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Question

Which do you feel is better, large Wind & Solar Farms? Or Localized Power Generation and why?!

The U.S. Department of Energy is currently pursuing a strategy to create a smart grid, an automated, cleaner and less-centralized means of meeting the nation's energy demands.

The idea of a localized power grid or microgrid fits into this overall strategy in several key ways.

First, the more power produced on a local level, the less a community will need to import from outside power plants or leech off the network. And there would be a reduction in transmission cost.

Many of the nation's energy woes are due to the electrical equivalency of a run on the bank. Temperatures suddenly skyrocket, so more people crank up the air conditioning -- which puts a huge drain on the grid. 

If there's not enough to go around, then not everyone gets power -- at least until sufficient energy becomes available elsewhere on the grid.

What direction should we be pursuing?! 🤔
 

 

Answers

Hi Andre,

The practical answer is that you do what you think is economically the best for you. The second consideration is that you do what you think is morally best. Many corporate entities have invested in renewables via Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) or virtual PPAs for both economic and moral reasons. These investments are in large wind and solar facilities. On the small scale, many people find it economically a great idea to install solar on their roofs. They also like the moral choice. As the grid goes toward the direction of distributed energy resources, which includes both of your questions, utilities pursue the goal of grid resiliency and stability. For some, that means funding coal and nuclear power plants that have had a difficult economic time. For others, that means investing in new grid technology that supports distributed energy resources.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 15, 2019 6:19 pm GMT

Charles, no corporation invests in renewable PPAs for moral reasons, nor should they. They invest in them for public relations, and they can be very effective in convincing potential customers they're doing something good for the environment.

Unfortunately, they're not. Renewable PPAs rely on unverifiable "Renewable Energy Certificates", which double-count the renewable energy contribution of a solar or wind plant by allowing a fossil fuel generator to count a corresponding quantity of gas-fired generation as "clean", too. Any business that operates on cloudy, windless days or nights and claims to be powered by "100% renewable" electricity is essentially a co-conspirator in this scam.

In years to come its immense ramifications will be understood by a gullible public, but by then it will be too late to matter.

"As the grid goes toward the direction of distributed energy resources, which includes both of your questions, utilities pursue the goal of grid resiliency and stability."

Or more correctly: "pursue the goal of re-establishing grid resiliency and stability", give both have suffered as a direct result of incorporating intermittent renewable electricity, If utilities billed customers for the cost of accommodating generation from wind and solar farms, it would make zero-carbon nuclear energy considerably more economical by comparison, wouldn't it?

Charles Botsford's picture
Charles Botsford on Oct 15, 2019 8:13 pm GMT

Hi Bob,

I stand by my answer -- it's about economics. If Google were to sign a renewables vPPA for 100% of GWh output from a wind farm and were to discover the wind farm output had been oversubscribed, say selling another 100% to Microsoft (like something out of The Producers), Google and Microsoft both would be very unhappy. Too, Google doesn't buy GWh only on public relations. The MWh cost has to be competitive.

You're right that public relations plays a part in a corporate economic decision, but so does a potential public relations fiasco, such as what you theoretically describe. I would bet Google and Microsoft attorneys have your theoretical risk covered.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 15, 2019 9:48 pm GMT

This is a good point, Charles. The #1 is always economics and the #2 is doing the 'right' thing. The sweet spot, and much of the work in R&D and developing of clean energy, is ensuring that #1 and #2 overwhelmingly overlap. At that point, it won't even be news when the Google's and Microsoft's invest in bigger wind farms, it'll just be obvious!

I prefer small size of wind and solar , supported by suitable size gas turbine or desiel engine as a backup. Also , one can think of starage battery as addition. Sizes will depend upon estemated load in the near future and metiorolgical conditions of the covered zone.

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