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Author Topic: The Big Picture of Renewable Energy Growth  (Read 54340 times)

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Re: The Big Picture of Renewable Energy Growth
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2013, 01:19:34 am »
Cost of renewable energy’s variability is dwarfed by the savings

Wear and tear on equipment costs millions, but fuel savings are worth billions.

by John Timmer - Sept 24 2013,

The variability of renewable energy sources like solar and wind has raised concerns about how well the US electrical grid could tolerate high levels of them. Some of the early estimates suggested that the grid couldn't handle having more than 20 percent of its electricity coming from intermittent sources without needing a major overhaul. But thanks to improved practices and a bit of experience, several states are already pushing that 20 percent limit well in advance of having a smart grid in place.

Adjusting for intermittent power sources primarily comes from cycling traditional fossil fuel plants on and off to match supply with demand. And that cycling has a cost in terms of wear and tear to equipment and fuel burned without producing electricity.

So the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) produced a series of studies to look at these costs and how they compared to the savings in fuel that doesn't get burned. The answer: the cost is a tiny fraction of the ultimate savings. :o

Solar and wind power have very distinct profiles.

Solar varies the most over the course of a day, but the general outline of solar production is very predictable even if the total power delivered varies a bit with cloud cover.

Wind tends to be steadier, but the total amount being produced can change at any time of day.

To compensate for this variability, electricity suppliers essentially have to turn sources on and off. Since wind and solar have minimal operating costs—they burn no fuel—attention turns to coal and natural gas. Depending on the design of the plant, switching them on or off entails a variety of costs. Fuel gets burned without producing electricity when the plants cycle up, and a changing state entails an increased level of wear-and-tear on the equipment. Some of this went on before renewables entered the mix, but solar and wind are clearly increasing the frequency.

So, what are the costs? To find out, NREL commissioned a company called APTECH that had previously been hired by plant operators to estimate these costs. With these costs in hand, the NREL team analyzed the grid in the Western US under a number of different scenarios where intermittent renewables accounted for 33 percent of the total power. These scenarios included an even split between wind and solar sources and both 25 percent/eight percent (wind/solar and solar/wind) splits.

As expected, costs did go up. Cycling the fossil fuel plants added between $0.47 and $1.28 to each MegaWatt hour generated. Over the course of a year in the Western US grid, that adds up to between $35 and $157 million, a boost of between 13 and 24 percent. :P

That's the bad news. The rest is pretty much good. The fuel savings from not running the fossil fuel plants adds up to $7 billion 
, meaning the added costs are, at most, two percent of the savings. The fuel burned when spinning up the fossil fuel plants also makes a minimal contribution to pollution, either in the form of CO2 or in terms of nitrogen and sulfur compounds. ;D

Perhaps the most significant news, however, is that the worst problems come earlier in the transition to renewables. "In terms of cycling costs," the report notes, "there may be a big step in going from 0 percent to 13 percent wind/solar but a much smaller step in going from 13 percent to 33 percent." In other words, once the percentage of renewables reaches a critical point, then the amount of adjustments we have to make becomes incremental.

This doesn't yet mean that all renewable power is cost effective compared to fossil fuels; wind is very close, but solar is a bit further.  With current trends, however, we're only a few years away from that point.

And this report indicates that once we get there, there won't be any significant additional costs to adding them to the grid.


Agelbert NOTE: Actually, I would correct that last sentence to point out there will be significant additional costs to delaying the increased percentage of renewable energy!

WHY? Which smart grid technology, power sharing among neighboring grids and new storage technology from compressed air to battery to inertia (flywheel) storage, keeping old burners maintained won't be worth it (unless they can be converted from coal to biomass)..

Have you noticed they DID mention lost energy for spin up above but didn't mention shunting? Shunting is when a utility is trying to cut it real close on baseload "cheap" coal or nuke power so it doesn't have to use as much from the rapid spin up power plants run on natural gas which costs a bit more. When you are running a high baseload and the demand goes BELOW baseload, you CANNOT slow down a nuke or a coal plant quickly so you shunt the juice to some massive resistance (you throw it away!).

Utilities don't care about this waste because they just make it up with their rates to YOU. The bottom line is utilities LIKE to run full tilt because they make more money that way. That is why they are loathe to set up smart grids that would NEGATE the need for a high baseload!

The excuse they use is that renewable is too "intermittent". They claim they need to supply demand spikes and no way can they even guarantee a baseload common denominator to accurately figure the demand spike on and off power they need.

That simply is not true. Do you know they could have set up giant capacitor technology around nukes and never did because shunting into a massive resistance is cheaper? And WHY is it "cheaper" to throw away power than saving that "over the top" power for later? Because YOU pay for the 4.5 to 6 year MTBF fuel rod baby sitting for a few centuries after she can't boil water up to 600C or so. Such a deal!

Please understand this folks. Utilities HATE RENEWABLE ENERGY, not because it is intermittent, but because they cannot justify a high baseload coal or nuke piggery with smart grid technology.

Look at my last post on LED street lighting to see how they are NOT interested in saving energy. It's ALL about gaming the output to JUSTIFY high energy costs and collect a profit on them. Putting street lights on LED is a royal kick in the nuts to utility baseload wet dreams. Worse yet for them, LED with smart grid technology is NOT as voltage sensitive as the old street light power hogs that would blow or brown out if your voltage or frequency got too strange. Juice sucking street lights JUSTIFIES high baseload fossil fuel or nuke, steady as she goes, high output and profits (and CO2 out the ying yang too!).  LED street lights DON'T.

With 50% plus "intermittent" wind and solar on a smart grid, the computer KNOWS where every single street light is and if there is a human or car anywhere near it and shuts it down instantly as power is waxing and waning. Yes, some biofuel baseload will probably need to be available for unusual demands but that will be a the niche power source.

If demand goes up at ten pm when the sun is down, 80% of the LED street lights can be light lowered in an instant with no damage whatsoever. And then there are all the electric cars plugged in to the grid at ten p.m. ready to add to demand spike needs. Computers can handle all this. Don't let the fossil fuelers tell you any different.

Utilities want to have an excuse to run high baseload power so they can claim renewables can't cut it. It's bull****. They just want to burn more fossil fuels and charge YOU for it.

Don't let them get away with. Support 100% renewable energy in your state with biomass fired plants and storage technologies. We do NOT need the nukes or the fossil fuels, period!

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matt 10:37


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