It is 7 pm, 29 June 2017 in New England.
Nuclear 29%, gas 56%, hydro 5%, coal <1%, renewables 9%, of which wind 2.3%, solar 0%.
It is 6 am, 30 June 2017.
Nuclear 38%, gas 49%, hydro 4%, coal <1%, renewables 9%, of which wind 0.8%, solar 0%.
It is overcast, i.e., there is not sufficient sunshine to produce any solar power.
There is not sufficient wind speed, about 7 mph, to turn the rotors of wind turbines,
Such simultaneous wind/solar conditions are typical in the morning from 1 AM to 9 AM and in late afternoon/early evening, year-round in New England.
Wind and Solar Energy are Variable and Intermittent
Wind/solar electricity is weather-dependent, day/night-dependent and season-dependent.
It is produced at random, and it is variable and intermittent, and therefore not a reliable source of electricity, and not dispatchable.
A grid operator, such as ISO-NE, would never call wind turbine or solar system owners and tell them to provide X MW for Y hours, whereas there are many traditional generators on the NE grid ready, willing, and able to perform that service, 24/7/365, i.e., those generators are dispatchable.
Wind/solar CANNOT exist on the grid, without the OTHER power plants automatically/instantaneously counteracting the variations of wind/solar, and filling-in any and all power shortages, including during any wind/solar lulls, (which occur at random and my last 5 to 7 days), and to provide sufficient power for peaking requirement during high demand periods.
Batteries for Reducing Grid Disturbances due to Wind and Solar
In the future, there will be many solar systems tied to a distribution grid. Increasing the capacity, MW, of those solar systems would decrease the stability of the distribution grid, especially during variable-cloudy weather.
Smoothing Wind Variability
Wind speed and direction are notoriously variable 24/7/365, especially on ridgelines. Some wind turbine systems use:
1) Large-scale battery systems for “smoothing”, filling-in dips and absorbing surges
2) Synchronous-condenser systems, as does Lowell Mountain, owned by Green Mountain Power, GMP
Smoothing Solar Variability
Battery systems, tied to distribution grids with many solar systems, are used in California and Germany to smooth solar output variations, which can be very large during variably-cloudy weather.
GMP has a program to install Tesla Powerwall 2.0 battery units at thousands of ratepayer premises. The units act as dampers, which work as follows:
- The varying DC electricity of the solar systems is fed, as AC, into the distribution grid.
- The battery systems maintain distribution grid stability by absorbing electricity from, or providing electricity to the grid, as needed.
- DC to AC inverters of the battery systems are about 85%, 50%, and 10% efficient at 20%, 10% and 2% outputs, respectively, i.e., 50% of the converted electricity is lost as heat, if charged and discharged electricity quantities occur at less than 10% of inverter capacity!
- The round-trip loss: 1) AC to DC into battery; 2) while stored in the battery; 3) DC to AC out of battery, is about 20% on an annual average basis.
Load Shifting: Storing midday, solar output surges, and wind output surges during higher wind speed periods, in excess of demand, for later use, would be highly uneconomical, except in special cases, such as on remote islands.
Such surge charging and discharging for later use, would be grossly uneconomical, unless the electric rate differential (peak rate - midday rate) is extremely high.
Damping Mode: In damping mode, the battery system would initially be charged to about 55% of rated capacity, MWh, so it can be charged up to 90% and discharged down to 20%.
The daily working range would be about 70% of battery capacity, to achieve 15-y battery life.
The charge controller prevents charging above 90% and discharging below 20%, to achieve 15-y battery life.
BTW, similar limits also apply to your EV, even though the on-board screen shows 100% full and 0% full.
Typically, in damping mode, the charging-discharging range is well within 50% to 60%, i.e., this narrow-range charging and discharging generates significant heat (wasted energy), as much of the damping occurs at less than 10% of AC/DC inverter capacity, unless multiple inverters are used.
Larger-scale battery systems have heating and cooling systems to maintain battery temperatures at about 60 to 70 F.
As more solar systems are added to a distribution grid, additional battery capacity would be required.
EV Batteries for Damping and Load-shifting: In the distant future, RE folks envision damping and load-shifting, with or without owner permission, using
1) The batteries of EVs that are in use
2) The retired batteries of EVs that otherwise would be discarded.
Thousands of EV batteries, each about 75 kWh, for each distribution grid, would be required.
All of them likely would not be available for service.
Variable Ridgeline Wind Output in New England
The speeds and directions of winds on ridgelines vary, which varies the output of each wind turbine. After such outputs are combined and fed, via a substation, to the high voltage grid, the voltage, frequency and power factor is not allowed to exceed what is allowed by ISO-NE, the grid operator.
The ISO-NE regulations require stable voltage and frequency, and reactive energy supply to the grid, and voltage control to support network failures.
Those requirements were not met by the 63-MW Lowell Mountain wind system feeding into the Vermont Northeast Kingdom high voltage grid.
GMP was required to:
1) Install a $10.5 million synchronous-condenser system to “smooth” the wind turbine output, as required by ISO-NE, and
2) Feed the output to two high voltage lines, one to the north and another one to the south of the wind turbine system.
Connecting Lowell to the HV grid totaled about $20 million, or about 13% of the $150 million the turnkey capital cost of the project.
“Socializing” Costs to Make Solar and Wind Appear Less Costly
By socializing costs, wind and solar APPEAR to be competitive, but are anything but that.
See URL for a detailed example of socializing solar costs.
Coping With Wind and Solar Electricity in New England
At present, the NE grid has sufficient dispatchable capacity (MW), nearly all of it fossil and hydro, for peaking, filling-in, and counteracting, 24/7/365, the small quantities of variable wind and solar electricity.
This peaking, filling-in and counteracting will become ever more difficult and costly:
1) As fossil-fired dispatchable capacity (producing steady electricity at about 4 - 5 c/kWh) is squeezed off the system by low NE wholesale prices
2) Due to increased wear and tear caused to combined-cycle gas turbine plants, CCGTs, due to more frequent start/stop operations and counteracting operations, which is inefficient (more fuel/kWh, more CO2/kWh, more O&M cost/kWh), just as it would be would be for a car.
3) As nuclear plants are retired (producing steady, near-CO2-free electricity at about 4 - 5 c/kWh)
4) As expensive wind and solar become an increasing percentage of the total electricity supply to the NE grid.
The more wind and solar is added to the grid, the less effective it becomes to remove CO2, due to the less-efficient operation of the counteracting plants.
In Ireland; the disturbances of 17% wind on the grid, reduced the annual average efficiency of the entire fleet of counteracting CCGT plants from about 50% to about 42%, which, after some years, resulted in government forensic investigation, because gas imports were notdecreasing as predicted. See URLs.
Subsidies to encourage storage solutions, such as lithium-ion batteries, would be required to attract investment in all types of electricity storage systems to smooth/dampen the variations of wind and solar energy.
Long lasting wind lulls and seasonal variations would require massive utility-scale storage capacity (GWh for Vermont, TWh for New England), if fossil and nuclear plants were closed down. See URLs for:
- Insufficient fuel and CO2 reductions due to wind energy in Ireland and Australia
- The storage requirements due to solar and wind lulls in Germany
- The adverse wind turbine noise impact on people and animals.
Synchronous Rotational Inertia
Traditional generators provide the synchronous rotational inertia that serves to stabilize the grid. Wind provides very little synchronous rotational inertia to the grid and solar provides none. In fact, wind and solar electricity tend to destabilize the grid.
There are RE folks who claim rotational inertia is not needed, because it can be artificially provided by electronic systems, which is true. CCGT plants provide synchronous rotational inertia to the grid, plus they provide most of the peaking, filling-in and counteracting, 24/7/365, i.e., whenever variable, intermittent wind and solar electricity is insufficient to meet demand.
NOTE: Here is a very expensive example: Ta’u, an island of the US Fiji archipelago in the Pacific, with 600 residents, has 5,000 PV panels, 1.4 MW, and 60 Tesla Powerpacks that store 3 days of electricity
A cyclone/hurricane may raise havoc with the panels, as happened in Jamaica and Haiti..
Germany and Wind and Solar
Germany could not reliably operate its grid with 17.8% wind and solar penetration in 2016 (3 times as much as the US at that time) without relying on the spare peaking, filling-in and counteracting capacity of the grids of neighboring countries, such as Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Poland, The Czech Republic, etc. The same is true for Denmark.
Conditions in New England
New England has highly variable weather and low-medium quality wind and solar conditions.
- Wind electricity is zero about 30% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors)
- It is minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons/early evenings (peak demand hours), especially during summer
- About 60% is generated at night, when demand is much less than during the late afternoons/early evenings
- About 60% is generated in winter.
- During winter, the best wind month is up to 2.5 times the worst summer month
- New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.262) of any region in the US, except the South. See URL.
- Solar electricity is strictly a midday affair.
- It is zero about 65% of the hours of the year
- It is always minimal early mornings and late afternoons/early evenings
- It is minimal much of the winter
- It is near zero with snow and ice on the panels.
- It varies with variable cloudiness, which would excessively disturb distribution grids with many solar systems, as happens in southern California and southern Germany on a daily basis*. See Note.
- During summer, the best solar month is up to 4 times the worst winter month; that ratio is 6 in Germany.
If we were to rely on wind and solar for most of our electricity, massive energy storage systems (GWh-scale in case of Vermont) would be required to cover multi-day wind lulls, multi-day overcast/snowy periods, and seasonal variations. See URL.
Wind Plus Solar Plus Storage in New England
See URL for estimate of turnkey capital cost of storage system.
Germany Historic Wind and Solar
Germany has excellent public records for the past 15 years showing the variability and intermittency of wind and solar energy, i.e., denial/obfuscation of the facts is not an option.
NOTE: Utilities, such as GMP, are installing Tesla Powerwall 2.0 battery units at ratepayer premises to smooth/dampen those variations and to perform other services, such as reducing GMP demand, MW, as seen by ISO-NE, and forward demand charges, $/MW, as imposed by ISO-NE, during late afternoon/early evening, when demand is peaking, but solar is minimal, and wind usually is minimal as well.
NOTE: If someone were to make the claim “my production facility runs on solar”, that would mean a slowly increasing production from early morning until about noontime, and then a slowly decreasing production until late afternoon, with no production the other hours of the day.
In case of variable cloudiness, production would rapidly ramp up and down during production hours.
In case of snow or ice on the panels, there would be minimal or zero production during production hours.
And for such occasional electricity, we have to provide generous subsidies, plus we have buy the electricity at 2 – 3 times the NE annual average wholesale price, which has been about 5 c/kWh since 2009, due to low-cost gas (50% of NE generation about 5 c/kWh) and nuclear (26% of NE generation about 4 - 5 c/kWh).
A Hypothetical Example of Massive Energy Storage in New England
If the Wilder Dam in the Connecticut River were about 100 ft. tall and river water were allowed to accumulate upstream of the dam, a very large lake, at least 100 miles long and several miles wide would be created. If hydro turbines were added, such a lake would store enough energy to cover multi-day wind lulls, multi-day overcast/snowy periods, and a part of the seasonal variations. Many thousands of households and businesses would need to be relocated and other manmade detritus would need to be removed.
- Norway has a large number of such lakes and generates 98% of its electricity from hydro, already for about 100 years, plus it has net exports.
- Hydro-Quebec has a large number of such lakes and generates 99% of its electricity from hydro, already for many decades. H-Q has at least 5000 MW of hydro plants, already built, ready to provide a major part of the electricity for New Hampshire and Vermont. Currently water is uselessly passing over spillways, instead of through hydro turbines. See below section “More Energy From H-Q a Much Better Alternative”. H-Q is panning to complete another 5000 MW in the next 10 years (2017 - 2027).
Wind and Solar Capacity Credits in New England
Grid operators give capacity credits to generators for long term planning purposes, based on various criteria. These capacity credits (usually a percentage of reliably available rated output) are added to determine the MW available to serve peak demands at any time of the year.
ISO-NE needs to have up to 10% more accredited generating capacity, MW, available than the yearly peak system demand to ensure reliably serving the demand; that 10% is needed in case one or more plants have scheduled or unscheduled outages.
Currently, NE has 30,500 MW, resources - 28,100 MW, peak demand = 2,400 MW, or 8% reserves. This percentage is low, because of low capacities of installed wind and solar, which do not have a reliably available output.
In NE peak demands occur in late afternoon/early evening, which is about the same time wind is minimal, i.e., not much capacity credit can be given to wind.
Solar does reduce midday peak demand, but still higher peak demands occur in late afternoon/early evening, when solar is minimal, i.e., not much capacity credit can be given to solar. This URL shows solar disappearing at 7 pm to 8 pm when demand is peaking, in California. See page 5.
Wind Capacity Credits in Texas
The Texas grid operator, ERCOT, has set the capacity credit of Texas wind at 5700 MW of 22000 MW (installed) = 25.9%, mainly because onshore wind turbines in coastal areas are driven by daily winds from the Mexican Gulf that are reliable and strong during midday peak demand hours. NE has no such wind conditions.
This report has a recent summary of capacity credits for various energy sources. It shows Texas has 84,325 MW, resources - 58,956 MW, peak demand = 25,369 MW, or 30% reserves. This percentage is high, because of large capacities of installed wind and solar. As a rule, the more wind and solar capacity, the higher the reserve percentage becomes. See URL.
That means, as build-outs of wind and solar continue, Texas may have 50% or 75% of "reserve" capacity, i.e., almost two electricity generating systems to do one job, including:
- Greatly expanded grid systems to connect the widely dispersed wind and solar systems
- Greatly expanded storage systems
- Traditional generators, performing the peaking, filling-in and counteracting, 24/7/365, i.e., whenever wind and solar electricity is insufficient to meet demand.
Such an electricity generating system is much more costly than the present system. In Germany and Denmark, with high build-outs of wind and solar, have the highest household electric rates in Europe, about 30 eurocent/kWh, whereas France, 80% nuclear, about 15 eurocent/kWh, one of the lowest.
Two Energy Systems to do One Job
High wind and solar build-outs means, in Germany and in New England, almost ALL traditional generators, such as gas turbine, nuclear plants, and hydro plants, must be kept in good running order, fully staffed, fully fueled, and ready to generate, as required by the grid operator.
However, most of those plants would have to operate inefficiently (more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh, more O&M/kWh, as in Ireland, Australia, etc.), while providing electricity for peaking, filling-in and counteracting the variable solar and wind energy, 24/7/365, year after year.
The end result: Almost two energy systems to do one job, unless massive energy storage systems take over the job of the traditional plants. The economic feasibility of that is much talked about, but, in fact, is not even close to appearing on the horizon.
Crediting Wind and Solar with Primary Energy
Traditional primary energy, such as coal, gas, uranium, wood, etc., is the energy fed to power plants, which convert it into steam to produce electricity 24/7/365. There is not a wind or solar plant in the world that produces 24/7/365.
The stochastic energy of wind entering a wind turbine rotor, and the variable, intermittent energy due to variable cloud cover, etc., from the sun impacting solar panels cannot be equated with traditional P.E. The quality difference of traditional P.E., versus that of wind and solar is dramatic.
In New England there is not sufficient wind to turn the rotors for 30% of the hours of the year (wind speeds must be more than 7 mph to turn the rotors), and there is no sun for 65% of the hours of the year.
Wind and solar could not even function on the grid without the traditional generators, and those generators would have to ramp up and down, at part-load, to deal with wind and solar, and take an economic hit to boot. Wind and solar is merely a helper electricity source that needs support 24/7/365.
Some pro-wind and pro-solar people want to make wind and solar electricity more important than in reality. They want wind and solar electricity to have a multiplier to create an artificial P.E. They want wind and solar electricity be credited with that artificial P.E. so it would appear more important in reducing the world’s primary energy.
Equating the P.E. of wind and solar with the traditional P.E., of coal, gas, etc., is well beyond rational, because the more wind and solar energy on the grid, the less efficient the traditional generators that have to deal with it.
Destruction of Pristine Ridge Lines
In New England, utility-scale wind systems are built by destroying pristine ridge lines, untouched for about 10,000 years.
About six, 500-ft tall, 3 MW units per mile, at about 2000-ft elevation or higher, reached by means of a 50-ft wide, 3 mile long, winding, access road. The blasting and destruction is beyond belief, millions of tons of materials are moved. The wind turbines often are imported from Denmark, Germany and Spain, and the solar panels often are made in China with dirty, inefficient coal plants.
Multi-millionaires with Tax Shelters
Warren Buffett, considered one of the outstanding investors of all-time, has stated: “On wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit”. Buffett has investments in multiple wind sites, as do many other multi-billion-dollar entities.
Buffett and his cohorts hire tax accountants/lawyers to refine the subsidy-milking art form, as well as PR pros and RE lobbyists to continually increase the milking, via higher RPS targets and renewed subsidy periods.
New England Wind Generation was Minuscule in 2016
New England had installed at end 2016: VT 119, ME 901, NH 185, MA 115, RI 52, CT 5 = 1377 MW, which required the destruction of about 92 miles of pristine ridge lines, plus building about 100 miles of 50-ft wide access roads.
For reference, the annual average New England onshore capacity, generation and capacity factors, obtained from the ISO-NE website, are shown below. The 2014 CF is representative, because not much capacity was added during 2014, but the 2015 and 2016 CFs likely are low, because some of the added capacity was not in service for the full year.
NOTE: Wind generation was 3,162,544 GWh in 2016, or about 100 x 3,162,544/105,572,000 = 3.0% of NE generation.
The CF was 0.262. See table.
% of NE generation
New England Solar Generation was Minuscule in 2016
About 1918 MW of solar was installed in NE by the end of 2016. That MW includes:
1) “Behind the meter” (monitored by utilities), such as resident-owned/leased rooftop, plus
2) “Before the meter” (monitored by ISO-NE), owned by wholesale market participants.
In 2016, total solar generation would be about 1918 x 8766 x 0.140 = 2,353,846 MWh, or 2.2% of total NE generation, if all MW were in service for the entire year. Generation of the best month in summer is about 4 times the worst month in winter; the ratio is 6/1 in Germany. See URL.
A Hypothetical Example of 20,000 MW of Future Wind Turbine Capacity by 2050
For this calculation, it is generously assumed the New England onshore annual average CF is about 0.29, instead of the actual of about 0.262 in 2016. Due to varying wind speeds and directions:
- The output of a future 20,000 MW would be about 500 MW, or less, during early morning hours and late afternoon/early evening hours, based on pro-rating ISO-NE performance data of the existing NE wind turbines. That many wind turbines would have to be distributed at about 400 locations, because feed-ins of 50 MW of variable wind energy would be a major problem for weak rural high voltage grids, as has already been proven regarding the Lowell wind system in rural Vermont.
- Destruction of about 20000/1377 x 92 = 1336 miles of pristine ridgelines, plus about 1300 miles of access road, would be required to install the 20,000 MW.
- Electricity production would be 20,000 x 8760 x 0.29 = 50.8 TWh/y, about 50.8/125 = 40% of the load on the New England grid.
- The turnkey capital cost would be about 20,000 MW x 2.5 million/MW + $15 billion for grid expansion and storage systems = $65 billion during the 2017 - 2050 period, about 65/33 = $2 billion/y for each of 35 years.
If a part of the 20,000 MW would be offshore, the capital cost, $/MW, and O&M, $/MWh, would be much higher.
Plus, a significant capacity of CCGT plants would be required for peaking, filling-in and counteracting, 24/7/365, whenever wind, solar, bio, hydro would be insufficient to meet demand.
More Energy From Hydro-Quebec a Much Better Alternative Than Wind and Solar
At end 2014, H-Q's 62 generating plants had a capacity of about 36500 MW; almost all are hydro -pants.
- H-Q ADDED 5000 MW of hydro capacity during 2004 - 2014 period.
- H-Q is planning to ADD 5000 MW during the 2015 - 2025 period.
H-Q is building four new hydro plants, with a total capacity of 1,550 MW, which could produce about 1,550 MW x 8,760 x CF 0.50 = 6.8 TWh/y, enough electricity to serve 1.36 million New England homes with each home using about 5,000 kWh/y.
H-Q exports electricity to New England, New York, Ontario and New Brunswick.
H-Q has about 30 TWh/y of hydropower available for export, about half of which is contracted to supply utilities in New England.
The hydro plants could be used for near-CO2-free peaking, filling-in and counteracting, but that would require several 1000 - 1500 MW HVDC transmission lines (underwater, overhead or underground).
That energy would have much less CO2 emissions/kWh than wind and solar energy, and would be a steady, year-round supply, regardless of weather and season.
Having more, low-cost*, steady, not variable, not intermittent, near-CO2-free, hydro energy from Hydro-Quebec would be the best way to get all the sectors of the New England economy moving again.
In this article, Dostis of GMP, states a new GMP/Hydro-Quebec power supply contract likely will have energy prices of about 5 - 7 c/kWh.
* About 5 - 7 cents/kWh, plus 1.0 c/kWh for transmission, adjusted based on NE wholesale prices, which have been 4.5 - 5 c/kWh since 2008.
Proposed HVDC Transmission Lines
Getting a significant quantity of hydro energy from Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador would involve:
- About $5 - $7 billion in new HVDC transmission lines for all of New England,
- NO significant grid changes,
- NO significant generator mix changes, plus
- The wholesale cost of the hydro energy likely would be 5 - 7 c/kWh under 20-year, market-based, contracts. A MAJOR LONG-TERM plus for the New England economy.
- By using HVDC lines, the issue of frequency differences, etc., between grids is moot, because the AC energy from the ORIGINATING grid is converted to DC, which does not have a frequency, and then converted to AC at the frequency of the RECEIVING grid. The operators of the two grids continue to supervise the regulation functions on their grids.
NOTE: HVDC lines have very little loss/mile compared to HVAC lines. There are dozens of onshore and offshore HVDC lines in Europe. Just Google. Here is a URL, go to page 49, and you will see HVDC transmission adds less than 1 c/kWh to the cost of energy.
Four proposed HVDC lines to connect Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador to New England:
- Blackstone, a Venture Capital Firm, is planning to build a $1.2 billion, 154-mile, $7.8 million/mile, 1000-MW, HVDC transmission line that would run beneath Lake Champlain. The line, called New England Clean Power Link, would carry hydroelectric and wind power generated in Canada to metropolitan energy markets in the Northeast.http://www.necplink.com/docs/NECPL-Overview-Presentation.pdf
- Eversource Energy is planning to build a $1.6 billion, 192-mile, $8.3 million/mile, 1090-MW, HVDC transmission line, called Northern Pass, which would run mostly through New Hampshire to provide energy to Southern New England markets.
- Champlain Hudson Power Express, a $2.2 billion, 333-mile, $6.6 million/mile, 1000-MW, HVDC transmission line under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River to New York City.
- Northeast Energy Link, a $2 billion, 230-mile, $8.7 million/mile, 1100-MW, underground, HVDC transmission line from Orrington, ME, to Tewksbury, MA.
Just these four transmission lines could import into New England = 4300 MW x 8760 h/y x CF 0.75 = 25.3 TWh/y, or 25.3/127.2 = 22.2% of New England's total consumption in 2014.
Based on the above, it would be a huge folly to overburden New England economy and the NE electric grid with such very expensive, low-quality wind energy.
Let us hope so-called policy makers come to their senses before it is too late.