The US needs to build a bigger, stronger grid. FERC has a plan for that

At-a-Glance: 

A new federal proposal would task grid operators, states and utilities with planning a grid that can support clean energy over the long term — and fairly share the costs of building it. For more, read The US needs to build a bigger, stronger grid. FERC has a plan for that.

Key Takeaways:

  • The U.S. has abundant clean energy sources but the grid does not reliably connect those sources with population centers that need it the most.
  • The proposal, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC), would require all regulated transmission providers to undertake planning in a ​“sufficiently long-term, forward-looking basis to meet transmission needs driven by changes in the resource mix and demand.
  • Providers would also need to consider a number of factors in determining the benefits of regional transmission plans to be weighed against the costs of building them. For example, converting to clean energy sources may be more expensive in the short term but would pay off in the long run.
  • The proposal is not final. Stakeholders — including transmission grid operators, state utility and energy regulators, transmission-owning utilities, independent transmission and energy developers — will have months to comment on the proposal before FERC votes on a final rule, potentially before the end of this year. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Path to 100% will vary across the world, however the transition must include more clean energy sources, like wind and solar, while reducing the use of fossil fuels like coal. To get there, energy producers must be willing to invest and prepare for future technologies and fuel sources. In addition, governments at all levels must be willing to work with providers by passing laws and regulations that will allow for innovation and progress, even if the benefits are not seen immediately. This FERC proposal is encouraging because it appears to pave the way for that cooperation.

A 100% Renewable Energy Future Is Possible, & We Need It

At-a-Glance: 

A transition to renewable energy is not just one of the most consequential tools at our fingertips to act on climate, but also represents a great opportunity to increase control over our energy choices, improve the health of our communities and the planet, create jobs and wealth, and much more. For more read A 100% Renewable Energy Future Is Possible, & We Need It.

Key Takeaways:

  • A new study called On the Road to 100 Percent Renewables examined how two dozen state members of the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA) can meet all of their electricity needs with renewable energy — while decarbonizing other sectors of the economy and ensuring equitable benefits to all communities.
  • Using the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) electricity model from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the study found that coal generation in member states essentially disappears by 2040 in USCA states as solar and wind generation grows exponentially.
  • The model found that the US would be about 73% renewable by 2040 because fossil fuel plants will still exist in other states and the power grid is so interconnected that generation is shared across state lines.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Path to 100% is working to identify the fastest, most cost-effective, most reliable ways to decarbonize electricity — not just city by city, but across entire states and nations. As the article states, increasing the reliance on renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, will be critical to success. We must also determine a plan to realistically phase out fossil fuel plants which provide more consistent, reliable power around the clock. Renewable sources can be intermittent, so battery technology will need to improve and we will need to build flexible power plants that can run on sustainable fuels like hydrogen. The path will not be the same everywhere and the timeline may vary, but a 100% renewable energy future in the United States is possible by 2050 if everyone works together.

Wärtsilä’s Jon Rodriguez appears on New Project Media’s NPM Interconnections Podcast

Wärtsilä Energy’s Jon Rodriguez was a recent guest on New Project Media’s NPM Interconnections Podcast.

“We have a tremendous message and meaning as a company that aligns with the industry trend to allow renewables to be the future power source for humanity,” he said. “Wärtsilä is in a great position to help that.”

Wärtsilä is working to lead the transition towards a 100% renewable energy future. The company’s goal is to help customers in decarbonisation by developing future-fuel enabled balancing power plants, hybrid solutions, energy storage and optimisation technology. 

Rodriguez, who serves as Wärtsilä’s Energy Business Director, spoke about the important role natural gas could play as we bring more renewable energy sources online while retiring other fossil-fueled plants. It’s important, Rodriguez said, to maintain firm, flexible capacity as we work to allow renewable sources, like wind and solar, to handle our baseload power needs.

“There’s a thought that any new fossil fuel plant is bad. What we’ve proven through our grid modeling studies is we can accelerate renewables if we put in flexible-capacity burning on natural gas now and that’s ready to transition to future fuels when they are ready. That hey, new natural gas resources aren’t harming but are actually accelerating transition,” he said.

Rodriquez also talks through his thoughts on the burgeoning hydrogen market, and the supply challenges currently facing the storage industry.

New Project Media (NPM) is a leading data, intelligence and events company providing origination led coverage of the renewable energy market for the development, finance, advisory & corporate community.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Women in Power: Female leadership in the clean energy transition & the keys to a successful energy transition in Latin America

Government leaders and organizations across the world have made ambitious commitments to decarbonize electricity and support the transition toward a 100% renewable energy future. The path to 100% clean energy won’t be the same everywhere, but to succeed, each country will need strong leadership, partnerships between governments and private industry and a commitment to making changes now to impact the future.

As the transition continues, it is important to include diverse voices in the decision-making process at all levels of government, utilities, and the private sector. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy sector remains one of the least gender diverse sectors, with women accounting for only 22% of the traditional energy sector despite making up 48% of the global labor force. Closing this gender gap will be vital as women are key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. 

Paola Pimentel, Business Development for Acciona Energía in the Dominican Republic,  and Silvia Alvorado de Córdoba, Director at Energy Intelligence Consulting in Guatemala, are established leaders in the Latin American energy industry and are working to empower and encourage other women to lend their voices in their respective countries. Both women are also part of the Path to 100% Community of Experts.

In a a virtual Expert Exchange called “Women in Power: “Female leadership in the clean energy transition & the keys to a successful energy transition in Latin America” they joined moderator Silvia Zumarraga, General Manager of Market Development for Wärtsilä, Latin America & Caribbean, to discuss the growing role of women in the energy sector and efforts to achieve greater participation from a diverse talent pool. 

You can watch the video below:

Wärtsilä to provide O&M services for 130MW power plant in Senegal

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä recently signed a 10-year service agreement with Mailicounda Power SAS of Senegal in order to strengthen the power plant and secure supply to Senegal’s grid. The $167 million Malicounda Power project is being developed by a consortium of partners, including Africa50, Senegalese utility Senelec and local developer Melec PowerGen. To learn more read, “Wärtsilä to provide O&M services for 130MW power plant in Senegal.

Key Takeaways:

  • Malicounda will deploy the Flexicycle power plant which will operate with seven Wärtsilä 50 engines. The plant will be able to operate in simple cycle or combined cycle modes.
    • Wärtsilä will also provide scheduled maintenance and spare parts, as well as heat rate and power output guarantees after major overhauls.
  • Wärtsilä will provide Malicounda Power SAS with remote support from its Expertise Centre, supported by a digital predictive maintenance tool using artificial intelligence and advanced diagnostics to monitor equipment and systems in real-time.
  • The plant is expected to increase generating capacity in Senegal by about 17%, while reducing generation costs by about 14%.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Wärtsila’s project serves to bolster ambitious decarbonization goals with its new technologies and equipment that make power plants more efficient, flexible, and environmentally-friendly. Wärtsilä uses AI and equipment expertise to enhance the safety, reliability, and efficiency of power equipment and systems. AI and machine learning will play increasingly important roles in future power generation, especially as more communities and organizations come to rely on smart grids and renewable fuels for their electricity needs.

Wärtsilä has set a goal of 2030 to be carbon neutral in its own operations and to provide a product portfolio which will be ready for zero carbon fuels. These are the examples that will encourage other businesses and industries to embark on their own decarbonization journeys.

 

Wärtsilä to test hydrogen blended fuel at Michigan power plant

Hydrogen is the biggest buzz word these days when it comes to decarbonization, and for good reason. It’s carbon-free, can easily be created from and used to store renewable energy sources, and can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility and reduce carbon emissions.

That last benefit is the focus of a new partnership between the technology group Wärtsilä, WEC Energy Group, (WEC), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Burns & McDonnell (B&McD), to carry out hydrogen fuel testing at a power plant in Michigan.

“This will be one of the first cases where hydrogen is tested for use to reduce the carbon footprint of an existing gas-fueled power plant delivered by Wärtsilä,” according to a press release from Wärtsilä.

The 55 MW A.J. Mihm power plant, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, currently operates three Wärtsilä 50SG engines run by natural gas. One of those engines will be used to test fuel blends of up to 25 vol.% hydrogen mixed with natural gas as it continues to supply power to the grid. Measurements of the engine’s performance will be made throughout the testing to demonstrate its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while operating efficiently.

“These hydrogen tests reinforce the viability of the internal combustion engine as a future-proof technology that plays a key role in decarbonising the power industry. We have long had a focus on creating solutions that enable zero-carbon power generation, and are excited to begin this hydrogen testing project in the USA as a natural next step in developing our products to meet customer needs for a decarbonised future,” said Jon Rodriguez, Director, Engine power plants, Wärtsilä North America.

The Wärtsilä engine will need little to no modifications to run on the hydrogen fuel blend, and is even capable of operating on even higher hydrogen-blend levels. These tests will be restricted to the limit of 25 vol% hydrogen for natural gas systems, according to the international equipment standard IEC/EN 60079-20-1.

Wärtsilä has already successfully carried out engine tests at its testing facilities in Vaasa, Finland and Bermeo, Spain, to assess the optimum engine parameters for operating with hydrogen fuel. It already has engine generating sets operating successfully on a natural gas and hydrogen blend in a newbuild power plant at an offshore floating testbed in Singapore.

“Our engines already have the flexibility for both balancing the input of renewables into the power system, and baseload generation with a continuously increasing range of fuels,” said Rodriguez.

The project supports WEC’s ambition to reduce the CO2 emissions from its electric generating fleet by 60% by the end of 2025, and by 80% by the end of 2030 from 2005 levels, and to be net carbon neutral by 2050.

 

Renewable Energy Provided 24% Of US Electricity In December

At-a-Glance: 

In December of 2021, renewable energy sources accounted for nearly 24% of electricity generation across the U.S. Wind energy accounted for 11.9(, and solar accounted for 2.7%. These stats are an increase in comparison with previous years’ data, revealing that the new solar and wind power capacity does lead to noticeable increases in electricity generation from renewable sources. To learn more, read, Renewable Energy Provided 24% Of US Electricity In December.”

Key Takeaways:

    • The U.S. grid is vast, and power plants have lifespan longevity – therefore even 100% of new power capacity from renewable power plants results in a modest increase in the energy share’s electricity supply.
    • In December 2019 and December 2020, both nuclear and coal produced more electricity than renewable energy sources. 
      • In December 2021, renewables had passed both of them up and had a solid lead — 23.8% of electricity compared to 20.6% from nuclear power plants and 17.5% from coal power plants.
    • Renewables accounted for 21% of US electricity in 2021, up from 18.3% in 2019 and 20.3% in 2020.
      • Solar and wind account for the majority of that piece of the pie, 13% of all US electricity production in 2021, up from 9.7% in 2019 and 11.6% in 2020.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The U.S. is a global leader in renewable energy with the second largest installed capacity in the world. Total private sector investment in renewable energy reached a record USD $55.5 billion in 2019, an increase of 28% year on year. Current market trends show the energy landscape is in transition towards more flexible energy systems with a rapidly increasing share of renewable energy, declining inflexible baseload generation and wider applications of storage technology. The declining costs of renewables have begun to reduce new investments into coal and other inflexible baseload technologies; a transition which will eventually cause renewables to become the new baseload.

Federal government support for clean energy has been significantly reduced in recent years, with federal energy initiatives primarily being focused on the fossil fuel sector. However, given the scale and depth of its energy market, the U.S. has the economic and technological potential to scale-up renewable energy at an unprecedented rate.

 

Navigating the evolving state of the storage industry

At-a-Glance: 

At-a-Glance: Wärtsilä’s Vice President of Energy Storage and Optimization, Andy Tang, details that the energy storage industry is in its infancy of a global pricing reset which will impact deployments for years to come. Yet, there are solutions that can help energy providers navigate the dynamics of the shifting market. To learn more, read, “Navigating the evolving state of the storage industry.”

 

Key Takeaways:

  • A decade-long cost decline has driven battery adoption, making the United States the largest market for stationary storage in the world.
    • Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that annual demand for lithium-ion batteries will surpass 2.7 terawatt-hours by 2030.
  • The solar industry is dealing with similar industry-wide supply chain constraints that have caused the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to lower their 2022 forecasts by as much as 25 percent.
  • Integrators will need to do their part to set transparent and reasonable expectations on cost structure and timelines with offtakers.
  • Leveraging weather, use-case, historical system performance and battery data, energy management software can forecast how much power an adjoining plant will produce and take advantage of and balance for price variations, among other insights.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Energy providers are now tasked with navigating the most efficient energy storage deployment tactics in the midst of the industry’s global pricing reset. Battery storage remains a competitive and popular storage option among today’s power system technologies. However, what can utilities and grid operators expect batteries to cost in the coming decades and how will this technology likely evolve to meet market needs in the future?

Short-duration and long-duration energy storage are both necessary in future power systems and they each have different roles. Long-duration storage has been the missing piece of the decarbonization puzzle – it is crucial to manage variability in supply and demand to manage the industry’s pricing shift. 

 

10 Incredible Facts about Wind Energy That Will Blow You Away

At-a-Glance: 

Wind is an abundant natural resource on Earth that occurs as a result of the sun unevenly heating the surface of the planet. As hot air rises, cooler air moves in to fill the void. Wind has long served as a power source to humans, from powering ships across the sea to farmers relying on windmills to grind their grains and pump water. Today, we use wind turbines – both onshore and offshore – to generate electricity. To learn more, read 10 Incredible Facts about Wind Energy That Will Blow You Away

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Wind turbines are huge– an average turbine blade is about 200 ft long while turbine towers reach up to 295 ft tall on average, and they will likely get even bigger to produce more renewable power.
  • Offshore wind could potentially generate 18 times the current global electricity demand. They can generate more electricity with fewer turbines and it frees up land for other purposes without impacting human or terrestrial wildlife activity.
  • Despite being the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China is also the world leader when it comes to wind energy, producing more than a third of global wind power generation and capacity. Its Gansu Wind Farm will eventually include 7,000 turbines producing 20GW of power.
  • In the U.S., the first commercial-scale wind farms have been approved off the Massachusetts coastline. Another will be built in the Pacific Ocean lining the coast of California with a long-term plan in place to construct wind farms along nearly the entire US coastline.

Path to 100% Perspective:

To reach clean energy goals, renewable sources like solar and wind will need to provide the basis of all power generation in the future. However, both are dependent on environmental factors that could make them less reliable. Backup capabilities must be in place to succeed, like both short and long term battery storage. In addition, flexible power plants, capable of ramping up when needed, will need to be installed. Eventually, those plants will run on sustainable fuels that can be generated by excess solar and wind energy.

 

With Coal On The Way Out, Policymakers Have Their Eye On Natural Gas

At-a-Glance: 

President Biden aims to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 and to be net-zero by 2050. His administration considers clean energy to be any facility that produces no CO2 or that can capture carbon and bury it, which keeps natural gas in the fold. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that natural gas comprises 40% of the electric generation portfolio while coal is at 19% and falling. Natural gas has been replacing coal because it releases about half the emissions when it is burned in a power plant. For more, read With Coal On The Way Out, Policymakers Have Their Eye On Natural Gas

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Over the last 10 years, the cost of wind energy has fallen by 70% while the price of utility-scale solar power has dropped by 80%. He says that 80% of the country’s coal plants are 30 years or older and they are unable to compete.
  • Net-zero does not mean the elimination of fossil fuels. It means off-setting those emissions with measures like using underground pipelines to transport CO2 that has to be stored.
  • Most experts say that the United States can get 70% of the way to its net-zero goals by 2035. The technologies to do so now exist. But the real challenge is to get the rest of the way. 
  • The American Gas Association says natural gas delivers three times more energy on the coldest days of the year than does the electric system on the hottest days. 
  • Natural gas can be used to firm-up wind and solar when the weather is not favorable for producing power.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Based on the competitive prices of renewables in the US we have seen this renewable transition taking place, regardless of political wills. As we transition to carbon neutrality, natural gas may be required to fill the gap until it can be replaced by more sustainable fuels, such as synthetic methane or green hydrogen. The storage of those fuels, along with improved battery storage in the future, will provide a cleaner alternative over the long term.

 

100% Renewable Energy In Puerto Rico — How To Get There

At-a-Glance: 

DOE publicly launched the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable Energy (PR100) study in February. After back-to-back natural disasters that destroyed around 80% of the island’s power distribution and transmission infrastructure, the U.S. and Puerto Rico will work together to rebuild a resilient, reliable, and robust energy system that will not be dependent on imported fossil fuel. Instead, it will focus on renewable energy with the island’s own excellent supply of sun, wind, water, and other renewable resources. To learn more read: 100% Renewable Energy In Puerto Rico — How To Get There.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Improving resilience of energy infrastructure in the face of extreme weather is a high priority for stakeholders.
  • PR100 has set these milestones: 40% renewable energy by 2025, 60%  renewable energy by 2040, and 100% renewable energy by 2050.
  • The PR100 study is working off a similar analysis for Los Angeles in the LA100 study, which generated custom scenarios for the city to achieve its own 2045 clean energy goals.
  • The study’s clean energy scenarios will use curated models of Puerto Rico to simulate how such an energy transition could play out. The models are assembled and simulated with a software suite that, when brought together, can forecast energy system evolution into the far future. 
  • In a preliminary study, analysts found that distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) installed on all residential rooftops in Puerto Rico would generate 20 gigawatts of power, far exceeding the current capacity.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Jussi Heikkinen, a member of the Path to 100% Community of Experts, outlined Puerto Rico’s optimal path to decarbonization in a study last year. The key in the path is to make the system is flexible enough to enable the addition of large amounts of variable renewables. In the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, you must ensure the system has constantly adequate firm power capacity. Without it, the country could experience blackouts or shortages. Before retiring all legacy thermal power plants. new flexible gas power plants need to be added. They will be able to operate as needed to provide a backup for variable solar and wind generation. They can also later be converted to run on sustainable fuels.

 

Finding the balance to ensure California reaches its renewable energy targets

By: Risto Paldanius, Vice President, Americas at Wärtsilä

In 2020, Wärtsilä’s state-of-the-art power-system modeling revealed that California can reach its renewable energy and emissions targets faster than planned while saving ratepayers billions of dollars. Now, two years later, that projection is coming to fruition with recent developments in the Golden State. 

According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the state’s main grid ran on more than 97% renewable energy at 3:39 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, breaking a previous record of 96.4% that was set just a week earlier. 

Additionally, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) recently released a study, “The Path to Net Zero: A Decarbonization Roadmap for California,” incorporating the utility industry standard for reliability using industry-specific planning tools to chart what we believe to be an achievable approach. 

SDGE has used similar tools as Wärtsilä’s PLEXOS power-system modeling that lays out the Optimal Path for California to decarbonize the electricity sector completely. SDGE’s study acknowledges that they need large quantities of firm and flexible power and the current decision of closing down all thermal power entities in California is a mistake. 

Risto Paldanius VP, Wartsila Energy

Key Insight from the Study:

  •   California is estimated to need to decarbonize at 4.5 times the pace over the past decade to reach its carbon neutrality goal and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
  •   Electric generation capacity is estimated to need to increase to about four times (4x) the capacity that existed in 2020, in order to support transportation and building electrification. Between 2020 and 2045, electric consumption is expected to increase by 96%.
  •   To keep electric service reliable, California will need to complement its growing portfolio of intermittent solar and wind generation with a mix of clean, firm and flexible resources that can be dispatched at any time to meet needs. Installing 40 GW of new battery storage, as well as 20 GW of dispatchable generation from 100% clean hydrogen combustion by 2045, is projected as necessary to meet this goal. According to CAISO,, the statewide grid has interconnected about 2,600 MW of energy storage as of January 2022, but no electric generation from 100% clean hydrogen combustion. 
  •   It is estimated that by 2045, there will be demand for 6.5 million metric tons of clean hydrogen across the economy, 80% of which is projected to be used to enhance the reliability of the electric supply.
  •   The implementation of the Roadmap requires regulatory and political support from four fronts to: 1) prioritize electric sector reliability; 2) maintain affordability and enhance equity; 3) incentivize innovation and adaptability; 4) and enable the deployment of decarbonization infrastructure. 

San Diego Professor David G. Victor served as the study’s advisor and echoed one of its key findings. “While the exact combination of technologies and investments needed to get to net zero is unknown at this time, what is certain today is that a flexible and diversified approach to decarbonization is both prudent and necessary to help ensure we are eliminating carbon emissions while also safeguarding grid reliability,” he said. 

California gets about 30% of its electricity from renewable sources. To compensate for renewables’ variability and keep the grid balanced, the state depends on fossil-fuel-powered plants. These traditional gas power plants are inflexible. They cannot switch off quickly when the sun shines brightly and then switch back on a few hours later; rather, they must stay online all the time. So in California, solar energy is being curtailed and at the same time fossil-fueled power plants are operating. Until this issue is addressed, there is a limit to how much renewable energy the grid can handle.

The Optimal Path would use curtailed solar and wind power to produce renewable carbon-neutral fuel. This fuel could be stored for use in flexible generation plants, which are designed to switch off and on quickly and run only when needed to balance the power system when renewable energy is not available.

Adding this flexible generation from renewable fuels would help California avoid overbuilding renewable generation and battery storage; it would cut solar and wind capacity requirements by 8 GW compared to renewables plus battery storage alone. That would reduce the amount of land needed for solar panels and wind turbines by hundreds of miles, cut costs, alleviate land-use conflicts, and mitigate environmental concerns such as habitat loss.

The path to the decarbonized power system for California in 2045 is dependent on decisions made now. There is no policy level mechanism through which electric utilities can be assured that California will recognize carbon-neutral renewable methane (from PtG process) coupled with firm and flexible assets as “renewable generation.” Such policy would allow utilities to strategically install these “balancers,” as we call them, as needed while also ensuring these assets would contribute positively towards the ideal net-zero power system and enable California to capitalize on its progress and the most recent outlined studies.

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