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On New NREL Data Suggests Wind Could Replace Coal as Nation’s Primary Generation Source

Excellent coverage of this report Clayton - In my own experience, I found that both the increase in hub height as well as the increased wind sweep of advanced  wind turbines is having a profound impact on expected capacity factors for a state - in my case, Colorado.

As you point out, this drives down the costs of wind generation - since the capital costs are fixed - increases in generation means a higher return of production for the investment. In our case, wind contracts came in at somewhere around $28/MWh.  I have heard of even lower costs in states like Texas.

While these capacity factors may be comparable to fossil resources, they are also intermittent - an issue that can be addressed by integrating renewable production across a broad regional area.  I believe NREL or WGA did an excellent study on this as well.

Thanks again for a fantastic post and coverage of the great work of the National Renewable Energy Lab (I'm partial, being a Coloradan!).


Tom

August 5, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Bob, 

I think we can have a rational discussion regarding the small portion of the distribution grid which facilitates the transmission of the excess solar power going onto the system, including a discussion of rate design, the value that solar provides to the system, the fixed costs solar customers already pay for service & facilities, and the costs of maintaining that distribution system.  But that's not really the discussion that is happening today.

Personally, I think the approach New York is taking in shifting the role of the utility to a distribution service provider is a much more transparent and useful direction.

But, for now, it is the weekend. 

Tom

August 1, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Bob,

I'm not sure I follow your conclusion. Who buys a solar array for free? It seems to me, a solar owner pays quite a bit to generate electricity for both themselves and the grid, they are compensated for power they deliver to the grid - as are all utilities when they finance generation - through the rate base over time.

The cross-subsidization argument is: since the transmission infrastructure payment is embedded in the retail rate, that the solar customer is being subsidized by others when they are credited at the retail rate.

It is true that when the solar customer uses electricity from the grid, they benefit from the entire grid infrastructure. What is missing from that evaluation is the fact that the solar customer's neighbor is getting power from the solar array that doesn't use the transmission infrastructure and is largely confined to a small portion of the distribution grid. That customer pays the full retail rate to the utility for power that the utility didn't generate and didn't distribute.

My point to Hops is that the transaction is essentially like the neighbor buying power from the solar customer, but using the utility as a conduit - the utility is made whole, the customers are made whole - no subsidization.

That doesn't mean there isn't a huge problem for the utility - they are receiving less in revenues. But as the author points out - that is the case with any type of demand side management, including LEDs. But this is a problem of our current utility business model, not of either efficiency or solar.

Tom

July 31, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Hops,

That is essentially what is happening. Your power from solar goes on the grid, your neighbor buys it. They pay retail (including all infrastructure costs - although the electricity generated by your solar array is only using a small part of the distribution grid) - you are credited at retail. You are selling to your neighbor with the utility as a proxy. Cross subsidization is a myth.


Tom

July 31, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Hops,

That is essentially what is happening. Your power from solar goes on the grid, your neighbor buys it. They pay retail (including all infrastructure costs - although the electricity generated by your solar array is only using a small part of the distribution grid) - you are credited at retail. You are selling to your neighbor with the utility as a proxy. Cross subsidization is a myth.


Tom

July 31, 2015    View Comment    

On Tesla Powerwall: What Does It Mean For Renewables?

It's an interesting first generation entry into the storage market. And it's pretty.

There is tremendous benefit to the grid in being able to absorb demand spikes in the battery and sheilding those from the grid. That also releives the ratepayers of paying for additional generation to meet those demand spikes.


There's an opportunity in the markets that will exist, to arbitrage power when the grid needs it. I think there's an additional benefit of providing an alternative to net metering for solar owners in an uncertain policy environment where there are continual attacks on net metering policies.


I think Tesla has missed a couple opportunities - 1) only having DC in is great for solar systems, but if you want to grid tie your battery, you will need to buy another inverter. 2) only having AC out limits the potential efficiency of a system that could stay DC (to power lights, electronics, motors, etc...) from the solar generation to the consumption with no inverter losses. 3) Increasing intelligence in the battery to actively manage demand would be another great DR resource that could be sold to the utility along with volt/var optimization capabilities.

I think those missed opportunities are true from the information I could gleen off of the website. But it's limited information - if someone has more info, would love to hear it.

May 7, 2015    View Comment    

On Colorado Introduces Legislation to Create a New Utility Business Model

Thanks for your comments Nathan. I agree an emission standard would be a good policy guideline for states to adopt - and also would drive innovation toward the goal.


I don't think this legislation anticipates politicians micro-managing engineers' work. What it does do is establish policy objectives and then ask the commission to look at ways in which the utility revenues can be aligned with those policy objectives.

If an investor owned utility earns money for their investors by investing in infrastructure, there is - understandably - an inclination toward that solution. What the legislation suggests is that perhaps there is a better revenue model the commission may be able to identify that would both earn money for the utility's investors while accomplishing the service and policy goals of the state. Then it asks the commission to investigate those potential options.
 

As with your suggestion for the emissions standard - it doesn't define the methods to get there, but tries to put the right mechanisms in place such that a utility which performs well will earn on that performance - and as a result, will innovate toward performance and policy objectives.

March 11, 2015    View Comment    

On Colorado Introduces Legislation to Create a New Utility Business Model

Again, parameters for net metering laws are generally defined within policy. Some states list qualifying technologies, some say just "renewable" technologies. In Colorado, it was a part of the original RPS ballot initiative, so it includes renewable techologies as defined in statute.

March 11, 2015    View Comment    

On Colorado Introduces Legislation to Create a New Utility Business Model

Thanks for your thoughts Bob. I would imagine the language to "minimize investments in new large scale generation" is to avoid the building of new generation when there are less costly alternatives. I don't think it means "never build anything" - but the idea of effectively using the generation we do build and fully evaluating alternatives before investing ratepayer dollars in more long term infrastrucutre is a policy objective I imagine most would support. 

I'm not sure I entirely follow the rest of your thread of thoughts, but, "what's to prevent individuals from selling power back at inflated prices" - I guess that's policy. I know that the limit on net metered resources in Colorado is 120%, it's different in different places - but generally, those parameters are defined in policy. 

March 11, 2015    View Comment    

On AC/DC: In the New Current Wars, Will Edison Win Out After All?

It's great to hear there are engineers who want to be involved in development of state policy! We need more of you guys :)

February 6, 2015    View Comment    

On Iowa Ruling Shows the Way to Third-Party Solar Without Legislation

Sorry - a bit of a typo in the article - the $600k number is over 20 years - the annual estimate of sales loss is $30k.

September 2, 2014    View Comment