Transmission planning: wind and solar

by Planning Engineer

Some of the denizens have requested an introduction to transmission planning and a discussion of how the transmission system is impacted by renewable resources.

This post complements a previous post which addressed renewable resources and generation planning. The considerations here are not of major importance when renewable resources only make up a miniscule portion of the generation mix but they become significant as renewable generation begins to make up larger portions of the resource mix.

Powerflow 101

On the grid power does not flow downhill, take the shortest path or move from areas of high to low pressure. The grid cannot be well understood as a highway system or a set of pipelines. Energy simultaneously takes every possible interconnected path from source to destination. For the most part in normal operating ranges the flows between a generation addition and a new load are unaffected by the flows that are already on the lines. Energy flows on every possible interconnected path based on the inverse ratio of that paths impedance (resistance).

As can be seen below, the US has three major grids (two shared with Canada). The grids have to be built so that the flows serve planned loads from planned generation without overstressing any part of the system. This is true not just for the major lines shown below but for all the lower voltage lines and interconnected portions of sub-transmission systems as well. The graphic below does not include voltages below 230 kV, however 115 kV and 161 kV lines make up a large part of these interconnected transmission networks.

Slide1

If a plant is added in Nevada to serve a new load in southern California, some of the power will take the most direct routes, some will flow northward to Canada and then come back through Washington and Oregon and some will go west and south before circling back towards California. This flow of energy on the less direct interconnected paths is referred to as loop flow or inadvertent flow. Every possible interconnected path will be impacted somewhat by any changes in the locations of loads or generation. Loop flow can and frequently does impose burdens and stresses on the components they pass through. When the loop flows are small or non-consequential they can be ignored, but when they cause problems – they must be addressed through improvements or by imposing operational limits.

A little extra background on how power flows work. Altering the previous example, if the generation is now located in southern California and the load is in Arizona the results will be pretty much the opposite so that whatever power flows were increased by an additional X, will now be decreased by X and whatever increased by Y now decreases by Y. (Note – I have framed this discussion in terms of simultaneous changes of both generation and matching load so that the resulting flows can be described as delta changes. Alternatively you can conceptualize every generator as serving a portion of every load on the interconnected system.)

Bottom line is that any time you change generation source locations or add new generation sources, they will to some degree stress some parts of the system and unload others. When the “new” flows go in the same direction as the already existing flows, this can cause potential overloading and voltage problems. When the flows run against the existing flows they serve to net out and reduce the total flows, thus providing benefits. Every new generation resource can be seen as supporting some parts of the system and stressing other parts of the system. Similarly, the loss of any generation source can be seen as supporting some parts of the system and stressing other parts of the system. From a transmission planner’s perspective system additions and system retirements both require careful attention, as either can create problems (or provide relief) depending on how and where they stress or unburden the system.

Introduction to Stability

Modern power grids are complex machines that require a near instantaneous balancing of various electro-mechanical properties. In the US, traditional generators provide three phase voltage and current sinusoidal waveforms that alternate 60 times per second. Every rotating generator within each of the “Interconnections” shown in the map above must be in synchronism with every other generator within that same Interconnection. While the voltage or current wave forms can lag or lead each other by a little bit, they can’t get us much as a whole cycle (1/60th of a second) behind or ahead of any other generator without causing a major system problem. A major problem would involve serious events which would include generation tripping off line and possibly including a collapse of at least some portion of the grid. Generators in Miami, Ontario, Kansas and New Orleans remain in synchronism around the clock with each other and over the years they don’t deviate in the number of turns by as much as a single1/60th of a second cycle. The power input from generators coupled with load characteristics and disturbance conditions makes it possible (likely) for electromechanical forces to begin oscillating and grow to destructive levels if the system is not carefully designed and operated.

Understanding this phenomenon involves challenging math, engineering and computer modelling that are hard to summarize. If you want to get more into the details you might check out these Lectures (part 2 and part 3) which unfortunately are about as good as any discussion on the topic that I’ve sat through.

The grid is built upon and supported by heavy rotating machinery. Synchronous spinning generators combine with power lines and loads to make up complex electro-mechanical machine that must maintains stability. Stability refers to the ability of the system to stay in synchronism, balance loads and generation and maintain voltages following system disturbances. Intermittent generation (wind/PV solar) does not rotate in synchronism with the grid. As such they do not have performance characteristics that support the grid as well as synchronously rotating generators (hydro, coal, gas, nuclear plants) do. The system must be able to ride out power imbalances caused by faults and outages. Greater penetrations of non-synchronous generators (inverters used for PV Solar and Wind) tend to make the system, all else equal, less stable. Without expensive additional equipment and the wasting of some power output, inverter control delivers power based on the performance of the PV solar or wind resource, not the needs of the grid. Synchronous generators on the other hand can naturally respond to grid conditions and work to support stability. This report by a NERC Task Force provides more detail.

The Changing Grid

It takes many years to complete a major transmission system improvement even under the best of circumstances. To determine and prepare for future needs, transmission planners simulate the system operation years in advance using computer models with expected generation and load levels. In years past, transmission planners had greater certainty around expected generation resources and the likely stresses they would place on the grid. Dependably large baseload coal and nuclear plants would operate around the clock. Hydro units with storage capability would cluster their operation around peak demand hours. Based on economics other gas plants depending on their efficiencies would cycle in and out at differing load levels. Simulations could do a good job of matching generation to load level while modelling the anticipated stresses to the system. The grid was not intended to handle all possible generation scenarios but rather just “planned” operations and “likely” generation scenarios. Understanding generation patterns on peak and across load levels enabled planners to make cost effective improvements that supported the peak as well as year round grid operation. Planners and operators take the system models and expose them to a host of potential disturbances (called contingency outages). The system must be able to withstand the disturbances and remain stable while not have unacceptable overloads, load shedding or voltage problems. The system is built and operated to allow recovery from “credible” outages.

Generally the grids operate today to allow for the economic and reliable operation of all planned resources. Additionally the grids typically have sufficient robustness to allow for unplanned economic power exchanges on a non-guaranteed basis. Occasionally system loadings in combination with events such as generator or line outages create conditions where the system operators have to call for redispatch of the system or in very rare cases curtail load to keep the system flows within acceptable boundaries. This may be for loadflow or stability reasons. In system redispatch situations the operators can either call for generating units that serve to relieve the stress to increase their output, or force generating units that contributed to the stress to curtail generation. This may involve in turning units off and on, or just moving generating units between their maximum and minimum output levels. When redispatch fails to resolve the situation, as a last resort system operators will call for the shedding of system load.

Renewables impose new challenges. Wind and solar operate intermittently. Their availability for future system peaks is unknown as it is for off-peak hours as well. As they will undoubtedly be both off and on during most hours when the system can be stressed, the system must be built for both their presence and absence. Other plants have to provide them backup service and are cycled on and off. This shifting of generation resources and backups, at high renewable penetration levels will lead to considerable uncertainty around potential grid flows and operating points for stability. The potential set of “likely” generation scenarios will increase exponentially as the penetration level of intermittent resources increases and at the same time the operators have less control over the generating resources.

Real World Challenges

The retiring of large coal plants provides planners with challenges. The system has been built to support these units and at the same time these units have supported the system. Losing major units that the system has been built around should be expected to provide significantly more dis-benefits than benefits. Their retirement will leave some areas with excess transmission capability and introduce stresses in others. Preparing for the retirement of a large coal plant contains the same challenges as preparing for the addition of a new large generating resource. Limiting the operation of a coal plant (as opposed to shutting it down) may impose problems, but at least in such cases they are available for redispatch during peak demand or emergency situations. When regulations require coal plants to be shut down completely it is important that the timeline provides enough advance notice to allow for needed grid improvements.

Preparing for the additions of large intermittent resources requires planning as well. As with all generation sources these additions will at times support the system in some locations and stress it in others. Since the generation is intermittent in nature, planners cannot count on any support it might provide, but must prepare for stresses the resources introduce. Their potential to stress the system requires action, but their ability to support cannot be counted as dependable. Intermittency introduces extra complexity into the study process and results in extra costs for needed improvements.

The power grid does not always operate as planned. Extreme weather, unanticipated outages and a host of other factors can result in the system operating somewhere outside of planned conditions. Generally the system is robust enough to handle most departures without problems. For more severe departures from planned conditions the re-dispatch of generating resources is a major tool for the system operators. Changing the location of contributing generating sources can relieve stresses and strengthen the system. As the amount of intermittent generation increases, this tool will become blunted from a lack of qualifying capable dispatchable resources. The justifying economics require that intermittent resources run all out pretty much whenever they are able. There are suggestions that intermittents could better mimic conventional generation, but it would incur significant costs. Curtailing existing intermittent resources for reliability reasons could be helpful at times, but it adversely impacts the economic performance of such resources and is politically challenging at this time in most places. Building a surplus of renewable resources to sit idle waiting to back each other up and respond as needed is economically implausible at this time.

Greater penetration of renewable resources will limit the options available to operators while at the same time increasing uncertainty around expected generation patterns. To accommodate such uncertainty the choices are to: 1) increase grid costs and infrastructure, 2) limit the operational flexibility of the grid , 3) increase generation costs through backup generation resources or 4) live with increased risks and degraded reliability. Likely all four are and will continue to occur to some extent as the penetration of intermittent resources increases.

As noted at the start, when intermittent resources only make up a small percentage of total system generation, the adverse impacts are masked by the margin and robustness built into the system. The small additional costs they may incur are fairly easily shared by all users of the grid. As penetration levels rise and renewables replace non-intermittent conventional units, they will have major impacts upon grid costs and reliability. These costs have not been accounted for adequately in many studies estimating the costs of renewables.

JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

210 responses to “Transmission planning: wind and solar

  1. John Carpenter

    I contributed to grid unstability by putting soloar panels on my roof this year.

    • John Carpenter

      heh, solar panels

    • Are you sending power into the grid? If you are, you are part of a serious problem for reliable power. If your solar panels are only for your own use, it is up to you as to if it is worth what you pay. If you get tax credits and subsidies, then the other tax payers have an interest. I am interested in the details, but it is your decision to share or not share more information. A grid with power plants only is much cheaper to manage than a grid with a lot of wild cards. Solar and Wind add more overhead than they provide power. That is the nature of intermittent power generation. They increase the overall cost of equipment and operation. Someday, that may be different, but we are not close to that someday.

  2. Pingback: Transmission planning: wind and solar | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  3. Judith, this gives much more detail in points I have used to argue with those who say that green energy (aka Renewables) will solve our problems and we just need to get rid of those dirty coal plants.

    I’ve got a background in nuclear power from the Navy as well as electric power generation but hadn’t known enough about the transmission issues that you covered here.

    Thanks for this article!

    • This is an interesting and educational article that helps me understand why T. Boone Pickens massive wind farm went bankrupt. It was billed as the largest wind farm in the world a few years ago. My understanding is that it was transmission issues that caused its demise, which I never understood. These types of issues are never parsed in the media, why not? Are transmission issues the reason Germany’s utility costs are 3x higher than in the U.S.? I was astonished to read this a while back. Germany of course is a leader in alternative energy solutions, but it’s come at a tremendous cost, literally. The government subsidizes many of the alternative solutions, and of course these get passed down to the consumer that either pays higher taxes, or pays higher utility costs. Alternative energy costs have become so onerous in Germany that they began building coal plants to supplement their grid. I’m all for continuing the research for alternatives, but many are totally ignorant of the costs associated. It appears to me the current stable of alternatives are adequate for niche markets, but they’re still not cost effective and scaleable enough to replace the current grid unless one considers that they should come at any costs as many do; this thinking however is short sighted because cost is relative to whether an economy can thrive, or potentially collapse.

  4. Planning Engineer,

    Thanks for another excellent informative post.

    What would you estimate to be the level of wind/solar input to the grid that would cause significant dis-benefits? If we are at 5-8% (my guess as I am not sure what the actual number is) combined today at what level do things start to get hairy?

    Is “dis-benefit” really a word?

    • Dis-benefit may not win any awards but it gets the job done.

      The “significant” penetration level would vary somewhat across systems. I would say the challenges probably increase exponentially with penetration levels. The costs start slow and then go up a bit more for the next increment. I think 10% presents some challenges and costs. Maybe I would get worried and the knee of the curve would be around 15 to 25%. We are trying to come to grips with that now.

      We could integrate higher levels of intermittent renewables, but it would have high costs. If you add the equivalent of high inertia flywheels to the system and synchronous condensers (basically generator/motor units with all the winding and stuff but no shaft to generate to add or subtract power from they will mimic what conventional generators provide. You can turn existing generators into synchronous condensers upon retirement. But approaches like that have significant costs that go with wind and solar that you don’t incur with traditional generators (because it’s already included).

      Also there are ways to make inverter based resources perform more like synchronous generators – they are just costly. Generators operating from efficient points can add a little boost to the system when it needs it. If you hold back power from wind or solar they can do something similar but it’s only needed once in a great while and it’s wasted. Can you justify a solar or wind plant if you off the top cut it’s effective generation by 5%?

      There are papers out talking about how systems can work with increased renewables – but they don’t quantify (or mention for the most part) the extra costs. One that is likely to be prominent soon mentions how the system will work in non-emergency conditions. What they mean is the system is ok if no faults/disturbances happen but they haven’t studied it with disturbances and can’t say if it would be ok then. No modern grid ever operates so that it is incapable of surviving specified sets of disturbances with carefully constrained consequences. (It’s like saying your car is rated safe to drive y as long as it won’t be involved in any collisions or fender benders.)

      • Thanks for the reply PE.

        Frankly reading your reply and the original post I get the impression that what you really want to say is: hey look, if the powers that be really want to go down the path of large doses of wind/solar, we can make it work but the cost and reliability are basically anybody’s guess.

        I understand that you get paid to solve problems and make stuff work. Been there and done that. But if it were up to you and your money would you go down this path?

        I guess the Germans are learning this lesson in real time.

      • Let me add: I like most Planning Engineers would not recommend that path even though it would likely be lucrative, involve interesting work and job security for us all. There may be something wrong with us.

      • Looks to me like Texas will get to the knee soon.

        http://www.awea.org/resources/statefactsheets.aspx?itemnumber=890

        Aren’t wind turbines asynchronous generators turning at the same speed as the rest of the generators powered by nuclear, coal and gas?

        Wind power is probably here to stay, in the US anyway, might as well upgrade the grid to take advantage.

        20% by 2030 is going to happen.

      • Mark, PE, I interpret what PE is saying is that costs rapidly become unreasonable, notably beyond 10% penetration. Peter Lang has attempted to quantify some costs in submisisions to Australian Senate and other inquiries into use of renewables. In work he has studied, estimates of costs of renewables used in policy-making rarely if ever take account of such costs: the cost per tonne of CO2 emissions avoided (already high) is seriously underestimated because issues such as those discussed by PE are ignored. We still get people with some influence promoting 100% reliance on intermittent renewables. No doubt Peter will weigh in later.

      • Oops, I see he has an earlier post immediately below this. And I misplaced this reply. Back to sleep, Mikey.

      • Bobdroege-wind turbines are asynchronous generators, but that means they turn at different speeds (depending on the wind speed) then the grid. Therefore they are made to produce DC power which is converted with inverters to AC power at grid frequency. The electronic conversion from DC to AC decouples the wind rotation from the grid.

      • Mark Silbert-“the powers that be” is a pretty diffuse concept. Transmission planners are limited as to how they can respond to requests from generators. In the U.S. It used to be that a utility could work to directly jointly plan generation and transmission to coordinate and maximize the benefits to the power system. In my career I ran a Planning department that had both generation and transmission responsibilities. They don’t exist for regulated (or near regulated) utilities anymore. In order to make sure that outside parties had equal access to the grid, transmission and generation functions we’re separated by Federal orders. Utility employees who work on the grid can’t share transmission info with the generator personnel from their own company. It must all be communicated only in public forums with equal access to all. Their are utility OASIS sites for this (open access same time information systems).

        The cost signals between transmission and generation are muted by federal regulations around allowable rate mechanisms. Different generators use the grid and what they pay does not alway link up to what they cost. So in some ways nothing new with renewables, entities pay less than their costs at times, but they have the potential to skew things badly.

      • bobdroege | May 7, 2015 at 11:02 pm |

        Wind power is probably here to stay, in the US anyway, might as well upgrade the grid to take advantage.

        20% by 2030 is going to happen.

        The grid is not upgraded to take advantage. The grid is upgraded to try to mitigate the system problems caused by unconventional sources – a cost that should be born by the unconventional sources.

      • Are we talking about the same thing?

        I am referring to the 2 to 6 MW wind turbines used for commercial power like these

        http://www.energy.siemens.com/hq/en/renewable-energy/wind-power/platforms/g2-platform/

      • bobdroege | May 8, 2015 at 9:54 am |
        Are we talking about the same thing?

        I am referring to the 2 to 6 MW wind turbines ..

        Yes, we are talking about the same thing. That is a system integration problem and not a solution.

        A solution is a safe, reliable, controllable nuclear plant.

        All the integration costs of renewable energy should be bundled with the renewable energy. The renewable energy should carry its fully loaded cost. There are major efforts to misallocate the costs of renewables to make them look falsely “almost competitive”.

      • PA,

        “A solution is a safe, reliable, controllable nuclear plant.”

        I have never disagreed with this, I would only add well regulated, because we don’t want the nuclear station operators running their diesel generators to add a little extra juice to the grid.

        And to make sure they know how to properly maintain the large motors they need to have ready for operation at a moments notice. (ie not pumping a load of grease into a motor’s bearings every three months, when the motor doesn’t run except in an emergency)

        But this is about wind and this is what Tripp Doggett had to say back in 2011 when there were rolling blackouts though-out the Texas grid due to multiple failures of power suppliers.

        “I would highlight that we put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this time frame. Wind was blowing, and we had often 3,500 megawatts of wind generation during that morning peak, which certainly helped us in this situation.”

        The thing is when you have a wind farm with say 100 2 MW turbines, the failure of one turbine will not interrupt service, but large coal, nuclear and gas units tripping off line can cause more troubles.

        The above was not a one of example of wind saving the day, there are more examples available showing wind power replacing conventional power during unanticipated outages.

        If you have a wind power company desiring access to the grid to sell the power, the grid operator will act as a middle man and ensure that he gets his cut, so yes the cost of integration will be passed to the producer, and he will only stay in business as long as he can make a profit.

        By the way, who do you think is one who pays the cost in the end?

        I think there is room between how much wind power costs and how much the ratepayer pays for profit to be made even giving the grid operator his cut.

        Market forces are in play and they don’t give a rats behind what us radical environmentalists think.

        My opinion is we will see more wind power and a more reliable grid in the near future.

      • bobdroege at 2:14 pm :
        “The thing is when you have a wind farm with say 100 2 MW turbines, the failure of one turbine will not interrupt service”

        The thing is, the entire 100-turbine wind farm fails whenever the wind falls unexpectedly. The fact that this occurs regularly does not make it less of a failure, because it is just as unexpected as the failure of a large plant.

        Anecdotal tales of wind turbines happening to help on one given day only distract us from the key issue, being that intermittent energy sources require additional expensive backup.

    • Mark: Oxford online: disbenefit: a disadvantage or loss resulting from something. Perhaps relatively recent – it doesn’t appear in my 1959 Shorter Oxford but is in my 2001 Concise Oxford as British: disadvantage.

    • “While the voltage or current wave forms can lag or lead each other by a little bit, they can’t get us much as a whole cycle (1/60th of a second) behind or ahead of any other generator without causing a major system problem. “

      This is totally incorrect. If it ‘lags’ by a whole cycle it is perfectly in phase ! The problem happens long before it gets a full cycle out of phase. The worst case would be half a cycle lag.

  5. Peter Lang

    This report has just been completed. It’s about the effects of wind power on reducing CO2 emissions. But it has some very interesting revelation about the system effects and constraints. Although it is about wind power, much of it is applicable to all intermittent electricity generation technologies:

    CO2 Emissions Savings from Wind Power in the National Electricity Market (NEM) http://joewheatley.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/report.pdf

  6. Nice post, PE.

    I wonder if wind and solar will have a history like Sydney’s monorail. It was built at great cost to everyone’s annoyance, used by very few at great cost for a few years, and recently dismantled and taken away at great cost and to general embarrassment.

    Wind, solar and the Sydney monorail. In my mind, they will go together forever as symbols of what can be achieved when fad and zealotry come into perfect sync with subsidy and graft.

    • You forgot the deal plants as well, except they were never actually used if I recall correctly.

      • Your’e right, Barnes. And still not used. Costing $500 thousand per DAY for Sydney, $600 thousand for Melbourne. Every day. For no water. Direct result of climate misinformation.

        Then there’s Queensland. Read this and weep:
        http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/qld-decide-what-do-botched-4b-water-assets/2218887/

        The millennarian weirdos cheering for a big El Nino this year might get their way. You eventually have to have another strong one like 1997-8, 1982-3, 1940-2, 1914-15, 1905-6 etc. We’ll then get to find out how much the desals cost when used, if used. (Australia’s driest known year, 1902, was only weak El Nino; many dry scorchers weren’t even El Ninos, while the “strongs” of 1905 and 1998 weren’t severe for drought.)

        Imagine if all these desal billions had been spent on needful and efficient projects. Which brings us back to wind turbines, doesn’t it? And monorails.

      • I generally consider myself to be an optimist and believe that we have the ability to find ways to power our future beyond fossil fuels. I am a strong advocate for fossil fuels, but also recognize that as they become more scarce, we will need to find viable alternatives, nuclear being the one technology at present. But, my optimism is being severely tested by the incessant drumbeat of the liberal/progressive march towards insanity via unworkable “solutions” like wind and solar and hearing of the wasteful spending like the desal plants while dumping excess rain water instead of directing to reservoirs. My fear is that by the time we fully realize the complete and utter stupidity of solely pursuing these technologies at the expense of exploring anything else, we will be in a serious energy crisis that will have serious consequences on everyone, especially those in the western world who are 100% reliant on flipping a switch for lights, or turning a dial to heat or cool their home, or cook their food. And we will have squandered our intellectual capital as well as our financial capital to the point where it may not take just decades, but centuries to recover, if recovery is even possible.

        I posted this link before, and think it is worth posting again for those who did not see it or take the time to read it. I think it provides a decent sanity check on renewables.

        http://www.theautomaticearth.com/2012/10/renewable-energy-the-vision-and-a-dose-of-reality/

        My perception is that Australia may have turned the corner and may be starting on the path back to sanity. Although it is too early to tell and my perception may not be that accurate to begin with, I hope it is correct.

        Hopefully, the US will elect an actual adult to inhabit the White House and our congress will actually start to function again starting with similarly putting us on a path to sanity despite the increased decibel level of the green mob/blob. If we continue on our present path where the greens get their way with the US energy sector, the effects of that will make the effects of Obamacare appear benign in comparison.

        I learn much from reading posts from PE and comments from you, Peter, Rud, and most other denizens here, including the true believers, and appreciate your responding to my posts.

      • Peter Lang

        +10,

        I don’t think there is much evidence Australia has turned the corner, yet. The Government and Opposition have just about agreed to lock in a renewable energy target that would mean we have to increase our wind energy generation by a factor of about three between now and 2020 – i.e. from about 4% to 12% of electricity supplied. A factor of three increase in five years. It’s ridiculous.

        And then there’s this form today’s ‘The Australian‘:

        Uni backs out of $4m Lomborg-led research unit
        by: Paige Taylor

        The University of Western Australia intends to hand back $4 million of federal funds it accepted for a policy research unit after an apparent­ revolt within its business school over the centre’s links to polarising Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg.

        Federal Education Minister Chris­topher Pyne expressed dismay at UWA’s decision to back out, a little more than a month since the university trumpeted the Australia Consensus Centre in a press release that claimed it would conduct research and analysis with “global reach” and “help frame the debate on aid, agriculture and regional issues and focus on smart, long-term prior­ities”.

        A review of climate change targets was reportedly to be part of that agenda, a fact that enraged critics of Professor Lomborg, including the Greens, who label him a climate sceptic.

        After the Greens lashed UWA “for ignoring science and facilitating the Abbott government’s under­mining of any real action on climate change’’, the UWA stud­ent guild expressed its opposition.

        On April 25, academic staff formally invited vice-chancellor Paul Johnson and dean of the business school Phil Dolan to “hear the views and concerns” of campus staff. The Weekend Australian has been told that staff within the business school, where the research policy centre was to be established, were planning yesterday to invoke a little-known rule they believe­d allowed them to veto it.

        Mr Pyne told The Weekend Australian yesterday that the centre would now be established elsewhere. “We are disappointed that the university has indicated it cannot effectively deliver against the contract and is seeking to return $4m in research funds,’’ he said.

        “The government is awaiting legal advice … the government is committed to establishing the consensus methodology in Australia and to ensuring a wide range of views on issues are aired publicly. An Australian consensus centre will be established in an alter­native location.”

        The centre was to be a joint project between UWA and the Copenhagen Consensus Centre. Last month, UWA said it would “focus on apply­ing an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world, prioritising those initiatives which produce the most social value per dollar spent”.

        One of its projects was working with “several Nobel laureates and more than 80 of the world’s and Australia’s top economists” to find the smartest development goals for the UN’s post-2015 agenda, which will be adopted in New York in September.

        Professor Lomborg said he did not have details about what UWA was planning to do. “I’m struggling to understand why anyone would say they do not want to see a centre that involves some of the world’s top economists and several Nobel laureates,” he said.

      • A review of climate change targets was reportedly to be part of that agenda, a fact that enraged critics of Professor Lomborg, including the Greens, who label him a climate sceptic.

        Stop the clocks,
        get off the train,
        destination arrived at, the
        Fortress of Western Australia.

  7. Peter Lang

    Planning Engineer

    The retiring of large coal plants provides planners with challenges. The system has been built to support these units and at the same time these units have supported the system. Losing major units that the system has been built around should be expected to provide significantly more dis-benefits than benefits.

    I am concerned that the true costs of forcing wind and solar generation onto the grid have not been properly and fully accounted. Importantly the costs have not been properly attributed to the cause – i.e. incentivizing wind and solar.

    How could the expected value of wind and solar be estimated (where expected value = cost of event or situation x probability of that event or situation occurring).

    What is the total cost to the US transmission and distribution system of adding wind and solar to the grid at say 10%, 20%, 30% and 50% penetration levels. Even a rough guess would be of interest.

    • Peter – I would say the transmission system is the tail and not the dog. If the generation savings were there – we would make the transmission work. As we’ve seen transmission costs vary but average around 10% in the US. Before the renewable push transmission was probably set to rise significantly faster than the generation component and that’s probably still the expectation. With generation costs not being driven by economics, how can you really begin to guess now?

      Rough swags, because I don’t usually think at this level or time frame, as you get to 20 and 30% I would expect transmission costs to double or triple. Especially if you have long distance lines for wind.

      In some cases the renewable resources might do some good. I don’t mean to be completely negative. Clean air requirements stop us from building conventional plants withing air quality management zones where most of the load is. It’s problematic having generation farther from load centers. “Clean” technology that can be located in or closer to load centers has advantages as well. While for example solar does not provide inertial mass, when properly equipped it provides needed vars and the closer vars are the better so if solar is located in a load center it has some advantages over distant gas.

      Here’s a link to EIPC who did grid studies under DOE funding on the costs and requirements of uprating the grid for future low carbon scenarios. The information is not easily comprehensible and as I haven’t looked at it in a while – I’ve lost my familiarity with finding and citing the important figures. But I believe just looking at the higher voltage work (and not estimating work on the lower voltages which could be quite high also) the cost came close to doubling what Transmission costs would be.

      Let me note – DOE spent 10s of Millions on the study and it’s not that definitive so don’t expect much from my free swags.

      • The link – http://www.eipconline.com/Resource_Library.html

        For all I don’t mean to say the transmission considerations are prohibitive, just challenging and expensive. As noted the systems are so complex that it’s hard to get beyond generalities without detailed studies.

      • Peter Lang

        Thanks you PE. It will take me a while to dig out of that study what I am looking for.

        This study by OECD/NEA “System Effects in Low-carbon Electricity Systemshttp://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf estimates the system cost of different technologies at 10% and 30% penetration (proportion of electricity supplied); Table ES-2 “Grid level system costs for selected OECD countries (USD/MWh)” for USA at 30% penetration it estimates the cost of solar $28.27/MWh and nuclear $1.67/MWh.

        I’d be interested to hear if you believe this report seems to be a fair assessment; do you think it includes all the significant issues your post highlights and do you think the estimates seem about right?

      • I will have to see if I can get to that study Peter. I’d like to.

      • Peter Lang

        Here’s a short summary for other readers. Figure 1 shows the proportion of generation, carbon tax and grid level costs by technology average across six OECD countries. http://www.energyinachangingclimate.info/Counting%20the%20hidden%20costs%20of%20energy.pdf

      • Peter – I hadn’t seen the OCCD report. Thanks. Very interesting and looks worthwhile. I don’t think anyone in the US has shared anything similar. They seem to be concerned about the type things I am discussing. While I am just talking at the 101 level of what we need to look at, they have worked to go beyond it with numbers. I can’t tell if they included everything, been biased or not in what they used, or have too little or too much contingency related to unknowns. But the numbers and approach seem credible and reasonable. I don’t know much about the NEA or OECD or if they tend to skew research due to their goals. Till someone does anything more significant than nit picking small details, I’d be inclined to view it as good as an estimate for those potential costs as anything else out there and far superior to ignoring such costs.

      • Peter Lang

        Thank you. The OECD and NEA have been doing analyses of electricity technologies and systems since at least the 1980s. When I used to be involved they were highly regarded and trusted for competence, quality and integrity – like IEA and EPRI. I don’t know if they are now being influenced by ideology like IEA seems to be.

      • Peter – just took a look at the OECD exec summary. Very telling. One nit I would pick in figure 1 is adding a cost for carbon. I would argue that there is more likely a net benefit, or at worst, no added cost. Not your study, I know, I just think the ssc number is more political fiction used add unjustified cost.

      • Peter Lang

        Barnes,

        Yes. I agree. OECD and NEA are based in Europe and have tended to be a bit European centric for the past 30 years. I guess they are having to work within the political reality (as IEA is having to do to). Power generators are including an allowance for a future carbon cost in some form in their options analyses. So this would be influenced by what the EU (and other OECD countries electricity industries are saying they need in the options analyses). That’s the reality of our times.

  8. Peter: Your link does not seem to work…

    • Peter Lang

      John

      Thank you. The site must be down at the moment. I’ve sent Wheatley an email to let him know.

      The report is available on the “Australian Senate Select Committee on wind turbines”, Submission No, 348 here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Wind_Turbines/Wind_Turbines/Submissions
      Click on the symbol to go to end of pages, then select to display 500 submissions, then scroll down to Submission no 348.

      Others you may be interested in are Peter Lang No 259 (this explains the cost implications and the policy relevance) and Pat Swords (Ireland) (No,253 who explains how UN took the EU Environment department to the environmental court for not doing the cost benefit assessments they were required to do under EU law. The result is that wind power developments have been largely stopped.

      There are also interesting submissions from USA and Canada.

  9. Peter Lang

    This is excellent. Pity John Holdren and Obama don’t understand any of this.

  10. Don’t expect Holdren and Obama to understand ANYTHING that benefits the rank and file.

    George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

  11. I believe I understand the gist of what you’re arguing here. However, I didn’t find the lectures you linked to very helpful. (Maybe I just need to give them more of a chance.) And I am having trouble grasping mathematically what sort of transmission management costs (just approximated at the level of orders of magnitude) are imposed by bringing online X amount of renewable generation at a particular location.

    What would be useful, I think, is a high-level overview of what the mathematical structure of a simplified energy market looks like. To be realistic enough to have bearing on policy debates, this imaginary market would have to approximate the real one in some key ways. Oversimplifying, we could assume a single interconnected grid, as if the east coast interconnect existed in an economic vacuum. Further simplifying, we could assume just a handful of demand centers each with several co-located generators, forming a fully connected graph with power transmission lines of a fixed voltage, where each node has a fossil-fuel source generator of a particular capacity and a renewable generator of a particular capacity (possibly zero). It seems crucial to retain in this simplified model the fact that the marginal costs of fossil-fuel power generation are different in different locations, as reflected in the “basis” between spot prices and futures prices for fossil fuels at various places, and also that there is also considerable uncertainty in the “average” marginal cost of such generation across all locations, as reflected by the volatility of prices for standardized futures contracts for oil and natural gas. It also seems crucial to retain the strong seasonal variation in demand for electricity throughout the course of a day and a year, as well as related seasonalities in the ability of renewable (but, crucially, not fossil fuel) generators to provide supply.

    So boil everything down to just these stylized features of the markets for inputs and outputs of firms operating electricity generators. And assume a simple, three- or four-location, fully connected, fixed-capacity grid. Also assume (as seems reasonable these days) that computational limits in numerically solving whatever differential equations arise are not binding. (If they are, it seems likely that the root problem is that utilities are mismanaging their resources. Unless I’m totally off-base in my perception of our computational capacities relative to the complexity of the mathematical problems that arise, as long as utilities are managed by not-totally-dysfunctional operators, they should be able to figure out what their strategically optimal electrical generation policies should be. Computers are very fast and very cheap these days.) Given these facts, is it possible to write down a model for the optimization problem faced by rational, profit-maximizing and risk-averse utility operators? If so, by solving this model (even crudely, via simulation, if necessary) it should be possible to demonstrate exactly what sort of conditions are required for adding renewable generation capacity to the grid (at specific locations) to be socially beneficial.

    Some precisely specified results along these lines, even in this sort of highly simplified and stylized model of the energy markets, would — in my opinion — help cut through the BS. One possible outcome might be that

    (A) even making very generous (to advocates of Green energy) assumptions, it requires wild leaps of faith to achieve social benefit from the addition of renewable generation capacity at plausible levels. In that case, a study along these lines would provide very clear policy guidance about (for example) the level of negative AGW externalities required to justify solar and wind subsidies.

    Another (a priori) plausible outcome might be that

    (B) in fact many utilities *are* wildly mismanaging their resources, and — regardless of policies regarding renewable electricity generation — we should place a high priority on improving the incentives in the electricity market, e.g. through better governance, or by prioritizing funding for “smart grid” infrastructure.

    A third possibility might be that

    (C) even under very conservative assumptions, adding solar generation capacity (possibly with a certain amount of battery or other form of storage capacity) is a clear win, even if the social cost of carbon emissions is close to zero.

    It seems very important to distinguish how close reality resembles scenario (A) versus (B) versus (C). Does anyone know of any work which sheds light along these lines?

    • Energy markets are as complex as the transmission system and equally susceptible to catastrophic failure from technocratic tinkering. Recall that Enron was able to take advantage of regulatory blindspots and short-term price fluctuations to make large profits. And to throw parts of California into blackout.

      • What’s your point? I am aware that the actual markets are complex. But are you suggesting that scientific analysis and modeling cannot offer any insight into relevant policy questions? Surely not, because if so then we might as well give up and flip a coin. I made an effort to distill what I think the most relevant features of the electricity markets are. Perhaps you are suggesting that regional variation in transmission costs is actually a crucially important feature of the market, and that my proposal to assume uniform transmission capacities across the grid is an unjustifiable oversimplfication. I can believe that this might be the case, but I would appreciate seeing some concrete evidence to support such a proposition.

      • Correct, I do not think that your attempts to reduce energy markets to a simplified mathematical model would be a worthwhile pursuit.

        Market(s) for energy are both extremely complex and heavily studied by experts already. Furthermore, not all experts study the market in order to make it more efficient, economically speaking (see: Enron). The larger energy market has many players (generators, wholesalers, public utilities, consumers, etc.) whose interests will never perfectly align. Add a thick layer of political involvement (Congressional subsidies, FERC regulations, state PUCs) and it’s a miracle the lights stay on.

        That said, Planning Engineer did an excellent job presenting some of the important issues, from a transmission grid perspective, of the complications introduced by just one “good” idea — increased solar/wind generating capacity.

    • Peter Lang

      And I am having trouble grasping mathematically what sort of transmission management costs (just approximated at the level of orders of magnitude) are imposed by bringing online X amount of renewable generation at a particular location.

      As posted in my reply to PE above:

      This study by OECD/NEA “System Effects in Low-carbon Electricity Systemshttp://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf estimates the system cost of different technologies at 10% and 30% penetration (proportion of electricity supplied); Table ES-2 “Grid level system costs for selected OECD countries (USD/MWh)” for USA at 30% penetration it estimates the cost of solar $28.27/MWh and nuclear $1.67/MWh.

  12. dougbadgero

    To add to what PE said, most CE denizens can understand concepts related to the first law. All large rotating machines in sycronism represent stored energy. This stored energy represents available energy to provide transient stability during a fault, as faults can create significant short term energy imbalances. Small rotating machines and power electronic inverters do not provide this same transient stability benefit.

    • Fine fine fine. But the translation of this general observation into a policy-relevant conclusion seems like a highly-non-obvious task to me. What is the magnitude of the effect in question? Put differently, how can one assess the economic import of the “transient stability benefit” in question? We don’t need three significant digits of accuracy here. Even the order of magnitude would be useful. And I’m not seeing a recipe for calculating it. If you think there’s any easy one, I would love to be corrected.

      • Peter Lang

        Sam,

        Fine fine fine. But the translation of this general observation into a policy-relevant conclusion seems like a highly-non-obvious task to me.

        I disagree. The rational policy is to deregulate to remove government interventions. Remove governments’ intervention. They will be continually trying to pick winners based on their ideological beliefs and the pressure from NGOs and other pressure groups. But none of these groups have the competence or understanding to get involved. All they do, every time, is to stuff it up and add costs. The engineers will achieve the reliability requirements the public demands and the regulations require, but at a huge additional cost.

        I say get the government, NGO’s and everyone else out of the way, and let the utilities and their engineers provide what their customers and share holders want. There will be stuff ups, but no more so than with government interventions trying to pick winners and incentivise some technologies and disadvantage others

      • dougbadgero

        It means that we will have to spend billions on additional technological solutions to address the issues that renewables create. You want a more specific answer…..ask me after we have successfully integrated perhaps 30% solar and wind into the grid.

      • Well, smartgrid is a 1/2 trillion 20 year effort.

        So I would guess it costs about 1/2 trillion over 20 years to get much over a few percent of renewable power generation.

  13. aplanningengineer,

    Excellent post.

    I wonder if you have knowledge of the unexpected propagation of a ludicrously small fault condition into a major outage which has everybody sitting round scratching their heads wondering what the blazes just happened.

    It happens from time to time, unpredictably, in spite of all the safeguards and planning.

    I see some relevance to the climate system, where the physical principles are not nearly as clearly understood as the electrical generation, distribution and consumption system.

    Do we suffer hubris in imagining we can determine the future of the climate system when we can’t seem to do the same thing with a much better understood and controllable system, designed and built by Man?

    A post on a wide spread grid failure due to an apparently innocuous fault would possibly give many much food for thought.

    • Good point Mike Flynn. When the stadium went dark in New Orleans during the SuperBowl it was because they had put in an extra complicated “special” relay scheme to improve reliability. One small thing triggered that, The last northeast blackout had a bunch of contributing factors making a kind of muddled storm. Poor tree trimming in maybe Ohio, operators who didn’t want to curtail transactions that were making money,… I can’t remember them all but it was numerous things,
      Planners look at the system under various scenarios and apply faults in their models and make sure the system response is unacceptable ranges. If not improvements are needed. I say planners it’s foolish to think that you are really making that improvement to protect against that particular fault. What you are doing is using that approach to build a system of sufficient robustness to carry typos through what you expect and don’t expect with good enough performance. Sometimes we look at the problems and the needed improvements too narrowly and come up with a band aid solution to the specific problem that doesn’t make the system much more robust. That can lead to problems. But mostly I would say we do a good job preventing small things to have much of an impact. But in a complex system things will catch you by surprise.

      But renewables scare me some. There is the question asked here and elsewhere, how big a penetration before renewables impact reliability? It’s kind of like the question how many bolts can you remove from a bridge (or your car) till performance suffers. Certainly a couple from a bridge. As we incorporate new technology and new schemes to make it work, you’d be crazy not to expect hiccups.

  14. Planning Engineer…

    Thank you for an excellent explanation of some of the problems around transmission. Parts I had known about, others not.

    Question: would a strategy of building substantial redundant transmission, part of which would be off part of the time, with flexible and “intelligent” switching, help to alleviate the problem of intermittency?

    I realize it would add to the overall cost of switching to solar (or wind), but I’m wondering if it might be less expensive than adding appropriate amounts of storage (e.g. pumped hydro) to provide hour-scale load balancing?

    Of course, to me the ideal answer is direct solar power→Fuel, such as methane (to replace natural gas) or liquid hydrocarbons (to replace fossil). But I’m not sure what growth rate the exponential cost reductions (if any) in that area are following. So fall-back alternatives have to be considered.

    • Peter Lang

      AK,

      Have you considered simply going nuclear at about 1/2 to 1/5th the cost of solar?

      • If the cost of “simply going nuclear” is actually “about 1/2 to 1/5th the cost of solar” 15-20 years from now, then it’ll probably be the best option. (Probably by hindsight.) But, looking at it objectively, I just can’t see it. IMO the chance that solar will fail to keep up its exponential decline in cost is slim to none.

        And then, add to that the political issues around the risk. Would you support a world-wide “Nuclear Regulatory Agency” with semi-unlimited police powers, if that was the political cost of “going nuclear”?

      • Peter Lang

        AK,

        If the cost of “simply going nuclear” is actually “about 1/2 to 1/5th the cost of solar” 15-20 years from now, then it’ll probably be the best option. (Probably by hindsight.) But, looking at it objectively, I just can’t see it.

        I suggest the reason you “just can’t see it” is because you are NOT looking at it objectively. We’ve discussed the projected costs many times and you haven’t shown errors in them nor been prepared to debate them. And I remind you that they are based on optimistic assumptions for learning rates for renewables and zero learning rate for nuclear.

        I suggest it’s time for you to try an objective options analysis!

      • We’ve discussed the projected costs many times and you haven’t shown errors in them nor been prepared to debate them.

        Actually, IIRC, I used one of your estimates as a model to propose a preliminary estimate of ~28¢/watt for pumped hydro at Hoover Dam, and rather than “debate” anything your response boiled down to “you don’t know anything”. I can dig up links if you want to make an issue of it. But IMO if you do, you’ll just be trying to waste my time.

        The more important point, IMO, is that the estimates you point to invariably assume present-day technology. Even if they make “optimistic assumptions for learning rates”, they do so for the current methods, rather than being open to use of new, much cheaper methods.

        My guesses are based on (admittedly somewhat speculative) projections of technological advance and especially new synergies based in turn on analogies with other technologies (e.g. cell phone, internet, bio-tech, etc.). Which, AFAIK, you reject. You’re entitled to your opinion. In mine, you’re wrong.

      • Peter Lang

        The more important point, IMO, is that the estimates you point to invariably assume present-day technology. Even if they make “optimistic assumptions for learning rates”, they do so for the current methods, rather than being open to use of new, much cheaper methods.

        Nonsense. The estimates and the projections of futures costs I’ve referenced are from authoritative sources. You keep repeating that same disingenuous comment, despite being corrected repeatedly. On the other hand you have nothing but your beliefs which are clearly based on nothing other than hopes and wishes for it to be so – a bit like cultist’s beliefs

        My guesses are based on (admittedly somewhat speculative) projections of technological advance and especially new synergies based in turn on analogies with other technologies (e.g. cell phone, internet, bio-tech, etc.). Which, AFAIK, you reject. You’re entitled to your opinion. In mine, you’re wrong.

        Your guesses, as you admit are speculative. In fact they are based on nothing other than your hopes and wishes. You need to add a massive contingency to your estimate to cover the risk that they will not be available. You don’t admit each time you make assertive statements that renewables will do such and such by 2050, that is not based on anything realistic. And your belief that technology learning rates can be as rapid for the electricity system as for iPhones, internet and bio-tech is simply an example of extreme naivety. I’ve already explained why previously – look it up.

      • AK | May 7, 2015 at 10:13 pm |
        If the cost of “simply going nuclear” is actually “about 1/2 to 1/5th the cost of solar” 15-20 years from now, then it’ll probably be the best option. (Probably by hindsight.) But, looking at it objectively, I just can’t see it. IMO the chance that solar will fail to keep up its exponential decline in cost is slim to none….

        The above statement is simply wrong.

      • The above statement is simply wrong.

        Nope. It’s absolutely true.

      • The estimates and the projections of futures costs I’ve referenced are from authoritative sources.

        Question authority.

      • AK,
        “Actually, IIRC, I used one of your estimates as a model to propose a preliminary estimate of ~28¢/watt for pumped hydro at Hoover Dam, and rather than “debate” anything your response boiled down to “you don’t know anything”. I can dig up links if you want to make an issue of it. But IMO if you do, you’ll just be trying to waste my time.”

        This is your example of a sensible project? Hoover Dam is on a river in a narrow gorge. To get water to pump back up into the lake, a huge fore-bay lake would have to be created that maintained water level sufficient to supply pump suction head. And, of course, you would have to add those huge pumps. The Hoover Dam generator installations were never designed to operate in pump mode like those installed in the Oroville dam in California.

      • AK | May 8, 2015 at 10:28 am |
        The above statement is simply wrong.

        Nope. It’s absolutely true.

        Unlike computing, with solar there are some practical limits.

        Thin film is limited to about 29% theoretical and something less than that (26%?) practical.

        Your exponential cost decrease isn’t going to happen. In fact the solar market is getting close to the mature technology stage with most of the current technologies.

        But you don’t seem particularly interested in realistic projections.

      • Your exponential cost decrease isn’t going to happen. In fact the solar market is getting close to the mature technology stage with most of the current technologies.

        It’s my opinion that the exponential cost decrease will continue for at least another couple decades. That is an absolute fact.

        Whether my opinion is right is certainly open to debate. But I don’t intend to waste my time with arguments full of straw men and categorization errors. If you want to discuss it, you’re going to have to stop wasting my time with assertions about straw men.

        Let me give you an example. You said:

        Thin film is limited to about 29% theoretical and something less than that (26%?) practical.

        That has nothing to do with the cost/watt of solar panels. Which has been falling exponentially for decades, right up to last month.

        With such falling costs, there’s increasing incentive for people to find ways to use different approaches to cheapen the rest of the system.

        I’ve discussed it many times in the past, and you’re just wasting my time bringing it up again. IMO.

      • To get water to pump back up into the lake, a huge fore-bay lake would have to be created that maintained water level sufficient to supply pump suction head.

        No it wouldn’t. You can do the research yourself, or search back a month or two to where I discussed it in comments (on an older thread). After actually doing the research. Plenty of links there.

      • AK,
        ” You can do the research yourself, or search back a month or two to where I discussed it in comments (on an older thread). After actually doing the research. Plenty of links there.”

        I love that response. In other words, go away and dig through tens of thousands of posts, hoping to find something from you relevant to the discussion. Unlike you though, I trained as an operator when I was young to operate the pump/generate units at the Oroville Dam. I know the technology. Also, I am well familiar from later career experience with the difficulties, technically, politically, and economically, that make this a silly proposition.

        So…. “Go Fish” is not an answer.

      • I know the technology. Also, I am well familiar from later career experience with the difficulties, technically, politically, and economically, that make this a silly proposition.

        You made the assertion:

        To get water to pump back up into the lake, a huge fore-bay lake would have to be created that maintained water level sufficient to supply pump suction head.

        This is false. Try and prove your assertion. I guarantee you’ll discover you’re wrong.

    • Redundancy helps with a lot of problems. Today we operate som paths normally open (not connected) and they are closed for only certain conditions. Redundancy as a solution, as opposed to specific protection schemes, ususlly protects broadly and robustly across many system threats and errors.

      • Redundancy as a solution, as opposed to specific protection schemes, ususlly protects broadly and robustly across many system threats and errors.

        That’s certainly true in biology, at a variety of levels.

  15. Great post, PE. Helps clarify much.

  16. I’d really like to hear thing called what they are rather than given a sexy title on a technicality.

    “Renewable” sounds good and allows wind and solar to bask in the glow of hydro’s efficiency. But how renewable is wind power which requires so much hardware over such a great area? Was the landscape replaced? Was the real estate moved elsewhere? If there is to be more of it, will it continue to take up more ground and more airspace?

    How renewable is something so bloody DIFFUSE?

    Right now nobody is going to put “made with coal power” on the label of a soft drink or a toaster. But a wind turbine, maybe with some clouds, flowers and birdies, is a frequently seen commercial image, though no wind turbine has ever been manufactured with wind power. This sympathy vote is only for now. When things get old and familiar, their past sexiness matters not at all, their performance and efficiency are all they have pleading for them. By the time some bright young star of this moment hits sixty, his 2015 body art will be his fashion grave.

    Who will have the money and will to maintain/renew Spain’s wind hardware, for example? Good bet it won’t be Spaniards. How far do war guilt and EU survivalism go? Having reverted to brown coal (while still preaching green) will Germany now want to fund someone else’s alternative nonsense?

    Renewable? Really?

    All that expensive junk chewing up real estate and landscape, exposed, ageing and growing ever more inefficient…Think someone somewhere is going to feel like fixing and replacing it all? Party like it was 2007?

    You may as well ask United Artists to make Heaven’s Gate II.

    • /sarc on
      I’m disappointed. Do you really mean to tell me I can’t run my car from a roof mounted solar panel? How about I put a wind turbine on top as well?

      I only need enough power to travel at a measly 100kph for about 35 hours to get to the nearest capital city. How hard can it be? After all, I’m helping to stop the climate from changing, and God knows we all need that!

      /sarc off

      • Mike, I’m sure there’s a subsidy for that wind/solar car. Maybe it got lost amongst all the other subsidies. Try looking under “corn syrup”. It’s there somewhere.

    • “All that expensive junk chewing up real estate and landscape, exposed, ageing and growing ever more inefficient…” – moso

      Thank god all those coal fired power plants and the transmission infrastructure, cost nothing, take no space and never need replacing or maintenance.

      • “Thank god all those coal fired power plants and the transmission infrastructure, cost nothing, take no space and never need replacing or maintenance.” – Michael

        Since I never said so or thought so, and you don’t think so, we can move right along.

      • Good, then we can just ignore “requires so much hardware over such a great area” as any kind of argument.

      • I thought capitalising DIFFUSE might help. But no.

        You…are a great one (f)or editing…in (or) out only what…you…want to…be…read.

  17. “Bottom line is that any time you change generation source locations or add new generation sources, they will to some degree stress some parts of the system and unload others…”

    Sounds like an interesting linear programming problem.

  18. PE, Thx for the post. Good Background so as to give everyone a glimpse of the complexity factors. Being a EE myself I have spent my career on the plant side providing power to users. The plant side is just as challenging as the transmission side… esp. as plants get older. So as Judith would say this is also a wicked problem… with alot of wicked people working on it. Looking back a few years ago I gathered from the Obama admin folks that they expected people to buy Teslas with a couple extra batteries, install large arrays of PVs 10-20 KW to charge the batteries and inverters with maybe a backup gas generator to power their homes…. great & noble thoughts of course but totally disconnected from reality… but this is what I genuinely believed they were trying to push. The only thing that they forgot to figure in was the cost of the magic wand to accomplish that feat. I’ve always had a basic desire to be able to go off-grid – thereby diminishing somewhat the overall generation load… but the cost benefit analysis will never support it unless I could get one of those DOE grants or maybe a inheritance from some long-lost wealthy uncle ‘SAM’?

  19. The problem is that the grid is enormous and works with the trivial long distance transmission network because every region already has most of its power needs met.

    To switch to renewables the capacity of these long transmission lines would need to be an order of magnitude larger…moving hundreds of gigawatt hours a day from one region that was overproducing to another far away that was underproducing.

    The grid would also have to redesigned to accommodate rooftop solar. Rooftop solar currently gets consumed in the same area it’s produced because there is so little of it. Push it beyond levels found in germany (only in a place like the US where solar has more potential) and you run into the problem that the transformers are made to offset line losses…and running it backward through the transformers would still incur line losses but the transformers would then step the voltage DOWN.

    I did a lot of math on this and honestly, the ONLY way I could find to reasonably integrate large amounts of wind/solar…is to convert most of it into hydrogen, storing WEEKS WORTH in vast, metal lined, bored tunnels (or just huge arrays of tanks) near conventional gas fired turbine power plants…and JUST BURN IT in the power plant as fuel to buffer out the remainder of the wind/solar that’s actually providing electricity. This BTW loses about 50-60% of the energy, but its the only cost effective solution (where enormous pumped hydro storage isn’t an option…which it won’t be because environmentalists)

    But again, this is all a load of worthless crap for the brainwashed masses. Because anyone serious (and rational) about moving away from fossil fuels to an almost purely electrically powered society…would use nuclear

    • Peter Lang

      To switch to renewables the capacity of these long transmission lines would need to be an order of magnitude larger…moving hundreds of gigawatt hours a day from one region that was overproducing to another far away that was underproducing.

      Mental exercise: what would the transmission system cost if the only generation was solar power (and no storage)?

      The sunny side of the planet would have to generate all the power for the whole planet.

      Transmission would have to run right around the world and have sufficient capacity to supply peak power to meet peak demand in every individual location everywhere.

      Assume capital cost of $1000/MW.km on land an $3000/MW.km under sea.

      I did a lot of math on this and honestly, the ONLY way I could find to reasonably integrate large amounts of wind/solar…is to convert most of it into hydrogen, storing WEEKS WORTH in vast, metal lined, bored tunnels (or just huge arrays of tanks) near conventional gas fired turbine power plants…and JUST BURN IT in the power plant as fuel to buffer out the remainder of the wind/solar that’s actually providing electricity. This BTW loses about 50-60% of the energy, but its the only cost effective solution (where enormous pumped hydro storage isn’t an option…which it won’t be because environmentalists)

      There is an alternative. The solar advocates might consider (like AK) :)

      Nuclear fuel stores all the energy needed for use on demand. The energy density is so great a country can store years or decades of energy in a few warehouses. This provides the ultimate answer to energy security. There an effectively unlimited supply of it, so it is genuinely sustainable effectively indefinitely.

  20. Some weeks ago I saw a video lecture concerning the situation in Germany ( http://mediathek.cesifo-group.de/iptv/player/macros/cesifo/mediathek ).

    I remember perhaps 2 additional points
    – the less conventional power generators there are in the system, the less is the rotating mass that can serve to balance sudden load changes which increases stability issues.
    – the remaining fossil generators have to be run at lower average loads which lowers the efficiency and reduces life time.

    – as for some numbers I remember (grossly):
    total electric energy consumption in Germany 600TWh
    installed renewables about 150 TWh (2013).
    to replace all nonrenewable sources they currently plan to convert surplus renew. energy into H2 and to convert it back by (currently unavailable) turbines with a total efficiency of about 0.4.
    so according to my gross calculation there would have to be a total renewable capacity of 600/0.4=1500TWh plus the required additional infrastructure. They will not need all 600TWh from H2 so lets say 300 which still gives a total of 300+300/0.4=1050. So 7 times the current installation.

    And thats only for current electricity use which is 23% of primary energy input.

    Currently there’s already increasing grassroots opposition to additional wind turbines and transmission lines.

    The Professor admitted to be praying each evening that fusion may work soon.

  21. Another informative and valuable post from PE. Hopefully, congressional staffers on both sides are reading these posts. It would be interesting to see this info cross-posted to other sites or published in print media. Have you attempted to post anywhere besides CE?

    • Barnes — And what broad conclusions do you (and Others here at CE) reach on Renewable Energy in reading this blog post by Planning Engineer?

      • Peter Lang

        Stephen Segrest,

        what broad conclusions do you reach on Renewable Energy in reading this blog post by Planning Engineer?

      • Stephen – my take is summerized in my response to Moso above:
        https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/07/transmission-planning-wind-and-solar/#comment-700929. From the link I provided in that comment:

        “Renewable technologies are often less damaging to the climate and create fewer toxic wastes than conventional energy sources. But meeting the world’s total energy demands in 2030 with renewable energy alone would take an estimated 3.8 million wind turbines (each with twice the capacity of today’s largest machines), 720,000 wave devices, 5,350 geothermal plants, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, 40,000 solar photovoltaic plants, and 49,000 concentrated solar power systems. That’s a heckuva lot of neodymium”.

        Based on what I read here and other sites, my opinion is that solar and wind can not replace fossil fuels and do not warrant the kind of subsidy that they have received, or any subsidy for that matter. I am not saying that those who want to pursue those technologies should necessarily stop, I just think they should do it on their own dime using the same type of tax incentives that every other industry uses. I know you will counter with your argument about subsidies for Nuclear and fossil fuels, and I don’t entirely disagree. However, those solutions are in fact real and have been proven to provide the energy needed to power our economy, and, they, or at least fossil fuel technology, was developed largely without government assistance – there was no tax code available to to abuse when Rockefeller drilled his first well and built his first refinery, and the government of the mid to late 1800s was not writing checks to private industry for anything with the possible exception of defense related expenditures.

        Plus, unlike with solar, the feds have never incented consumers to buy and use fossil fuels, nor has anything like net metering ever applied to the use of fossil fuels. Net metering is, to me, an especially egregious form of subsidy in that it effectively pays “suppliers” a retail or even above retail rate for electricity while potentially wreaking havoc with the grid at great expense.

      • Peter Lang

        Barnes,

        . I know you will counter with your argument about subsidies for Nuclear and fossil fuels, and I don’t entirely disagree.

        I suggest you don’t accept this argument so readily.

        First, the subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels (for electricity generation) are negligible in comparison with the subsidies for renewables (per MWh of electricity delivered).

        Second, the subsidies for nuclear are not a fraction of what would be needed to balance the impediments on nuclear that governments have imposed over the past 50 years. These come in the form of regulatory ratcheting that has increased the cost by a factor of four up to 1990 and probably doubled that since to a factor of eight. Here’s a recent example from Sweden (all countries have their own version; in Australia federal legislation bans nuclear power from being considered as an option.

        Here’s an example of the irrational distortions that are blocking nuclear power:

        Dr Staffan Qvist from Uppsala University:

        To their credit, the greens of the current government have come up with a quite clever way to phase out nuclear. The law allowing new-build still stands but has been rendered moot due to the implementation and subsequent increases in a nuclear-specific tax called the “effect tax” (separate from the tax paid to finance the repository). It’s a tax of about $25000/MW-thermal of installed power per year, to be paid monthly, even if the plant is not in operation. It is thus completely disconnected from electricity production, and is only levied on nuclear. The extra tax of $100m/year per large reactor, on top of all other taxes, plus the heavy subsidy of construction of large amounts of un-needed wind and solar and the dumping of cheap coal on the European market means that at current electricity prices some of the nuclear plants are “economically uncompetitive”. The government then claims that nuclear “can’t compete in the market”, nuclear proceeds to decommission itself, without any law imposed for this and any settlement payments.

        http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/05/05/environmental-and-health-impacts-of-a-policy-to-phase-out-nuclear-power-in-sweden#comment-405169

      • Peter Lang

        The first sentence was intended to be shown as a quote:

        I know you will counter with your argument about subsidies for Nuclear and fossil fuels, and I don’t entirely disagree.

      • And, some more info that I have not yet researched for validity from another commenter at: http://thebulletin.org/myth-renewable-energy

        If you or anyone else can comment on the veracity of these statements, I’d be interested to read said comments.

        Solar Panels.

        Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University estimates the production of just 6 solar panels requires one ton of coal. This works out to about 660 lbs of coal per square yard of solar panel. This is because the silicon has to be baked at 2,000°F. One company cut down 5 acres of woodland to install solar panels to manufacture plastic bags.

        The manufacture of solar panels lets off some of the deadliest greenhouse gases known to humankind. These include hexafluoroethane (12,000 times stronger than CO2), nitrogen trifluoride (17,000 times stronger than C02), and sulfur hexafluoride (23,000 times stronger than C02). Solar manufacturing plants produce 500 tons of hazardous sludge each per year. This sludge is never included in the solar industry carbon footprint data. Chinese solar waste disposal firms have been witnessed dumping this waste behind school yards.

        Five kilograms of hydrogen chloride per square meter of solar panel is used to liquefy the metallic silicon. Silicon carbide is used to cut the silicon into wafers. Cadmium telluride panels, or emerging thin film technologies, utilize untested nanomaterials that pose a threat to the environment and workers during the manufacturing and recycling stage.

        Dust, humidity, haze, and even heat dramatically affect solar panel output. Solar panels lose up to 1% of their efficiency each year lasting some 20 – 30 years, after which they become toxic waste, containing things like cadmium and other heavy metals. While the cost of the silicon wafers are dropping, they only make up 20% of the installed costs. The expensive power inverters solar panels require break down every 5-10 years and have to be replaced.

        ► Wind Turbines.

        The manufacture of 5, one-megawatt, wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of hazardous waste water used to extract and process the needed neodymium. Neodymium is a rare earth mineral. Rare earth minerals are not rare, but they are found in very low concentrations. Neodymium is extracted from crushed rocks using sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. Then it is processed using solvents, heating and vacuum techniques that require plenty of coal power. Vast unregulated tailings ponds of poisonous water have destroyed whole villages in China.

        There are 16 other rare elements. All with the same story.

        There is no known replacement for neodymium. During its mining, metals such as arsenic, barium, copper, aluminum, lead and beryllium are released into the air and water, and are toxic to human health. Neodymium is only one of many rare-earth metals that our smart phones and green energy systems need.

        Wind turbines only produce 25% of their rated power output over 90% of the time. This means that fossil fuel plants have to burn fuel on standby in case the wind suddenly drops. Since this power is intermittent, we would need at least ten times as much solar-wind power to displace one unit of fossil fuel power.

        It is possible to build wind turbines without rare earth elements, but doing so increases the complexity, decreases reliability, and jacks the generator weight up, which in turn means all the support structures have to be more massive, all of which results in higher cost.

        ► Rechargeable Batteries.

        The rechargeable lithium ion batteries we use in everything from the Tesla Electric Car, and Prius Plug-In Car, down to our smart phones, all rely on one critical component―graphite. Graphite is one of the main causes of the terrible air pollution in China. It comes from airborne particles given off by mining operations and washes down from the sky with the rain. Graphite particles foul the air and water; they also damage crops and human lung tissue. This type of smog has gotten so bad that China has shut down several of their graphite mines, creating a shortage and higher prices. Even the mining operations for the newer liquid metal or molten salt batteries for 100% “green” energy would poison the biosphere.

      • Barnes (and Others) — I understand your overall view on Renewables but my question is on Planning Engineer’s technical post on transmission. Is/are there a major conclusion(s) on Renewables that you feel one can take away from today’s post on transmission issues (like members of Congress)?

      • Stephen Segrest | May 8, 2015 at 10:50 am |
        Barnes (and Others) — I understand your overall view on Renewables but my question is on Planning Engineer’s technical post on transmission. Is/are there a major conclusion(s) on Renewables that you feel one can take away from today’s post on transmission issues (like members of Congress)?

        Incentivize new nuclear construction to save us from the damaging effects of renewables on the environment and our power grid.

      • Stephen – yes, I think PE summarized the key takeaways quite well:

        Greater penetration of renewable resources will limit the options available to operators while at the same time increasing uncertainty around expected generation patterns. To accommodate such uncertainty the choices are to: 1) increase grid costs and infrastructure, 2) limit the operational flexibility of the grid , 3) increase generation costs through backup generation resources or 4) live with increased risks and degraded reliability. Likely all four are and will continue to occur to some extent as the penetration of intermittent resources increases.

        Personally, I do not think it is worth the risk to continue moving forward as we are now with renewables. Our money would be much better spent on adapting our infrastructure to an ever changing climate, and putting money towards researching viable replacement technologies, especially nuclear.

      • Stephen – to net it out, renewables simply are not ready for prime time, so to speak. Forcing utilities via RPS or to meet Co2 reduction goals in general will have serious negative consequences and we will be squandering financial and intellectual capital chasing the impossible dream of running our economy using solar and wind.

      • When I asked planning engineer (up thread) if he would go down the path of significantly adding wind/solar to the grid he said:

        “I like most Planning Engineers would not recommend that path even though it would likely be lucrative, involve interesting work and job security for us all. There may be something wrong with us.”

        This is my take away from this post and discussion.

      • Peter Lang

        Barnes and Mark Siebert,

        Excellent discussion and summary of reality. Thank you.

        Stephen Segrest, you strike me as being a cultist and incapable of challenging your beliefs you’ve developed by joining the Green’s Cult. I don’t expect to find anything useful in your comments.

  22. I’ve never understood the electrical grid. I’ll check the linked lecture.

    The trouble I have is transmission speed, and thinking of each generator as a transmitter. Somehow phases for each generator have to be found that wind up in phase with every other generator after highly variable transmission delays between them.

    I don’t see how this can work out without huge standing waves, and huge voltage peaks and nulls on the lines. Which it obviusly must not.

    • Maybe this will help. Electricity moves through the grid at near the speed of light. Delays are small. Inductive elements (transformers, wires) tend to slow current waves, while capacitive elements (capacitors) tend to slow voltage waves. We balance these elements so the two don’t get too far out of whack. When the voltage and current waves are out of synch at the delivery source usually the voltage is ahead of the current and we put capacitors there to slow down the voltage wave (which also raises the voltage) so the two line up at what we call unity power factor. Generators have the ability to consume or create what we call reactive power (or imaginably power, or vars) and proper var levels help keep the voltage and current waves in synch as well.

      http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/powfac.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_factor

      • Copper has 8.46xE28 conduction electrons per m3. The Fermi energy is about 7 ev. There are 6.241E18 electrons in a coulomb and an amp is a coulomb per second. If you do the math for copper the drift velocity is some small fraction of a cm/s (hundredths).

        If there were no net DC drift current on the line, in theory due to the applied voltage alone and the resulting drift current, an electron in an AC power line would never leave its local inch of wire.

        However I have measured the propagation speed of electrical potential through copper wire more times than I care to count and the 6/10 of foot per nanosecond for copper (7.2 inches) is pretty accurate. It is between 6 inches and 7.5 inches depending on the transmission characteristics of the copper (the stripline/microstripline traces common to PCBs are about 6 inches/nanosecond).

        Pushing electric current through copper wire at the speed of light would result in explosive vaporization, probably by the time the electron velocity hit inch/second speeds.

      • The “speed of light” in copper is about 2E8 m/s as opposed to the 299,792,458 m/s “Speed of light” speed in free space. Light in copper travels at about 2/3rds of the speed of light. Since Free Space is impossibility expensive on the surface of the earth the speed of light and electricity locally is always less than 299,792,458 m/s.

      • Even at the speed of light, you’re 180 degrees out of phase after 1500 miles. But the cycles move considerably slower owing to the telegrapher’s equation or whatever it is for transmission lines, from the interplay of capacitance and inductance in the lines themselves.

        So I don’t see how the phases work out over loops and distances without huge standing waves in the solution.

        Obviously I’m wrong about this but I don’t see the trick.

        What does a phase map of the US look like?

      • It may be of course that the important thing in synchronization is phase velocity rather than group velocity, and one might be the reciprocal of the other w.r.t. the speed of light, which might mean that faster-than-light propagation reduces the sizes of the grids to small phase angles.

        I’d supposed that what people actually do is run the generators to lean into the environmental phase that they see, so you get automatic synchronization at whatever phase delay is necessary and you only regulate the power you’re adding. This ought to produce standing waves though.

      • rhhardin,
        “I’d supposed that what people actually do is run the generators to lean into the environmental phase that they see, so you get automatic synchronization at whatever phase delay is necessary and you only regulate the power you’re adding. This ought to produce standing waves though”

        In general, you are correct. At each generating unit is a phase meter. While there are electronic schemes used in newer installations, older plants still have the rotary phase meters. They were basically motors with three phase stators and three phase rotors. The rotor display needle rotated clockwise when your generator output frequency was slightly faster than line frequency. Manually paralleling a generator onto the line, you adjusted the generator speed to be slightly fast and closed the breaker just as the synchroscope needle is almost straight up. Straight up indicated the generator and line were exactly in phase. Being slightly fast allowed the generator to pick up some load. You could then open the throttle (typically wicket gates) to push megawatts out onto the line. The units voltage regulator was used to control the lead or lag of the generator current relative to the voltage. That was what an operator at a power plant would see.

        Transmission system operators see things differently. The issue of phase differences between two sides of a transmission line system breaker can be a problem. The sequence that lines are energized can effect that problem. There may be a noticeable bump in the system if a big phase differences exist when lines are closed into the system.

        As for RF antenna transmission line similarities, yes that is an issue, especially during line faults. The protective relaying on long transmission lines can be fairly complex. Simply monitoring for high current is not adequate. It is such a problem that an important method for detecting line faults on those long lines is to transmit low frequency RF pulses along the lines from both ends and trip the line if the received pulse is missing or arriving at the wrong time.

      • Peter Lang

        There is some excellent information being imparted on this thread. Thank you Planning Engineer for writing the post that is bringing all this out, and thank you rhhardin, Gary Wescom and others for participating and imparting your extensive knowledge.

        And thank you Judith Curry for the wide variety of subjects cover in invited post on Climate Etc.

      • I suppose it’s possible that synchronization is not synchronization with each other, and that phase differences in fact mark the direction and amount of power transmission, from leading phase to lagging phase.

        That idea at least has the virtue of getting rid of inconsistencies in the phase map.

        If so, then dropping a load or a line will change all the phase differences as the power routing changes.

        Everybody synchronizes with a different mathematical phase that’s compatible with the power transmission graph. That phase changes depending on loads and generators.

        But that’s just from thinking about what must be true.

  23. “All models are wrong, some are useful” – George Box.

    From the post:
    “On the grid power does not flow downhill, take the shortest path or move from areas of high to low pressure. The grid cannot be well understood as a highway system or a set of pipelines.”

    I am an electrical engineer having done modeling on very complicated electrical networks using the “correct” electrical engineering equations and principles. But to form a simple mental picture of what is happening, I always use the model of a set of pipes connected via sink or source nodes.

    A simple model of the grid as a set of pipelines, with different pipe thicknesses, connected via sink (like taps using water) and source (like pumps giving water) nodes, each taking according to how much open that tap is or how strong the pump is, is also a wrong model, but for me it is very useful to form a simple mental picture of the flow of energy from different sources (power stations) to sinks (users).

    I agree it’s wrong, but is helps me to have a simple mental picture.

    I further admit that it’s wrong to say that power flows downhill, but similar (but not exactly equal) to a set of pipes connected via nodes with pumps and taps, as the water will flow via different pipes predominantly from the biggest pump with the highest capacity and water pressure to the tap that’s the widest open, the power will predominantly flow from the power station generating the most power to the user using the most power. But similar to the piping network, it depends on the network, but the similarity is good for forming a simple mental picture of what is happening.

    The similarity of course breaks down if you get an electrical network collapse and the generators looses synchronization.

    • It can be a good helpful metaphor if you don’t stretch it too far, or mistake it for the full reality. it’s good for a lot of flow examples. For stability some talk about horses, chariots and wagons tied together sometimes with ropes of differing elasticity, or springs and weights. I like to think of rotating machines as the foundation of swaying towers and transmission lines like beams connecting the towers. In some ways they give the towers more stability but they also can tug and pull them as well. Re-enforcements are critical. Multiple tightly coupled towers can pull down distant single towers. If the boards are not strong enough the units will sway and break the system. It works well to understand the problem of connecting distant sets of generators together. If you have two tightly bound generator groups separated by a big distance the beams connecting them have to be strong enough to cover the situation where the two areas rock against each other. Going long distance with wind, the problem is not putting up lines that will carry enough (like pipes) but having the lines strong enough with enough interconnections to hold up as the systems rock against each other.

    • Peter Lang

      Pieter Steenekamp and Planning Engineer. Thank you.

  24. California is investing in battery backup for intermittent solar and wnd. Does this help assure a steady load and improved planning?

    • California is investing in grid battery experiments. All too small so far to address the issues PE discribes so well. See essay California Dreaming. What saves California now it its ability to import flexible hydropower from the Colorada rivers Lakes Meade and Powell.

      • Peter Lang

        99% of electricity storage globally is in pumped hydro energy storage. Nothing else comes close. This provides a reality check on the viability of batteries.

      • Peter Lang

        I should have said “electricity storage” not “energy storage” because there is massive amounts of energy stored in fossil fuels, uranium, thorium and biomass.

      • @Peter Lang;
        99% of electricity storage globally is in pumped hydro energy storage. Nothing else comes close.
        Piles of coal delivered to power plants dwarfs that number.
        That’s how big the problem of electrical energy demand is.

    • ordvic | May 8, 2015 at 10:50 am | Reply
      California is investing in battery backup for intermittent solar and wnd. Does this help assure a steady load and improved planning?

      Well, batteries are incredibly dirty. However, Tesla is paying $180/KWH for their batteries. We’ll assume this is more realistic than the current $500-700 per KWH.

      California, the home of the reality interface challenged is making the utilities buy 1.3 gigawatts of batteries. 1.3 GW * $180 /KWH = $234 million. That would backup 6-2000 MW nuclear power plants for 1 hour. The battery packs have a lifetime of 5-10 years depending on how much degradation you tolerate.

      California consumes 57 GW peak. So at peak load the 1.3 GW of batteries would provide about 1.4 minutes of power. That is $167 million per minute of backup power storage. If the $100/KWH target for battery cost is met – that would only be around $93 million per minute.

      This is fine for smoothing and compensation for generation lag to some extent. I can sort of see the business case for it.

      PE may be able to provide insight on how valuable that 1.4 minutes of power will be.

    • I don’t quite know what to say. If it “assures” more steady load that would help some planning. With new stuff performance and intention don’t always mesh. More certainty is good for planning, less is bad.
      How technology performs in the real world versus our models is always a struggle. I’d give a different answer if in the event of some common cause massive battery outage the system needed to cover it, versus not. I’d guess we would count that battery failures would be random,

      Power system stability might have a different answer than Generation planning versus load flow. Touching one of these – I have a pretty good idea how a large coal or nuclear plant will perform during transient fault conditions on the transmission system. We’re all guessing to a good extent when it comes to our load. What about battery inverter systems by different manufactures on different production runs?

    • Beta Blocker

      ristvan: “California is investing in grid battery experiments. All too small so far to address the issues PE describes so well. See essay California Dreaming. What saves California now is its ability to import flexible hydropower from the Colorado River’s Lakes Meade and Powell.”

      Adoption of the renewables is strictly a public policy decision. A majority of the voters in California have elected politicians who strongly support a transition into the renewables. If we take the position that the customer is always right, then the voters of California have spoken and should be given just what it is they say they want.

      And if the cost of grid-supplied electricity in California doubles or triples as a consequence of an aggressive move into the renewables, one dictated by a government-imposed public policy, so be it. California is a rich state and the Californians believe they can afford it.

      It would be an exceptionally useful experiment in managing the adoption of renewable energy technologies to isolate California from all external sources of fossil, nuclear, and hydropower generation and to rely instead upon solar and wind backed by a combination of grid-scale energy storage facilities and gas-fired backup generation capacity.

      There is no question but that pursuing such an experiment would require that significant energy conservation measures be adopted in California, measures which might reduce baseload electricity demand by perhaps one-third (or more) of the state’s current demand.

      In any case, for those who play their cards right, much profit can be made in California’s energy marketplace by going whole hog into supporting an aggressive transition into the renewables. There is nothing immoral about generating handsome profits by giving your customers just what it is they want at a price those customers are willing to pay.

      As for those in California who are employed in the power industry and who are concerned about rising costs to energy consumers and about the possibility of reduced grid stability, the only possible answer can be, “Don’t worry, be happy. Do what your management tells you to do to the best of your ability — no more, no less — and don’t ever give it a second thought. It’s not your problem.”

      • BetaBlocked, What you say is true. Just understand that those California voter/customers might well also go dark. And might not be happy thereafter. Sort of like Beverly Hills grass lawns going brown from drought restrictions. Word is, they are not happy. But they opposed more dam water storage in the Sierras. California’s population grew 87% since 1970; its water storage grew 26%. essay False Alarms. Self inflicted water wounds good mainly for laughs. Soon to be electricity wounds also. More laughs.
        You might try living in reality, rather than dreamland.

      • Peter Lang

        ristvan,

        I agree. Furthermore, the electors clearly do not understand the risks and costs. When the system collapses they’ll blame the government. This is why posts like this by Planning Engineer and the discussion on this thread is enormously valuable. Unfortunately only a minuscule proportion of electors read this, let alone understand it. Then there is a large proportion of electors who don’t want to understand – some of them are blogging on this thread.

      • Beta Blocker

        Rud and Peter, I am not in any way underestimating the technical and political risks of attempting to turn California’s energy marketplace into a bold experiment in the accelerated adoption of renewable energy resources. Murphy’s Law, Renewable Energy Corollary, says that anything can and will happen. This is why we must perform large-scale prototypical experiments in renewable energy technology to see what works and what doesn’t, both technically and politically.

        Both of you may be highly skeptical that such a bold experiment could ever be initiated in California; but on the other hand, Governor Brown has issued an Executive Order which instructs all state agencies in California to place reductions in the state’s GHG emissions at the top of the list of considerations to be addressed in any decisions those state agencies make.

        The specific details of Governor Brown’s carbon emission reduction plan will be available in September 2015. If we decided we wanted to turn California’s energy marketplace into a bold experiment in the accelerated adoption of renewable energy resources using the latest bleeding-edge technologies, the Governor’s forthcoming GHG reduction plan would be the most logical and appropriate means to do it.

        Presuming that some number of people working in California state government read Climate Etc. on a regular basis, we should say to these people, here is your golden opportunity to become heroes in the fight against climate change by working diligently towards a goal of achieving 50% renewable power generation in California by 2030.

      • Peter Lang

        BetaBlocker

        This is why we must perform large-scale prototypical experiments [in the state of California] in renewable energy technology to see what works and what doesn’t, both technically and politically.

        I am not persuaded.

        What is the population of California? What is the GDP of California? What would be the damage cost and fatalities that would result from a major and sustained power outage (no water to households, no gasolene, no food, no phone, no internet, unable to access banks for money)?

        If you are willing to advocate for such an experiment, I’d see little difference in advocating for mass drug experiments when even with no evidence they’d succeed and very high risk they fail and have serious consequences.

        I suggest you haven’t thought this through.

        I hope the people running the state of California have more sense.

      • Beta Blocker

        Beta Blocker: This is why we must perform large-scale prototypical experiments [in the state of California] in renewable energy technology to see what works and what doesn’t, both technically and politically.

        Peter Lang: “I am not persuaded.”

        I didn’t think you would be. And predictably, I was right.

        Peter Lang: “What is the population of California? What is the GDP of California? What would be the damage cost and fatalities that would result from a major and sustained power outage (no water to households, no gasolene, no food, no phone, no internet, unable to access banks for money)?”

        California has a population of 40 million people, a diverse set of geographic landforms suitable for experimentation with wind and solar, a large and reasonably diverse economy, and most importantly, a voting population which has expressed its opinion at the ballot box that they are willing to do whatever may be necessary to achieve a renewable energy future for their state.

        Peter Lang: “If you are willing to advocate for such an experiment, I’d see little difference in advocating for mass drug experiments when even with no evidence they’d succeed and very high risk they fail and have serious consequences.”

        That’s your opinion. Mine is that some large region somewhere in the United States must be the first to push the adoption of renewables to its absolute technical and political limits. California is the logical place and the Californians are the logical people to accept this challenge. If anyone can get the job done, it is the Californians who will get it done.

        Peter Lang: “I suggest you haven’t thought this through.”

        Well of course I’ve thought this through. That is why last fall I asked Planning Engineer how he would go about managing the transition of California’s energy landscape so as to achieve 50% renewables for the power grid by 2030. Planning Engineer’s response was that it can be done successfully with enough planning and with enough money, if Californians are willing to do the planning and are willing to spend the money.

        Peter Lang: “I hope the people running the state of California have more sense.”

        The people now running California say they want a renewable energy future for their state. Year in, year out, voters in California consistently elect these people to public office.

        Now, it may be that California’s politicians are truly sincere about it and that at some point in the future, they will be taking decisive action to push for adoption of the renewables in their state.

        Or, it may be that their supposed commitment to the renewables is merely a talking point intended to pander to environmentally conscious voters in California; and they will be doing nothing of real substance to accomplish their stated goal.

        What happens next in California after Governor Brown’s GHG emission reduction plan is published in September 2015 will give us an indication as to whether or not the Californians are as truly serious about moving their state into a renewable energy future as they claim they are.

      • Peter Lang

        Beta Blocker,

        <blockquote.Peter Lang: “I am not persuaded.”
        I didn’t think you would be. And predictably, I was right. </blockquote.

        Of course your prediction was correct because you don't have a sensible rational case to make. You didn't provide a sensible case in your original comment and when asked you hedged and dodged all the way. You still couldn't provide any sensible case to support your ridiculous scheme.

        You need to address the central questions about the expected monetary value (EMV) of the costs and benefits http://www.brighthubpm.com/risk-management/48245-calculating-expected-monetary-value-emv/ . But I know you can't or wont because the EMV wouldn't be within an order of magnitude of supporting your crazy scheme.

      • Beta Blocker

        Peter Lang: “Of course your prediction was correct because you don’t have a sensible rational case to make. You didn’t provide a sensible case in your original comment and when asked you hedged and dodged all the way. You still couldn’t provide any sensible case to support your ridiculous scheme.”

        Any serious effort to achieve a substantial reduction of GHG emissions in California can’t use EMV numbers applied to renewable energy investments as a measure of success or failure. The measure of success or failure in California is the number of tons of carbon no longer emitted once significant energy conservation measures have been taken and after carbon emitting energy resources have been substantially eliminated in favor of green energy resources. Another measure of success or failure is the willingness of Californians to accept a less energy intensive lifestyle once their individual carbon footprints have been greatly reduced.

        I don’t have to build a case for using California as an experiment in rapid adoption of the renewables. The case for pushing the pace of adoption of the renewables to its absolute technical and political limits has already been presented to the voters of California by Governor Brown, simply by the fact that he has published an ambitious anti-carbon Executive Order. California voters show every sign of being on board with the Governor’s ambitious GHG reduction goals, as outlined in his Executive Order, and they also show every sign they will continue to vote for politicians who are strong advocates of green energy technologies.

        The California greens say they can make the renewables work. If the Californians honestly intend to become the nation’s pathfinders in aggressively adopting renewable technologies, then who cares what the EMV numbers are, because the ultimate goal is to reduce GHG emissions, whatever it takes, whatever it costs. If the Californians are serious about it, they themselves will step up to the plate and will accept the responsibilities and the sacrifices which go with the territory in pushing the bleeding edge of green energy technology.

        At Governor Brown’s direction, the Grand California Experiment in Renewable Technology is already underway. That train has already left the station, but it hasn’t yet gained full speed and full momentum. For those of us who live and work outside of California, and for those who might be of the opinion that nuclear makes a lot more sense for the Californians than does expanded wind and solar, it is not in our best interests to stand in the way of the Californians as they pursue their experiment in finding innovative ways to greatly reduce their state’s GHG emissions. Our best course of action is to stand back and take careful notes while the Californians discover what works and what doesn’t as their grand experiment moves forward.

    • Years ago, I was on a tour of the Princeton Plasma Physics lab. They had these huge housings on the floor which they said contained cement flywheels that they used to gradually pull power off the grid so that when they turned on the tokomak they didn’t black out New Jersey. I’ve always assumed that utilities and their suppliers have considered every possible means of energy storage, so the economics of flywheels are probably pretty unfavorable. But it has a certain elegant appeal.

  25. Planning Engineer I’m not in the field today, saw your post, and thought I’d comment.

    Up front, I again what to state that I think you are a “good faith guy”. I think its totally appropriate to talk about problems. But its also appropriate to talk about achieved and potential solutions to these problems.

    Today, we are witnessing the greatest “experiment” on G-T-D technical issues ever done by the German experiment. Very interesting, and for us Geeks, fascinating.

    In viewing this experiment, there is just one thing you can’t walk away from (though most here at CE do so) — the internationally accepted engineering metric of SAIDI (system average interruption duration index), where Germany has built “the” or certainly one the most reliable integrated electricity systems in the World.

    Want to talk about other measures, say of catastrophic losses? Fine, lets compare Germany with ERCOT (Texas).

    As a casual observer of this experiment I ask “How is Germany doing what it is doing?”

    Our World is changing so dramatically not just in engineering hardware but software also. I wonder if Germany is just ahead of the U.S. on this technology learning curve on things like (just dealing with transmission): HTSCs, EHV ac and high-voltage direct current (dc) lines, high-voltage transmission overlays, superconductors, PMUs, DLR systems, VSC voltage source converters, dc mesh network using VSC high-voltage dc, FCLs, SIPS, FACTS.

    Much of this technology (e.g., especially PMUs and how to fully use it) is just now finding its way into U.S. electric utilities.

    Tomorrow’s World is just going to be much different than today’s current World in the U.S.

    • Stephen – I’ve often thought about doing a post on the very topic of German SAIDI, because I think it is so misleading. Reliability means different things in different contexts. Nothing I’ve written is meant to address the SAIDI type reliability concerns. I won’t try to doge it but hit it head on. This may sound strange to you and I don’t know if I can do it justice quickly, but having good SAIDI numbers and ensuring an “adequate level of reliability” for the bulk system are two different and possibly at times conflicting things.

      See this NERC posting on Adequate level of reliability – http://www.nerc.com/files/Adequate_Level_of_Reliability.pdf

      It does not say anything about avoiding minor local outages which make up the bulk of the SAIDI numbers.

      Reliability has a meaning that does apply with SAIDI. For a Bulk Planner – I am mostly concerned with avoiding cascading outages, voltage collapse, and instability. My transmission system is 99.9+% reliable but sometimes we lose load. I’m comfortable that we lose load sometimes and I would never try to get it to zero. Dropping load is a good way to help keep the system stable.

      I am sometimes concerned by those who want to improve our SAIDI by faster switching and automatic schemes to restore service quickly. It improves the one “reliability” measure, but letting the operators look at the situation and add load back manually can reduce the chance that you impact the overall backbone reliability.

      Here’s an example of a choice a utility could make that shows the differences. I might put in a bunch of voltage relays to trip load during voltage depressions. It helps ensure the system will recover quickly and effectively to drop some load. The system will be more stable from a bulk perspective but have more SAIDI outages. Similarly with underfrequency load shedding programs, I could (well I’d be breaking some rules) cut the amount of load I shed in response to frequency deviations in half. There is probably enough margin in their that the system would be fine and for the most part it would improve my SAIDI numbers, but I would be skating much closer to having a major problem.

      Germany’s SAIDI numbers are good because they are a dense load area without radial lines. They’ve also put a lot of money in automatic reclosing schemes. No body’s said they did transmission for low cost. That tells me that when their system is up and running they will be able to get power to their customers through redundancy and switching. It doesn’t tell me at all how susceptible they might be to voltage collapse, or instability problems that might cause a major system outage.

    • I’m not sure of what the ERCOT to Germany comparison is. Comparing ERCOT, our most “advanced” region in regards to “clean” technology to the rest of the US raises my reliability concerns for renewables.

    • Peter Lang

      Want to talk about other measures, say of catastrophic losses? Fine, lets compare Germany with ERCOT (Texas).

      That comparison is not valid. ERCOT is an isolated grid. Germany’s generators feed into a massive European interconnected grid. Germany’s intermittent renewables are backed up by reliable, dispatchable generators in 22 surrounding countries and 10 immediate neighbours.

      As a casual observer of this experiment I ask “How is Germany doing what it is doing?”

      Because of the backup from the other countries.

      • Peter,

        And yet somehow, Germany’s grid is more reliable than its neighbours.

        Strange.

      • Peter Lang

        Michael, firstly, Germany’s in not an isolated grid. It is part of an interconected grid and the 22 other countries that are part of the grid provide the reliable, dispatchable back up for Gemany’s Greens driven, ideological obsession with unreliable, unsustainable renewable energy.

        Second, read this comment: https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/07/transmission-planning-wind-and-solar#comment-701000

      • Peter,

        If they are so interconnected, why are they all less reliable than Germany??

      • Peter Lang

        That’s about the dumbest question you’ve asked Michael. Have you read this an previous posts by Planning Engineer? If so, clearly you haven’t understood much. Do you think the reliability is the same every across the NEM?

  26. Stephen – thanks for the good faith assumption. Let me assure you I have struggled with the SAIDI – Reliability – Bulk -Reliability longer than I have been worried about renewable impacts.

  27. Planning Engineer: I select SAIDI because its an internationally accepted engineering metric — something we can quantify and compare one System to another.

    If there are better internationally recognized engineering metrics that Utilities compile data on that we can compare — I’m all ears, what are they?

    • Among useful measures I would choose the best. Being the best but not useful or applicable does not carry a lot of weight. When it comes to grid blackouts in the US, I believe the southeast US has stood out for not having any. I wouldn’t be surprised to find though that the SAID levels there are not among the best. Maybe the southeast US has just been lucky when it comes to big outages, or maybe SAID does not have a lot to do with bulk reliability.

      No dispute with the German findings that if you have a dense area that includes high levels of renewables and a first rate transmission system and you spend a bit on your transmission you can have excellent SAIDI numbers.

      Help me understand your SAIDI argument. If you are saying that Germany was able to improve SAIDI by adding renewables and reducing transmission costs – that would be quite a claim. A lesser but still very good claim would be that Germany kept transmission spending at similar levels and with the addition of renewables was able to improve SAIDI. I still would be impressed if Germany added renewables and kept costs and SAIDI where they were before – if that’s what you are claiming. But to say Germany added renewables and improved SAID while spending more money on transmission or that Germany maintained SAIDI with increased transmission spending coupled with renewables – those are not surprising claims that need any special acknowledgement or that in any way contradict any assertions that renewables raise transmission costs and lower reliability.

      • Peter Lang

        Help me understand your SAIDI argument. If you are saying that Germany was able to improve SAIDI by adding renewables and reducing transmission costs – that would be quite a claim. A lesser but still very good claim would be that Germany kept transmission spending at similar levels and with the addition of renewables was able to improve SAIDI. I still would be impressed if Germany added renewables and kept costs and SAIDI where they were before – if that’s what you are claiming.

        Excellent question. I look forward to Stephen Segrest’s straight answer (but I am not holding my breath).

        Put simply, has Germany added renewables and reduced cost? Or has it increased cost.

        BTW< I know the answer. You can see it clearly sumarised on Slide 14 here (emissions intensity versus normalised electricity price for selected countries with high proportion of nuclear and countries with high proportion of renewables: http://canadianenergyissues.com/2014/01/29/how-much-does-it-cost-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-a-primer-on-electricity-infrastructure-planning-in-the-age-of-climate-change/

  28. Danny Thomas

    PE,
    Thank you once again for your work and willingness to share. And to the thoughtful contributors downstream my further thanks. These are important conversations.

  29. Planning Engineer — I’m not making an argument. I am making an observation: Extremely high Renewable Energy penetration levels have occurred in Germany, and bad things (operationally that you’ve discussed on today’s and other posts on high penetration levels) have not occurred that I’m aware of.

    Is my perspective incorrect? Is there verified independent data of bad things happening operationally on the German grid? Not an anecdotal news story — but hard data/study.

    Imperfect as SAIDI may be, its the only metric (internationally recognized with data throughout the world) that sheds some real world data on the intermittency topic. Again, if there is something better than SAIDI available, please tell me.

    Do you know of independent and objective sources that explain to us how Germany has addressed intermittency issues, especially costs? Has Germany experienced high, moderate, or reasonable costs in integrating Renewables?

    Thanks.

    • richardswarthout

      Stephen

      Wasn’t this addressed by PE on a previous post, and wasn’t the answer related to the German grid being integrated with hydro from the north?

      Richard

    • Stephen – I don’t know that Germany is really studied here or is considered a source for emulation. I just hear about Germany during my outside reading. Most of what I’ve read are puff pieces notable in that they don’t say much. If you find something that has enough detail to put it in a good light, please share and I will do the same.

      There is “transmission SAIDI, but usually SAIDI refers to the distribution system, I am not a distribution guy and have never been. I wouldn’t expect that transmission SAIDI and Distribution SAIDI have to be related. You can have one system good and the other poor depending on your focus. Plus sometimes they are under different management and budgets. I’m not sureGermany’s transmission SAIDI is better than anyone else’s. I’ve just seen references to SAIDI, In any case I see distribution and transmission as different animals and have never intended to offer much though as regards distribution and I should have been quicker to pick up on the transmissiOn and distribution distinction.

      As far as Transmission SAIDI there are all kinds of ways to spend money and improve SAIDI. My company is relatively aggressive in that and sometimes I worry that we are going past the knee of the escalating cost per benefit curve. There is more we could do at greater costs and I suspect that may be where Germany if there Transmission SAIDI is significantly better, The balance between cost and reliability varies over time and across places. if population. Is very dense the costs are less

      then when more dispersed. And besides I think the cost reliability balance would skew towards spending more in dense areas too. A dense city with outaged traffic lights, people stuck in elevators and electric rail shutdown for 2 minutes is a lot more grim than two minutes in the burbs or countryside.

      My memory is not great on previous posts but I believe Germany is well connected to Hydro and surrounded conventional generators that helps with stability concerns,

      • Planning Engineer — I agree that what appears to be available on-line on the “how” (nuts and bolts) going on in Germany is fluff (not really insightful). I read MIT stuff — its really fascinating (for a geek type).

      • Peter Lang

        It may be fascinating for geeks, but it is not of much relevance for policy and planning if it is not pragmatic and the costings haven’t been done by people qualified to do that part of the analysis – i.e. people with years of experience as practitioners.

        I’d urge you to read more widely, get some balance, listen to practioners like PE. He’s giving excellent material based on years of experience in the industry and at a very high level. I’d urge you to open your mind, challenge your beliefs and stop advocating for irrational Green beliefs.

      • Stephen – Check out this on SAIDI for the US. http://certs.lbl.gov/pdf/lbnl1092e-puc-reliability-data.pdf

        What strikes me is the huge spread (118 to 498) in SAIDI numbers across the country. I don’t think it’s because some parts of the country get technology and some don’t. I think it’s due to factors like vegetation, weather and the proportion of customers served by networked city distribution versus radial suburban and rural distribution. Looking at the areas and how the bulk transmission portions perform I can’t think there is much of a relationship between bulk grid stability and distribution SAIDI.

        Now here’s an interesting part. This misnamed article saying the German grid is more stable provides Germany’s distribution SAIDI.
        http://energytransition.de/2014/08/german-grid-more-stable-in-2013/
        A couple of the US regions have superior numbers to Germany’s 151 hours.

        How do we “normalize” and compare Germany to the different US regions? I don’t know – but I don’t see a clear case for Germany as being something all that special. What’s the case for that?

      • Barnes — (1) The tax credit for biomass has expired (as well as the wind tax credit). A U.S. CO2 credit market never materialized. A couple of our U.S. projects used to qualify for European credits to their EU Parent Companies, but this has gone away. We develop projects in the U.S. Southern States which don’t have Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.

        (2) I don’t understand your comment about Renewables being Federally subsidized whether they generate power or not.

      • Planning Engineer — The observation isn’t that Germany is “better” — its that I’m not aware of any independent credible source data/study that reliability problems have occurred in Germany resulting from its high penetration levels.

      • Thanks Stephan. I really was not getting that was your point. My response to that point would be that if you neglect system stability concerns (for example: run transfer limits too high, low levels of standbye generation – areas where utilities have a lot of margin) I can’t think of many instances where that would show up in your SAIDI numbers. SAIDI is not a symptom of bulk reliability concerns any more than the frequency of washing and waxing your car is an indicator of engine life. (True-people who keep up the exterior are more likely to do oil changes, but if someone keeps referring to the condition of their paint job and interior as a reason not to worry about engine damage-I’d be worried.).

      • Planning Engineer — I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m looking for a metric(s) that would indicate that your operational concerns are happening in Germany (with their high penetration levels). Thanks.

      • ” SAIDI is not a symptom of bulk reliability concerns any more than the frequency of washing and waxing your car is an indicator of engine life…” – PE.

        Not rally.

        SAIDI is the end-user experience; so it’s more like a metric of how often your car won’t run, rather than something trivial like the paintwork.

      • Peter Lang

        Stephen Segrest,

        You seem to be dodging this question.

        Put simply, has Germany added renewables and reduced cost? Or has it increased cost.?

        BTW, this may help – emissions intensity versus normalised electricity price for selected countries/states with high proportion of nuclear and countries with high proportion of renewables in Slide 14 here: http://canadianenergyissues.com/2014/01/29/how-much-does-it-cost-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-a-primer-on-electricity-infrastructure-planning-in-the-age-of-climate-change/

      • SAIDI and system collapse do both impact the end-user experience. But it is a logical fallacy to assume that because they have similar impacts they must both have the same causal roots or related related. (In some ways they might-overall neglect of maintenance for example).

        I will stand by my statement you quoted. It’s accurate as used and intended. Your identification of a similarity outside my zone of comparison is something anyone could do anytime a metaphor or comparison is used.

      • Stephen – a metric that told how at risk a system was from voltage collapse would be a wonderful thing. NERC would hope on that in an instant to monitor areas and regions. We have a huge costly compliance program in eff cut in North America to ensure reliability of the bulk grid. If there was a good measure, they would use it. If there were measures of dubious merits but overall beneficial, they would use them. I am not aware of NERC giving much consideration to comparative values. Of SAIDI, SAIFi or MAIFI as any part of their program.

        Maybe I missed it, or forgot it. If anyone knows that I’m wrong here I’d appreciate it. The only place I ever see those numbers talked up is with commissions and customers.

        Here’s a document talking about developing such metrics. No mention of the distribution measures.

        http://www.nerc.com/docs/pc/rmwg/Integrated_Bulk_Power_System_Risk_Assessment_Concepts_Final.pdf

      • Let me correct myself, it does mention SAIDI as an example of a distribution measure to be emu,aged but not something of value for this purpose.

    • Peter Lang

      Is my perspective incorrect?

      Yes!. Germany is not an isolated grid. It is dependent on back up for it’s intermittent renewables from the rest of the grid, notably Frances nuclear plants. Germany is also having now being forced to build ten new large coal fired power stations. many of them are the high emissions intensity lignite variety.

      France, with 75% of it’s electricity from nuclear power and large exports of electricity, has near the lowest electricity prices in EU and its emissions intensity of electricity of electricity is 77 g/kWh

      Germany, with the second highest proportion of renewable generation in Europe has near the highest electricity prices in EU and its emissions intensity of electricity of electricity is 468 g/kWh.

      http://image.slidesharecdn.com/ecerpmatrixpresentation-150107095405-conversion-gate01/95/electricity-generation-infrastructure-planning-in-the-age-of-climate-change-10-638.jpg?cb=1420624747

      The contrast is stark.

    • Stephen – here are some links that will give you an idea of some of the problems Germany is encountering. One question for you – are you only interested in seeing wind and solar work as replacements to fossil fuels or are you open to finding other potentially more viable solutions?

      This one is interesting given the publication and the point counter-point. You tell me who you think wins the debate.

      http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/green-energy-bust-in-germany

      The a bit more sensationalized, but still provides useful insights re: Germany dumping electricity, and in fact having to pay others to take it. Not a pretty story.

      http://notrickszone.com/2014/12/09/energiewende-takes-a-massive-blow-top-green-energy-proponent-concedes-blunder-with-ugly-consequences-huge-blow-to/#sthash.aP54nNTI.dpbs

      The other point that you cannot get around at this point as well is that despite the increased penetration of wind and solar in Germany, it must still be backed up 100% by coal or natural gas.

      PE is in fact a good faith guy who has no interest in polemics, unlike many of the rest of us at times. However, it is clear from his responses to you that while wind and solar may be workable in a densely populated areas, it still comes at a relatively high cost and there will still be reliability issues. While there are certainly areas of the US that are densely populated, there are many more places of sparse population, which, if I am understanding correctly, would not be served well at any cost by renewable energy sources.

      • I meant to add that I am in favor of Beta Blocker’s suggestion that we allow California to be the test case for US renewable energy. I believe big Al now lives there along side Leonardo DiCaprio and other rich greens, so I am sure they would have no problem cutting off fossil fuel use in California in favor of a 100% renewable portfolio made up completely of wind and solar, along with any hydro that currently exists, unless they want to undam the rivers as well.

      • Peter Lang

        Stephen – here are some links that will give you an idea of some of the problems Germany is encountering. One question for you – are you only interested in seeing wind and solar work as replacements to fossil fuels or are you open to finding other potentially more viable solutions?

        Segrest has made his intent and his agenda absolutely clear. He is not interested in considering rational solutions. He’s pushing his ideological beliefs.

      • A few things I said are getting confused and conflated. to clarify

        I don’t know that wind or solar work better or worse in densely populated areas and I have no opinion on that.

        I think it is easier to get good SAIDI numbers in densely populated areas (independent of whether there are renewables there or not).

        I don’t think distribution SAIDI numbers are a good indicators of bulk reliability.

        I think intermittent renewables challenge bulk reliability.

        Therefore – having SAIDI numbers improve does not mean that the bulk system reliability can not be degrading at the same time. (not everyone here agrees with me on the last 3 points).

      • I did say wind and solar have an advantage if they can be sited in an air quality management district and provide local vars, because fossil fuel plant (and nuclear) can’t. It just ties to all else equal have some generation close to the load center is good. China sticks coal plants right in the middle of development.

      • Hi Danny — Our concern with biochar from “Mom & Pop” operations is the quality and consistency of the product. We’ve been studying this in our biomass gasification efforts. I don’t blog much, but I talk a little about this at:

        http://greenenergy.blogspot.com/search/label/Biochar

      • Danny Thomas

        Stephen,
        Thanks. Dropped you a note over there.

    • Be careful when looking at renewables percentages from Germany. About one-third of the “renewable” power comes from the burning of “biomass,” i.e. municipal waste, agricultural leftovers, wood scraps, and the like. To put it differently, Germany’s 27.3% of electricity produced from “renewables” falls to 18.8% if “biomass” is taken out of the mix.

      http://tinyurl.com/renwblgermny

      There’s a strong argument for treating “biomass” differently, because this is dispatchable power that presumably wouldn’t require any or at least not as much network re-engineering. Separately, it’s an open question (that I’ve not seen analyzed) as to whether this activity even makes sense, i.e., does it generate more energy than it costs, and how much more gasoline or diesel is burned in the process of collecting the material.

      • Charlie and Barnes — Yes, I’m involved with other Renewables, such as biomass.

        I hope this graphic shows up — if it does, you can see that we that are involved in biomass are not just cranking up our chainsaws and clear-cutting native forests to burn as fuel. Everything we do usually has an environmental benefits aspect involved (e.g., soil carbon sequestration, NOx and SO2 compliance strategies in co-firing at coal power plants, etc.).

      • Danny Thomas

        Stephen Segrest,
        When it comes to biochar/biomass, have you seen where there has been an evaluation of residential bio….whatever gathered (in lieu of trash/recyclables) and used in this fashion instead of landfilling/composting? Has this been considered that you aware?
        South central Texas has probably tons of oak leaves which fall twice a year (spring/fall) so thinking out loud wondering if this could be a candidate fuel? (composted currently). Presume this could be done across much of the southern U.S. if viable. Although compost is not a bad reuse.

      • Stephen – thanks for the graphic. How dependant is this technology on the co2 credits, salable credits and REPS to make it financially viable?

      • Stephen, thanks for the answer. I don’t do secret agendas. I’m not smart enough. So I wasn’t doubting the wisdom of burning biomass, but rather a) making the case that it ought to be seen separately from wind and solar because it’s dispatchable, and b) wondering about the total energy budget and specifically how much extra petroleum distillates are used in collecting and transporting the material.

        I know, or think I know, that the Germans aren’t clear cutting their forests at all, let alone for this purpose. Thus, no “enviro attack” on biomass incineration from me.

    • Peter Lang

      Stephen Segrest,

      He answered your question here: http://canadianenergyissues.com/2014/01/29/how-much-does-it-cost-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-a-primer-on-electricity-infrastructure-planning-in-the-age-of-climate-change/

      Why don’t you respond to that. Are you playing games (again)? Are you asking questions in good faith?

    • Peter – thanks for the info. There are big differences in the way our government treats the different players in the energy sector. While greens like to cite all the “subsidies” granted to ff and nuclear, they also refuse to acknowledge the increasingly onerous and costly regulatory hurdles these technologies face while wind and solar are not only given a free pass, they are too often funded directly from the treasury whether they generate income or not.

      • This comment showed up in the wrong place, oh well.

      • Peter Lang

        Barnes,

        It would be good to add it in the right place to keep the discussion complete for all readers. I’ll come back to this thread in the future and also refer it to others. When I post in the wrong place I repost in the correct place with a note at the bottom saying repost. the note avoids the spam filter identifying it as a duplicate post.

  30. Pooh, Dixie

    While reading this post, “Lysenkoism” came to mind. Planning Engineer did not get it wrong. He is correct, and any remark by me would be nit-picking. Rather, his post outlined government CAGW tactics. (“Lysenkoism” was Soviet pseudo-scientific theory supporting the ability of government to change agriculture and society; it has been consigned to the dust-bin of history.)

    Government wanted to change society by limiting energy.

    Alas, a number of people got there sooner and made the connection better than I could have. Here is one.

    Ferrara, Peter. “The Disgraceful Episode Of Lysenkoism Brings Us Global Warming Theory.” Opinion. Forbes, April 28, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2013/04/28/the-disgraceful-episode-of-lysenkoism-brings-us-global-warming-theory/

  31. I am brand new to this site, drawn by a friend who posted a link on Facebook. aware of Judith Curry’s reputation, and that’s why I followed the link. This is the very first article I’ve read on this site, and I am mightily impressed. I hope the author will take the time to reply to my questions.

    I drive an electric car, not because of global warming but out of curiosity and the sudden appearance of one of those deals you couldn’t refuse ($8,500 after the tax credit for a brand new Think City EV). I was a general believer in the AGW hypothesis until the increasing overstatements and contradictions got my attention a year and a half ago. Then I dove into the pool and changed my mind.

    As it concerns alternative energy, one of the things about owning an EV and being a research-oriented guy is that it wound up being a launching point for me to try to understand more about wind and solar. At the outset of my inquiries, for instance, I didn’t have a clue about “dispatchable” power. I blow hot and cold on alternative energy, for a variety of reasons.

    1. At certain times of year (usually spring, when snowmelt is high) the dams and windmills on the Columbia River generate too much juice and the turbines are scaled back. I am forever wondering why the juice can’t be directed eastward. After all, some of the power from the dams goes south to the L.A. Basin, a thousand miles away, and the Seattle suburbs get a third of their power from a coal plant in Montana, 900 miles away.

    2. I follow battery developments as closely as I can on account of having the EV (incidentally, while I like my car I really hope no one here will think I’m an “EVangelist”). Most announcements are complete hype, but one project at M.I.T. involving utility-scale molten metal lead-acid-antimony batteries seems real to me. I would really and truly appreciate commentary and analysis on that battery and its implications for the grid and for alternative power, especially wind.

    http://tinyurl.com/lqdbatt

    3. You write that the grid is designed to support coal plants. Would that perhaps be more accurately stated that the grid is designed to support dispatchable generation? In other words, if a coal plant was replaced by a natural gas plant, would there be implications for the grid? Or even if there was a big battery that smoothed out the peaks and valleys from winbd turbines?

    Sorry for being so wordy here. I’d appreciate any reply from the author. And I hope he and everyone else who sees my comment will accept my statement that there’s no “agenda” on my part. I am 100% about facts, period. Thanks much.

    • Peter Lang

      Charlie Pluckhahn,

      I’ll dive in with a response to your Q2.

      You can forget using batteries to make intermittent renewable capable of supplying dispatchable power. It is not realistic anytime soon. Pumped hydro energy storage comprises 99% of electricity storage globally. It is around an order of magnitude cheaper than best battery storage at the scale required. Yet it is rarely economic for new plants now, Furthermore, it is most likely to be viable when matched with baseload power that provides continuous power at low prices during off-peak periods – e.g. nuclear power, not renewables.

    • I’m glad Peter got Q2, because I had nothing.
      Q1 – Long time since I studies transmission system on the west coast but this likely mostly accurate. I’m thinking you’re wondering why more power isn’t headed toward Idaho? Interface transfer limits concern how much power can be shipped from one area to another. I’m pretty sure the PNW is maxing out all it’s transfer limits in marketing all the power they can in every direction. At the start I spoke of loop flows. If you try to ship power from the PNW to Idaho, some of it will go south through LA and east and then north. But if the lines to LA are already maxed out, you can’t put more loop flow on them. Based on who made improvements and when and has invested in the system and has original priority they allocate how flows can be split up among the interfaces. Sometimes the courts are involved, but be confident the existing transmission system is being used as much as it is able to make that power useful.
      Q3- Replacing a coal with natural gas works really well is you have a gas pipeline near enough to tap economically. Coal plants are sighted by water and train tracks. Gas by water and gas-lines. Only sometimes do you get both. In these cases you can just fire the boilers with gas instead of coal, but that is not the best efficiency. Better to put in new combustion turbines and use their waste heat to drive the old coal boilers. (But if it’s a big coal plant you’d need a lot of gas CTs.) I’ve been involved in re powering a small coal plant that way. You can get some benefit by removing the generators shaft and not powering it,but letting it rotate with the system to serve as a synchronous condenser and provide vars. Sometimes this is cost effective and sometimes not.

      My statement was just recognizing coal as the dominant resource being phased out and that complete retirements often leave holes.
      >The retiring of large coal plants provides planners with challenges. The system has been built to support these units and at the same time these units have supported the system.

    • Peter Lang

      Charlie Pluckhahn,

      Since you are interested in batteries, I wonder if you’d be interested to chart the real cost of energy storage versus time since the battery was invented (in 1800)? I’d suggest plot the real US$ per kWh storage capacity and per kW power output versus time.

      Charts lie this are good for showing the reality of how slowly developments take place and the unlikelihood of a sudden massive breakthrough that suddenly reduces the cost by orders of magnitude (because that is what would be required, and even if energy storage was free, renewables like wind and solar would still not be viable at current prices (or probably ever, IMO) to provide a major proportion of electricity generation.

      • Many, many thanks to both of you for your replies. I really appreciate a factual and straightforward conversation, being pretty much sick to death of the millennialism, unfactuality (is that a word?), and political division that characterizes so much of the discourse surrounding anything “alternative energy.”

        I know that, today, pumped storage is the major vehicle, and that it’s hideously expensive and therefore impractical. I also think I know that current battery technology is a non-starter. (I don’t have a chart of storage costs, Peter, but if you have a link to something that’s objective, I’m very interested.) But the M.I.T. project has gotten my close attention, because in a previous life I got to know people there and came away with a high regard for their signal to noise ratio. (Not when it comes to “climate science” — cough, cough — but rather on their research and development side.

        That said, I’ve seen no numbers (yet) about that molten metal battery. And I am all about the numbers on this stuff. Terrestrial wind turbines have a low cost, but that’s sans storage. Incidentally, my attitude toward wind turbines is decidedly mixed, because of their scenic impact. If the molten metal battery works — by which I mean stores electricity cost effectively — I think I know where they’ll be putting those things, and that worries me a lot. But this being America, if the numbers work, it will happen, like it or not.

        When I wrote about sending the electrons from the Columbia River eastward, I was actually thinking more about Denver than Boise, and was wondering why it couldn’t be balanced by reducing output at natural gas generators that supply 40-45% of California’s juice. These are trye questions in my mind as opposed to the all-too-typical rhetorical questions that substitute for inquiry today.

        One more thing. If storage were free, the Energy Dept.’s cost numbers strongly suggest that wind turbines would be quite viable. See page 6 at the link. How is that incorrect? Again, not a rhetroical question, but an actual one. Thanks again for taking your time to reply. It’s much appreciated!

        http://tinyurl.com/lvlzdcosts

      • Peter Lang

        If storage were free, the Energy Dept.’s cost numbers strongly suggest that wind turbines would be quite viable. See page 6 at the link. How is that incorrect?

        I haven’t read your link but I’ve been doing this stuff for a very long time.

        Firstly, renewables are not sustainable so they cannot do much: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

        Secondly, most analyses do not include the full system costs on a full life cycle analysis basis.

        Third, my view is that if the goal is to reduce global GHG emisisons we need technologies that can reduce the emissions intensity of electricity by 90% (as France has done and been demonstrating safely and reliably and at ow cost for the past 30 years.. Wind and solar supply 3% and 0.5%% of global electricity generation and they are not sustainable. So I see no realistic prospect they can supply a major component of global electricity. However, we know that nuclear power can and is sustainable indefinitely. It’d demonstrated it.

      • p.s.: I just re-read my comment and realized something might have been unclear. My “wonderings” about Denver and California are two different “wonderings.” I know that the juice from the Columbia that goes to California starts at a converter station just above The Dalles, a town 90 miles east of Portland.

        I don’t know if all that power comes from The Dalles dam or whether the converter station is an aggregation point for other dams. I’ve been told that this power is used entirely to pump irrigation water over the CA mountains to users. I live in Seattle but get to The Dalles pretty often; the last time I was there, I went out to the dam’s visitor center to ask about it, but it was “closed for the season.”

        In any case, it occurs to me that the juice from The Dalles converter station can’t even be hooked into the rest of the California grid. But, at this point, these are only questions in my mind.

      • One more thing. When I mention battery storage, please don’t confuse me with someone who buys into one bit of the recent announcement by Tesla about the batteries from their forthcoming (pause to roll my eyes) “gigafactory.” To put it differently, I am a EV owner who is most definitely not one of those Kool-Aid drinkin’ Tesloids. Please, God, take me (or send me) elsewhere if that should ever happen.

      • Peter, I hope you’ll read the link. It’s not “my” link. It’s to the U.S. Depatment of Energy analysis of the levelized cost of electricity generation. I provided it because you wrote that, if storage were free, wind turbines wouldn’t be cost effective. The DOE analysis seems to directly contradict your assertion, hence my question. I might add that the link you posted shows that the EROI is storage were free would exceed the 7:! ratio that it says is required.

        Yes, I know that it doesn’t include total system costs. In fact, elsewhere in the same document they give a number that includes pumped storage, and it’s clear that this is too expensive. At least it is for me, because I really don’t want Germany’s electric rates here. To put it differently, I reject wind turbines with pumped storage, but am quite curious (to put it mildly) about the cost of the M.I.T. battery if it were applied for that purpose.

        I fully realize, as I’ve already stated, that we don’t yet know if M.I.T.’s battery will even come to pass, or what it will cost. If it’s too high a percentage of the cost of pumped storage, well, then we have our answer, don’t we?

        As for global GHG emissions, pending some new evidence for the AGW hypothesis, it doesn’t enter into my thinking. This is the most neutral way I can put it. As for nukes, well, it’s how we generate 19% of our electricity right now. Every generation method comes with its own mixture of benefits and externalities, and there will be no single, magic bullet.

        I agree with you that, at present, the cost of non-dispatchable “alternatives” makes them too costly and unreliable. Yet, unless there’s a flaw in the DOE analysis, it seems apparent that wind turbines would be a major component of the mix if storage were “free.” This leaves, in my admittedly inexpert mind, the question of storage mechanisms and their cost, which leads me back to M.I.T. and their molten metal battery.

      • Peter Lang

        Peter, I hope you’ll read the link. It’s not “my” link. It’s to the U.S. Depatment of Energy analysis of the levelized cost of electricity generation. I provided it because you wrote that, if storage were free, wind turbines wouldn’t be cost effective. The DOE analysis seems to directly contradict your assertion, hence my question.

        Please quote the DOE text you are referring to. If you are making an assumption based on the LCOE figures, it is because you don’t understand them. Read the fine print.

        If it wasn’t for the CAGW scare there’d be no justification whatsoever for incentivising solar and wind, and investment in it would stop immediately.

      • Something else: I am skeptical — which means persuadable — of the 75 EROI rating on nukes. It reminds me of that long-ago promise, long mocked, and justifiably so, that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter.” The fact that someone makes a nifty chart doesn’t mean it’s true. It also doesn’t mean it’s false, but I hope you’ll understand my skepticism.

      • Peter Lang

        Charlie Pluckhahn

        If you want to know more, read the references, and if you still want to know more read the critiques and follow the debate. There’s no point me repeating it all here.

        Regarding the ERoEI of 75 for nuclear that is for the existing generation of plants. It will increase by a factor of up to 100 when it becomes more economical to use breeder reactors instead of once through reactors as we use mostly now.. Nuclear fuel, used in the current generation of reactors, is 20,000 times more energy dense than fossil fuels. It is 2 million times more energy dense when used in breeder reactors. Few people understand the many orders of magnitude difference between nuclear energy and chemical energy.

  32. Peter, I did read the fine print. Don;t be arrogant. Explain to me what you think I didn’t understand. Thanks.

    • On second thought, Peter, don’t bother. It’s clear that your answers to me are, in so many words, “Because I said so.” I see no difference between you and the people who try to say that Tesla is making money. You want to preach to the choir? Go right ahead. I’m done with you.

  33. Some excerpts from the report Final Report. System Disturbance on 4 November 2006.

    Market developments result in higher cross-border exchanges (with short-term commercial objectives). Other cross-continental power flows result from the fast and successful development of regional intermittent energy generation with low predictability (wind power). These developments were not taken into account in the original system design.

    Due to environmental reasons, the development of the transmission system is more and more affected by stricter constraints and limitations in terms of licensing procedures and construction times. The reality today is that many UCTE TSOs face significant difficulties to build new overhead lines due to long authorization procedures and regulatory regimes.

    All this, also on November 4, led TSOs to operate the system closer and closer to its limits according to current security criteria based on system physics that will therefore remain of decisive relevance for a secure operation of the electricity transmission infrastructure.

    Sequence of events
    On the evening of November 4 there were significant East-West power flows as a result of international power trade and the obligatory exchange of wind feed-in inside Germany. These flows were interrupted during the event. The tripping of several high-voltage lines, which started in Northern Germany, split the UCTE grid into three separate areas (West, North-East and South-East) with significant power imbalances in each area. The power imbalance in the Western area induced a severe frequency drop that caused an interruption of supply for more than 15 million European households.

    This event took place in 2006. Grid operators were worried about the development before that and they are worried today. In Germany a plan to build a major new power line to connect North and South of Germany has been in trouble. That power line has been considered essential for the future reliability of the network, when even more renewable generation is taken into use, but getting permits for the construction has been difficult.

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