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New Study Highlights Need for California Market Refinements to Better Harness Clean Energy

A new study, jointly conducted by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) – the entity responsible for overseeing much of California’s electric grid – First Solar, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), demonstrates the untapped potential of utility-scale solar. The study shows that utility-scale solar can provide key services needed to ensure electric grid stability and reliability – better known as ancillary services – at levels comparable to conventional, fossil fuel driven resources.

California needs to reduce reliance on natural gas for ancillary services

In CAISO’s market, ancillary services are overwhelmingly provided by natural gas-fired resources, and their share of the pie has been increasing in recent years.

This growing reliance on natural gas for ancillary services merits attention for many reasons.

  • There are significant environmental benefits to greater participation of clean energy resources in the provision of ancillary services. This is particularly relevant to California, given its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.
  • Increased participation by clean energy resources in ancillary service markets can increase supply of these services, benefit end users via reduced production costs, and provide additional revenue streams to these resources. Allowing all resources capable of providing ancillary services to compete on an equal footing with conventional resources is a pre-requisite for a competitive market.

As renewables penetration increases, so will the need for ancillary services

The findings of the new CAISO- First Solar-NREL study have significant implications for the integration of all renewables (not just solar) on California’s grid. California’s renewable portfolio standard mandates that at least 50% of electric generation be driven by renewables by 2030. Given their inherent variability, as more renewables come online, grid operators will need additional ancillary services to ensure grid stability.

In particular, we are likely to see steep increases in ramping needs in the afternoon and evening hours, driven by mid-day solar generation. Solar generation in the middle of the day leads to a drop in net electricity demand, followed by a sharp increase in the afternoon/evening, as people come home from work and school, switch on their lights and appliances, and solar generation falls with the setting sun. This is reflected in the “duck curve” (see figure below) which underscores the need for flexible resources, that are capable of quickly responding to sudden fluctuations in renewable output.

Net Load on CAISO System (projected through 2020). Source: CAISO, “What the duck curve tells us about managing a green grid”, 2016

CAISO has an ancillary services scarcity pricing mechanism that is triggered when it is unable to procure the targeted quantity of one or more ancillary services. In 2015, CAISO experienced its first ancillary service scarcity event, signaling a mismatch between the demand and supply of ancillary services.

Next steps

To follow up on the study, CAISO plans to identify barriers to the provision of grid services by renewables and explore incentives to harness this potential. This is a welcome next step. Because of the unique characteristics of clean energy resources, there are challenges to their participation in ancillary services markets. What’s more, these markets were not designed keeping renewable resources in mind.

Studies such as the CAISO-NREL-First Solar joint study demonstrate that renewables can provide essential grid reliability services needed to support the transition to a cleaner grid. Now, the challenge is to develop the market design features that will allow California to harness these capabilities.

By Simi George

Image source: Ken Kistler

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Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 24, 2017 4:45 pm GMT

In the beginning of the piece, I read this:

The study shows that utility-scale solar can provide key services needed to ensure electric grid stability and reliability – better known as ancillary services – at levels comparable to conventional, fossil fuel driven resources.

Then, of course, I expected an explanation. No such luck. If anything, the duck curve presented indicates that introduction of solar is increasing the need for gas to provide ancillary services. At the end of the piece, I read this:

Studies such as the CAISO-NREL-First Solar joint study demonstrate that renewables can provide essential grid reliability services needed to support the transition to a cleaner grid.

And I again, I’m at a loss. Ok, I can read the study and try to figure it out, but wouldn’t it be reasonable to give us a rough idea at least and some basic figures on scope, potential, costs and so on? Also, nothing on those market refinements, just that they are needed.

But ok, now I skimmed some of the report. Seems to ask for more solar curtailment. So utility solar, at a major cost in terms of lost generation, would help to balance itself and also balance the more costly and lower-capacity-factor domestic solar?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 24, 2017 5:51 pm GMT

Comes down to this… Solar and storage will kill market for peaker Nat Gas plants in CA by 2025.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 24, 2017 8:14 pm GMT

Science fiction is another topic, I think. The caiso study seemed to be about curtailment.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 24, 2017 10:04 pm GMT

Before scheduling the demise of a particular global energy market, would it not be prudent to wait for the arrival of a one, non-hydro, utility scale storage facility, somewhere in the world, that can replace a middling power plant or farm, say 500 MW, for a day?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 24, 2017 11:46 pm GMT

I like the sci-fi comment. CAISO study is not about curtailment. You might want to read it again.

Storage is just getting started. Let’s see where it stands at end of 2017. See other comments below.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 12:12 am GMT

Mark,
Not sure how you equate my comment on the market for Nat Gas peakers in a single state – CA – with a “global energy market”.

Here is my thinking:

In-State Nat Gas Generation
– 2016 Nat Gas based elec – 97.5KGWh – 49% of In-state elec
– Due to more normal hydro in 2016 – NG down 16% from 2015.
– So far in 2017 on CAISO NG (-15%) for Jan and (-17%) for Feb.
– My estimate for full Year 2017 – 85K GWh
– My estimate for Annual NG generation in CA in 2025 – 70K GWh

Combined Cycle Plants
– CA has total capacity of 19,960MW
– If operated at 56%CF(US avg) would generate 98K GWh annually.

Storage
– CA has 3.1GW of pumped Hydro – already used for evening ramping
– Import Capacity is 10-15GW – already used for evening ramping
– Battery Storage – work in progress – but growing very fast

My conclusion – CA will be using few, if any, NG simple cycle plants for daily peaking in 2025. Will still need some capacity for summer seasonal demands.

The grid services provided by solar as described in the CAISO article and increasing amounts of storage will dramatically lower the CFs of simple cycle plants in CA and many will shut down.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 25, 2017 5:37 am GMT

Battery storage is “growing very fast”, is it Joe?

If you’re referring to the new bank of gleaming-white Tesla batteries Edison installed at its Mira Loma Substation (I’m told it’s the world’s largest), they have the awesome potential of reducing the rate of California’s late-afternoon natural gas consumption by .05% – one twentieth of one percent – for a cost of $48 million, installed.

And you didn’t think batteries somehow made grid generation cleaner, did you? If the idea is to charge them with CCGTs during the night, 12% of the energy which goes into Tesla’s Powerpack-2s never comes out, making them even dirtier than firing up gas peakers during the day.

What a pitiful waste of enthusiasm – and money.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 25, 2017 10:19 am GMT

The full report is linked in the beginning of the article. A search for “curtail” in that report yields 44 matches. “Battery” yields 1 match and “storage” 5 matches and those are mentioned more in passing. The study is about how the solar plants themselves can deliver grid stability and the by far most important means with which it can do that is through curtailment. They talk about some inverter magic and voltage regulation as well, but curtailment is the big thing.

Let me quote one key statement from the report:

To reach that 50-percent RPS goal, California operators will need to find additional ways to balance generation and load to manage the variability of increased renewable generation in order to maintain grid reliability. In this context, the curtailment of renewables can be viewed as a resource, not only a problem. Because wind and solar generation can be ramped up and down, curtailment can become a helpful resource to relieve oversupply, provide frequency regulation, and ramping services

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 5:54 pm GMT

Jesper,
Your “KKK” reference is not funny. But I will give you benefit of doubt and assume it is a language issue.

GWh is standard used by EIA so I usually use that vs TWh – especially when referencing EIA data like the recently released full set of 2016 electricity data.

CA is already “dumping” solar on neighboring states but we are in early days. Plenty of coal still to eliminate in other Western states but it is going fast. There was a 12% drop in electricity from coal 2015 -> 2016 for Western States. 190TWh in 2015 vs 168TWh in 2016. Hey look – I used TWh.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 6:00 pm GMT

Bob,
I thought you kept up on happenings in SoCal. The Tesla installation for SCE – a 20MW – 80MWh system – was last month.
The new record is the SDG&E installation from AES. This is a 30MW – 120MWh system and was installed this month. See Bob – growing fast – hard to keep up, eh?

John Zahurancik, president of AES Energy Storage, said the technology that can meet these roles has changed dramatically a very short period of time. The cost of battery storage systems has fallen 85% since AES’s first project in Huntington Beach, Calif., in 2009, he said.

“If we had faced these challenges just a few years ago, we would be looking at a new gas power plant.”

Also, Bob this battery will be charged during the day and discharged in the evening.

The storage market will continue to grow and prices will continue to drop. Let’s see what kind of systems are being installed in 2025.

AES is slated to deliver an even larger 100-MW, 400-MWh project in Los Alamitos by 2020

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 6:19 pm GMT

Bob,
I am surprised that you made no reference to my CA Nat Gas numbers for 2016. You know Jerry Brown conspiracy and all that.

Big drop from 2015 to 2016.

116K GWh —–> 98K GWh

Do you think NG might recover in 2017?

Also, solar grew in CA from 2015 to 2016.

21K GWh —–> 27K GWh

Interesting… so solar trend is up and NG trend is down – do you think these trends might cross in the near future. Maybe around 60-70K GWh?

Do you want to go with an over/under for the year on that NG generation and solar generation crossover?How about 2028?
I’ll take under.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Feb 25, 2017 7:40 pm GMT

The Tesla installation for SCE – a 20MW – 80MWh system – was last month.
The new record is the SDG&E installation from AES. This is a 30MW – 120MWh system and was installed this month.

So you have a grand total of 50 MW @ 4 hours duration.  This is less than 2.5% of Diablo Canyon’s instantaneous capacity, and less than 0.4% of DC’s output over 24 hours.

Keep up the installations at the 30 MW/120 MWh/month rate and you’ll be able to replace a day’s worth of DC outage in just… (calculates) 36 years and 8 months.  Except for all the batteries that wear out and have to be replaced by then, of course.  Handling a 2-day outage would take 73 years, 4 months of installations.

DC is supposed to be fully shut down in 2025.  Replacing it with ruinables is not going to happen.  You are a tool of the gas lobby.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 25, 2017 8:22 pm GMT

Joe, coal being replaced by fossil gas and RE is obviously an improvement, but such a mix is far from sustainable. Helping neighbors is fine, but the intermittency difficulties are not solved, merely postponed, by including neighbors to form a regional grid with low RE penetration.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 25, 2017 9:09 pm GMT

Big drop from 2015 to 2016.

116K GWh —–> 98K GWh

Do you think NG might recover in 2017…

We discussed this previously Joe. You’re hyping the year’s precipitation change on the west coast, ie the big jump in hydro, 110% change 2015 to 2016:

14 TWh —> 29 TWh

An increase of 15 TWh against the gas decline in the same period of 18 TWh. Hydro won’t suddenly also offset the closure of Diablo.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 25, 2017 9:16 pm GMT

“coal being replaced by fossil gas…”

Yes, in the longer term, though in the trivial example of the last year in the western US, replaced by hydro for the moment.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 10:27 pm GMT

Jesper,
Here is Western US Grid breakdown in 2030:

70% Zero Carbon
5% Coal
25% Natural Gas

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 10:38 pm GMT

Mark,

Yes, in the longer term, though in the trivial example of the last year in the western US, replaced by hydro for the moment.

Of course because only Nat Gas or Hydro can replace coal.

Just curious – what replaced the Nat Gas last year? See chart below.

Last year was a return to a more normal hydro year due to drought conditions. Wait till you see this year when West has a good Hydro year and Wind/solar keep getting added – plus a couple of coal to Nat Gas conversions.

Navajo is shutting down in 2019. InterMountain is shutting down in 2025. Four Corners is hurting and Colstrip may also close by 2025. Coal is being destroyed by renewables in the West.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 25, 2017 11:07 pm GMT

Mark,
What about the over/under on which year Solar electricity generation passes Nat Gas electricity generation in CA?

We will have occurrences of this for single day generation starting next year but for the year as a whole I am going with 2027. Even with the Diablo shutdown in 2025.

What do you think – should I push out my estimate a few years? Electric transportation could explode – maybe I should go with 2032?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 25, 2017 11:31 pm GMT

Yes its fun to jump on the trend train. For instance, my child was at one time doubling his birth weight every six months, starting at 7 lbs, and thus on trend to hit one ton just before age 10, and by age 13 1/2 having mass of a loaded super tanker.

However, after observing older children and understanding the problems of exponential growth, I found this trend unlikely to continue. After observing solar share around the world and understanding the problems of intermittent generation, I conclude the chances of CA solar going from 12% to 24% in five years is similarly unlikely.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 26, 2017 12:05 am GMT

Hydro + geo is at 25% and I guess nuclear will go extinct, so you’re essentially predicting wind+solar at 70-25 = 45%? I doubt it, but I certainly won’t rule it out. Still not sustainable though.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 26, 2017 2:01 am GMT

Germany after a couple decades of pushing is 21% solar+wind.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 26, 2017 7:36 am GMT

Joe, you seem enthralled that Sempra Energy is able to save money by buying batteries – although I have no idea why.

As I continue to point out, they’re not any cleaner than peaker plants, nor cheaper for consumers. Sempra is the holding company of SDG&E, whose residential electricity rates have gone up 56% since 2013 and are now the highest in the continental U.S. ($.28/kWh).

Sempra is also the holding company of SoCalGas, the company which crammed high-pressure methane into their low-pressure “L.A. Loop” in 2015 to keep L.A. lights on after the shutdown of San Onofre. It blew out a pipe casing at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, leaking enough methane into the air to cancel the entire contribution of your vaunted “renewables” for the year.

Too bad your crystal ball wasn’t able to predict the renewables + methane + leaky storage + battery “solution” would be such a disaster, resulting in higher total GHG emissions than burning coal.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 26, 2017 3:23 pm GMT

Joe, your comments on energy policy aren’t worthy of responses until you learn what the word “conspiracy” means. While you’re at Wikipedia, look up “nepotism”, and “conflict of interest”.

Then go to urbandictionary.com and look up “tool”. EngineerPoet writes “You are a tool of the gas lobby,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Feb 26, 2017 4:45 pm GMT

Schooling the other guy, the Bob Meinetz better known as the Bob Meinetz concession speech.

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Feb 26, 2017 4:54 pm GMT

Been a while since I have had time to visit the comments section of TEC. Honestly, not really worth the time any more. The nuclear fanatics have chased away most of the interesting and thoughtful debate. Lots of gish gallop from the same old folks and attacks on the people rather than growing discussion and debate of the facts as they evolve. Joe D, glad to see you still in the fight so the few remaining non-regulars bothering with the comments section will have some facts to chew on.

Spirited discourse is great but this comments section has its own Tea Party, chasing away moderate and thoughtful conversation. Site moderators, sorry to see it. Hope you will consider revising policy so the site can get back to being a place for spirited and thoughtful exchange of ideas.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 5:28 pm GMT

Yeah, in particular, I love the “aren’t worthy of responses”. He’s got none.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 26, 2017 5:30 pm GMT

Wish I could say you were missed, Clayton, and odd that you consider TEC “not worth the time anymore” yet somehow find the time to post anyway.

Maybe the perception you’re being chased away is a symptom of having your religious devotion held to scientific account. Sorry! (not really).

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 5:42 pm GMT

Clayton,

Good to see your comments. I too have been less of a participant lately for the same reasons you state. However, I do find this to be a somewhat useful place to “firm up” my analysis of future energy scenarios.

Hope you pop-in once in a while. Otherwise, there are plenty of good discussions on Twitter. Not the best of formats but I learn something new every day there from a group of very intelligent energy folks. follow me @jdeely

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 26, 2017 5:44 pm GMT

Mark already responded to it. How many times do you need to hear it, Joe? Do you need it to feel validated, or something?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 26, 2017 5:57 pm GMT

Be sure to report back from Twitter, Joe, with Trump’s latest tweets on the Chinese hoax of “climate change”. It’s a great place to avoid being challenged – everything you tweet is auto-true!

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 5:58 pm GMT

I love how the German counter example always comes up. Is it a similar market to Western US – Really?

Western US – 46% Zero Carbon in 2016. Let’s see if it breaks 50% in 2017.

Coal usage in Western US down 21% in last three years. Down 25% over the last 5 years. Let’s see where it stands at end of 2017.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 6:18 pm GMT

Twitter a great place to avoid being challenged?? Wow…You are obviously not a user.

By the way Bob, would love to see you actually challenge me on this site. I have never considered your fact free replies to be a challenge. Mostly just a bunch of junk.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 7:14 pm GMT

Mark,

Yeah it would be stupid to just assume a trend – especially an exponential one like you describe.

Not sure why you used the exponential example. I have solar crossing-over Nat Gas @65K GWh. With solar @27K GWh in 2016 that implies total growth of 39K GWh over the next 11years. This works out to an average of 3.5K GWh a year. Solar averaged 6.5K GWh the last two years. So, I have a slowdown in solar installation growth built-in.

I also happen to think it is pretty naive to ignore a trend that has solid reasons behind it. Here are some of my
reasons for continued decline in NG and growth in solar – in reverse order of importance.

CA’s Zero Net Energy Law
All new houses in CA from 2020 onwards have to be zero net energy. Not a huge deal, but will be incremental to solar and a negative to NG.

Continued Decline in Price of Solar
There is still no need in sight for solar price declines. This will enable the rooftop market in CA to extend past subsidies. However, the rooftop market will definitely slow over the next decade.

CA’s RPS
Currently the RPS in place has CA reaching 33% renewable by 2020 and 50% by 2030. These are looking very easy and CA legislature is looking at possibility of changing RPS to make 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2045. I don’t know if this version will get passed but I am sure that the RPS requirements will be mae stronger in next few years. This is the one of the primary reasons Nat Gas will continue to decline.

CCAs & Direct Access
This is my top reason for the growth in Solar and decline in NG. It also seems to be unknown by most people. I won’t desire it here as you can Google it to look further. Here is a good article that describing a recent purchase by one of the first CCAs in CA – Marin Clean Energy –

Marin Clean Energy, which has been around since 2010, was California’s first community choice aggregator, or CCA. It now provides electricity that’s significantly greener than the alternative offered by Pacific Gas & Electric, for a comparable price. And it’s growing, expanding its customer base from 170,000 to 255,000 this year as more Bay Area cities chose to join.

That electricity will help Marin meet its rising demand for clean power, while still offering similar rates to Pacific Gas & Electric. Marin’s customers can choose a 52 percent clean energy mix or a 100 percent clean energy portfolio — currently priced at 50 cents less per month and four dollars more per month than PG&E, respectively.

In the last year alone, Marin has signed contracts for 445 megawatts of California solar power and 167 megawatts of California wind power, according to Byron Vosburg, the CCA’s manager of power supply contracts. Overall, Marin has committed $1.4 billion to 813 megawatts’ worth of renewable power projects in California, Vosburg said.

There many more CCAs in various stages of formation and many people, along with utilities think that IOUs in CA will lose at least half of their customers to these CCAs. These CCAs will drive future buildout of solar in CA over the coming years and because the IOUs are feeling the competition they will in turn offer more renewable packages to their customers.

Below is recent trend for PG&E showing the drop in electricity they produce for their customers and the corresponding increase in electricity they carry on their network for direct access and CCAs. Note: this is one of the reasons why they will not need new NG to replace Nuclear from DC.

Image does not appear to have been saved properly. However, if you click on it , it will appear in a clear format.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 7:39 pm GMT

Jesper- Western US will still have Palos Verdes nuclear in 2030 and I am also assuming that UAMPS will build some modular nuclear by then. Maybe 600MW.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 26, 2017 7:56 pm GMT

Joe, challenging you with the above facts again, to which you’re apparently unable to respond. If it’s too complicated (would require more than 140 characters) that’s ok – I understand:

“Joe, you seem enthralled that Sempra Energy is able to save money by buying batteries – although I have no idea why.

As I continue to point out, they’re not any cleaner than peaker plants, nor cheaper for consumers. Sempra is the holding company of SDG&E, whose residential electricity rates have gone up 56% since 2013 and are now the highest in the continental U.S. ($.28/kWh).

Sempra is also the holding company of SoCalGas, the company which crammed high-pressure methane into their low-pressure “L.A. Loop” in 2015 to keep L.A. lights on after the shutdown of San Onofre. It blew out a pipe casing at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, leaking enough methane into the air to cancel the entire contribution of your vaunted “renewables” for the year.

Too bad your crystal ball wasn’t able to predict the renewables + methane + leaky storage + battery “solution” would be such a disaster, resulting in higher total GHG emissions than burning coal.”

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 26, 2017 8:08 pm GMT

Ok, looked it up and I agree. Palo Verde should be viable through 2030.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 26, 2017 8:11 pm GMT

Western US – 46% Zero Carbon in 2016. Let’s see if it breaks 50% in 2017.

Germany 48% zero carbon in 2016. Let’s see if it breaks 50% in 2017.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 8:23 pm GMT

Bob,

Still not a whole lot of facts related to the discussion.Just you whining about Sempra again.

New batteries – charged by solar during the day – will be much cleaner than Nat Gas peakers. You might have an argument in regards to pricing. I’ll give you that for now.

If you don’t like Sempra support the local CCAs which will be popping up in SoCal over the next decade. SDG&E is trying to oppose them.

There are five CCAs operating in California, including Marin Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power and Lancaster Choice Energy in Los Angeles County. An additional 10 CCA programs are scheduled to launch within the next two years, and other governments are in various stages of considering CCAs.

In San Diego County, Solana Beach has completed a rate study for CCA and is moving forward with implementation. San Diego city is completing its formal assessment, while Del Mar, Oceanside and Encinitas are also exploring the idea.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 26, 2017 8:48 pm GMT

Germany 48% zero carbon in 2016. Let’s see if it breaks 50% in 2017.

Nice… I like that.

Just curious have you ever been to Montana,Wyoming,Utah, Nevada,New Mexico or Arizona. Anywhere in Western US?
Vast amounts of open space with enormous amounts of renewable potential. I was in Germany last summer. Not really comparable to Utah or Wyoming, etc…

Also, not sure how much you know about current Western energy market, but you did look up Palo Verde nuclear, so you have that going for you… which is nice.

Many of the states I mentioned are still dominated by very large coal plants, which ship or used to ship large chunks of their production to WA,OR and California. In other words there is already a decent amount of transmission between these states and the western population centers. Note: more is in process.

Go ahead and “Google” InterMountain coal plant in Utah, Colstrip in Montana, Navajo in Arizona and Four Corners in New Mexico. Note: just going with the big ones to keep it simple. These will all be dead by 2030 and most of their generation will be replaced with renewable.

It’s really pretty simple for western US. Germany is not that lucky. Not even close to being in same situation.

They should have kept all their nuclear.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 26, 2017 10:33 pm GMT

I vacationed in California, Arizona and Nevada in the summer of 2015. It was great, but quite hot and dry of course. We drove past SONGs and the Hoover Dam, and I saw a bit of solar construction going on.

I do agree that the situation for solar is totally different in SW USA compared to Germany. In Germany, the optimal amount of solar is probably zero (currently). In SW USA, perhaps 15% if you go tracking utility scale, less if there’s a lot of fixed tilt.

But still, that’s not good enough, at least if you believe that AGW is a major problem, which I do. Please remember that Germany and other major European nations have half the per-capita electricity use. So if the Western US go 50% gas, it’ll emit as much as Germany would on 100% gas.

My understanding is that the world should average 1-2 ton CO2/year and capita to somewhat curb global warming. US per-capita electricity is 12,000 kWh/year. Producing half of that with natgas would yield more than 3 tons of CO2, which would have electricity alone eat far more than the CO2 budget. Other fossil uses are generally harder to decarbonize, so CO2 from electricity should really be zero. In a rational world, Western US would probably go for something like 20% hydro, 15% solar and 65% nuclear.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 26, 2017 11:21 pm GMT

You’re estimating CA would do 27% solar in 10 years. I think that’ll be a stretch. Pioneer countries in Europe have stopped solar buildout at a penetration around 60% of their solar CF and shows no sign of resuming their buildouts. Based on that, I’d be positively surprised if CA pass 20% with ease.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 27, 2017 12:43 am GMT

Jesper,
Good to hear – if you drove in eastern part of CA as well as NV and AZ then you have a good idea of vast amount of available space for solar. Same goes for Utah and New Mexico. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico have enormous wind potential. We already get large amounts of hydro from Oregon, Washington and lesser amounts from CA, Idaho,Montana,Nevada and Colorado .

Your point on per capita electricity consumption might be a good one. But keep in mind, that electricity consumption per capita in California, which has more than 1/2 of Western population is about 7,400 kWh/year – about the same as Germany – correct? Note: I am including imported electricity for this. However, Western US average is probably somewhat higher than Germany once you start adding in Arizona, Nevada and others. There is definitely room for improvement here.

Agree that electricity should be close to carbon-free. Like I said, I think Western US will be 70% Carbon free by 2030. Hard to look further than that.

In regards to your rational world comment – The only hope for nuclear in Western US will be small modular nuclear like the UAMPS project. Will have to see how cost for that compares to storage.

Personally, I think transportation is going to decarbonize very quickly, both from move to electric vehicles as well as autonomous technology. We’ll know better by 2020.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 27, 2017 12:50 am GMT

Ok.. CA solar was at 13% for in-state generation in 2016. Will be at about 15% for 2017. Many other projects already in pipeline for 2018 and out.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 27, 2017 2:08 am GMT

Do-solar laws are not a sustainable basis for a paradigm change in energy production, and sometimes not feasible. In 1990 California passed a law mandating the vehicle fleet become 10% ZEV by 2003. They might as well have mandated a lunar colony by 2003. Energy production is not a plastic vs paper bags like decision at the grocery.

The falling cost of solar helps of course, but without subsidy, I see no path forward for rooftop solar for years to come. Utility solar is another matter.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 27, 2017 3:33 am GMT

For the western US, rather than small light water, the best nuclear option strikes me as high temperature nuclear, with thermal energy storage. No doubt that California will flood the grid with cheap solar all day, so nuclear needs storage to co-exist. It will be really hard to build new pumped-hydro in the US (due to environmentalists), so without storage, even coal could survive as a California import (the way “green” net accounting works, California can still claim to be 100% renewable , if their total renewable generation, including exports exceeds their usage, even if they import coal power every night).

There’ll be little motivation for other western states to build solar, given California’s likely exports. If neighboring states want to avoid outsourcing their electricity jobs, they had better focus on generating night-time power (I sympathize with Oregonians who’ll have to turn-off their rivers during the day, to control hydro output). California may spend a bundle on 4 hour batteries, so the best opportunity for nuclear may be with 12 hour storage.

I don’t think any of the nuclear startups have mentioned thermal energy storage, but Terrestrial Energy (from Canada, where ironically, solar is a poor fit) is showing a design which uses solar salt for heat transport, so it’s a natural fit.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Feb 27, 2017 3:59 am GMT

Yes, I have also noticed the change in TEC comments, but my belief is not that anyone had been chased away, but that some commenters simply prefer to comment in an echo-chamber, where they won’t be challenged by people who bring opinions (and numbers) that contradict their beliefs. I’ve certainly visited cites where pro-nuclear comments were prohibited, and violators had their accounts blocked.

Can you explain why you believe people are driven away? What policy revisions do you suggest?

I believe on-line echo-chambers (along with individually tailored computer-driven news feeds and narrow-market TV news) are helping feed the growing polarization in US culture. I think the Trump presidency will ultimately teach us that we must battle this polarization, and resume talking and cooperating across the aisle.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Feb 27, 2017 5:10 am GMT

Strange, I have always felt crowded out in the Media at Large, by the renewables crowd who never ever see a role for nuclear power and demand it to be eliminated completely (even on TED Talks), whereas nuclear supporters almost always see a role for renewables once storage is included.

Why is it that the energy debate is a mirror for the political debate where the other side is almost always seen as unreasonable, illogical, and extreme?

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 27, 2017 9:27 am GMT

Space has never been the problem. Intermittency is.

I think Western US will be 70% Carbon free by 2030. Hard to look further than that.

It is even hard to look that far when there’s a gamble on intermittent RE penetrations far into uncharted territory. But with a determined nuclear policy, it’d be very easy to map a plan to 100% fossil-free generation.

True, CA is lower in electricity consumption than US in general, but it is high enough that even 10% gas is quite a lot – half a ton per capita or so.

The only hope for nuclear in Western US will be

Short- to medium-term, I think there’s no hope and that the US will never again be a driver in nuclear deployments. It might eventually tag along if a strong nuclear trend develops in other parts of the world, though. The US does have an impressive amount of nuclear innovation going on, considering nothing can realistically even be prototyped domestically. So perhaps it can contribute by exporting some innovation?

Personally, I think transportation is going to decarbonize very quickly, both from move to electric vehicles as well as autonomous technology.

I don’t, but that might just be a difference in what we see as “very quickly”.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 27, 2017 9:38 am GMT

The European solar pioneers have had very sharp and short contruction booms, typically crashing from their peak construction year down to zero in the next year. There’s a few graphs on this in this blog post. The graphs are in English, but the blog is in Swedish.
http://nejdetkanviinte.se/2016/06/29/solcellsbubblorna/

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Feb 27, 2017 4:30 pm GMT

Thanks for the dialogue.

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