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Solar panels to help power Santa Rosa micogrid

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When California’s energy grid gets stressed out during heat waves, energy managers send out so-called flex alerts asking people to conserve energy.

An innovative energy project underway in Santa Rosa aims to take that flexibility to new levels by helping a huge energy user — the city’s water treatment plant — quickly reduce its energy usage while still performing its core mission of cleaning water.

A 125-kilowatt solar array popping up above the parking lot of the Laguna Subregional Water Reclamation plant on Llano Road is the first visible sign of a yearslong effort to turn the plant into a microgrid capable of reducing its use of electricity from the grid.

“Increasing our flexibility to produce energy on-site allows us to adjust our demand on the macro grid, and doing that is worth money,” said Mike Prinz, deputy director of Santa Rosa Water.

Microgrids, as the name implies, are small electric networks that can operate, to varying degrees, independently of the larger electrical grid managed locally by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The solar panels are not the core of the new system, but will help recharge the batteries that are being installed later this year as part of the project.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8305925-181/solar-panels-to-help-power

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A look at the new battery storage facility in California built with Tesla Powerpacks 

Megan Geuss, ARS TECHNICA

East of LA, a natural gas peaker plant surrounded by fields of cows got a new, futuristic neighbor. Under a maze of transmission lines, a 20MW battery storage facility made of nearly 400 closet-sized batteries sitting on concrete pads now supplies 80MWh to utilities.

The project is an anomaly not just because it’s one of the largest energy storage facilities on the grid in California today, but also because it was built in record time—the project was just announced in September when regulators ordered utility Southern California Edison to invest in utility-scale battery storage, a year after a natural gas well in Aliso Canyon, California, sprang a leak and released 1.6 million pounds of methane into the atmosphere. The leak prompted a shutdown of the natural gas storage facility, one of the largest west of the Mississippi. Regulators were concerned that such a shutdown would cause energy and gas shortages, although that worry has not come to fruition entirely, and SoCal Gas has begun tentatively withdrawing gas again in recent weeks.

The ability to store electricity is something that appeals to state regulators because it also moves toward helping intermittent renewable energy—like wind, which only is produced when wind blows, or solar, which only is produced when the sun shines—become baseload energy. If you can store it after it’s produced, then you can call upon that energy to feed the grid at any moment, even when wind and sun are absent.

The Tesla battery facility is situated on 1.5 acres, and it’s modular in design—two 10 MW collections of 198 industrial-grade Tesla Powerpacks and 24 inverters are connected to two separate circuits at the Mira Loma substation. Unlike its neighboring Mira Loma natural gas peaker plant, which operates to make up for over- or undersupply of energy on the grid, the new battery facility operates only when there’s immediate demand. Southern California Edison’s market operations group submits bids for the energy at the battery plant and the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), a nonprofit that oversees the state’s electric system, will award the bid if a customer needs that battery power.

Read more at: A look at the new battery storage facility in California built with Tesla Powerpacks | Ars Technica

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How much energy storage would be needed for California to reach 50 percent solar?

Julian Spector, GREENTECH MEDIA

If California wants to continue increasing its share of solar power on the grid, it will need greater capacity to store it. The question remains: how much?

A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory attempts to quantify the answer. The authors model several scenarios in which the California grid generates 50 percent of its power from solar by 2030. To do so will require some pretty major changes, including more flexible baseload generation, as well as more deployment of electric vehicles, exports to other states and demand response.

Those can only go so far, though. To meet the 50 percent photovoltaic threshold economically will require energy storage. The state already has 3,100 megawatts of pumped storage, with 1,325 megawatts of additional storage set to be deployed by 2020, per the state mandate. Under the most optimistic flexible grid scenario and with PV prices falling rapidly to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, California will need another 15 gigawatts of storage by 2030.

That’s more than 11 times the amount mandated currently in California, and 66 times the total megawatts deployed in the U.S. last year. And any delays in the price declines of solar, or the rollout of EVs, or the flexibility of conventional power plants, will raise the bar on the amount of storage required.

That sounds daunting, admitted NREL Principal Energy Analyst Paul Denholm, who co-authored the research with Robert Margolis.

“Storage costs are going to have to come down,” Denholm said. “I don’t want to sugar-coat it: we’re not there yet.”

But the challenge becomes more attainable if you frame it as getting storage to a price point where it can take the place of peaker plants, the most expensive form of thermal generation. California had 22 gigawatts of fossil-fueled peakers as of 2014, including 14 gigawatts that were older than 25 years and will eventually need to retire.

Read more at: How Much Energy Storage Would Be Needed for California to Reach 50 Percent Solar? | Greentech Media

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World’s largest storage battery will power Los Angeles

John Fialka, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

By 2021, electricity use in the west Los Angeles area may be in for a climate change-fighting evolution.

For many years, the tradition has been that on midsummer afternoons, engineers will turn on what they call a “peaker,” a natural gas-burning power plant In Long Beach. It is needed to help the area’s other power plants meet the day’s peak electricity consumption. Thus, as air conditioners max out and people arriving home from work turn on their televisions and other appliances, the juice will be there.

Five years from now, if current plans work out, the “peaker” will be gone, replaced by the world’s largest storage battery, capable of holding and delivering over 100 megawatts of power an hour for four hours. The customary afternoon peak will still be there, but the battery will be able to handle it without the need for more fossil fuels. It will have spent the morning charging up with cheap solar power that might have otherwise been wasted.

Early the next morning, the battery will be ready for a second peak that happens when people want hot water and, again, turn on their appliances. It has spent the night sucking up cheap power, most of it from wind turbines.

The politics for this to happen are now in place because California’s Public Utilities Commission set a target requiring utilities to build their capacity to store energy, to use more renewable energy and to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The economics are there, too, because the local utility, Southern California Edison Co., picked the designer of the battery, AES Corp., an Arlington, Va., company, against 1,800 other offers to replace the peaker.

It was the first time an energy storage device had won a competition against a conventional power plant.

Read more at: World’s Largest Storage Battery Will Power Los Angeles – Scientific American

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SolarCity accuses utilities of slowing home-battery project

David R. Baker, SFGATE.COM

For more than two years, SolarCity Corp. has been trying to launch an experiment that could change the way we power our homes.

The San Mateo company has installed battery packs in more than 100 houses throughout California, each pack linked to rooftop solar panels. The lithium-ion batteries, made by Tesla Motors, store electricity from the panels during the day for use at night.

That combination – solar on the roof, batteries in the basement – could one day revolutionize the energy industry, undercutting traditional utility companies.

So the utilities, SolarCity says, are fighting back.

California’s big electricity providers are dragging their feet on connecting the batteries to the grid and charging steep fees – nearly $3,700 per customer, in some cases – to do so, according to SolarCity.

via SolarCity accuses utilities of slowing home-battery project – SFGate.