these thought experiments require major simplifications. To completely run the U.S. on solar power would require a substantial amount of backup power or storage for when the sun isn’t shining.

I also knew that my solar PV calculation was subject to many assumptions, and the answer could therefore be 50% too large or 50% too small. But the number I calculated — an area less than 100 miles by 100 miles — at least provided me with a point of reference for the scale of such an undertaking.

I wanted to imagine about how much area it might take, and that calculation gave me a ballpark figure to visualize. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) once calculated that there are about 2,000 square miles of suitable area for PV generation just on U.S. rooftops. So it didn’t seem like a preposterous notion.

In the dozen years since I did that calculation, U.S. solar power generation has increased by a factor of 66. U.S. wind power generation, which started from a larger base at that time, has increased by a factor of five. The number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads has also grown exponentially in the past decade.

That led me to wonder how much U.S. gasoline demand could be displaced if all of the wind and solar power generation went into powering EVs. In turn, that led me to wonder about the scale of displacing all U.S. gasoline consumption with wind and solar power.

Again, I will note that this is just a thought experiment. It isn’t constrained by issues like the number of available EVs, or the amount of storage required to ensure that the power is always available on demand. With those caveats, I will attempt the calculation — with no idea beforehand how it is going to turn out.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2019 the U.S. consumed 142 billion gallons of gasoline. The EIA value for the energy content of a gallon of gasoline is 120,286 British thermal units (Btu). Thus, in 2019 the U.S. consumed 17 quadrillion Btu (quads) of gasoline.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCould The U.S. Automobile Fleet Run On Wind And Solar Power?

Wind Farm Plan Adds Solar and Battery Energy Storage in the Tri-Cities

on September 1, 2020

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. – Scout Clean Energy (“Scout”), announced plans to add solar and battery storage components to a proposed wind farm that would be located just south of the Tri-Cities in Benton County, Washington.

The innovative development will combine wind energy, solar energy, and battery energy storage in the same location – making more renewable energy available to customers during lower wind periods, and for short durations when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing.

“Throughout the development process, our team has been diligently examining ways to structure the most efficient project that will maximize the local resources and also integrate the power into the local grid reliably,” said Dave Kobus, Scout’s lead project manager for the Horse Heaven Wind Farm.

Project development began in late-2016 in the form of leasing, land acquisition, and environmental surveys which was conducted by both Scout Clean Energy and WPD, a Portland, Oregon-based wind energy developer that holds lease agreements in Benton County. Scout recently acquired additional wind farm assets from WPD which will enable the company to scale up to 850 MW of combined wind, solar, and battery power. Scout and WPD will continue to cooperate in the development of the Horse Heaven project.

“Scout has been monitoring power market interest for solar and storage technology along with wind, referred to as a hybrid facility. Recent improvements in technology have created the economic conditions needed to support demand for co-locating a wind-solar-battery storage project in the Horse Heaven Hills,” noted Kobus.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsWind Farm Plan Adds Solar and Battery Energy Storage in the Tri-Cities

Investment in Renewable Energy Transition Could Act as a Powerful Recovery MechanismFrom Covid-19, Says GlobalData

on July 17, 2020

As the global economies try to mitigate the Covid-19 impact, investment in renewable energy expansion becomes a critical cog in the wheel towards the economic recuperation journey. Expanding the renewables will not only help countries deliver stronger climate action under the Paris Agreement but also fuel the economic activities across the value chain forming an effective recovery mechanism to recuperate from the Covid-19 crisis.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, renewable energy took the centre stage. With declining electricity demand, utilities focussed on generating electricity from cost-effective renewable sources. By the conclusion of 2030, the cumulative renewable installed capacity is estimated to be 3,600GW, approximately 1,900GW more than that of 2020, which is significantly lower than the required build-up of approximately 2,800-3,000GW for restricting the global temperature rise to 2°C.

Due to technological advancements, economies of scale and competitive auctions, the Levelised Cost Of Electricity (LCOE) for renewables has seen a steep decline. The LCOE of solar PV had witnessed a drop of 86% to reach 0.05USD/kWh in 2019 when compared with 2010. Likewise, for onshore wind, the drop was 50.0% to 0.05USD/kWh.

The declining LCOE has brought renewables at par with fossil fuel and in few countries even cheaper. This trend of cost competitiveness and innovation is likely to continue and could attract countries and investors to increase their appetite for renewables. For instance, 2019 saw the highest solar power capacity additions and also the highest investment in the offshore wind segment.

However, the planned investments in this sector until 2030 is lesser than the investments made in the last decade. The Covid-19 pandemic recuperation stimulus provides an excellent window of opportunity for governments to channelise their investments in the renewables to offset the silos in the future investment schedule. These were earlier incapable to reach the desired 2030 installations target, decarbonising the economy and putting forward a solid step towards climate sustainability.

Incorporating higher investments in renewable energy might provide an opportunity to increase the investments and make up for the shortfall in the required installed power capacity by 2030.

Hence, increased investments in renewable energy in the recovery packages would benefit greatly and usher in a multitude of economic benefits. Not only will it provide a better opportunity in addressing climate change goals and global warming issues but also creates new employment opportunities and stimulate economic activities.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsInvestment in Renewable Energy Transition Could Act as a Powerful Recovery MechanismFrom Covid-19, Says GlobalData

Sydney Switches to 100% Renewable Energy

on July 14, 2020

All operations in Sydney, Australia – including street lights, pools, sports fields, depots, buildings and the historic Sydney Town Hall – are now run on 100% renewable electricity from locally-sourced clean energy.

The switch is expected to save up to half a million dollars a year over the next 10 years. It will reduce carbon emissions by around 20,000 tonnes a year – or the power used by 6,000 average households. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Energy Harvesting Microwatt to Gigawatt: Opportunities 2020-2040.

Sydney sources renewable energy from 3 different generators – the Bomen Solar Farm in Wagga Wagga, Sapphire Wind Farm near Inverell and the Shoalhaven solar farm in Nowra.

The green energy switch was made using a power purchase agreement with Australian retailer, Flow Power. Valued at over $60 million, it’s the biggest agreement of its kind by a council in Australia. The new agreement will generate jobs, support communities impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and create new opportunities in drought-affected regional NSW. Around three-quarters of the power will be wind-generated, and remaining will be solar.

The Shoalhaven project is being developed by Flow Power in partnership with local community group Repower Shoalhaven, a not for profit volunteer community enterprise that develops community solar projects. When finished, the 3-megawatt solar farm will have around 10,000 panels and generate enough energy to power 1,500 homes.

Speaking on behalf of Repower Shoalhaven, member Bob Hayward said the power purchase agreement will directly support the regional community. “Shoalhaven solar farm could not have become operational without the City of Sydney’s investment. By partnering with this project, we’re creating local jobs and helping the renewables sector grow,” Bob Hayward said. “The City of Sydney’s decision to include a regional community-based scheme brings us a step closer to a sustainable decarbonised future, while also supporting regional investment and employment. We congratulate the City of Sydney for this significant commitment.”

Owned by the Australian-listed company, Spark Infrastructure, the 120MW Bomen Solar Farm has more than 310,000 solar panels on 250 hectares of land. It’s one of the first projects in Australia to use bi-facial panels that absorb sunlight on both sides, with tracking technology that shifts each panel throughout the day to capture the sun’s energy.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsSydney Switches to 100% Renewable Energy

COVID-19 is a Game-Changer For Renewable Energy. Here’s Why

on July 14, 2020

COVID-19 has brought the generation of energy from fossil fuels to breaking point. As the lockdown measures were introduced, global energy demand dropped precipitously at levels not seen in 70 years. The IEA has estimated that overall energy demand contracted by 6% and energy-related emissions will decrease by 8% for 2020. Oil demand is expected to drop 9% and coal 8% for this year, while crude oil is at record-low prices.

Previous energy crises provide insight into what happens when the oil price crashes and how the use of fossil fuels has subsequently rebounded. But this crisis is different, because it is demand-led. The scale of the fall in demand, the speed of change, and how widespread it has been have generated a radical shift that seems to be more than a temporary short-term drop in demand for fossil fuels, at least in the power sector.

With the fall in demand, renewable sources (mainly wind and solar) saw their share in electricity substantially increase at record levels in many countries. In less than 10 weeks, the USA increased its renewable energy consumption by nearly 40% and India by 45% (see graph). Italy, Germany, and Spain set new records for variable renewable energy integration to the grid.

This rise in renewable energy is not circumstantial
Although the pandemic is circumstantial and unexpected, the current outcome for the power sector is not. The ongoing increase in renewable energy into the grid results from a mixture of past policies, regulations, incentives and innovations embedded in the power sectors of many forward-thinking countries.

These are three key factors behind the increase in renewable energy during this crisis:

  1. Renewables have been supported by favourable policies. In many countries, renewables receive priority through market regulation. The priority for the first batch of energy to the network is given to the less expensive source, favouring cheaper and cleaner sources.
  2. Continuous innovation. Renewable energy has become the cheapest source of energy. IRENA recently reported that the cost of solar had fallen by 82% over the last 10 years, while BNEF states that renewable energy is now the cheapest energy source in two-thirds of the world.
  3. Preferred investment. Renewable energy has become investors’ preferred choice for new power plants. For nearly two decades, renewable energy capacity has grown steadily, and now 72% of all new power capacity is a renewable plant.
read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCOVID-19 is a Game-Changer For Renewable Energy. Here’s Why

The Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs Natural Gas

on July 13, 2020

Dominion Energy, one of the nation’s largest utilities, in late June erected wind turbines off the Virginia coast — only the second such installation in the United States — as part of a big bet on renewable energy.

The company is also planning to build new power plants that burn natural gas.

Utilities around the country are promoting their growing use of renewable energy like hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and solar panels, which collectively provided more power than coal-fired power plants for the first time last year. But even as they add more green sources of power, the industry remains deeply dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and is likely to remain a cornerstone of the electric grid for years or even decades.

Utilities maintain that they need to keep using natural gas because the wind and the sun are too unreliable. They are also reluctant to invest in energy storage, arguing that it would cost too much to buy batteries that can power the grid when there isn’t enough sunlight or wind.

“We’ve got to have a resource that has an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch,” said Katharine Bond, vice president for public policy and state affairs at Dominion.

For years, environmental activists and liberal policymakers fought to force utilities to reduce coal use to curb emissions and climate change. As the use of coal fades, the battle lines are rapidly shifting, with the proponents of a carbon-free grid facing off against those who champion natural gas, an abundant fuel that produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions that burning coal does.

Coal plants supply less than 20 percent of the country’s electricity, down from about half a decade ago. Over that same time, the share from natural gas has doubled to about 40 percent. Renewable energy has also more than doubled to about 20 percent, and nuclear plants have been relatively steady at around 20 percent.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs Natural Gas

UN: Plugging Renewable Ambition Gap is ‘One of Smartest’ Ways Out of Pandemic

on June 15, 2020

Countries have in low-cost solar and wind a chance to revive economies battered by COVID-19 but also rekindle the fight against climate change, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), BloombergNEF (BNEF) and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

The trio recently analysed commitments by state and private players and concluded that current pledges would deliver 826GW of new green energy by 2030, far below the 3,000GW the world would need by that year to avert catastrophic global heating.

According to the new review, the present 826GW pipeline – split (see table below) between government (721GW) and private sector targets (105GW) – would also fall short of the deployment that was achieved last decade, when 1.2GW of solar, wind and others was installed worldwide.

In a statement alongside the report, German Environment minister Svenja Schulze noted that 80% of power new-builds worldwide were renewable last year. Investors and markets, she said, no longer need convincing about the “reliability and competitiveness” of green energy.

According to the study, it is up to governments to act on the private appetite, and make renewables a core part of the COVID-19 recovery. Missing this chance now may make it even harder to find money later, as the pandemic tightens its hold of public and private budgets alike.

Should states move to ramp up renewable funding, they would find every dollar spent yields more, thanks to years of tumbling technology costs. As the study pointed out, the world only invested 1% more in green energy in 2019 but delivered 12% (or 20GW) higher installs year-on-year.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUN: Plugging Renewable Ambition Gap is ‘One of Smartest’ Ways Out of Pandemic

Hawaii Leads Way in Long Duration Battery Storage on Road to 100% Renewables

on June 5, 2020

The island state of Hawaii has clearly taken the lead in the global pursuit of long duration battery storage, after its main electric utility revealed this week the details of 16 winning battery storage tenders in a second round of auctions that feature up to eight hours of battery storage.

The results are quite stunning for an industry used to being told that batteries are not a reasonable proposition for more than two or four hours of storage, and are normally best in shorter periods where their fast, accurate and flexible response make them ideal to provide essential grid services such as frequency control and more recently inertia.

However, storage lengths of two to four hours have become more common as the owners of large scale wind and solar farms look to store more output to ensure they can be put into the grid when needed most, and when prices are higher. Four hour battery storage proposals have become common in states like California, where batteries are increasingly preferred to peaking gas generators.

Now, Hawaii has pushed the barriers even further back. All but two of the battery storage proposals announced for the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii feature at least four hours storage, while one 30MW project put forward by leading US developer AES proposes eight hours storage (240MWh) on the island of Oahu.

The deep storage proposed for Hawaii is likely a matter of need: It has fewer options for pumped hydro or other non-fossil dispatchable generation, and not so many possibilities for wind energy, which might have offered some balance to the solar plans.

The proposals were detailed by Hawaiian Electric, which is at the forefront of the local government’s law to reach 100 per cent renewables by 2045 – largely to replace the huge bill for imported oil and gas, and the last remaining coal fired generator on the island of Oahu which is due to close in 2022.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsHawaii Leads Way in Long Duration Battery Storage on Road to 100% Renewables

Oil & Gas Still King Despite Renewable Hype

on June 5, 2020

The death of coal has run hand-in-hand with the rise of renewable energy, though the real credit for killing king coal might just go to U.S. shale. Even if the renewable revolution is growing too big to ignore.

There are plenty of environmental and ideological reasons that many academics and pundits are pushing for placing renewable energy at the heart of COVID-19 economic recovery plans. But it turns out that there are plenty of economically compelling reasons for a renewables-forward strategy as well. Last month the World Economic Forum published a report pleading with the energy industry to use the novel coronavirus’ unprecedented disruption of the economic and societal status quo to begin building a “new energy order.” Although COVID-19 has severely battered (in some cases irreparably) huge portions of the global energy industry, this is a unique opportunity to redirect resources, investment, and research and development into renewable energy ventures that we may never see again in our lifetimes–and then it will be too late.

“Though this is the worst possible way to begin a decade, the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices also offer an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy markets and global collaboration to support the recovery phase once the acute crisis subsides,” stated the World Economic Forum. “This giant reset grants us the option to launch aggressive, forward-thinking and long-term strategies leading to a diversified, secure and reliable energy system that will ultimately support the future growth of the world economy in a sustainable and equitable way.”

Writers at the Verge also argued that renewable energy should be the way forward and is the clear answer to employing the tens of thousands of oil patch workers that have been fired or furloughed thanks to the oil price crash of recent months. As business as usual has ceased to become an option, “transforming America into a country that runs on clean energy is one-way experts hope to alleviate the devastating economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Verge reported.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsOil & Gas Still King Despite Renewable Hype

Developing New Grid Solutions For Offshore Wind

on January 31, 2020

With more projects being awarded contracts for difference (CfDs) at record low prices in the most recent auction, the offshore wind boom shows no sign of slowing down.

However, if we are going to ensure we make the most of this energy, both now and in the future, there are challenges the industry needs to overcome, particularly the rising pressure on our electrical infrastructure network.

As a weather-dependent form of energy, changing conditions makes predicting long-term energy generation from offshore wind a difficult task.

This, combined with sudden, unpredicted changes in demand, means that grid operator the National Grid needs to be able to balance the supply and demand of energy so that it can maintain stability.

As we scale down our reliance on conventional power plants, which provided a consistent supply of energy, these frequency variations will naturally become more of an occurrence.

The National Grid has an obligation to maintain a grid frequency of 49.5-50.5Hz, as anything more than a small variation from this can potentially cause significant damage to our infrastructure.

As the risk of increased frequency variation becomes more common, this challenge becomes even more important to address.

Switch of direction
We are also using a system designed to channel energy from centralised regions located near areas with higher population counts, such as cities, to remote areas where few people live.

Renewable generation, particularly offshore wind, is concentrated far away from the population centres, meaning the power flow of the grid has to reverse direction and transfer power from remote locations, where the grid is weaker.

This change in geography, not technology, is one of the biggest problem facing the grid.

Electrical storage solutions, such as battery technology, which has the capability to stockpile energy and feed it to the grid when required, is one solution to maintaining a consistent frequency and support infrastructure that may struggle to handle large power supplies.

However, even this technology has its limitations.

read more
Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsDeveloping New Grid Solutions For Offshore Wind