New York’s plan to expand storage capacity to 6 GW by 2030 includes centralized procurement method

At-a-Glance

On December 28, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a plan for how the state will reach 6 GW of energy storage by 2030, representing at least 20% of peak electricity load. For more, read New York’s plan to expand storage capacity to 6 GW by 2030 includes centralized procurement method.

Key Takeaways

  • The proposed plan is projected to reduce projected future statewide electric system costs by nearly $2 billion and the average customer bill would rise by less than 0.05%, or 46 cents a month.
  • The plan calls for 3,000 MW of new bulk storage that would power about one million homes for up to four hours; 1,500 MW of new retail storage to power about 500,000 homes for up to four hours; and 200 MW of residential storage that would power 120,000 homes for up to two hours.
  • The power would be procured through a competitive Index Storage Credit mechanism that officials say will provide some certainty to projects while saving money for consumers.
  • At least 35% of plan funding would support projects to benefit disadvantaged communities and target fossil fuel peaker plant emissions reductions.
  • Electric utilities would also be required to study the potential of high-value energy storage projects toward providing cost-effective transmission and distribution services not currently available in existing markets.

Path to 100% Perspective

New York’s plans to double its energy storage capacity by 2030 is an important step for the state to reach its goal of 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040. In the big picture, a key piece of the 100% emissions-free electricity puzzle will be to deploy significant amounts of long-duration energy storage, especially from 2030 onward. The need to meet daily ramping needs and energy requirements covering a few hours is currently driving the adoption of short duration battery energy storage. After 2030, multi-day and seasonal week-long gaps between supply and demand will require larger quantities of storage capacity. This is where long duration energy storage and sustainable fuels come in. As well as offering green, firm capacity, sustainable fuels can be stored for many months and can release megawatts of power within minutes when needed, when combusted with thermal balancing power plants.

Two Partnerships Expand Access To Clean Energy & Transport In The Eastern US

At-a-Glance

A couple of energy projects in the Eastern United States are helping to increase access to clean energy and clean transport, while helping to level the playing field in other ways too. For more, read Two Partnerships Expand Access To Clean Energy & Transport In The Eastern US.

Key Takeaways

  • New York-based Autel Energy is partnering with Legacy Clean Energy (LCE), a minority-owned business in Charlotte, North Carolina, to offer electric vehicle charging solutions for corporations and marginalized communities across the country.
  • In Pennsylvania, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Lightsource bp have joined forces with a 25-megawatt solar project now in operation. With the addition of this second solar farm to SEPTA’s statewide portfolio, both companies boast 42 megawatts – rough electricity to fulfill 20% of SEPTA’s total demand.
  • By partnering with Lightsource bp, SEPTA’s Elk Hill Solar 1 project has enabled Pennsylvania to reduce its carbon footprint by 28,000 metric tons of CO2 each year.
  • The solar farm not only contributes to achieving Pennsylvania’s clean energy goals but also increases energy security and diversifies their portfolio. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Engaging private industry in the path to 100% is critical to develop the solutions and innovations needed for decarbonization. These examples show what’s possible when private companies and utilities partner to expand both capacity and access to clean energy. Partnerships like these are needed to accelerate the transition to net zero, meet decarbonization goals, and limit the impacts of climate change.

Generating Change: Wartsila’s Evolution

At-a-Glance

Finnish company Wartsila evolved from humble beginnings as a sawmill into a global marine and energy powerhouse that is today a model of customer value creation, decarbonization, and growth amid uncertainty. Driving that triumph over its 188-year history is a consistent spirit of innovation and flexibility. For more, read Generating Change: Wartsila’s Evolution.

Key Takeaways

  • Since 2010, Wartsila has been focusing on becoming a world leader in balancing and power optimization to help customers achieve decarbonization and transition toward a 100% renewable energy future.
  • In May 2020, Wartsila began work developing a combustion process in its engines to achieve 100% hydrogen fuel combustion. The company expects to launch a power plant design for hydrogen blends in 2022, followed by a concept for pure hydrogen in 2025.
  • In March 2022, Wartsila began operating two Wartsila 34SG engines, a combined output of 11.6 MW, that can run on 3% hydrogen and natural gas blend at Keppel Offshore Marine’s “Floating Living Lab” in Singapore.
  • In addition to hydrogen, other potential renewable fuels are being studied for future applications. In 2022, Wartsila released its Wartsila 32 Methanol engine to the market and it expects to have engine concepts ready for operating with pure ammonia fuel in 2023.

Path to 100% Perspective

Modern and flexible engine power plants are an ideal solution for balancing power, due to their flexibility in fuels and operation profiles. This is needed as batteries alone cannot fulfill the balancing need for fluctuating renewable power sources. Flexible capacity must be ready to start quickly at any time and capable of ramping up and down an unlimited number of times a day. Current Wartsila engine power plants can connect to the grid in 30 seconds and reach full load in just two minutes. In addition, current Wartsila gas engineer power plants can use up to 25 vol% hydrogen blends in natural gas and there is ongoing development for pure hydrogen and other P2X fuels, such as ammonia, methane, and methanol. As part of the strong green hydrogen boom, Wartsila is planning several hydrogen projects with partners and customers ranging from utilizing hydrogen blends in existing assets to a P2X2P plant in collaboration with partners.

DOE awards $100 million for innovative floating wind, pumped storage and other emerging clean energy tech

At-a-Glance

Eight companies working on technological advancements in clean energy have been awarded millions in federal funding to help scale up production on innovations that would streamline sectors such as offshore wind and pumped storage. For more, read DOE awards $100 million for innovative floating wind, pumped storage and other emerging clean energy tech.

Key Takeaways

  • Recipients of funding from the Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) are described as “disruptive new technologies” that will be transformational for the industry. The funds will “catalyze” commercialization of the technologies so they can be “broadly deployed.”
  • DOE cited Kent Houston Offshore Engineering’s two floating offshore wind turbine technologies as “disruptive,” noting that the company’s focus on designing more efficient turbines and lowering fabrication costs will lead to floating wind farms producing cheaper electricity while reaching profitability.
  • Quidnet Energy will use DOE funding to scale up its geomechanical pumped storage technology into a system that can be used commercially. Its technology uses subsurface rock layers to avoid some of the limits and expense of traditional pumped storage.
  • The first utility to make use of Quidnet Energy’s technology will be CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility and the largest one in the U.S.

Path to 100% Perspective

Investments in clean energy technology, like DOE’s SCALEUP funding, are important for bringing innovative decarbonization technologies to scale. A variety of technologies will have a role to play along the Path to 100%, including wind and pumped storage. The missing piece of the puzzle is viable long-term storage technologies which will be needed to provide megawatts of capacity and megawatt hours of energy during long duration seasonal conditions or unexpected renewable droughts. Power-to-X technology is a promising solution, using renewable energy sources like wind and solar to produce green hydrogen and other sustainable fuels that can be used for affordable long-term storage. We look forward to seeing how these eight companies will “disrupt” clean energy tech with their innovations.

Pattern Energy buys 3-GW SunZia transmission project to deliver wind energy from New Mexico to Arizona

At-a-Glance

In July 2022, Pattern Energy Group bought the proposed SunZia transmission project, a 525-kV line set to deliver 3,000 MW to Arizona from wind farms Pattern is developing in New Mexico. For more, read Pattern Energy buys 3-GW SunZia transmission project to deliver wind energy from New Mexico to Arizona.

Key Takeaways

  • Pattern Energy expects to begin full construction of the SunZia transmission project and the SunZia wind projects in 2023, with operations for the bi-directional power line set to start in 2025, and the wind farms coming online in early 2026.
  • Pattern Energy’s announcement that it is buying the first phase of the SunZia project from Southwestern Power Group is part of a surge in transmission activity in the West.
  • The Bureau of Land Management has authorized construction on a 500-kV power line between Arizona and California and Southwestern Power Group is continuing to develop a second SunZia phase, a 500-kV high voltage-alternating current transmission line called El Rio Sol Transmission that would parallel the SunZia line.
  • Pattern Energy has also been marketing its wind generation to utilities in California. In December 2021, the Los Angeles Department of Wind and Power started buying power from Pattern Energy’s 350-MW Red Cloud wind farm in New Mexico for $41/MWh under a 20-year, fixed-price contract.
  • Pattern Energy said it is developing other interstate transmission projects, including the 525-kV Southern Spirit Transmission project, a bi-directional transmission line that would connect the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas to the Southeast market.

Path to 100% Perspective

The SunZia transmission project is just one example of the kinds of infrastructure that will be needed to support the addition of renewable electricity sources on the Path to 100%. These projects also make renewables more accessible for regions that don’t have the capacity to harness wind or solar, ensuring a reliable, resilient supply of power. Resilience and reliability are two key factors that contribute to the success of renewables and our drive toward a net-zero future. But so is flexibility. Adding energy storage and thermal balancing is critical to ensure backup power is available when there is insufficient wind and solar.

The Hydrogen Economy Will Soon Be Ready For Takeoff, Including Planes and Power Plants

At-a-Glance

Does the aviation sector have its head in the clouds? Indeed, the experts are working hard to make hydrogen a sustainable aviation fuel. For more, read The Hydrogen Economy Will Soon Be Ready For Takeoff, Including Planes and Power Plants.

Key Takeaways

  • A study by Clean Sky 2 and Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 says that hydrogen-powered aircraft could be ready for flight as early as 2035.
  • The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed a year ago includes up to $7 billion to establish between 6 and 10 regional hydrogen hubs across the country. The goal is to create a network of hydrogen producers and industrial consumers with an interconnected infrastructure to accelerate the use of clean hydrogen.
  • In its Hydrogen Economy Outlook, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says green hydrogen could supply 24% of the world’s energy demands by 2050 while cutting CO2 levels by 34%.
  • To help accelerate the use of green hydrogen, the U.S. Department of Energy is taking an “Earthshot”, launched in June 2021, to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per one kilogram in one decade. Currently, hydrogen from renewable energy costs about $5 per kilogram.
  • The hydrogen hubs will be essential to achieving economies of scale, bringing about price parity and driving adoption.

Path to 100% Perspective

Hydrogen is one of several potential future fuels that can help phase out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy as part of the final push to decarbonize energy systems. At the moment, hydrogen is the most promising candidate of the P2X fuel for power plants. Hydrogen is carbon-free, has the highest production energy efficiency of the P2X fuels, and with time it is predicted to become the most cost competitive due to low renewable electricity prices. The most sustainable form of hydrogen is green hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis of water utilizing renewable electricity. Important for green hydrogen production is access to renewable electricity and clean water. Locations with favorable conditions for these will become hydrogen production hubs.

Deep Geothermal – One Renewable Energy Source to Rule Them All?

At-a-Glance

Deep geothermal technologies, such as the gyrotron, may be the key to harnessing the heat stored below the Earth’s crust to make abundant zero emissions energy. For more, read Deep Geothermal – One Renewable Energy Source to Rule Them All?

Key Takeaways

  • Gyrotrons, which produce high power beams, are currently used in fusion research. Paul Woskov, an MIT researcher, has posed the idea of using the technology to drill geothermal wells that can reach the Earth’s mantle.
  • MIT spinoff Quaise Energy received a grant from the Department of Energy to scale up Woskov’s lab experiments using a larger gyrotron. The goal is to vaporize a hole 100 times the depth of Woskov’s current experiments by sometime next year.
  • Quaise Energy plans to start harvesting energy from pilot geothermal wells that reach rock temperatures at up to 500°C by 2026. The team then hopes to begin repurposing coal and natural gas generating plants using its system.
  • Many of the skills developed over the past century by the oil and gas industry are readily transferable to deep geothermal, meaning that a ready-made, well-trained workforce is already available. Current fossil fuel infrastructure can be readily repurposed to rapidly advance geothermal energy.

Path to 100% Perspective

A variety of technologies will have a role to play along the Path to 100%. Deep geothermal is an emerging technology that can help ease the transition. What makes this technology exciting is that it’s compatible with existing thermal power plants, which can be converted to run on steam instead of coal and natural gas. Building conditions to enable investment in thermal balancing power plants is a key step to frontloading net zero and adding geothermal energy is one way to make this possible. There are many other renewable sources in use today that are the subject of scale-up research and expanded deployment, including ocean energy, bioenergy, and renewable synthetic fuels from Power-to-X (P2X). Ocean, biomass, and geothermal are not forecast to get to the scale that solar and wind could reach, but all are important. All of these technologies are part of the analysis and discussion around the transition to a 100% renewable energy future.

California’s Solar Problem Could Be Solved by Floating Wind Farms

At-a-Glance: 

In its quest to decarbonize its energy, California is heading offshore. Besides being green, tapping the winds over the Pacific Ocean offers an additional benefit: Good timing. For more read California’s Solar Problem Could Be Solved by Floating Wind Farms.

Key Takeaways:

  • While current solar capacity in California provides a deluge of power supply in the middle of the day, the peak demand for power is in the evening, when solar isn’t as reliable. This is especially troubling during extreme weather conditions.
  • Wind turbines off the coast capture steadier ocean winds than those on land, sometimes 50% more, and it usually peaks at night, making it a useful complement to solar power during the day and reducing the need to turn to gas-fired plants and battery storage
  • Matching supply more precisely with demand is an essential, but often overlooked, element of the energy transition. Traditional power supply relies on having dispatchable generators, usually burning fossil fuels, on call to match fluctuating demand. 

Path to 100% Perspective

California can reach its goal of serving 100% of retail load with renewable energy. However, this cannot be achieved with its current portfolio of resources. The rolling blackouts in summer 2020 show that California needs additional resources to supplement the tools already in place. More specifically, California needs new resources that complement the wind, solar, and hydro needed for a shift to a 100% renewable electricity system. Slow ramping, long start, baseload resources must be replaced by faster, more flexible resources that are capable of running on sustainable fuels. Sustainable fuels produced by excess wind and solar energy, plus storage resources, can enable California to cleanly and reliably shift energy from low-net loads to high-net loads.

US Renewable Power Set to Get More Than 20% Boost From New Climate Law

At-a-Glance: 

Accelerated by the Inflation Reduction Act, solar capacity will more than triple from 2021 to 2030 and battery storage will jump exponentially, predicts BNEF. For more, read US Renewable Power Set to Get More Than 20% Boost From New Climate Law.

Key Takeaways:

  • Enough solar power plants will be built from this year through 2030 to generate 364 gigawatts of electricity, BNEF estimates. That’s more than three times the capacity of all US solar plants in operation last year.
  • A gigawatt is roughly the output of a commercial nuclear reactor and, depending on the region, can power 750,000 homes. 
  • BNEF predicts147 gigawatts of new wind installations, many of them in coastal waters along New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and toward the end of the decade, California. 
  • The IRA also includes a new tax credit for large energy storage systems — typically, big packs of lithium-ion batteries — plugged into the power grid. BNEF forecasts 107 gigawatts of storage installations through 2030, up from just 5.7 gigawatts in use this year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The passage of the IRA means there has never been a better time to make a long-term investment in U.S. decarbonization goals, but just investing in renewables is not enough. Solar and wind are variable, and will need a reliable backup to maintain the grid. As renewables become the new baseload, the need for flexible power generation and reliable storage solutions will be more important than ever.

In its Front-Loading Net Zero report released in 2020, Wärtsilä Energy outlined the benefits of investing now in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy and storage technology.

“Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar,” according to the report. “Investing in renewable baseload is now viewed as buying ‘unlimited’ power up-front, as opposed to betting against fluctuating oil prices and narrowing environmental regulation.”

 

Throwing Shade Is Solar Energy’s New Superpower

At-a-Glance: 

In America, solar power could be a new cash crop for farmers as the new innovation known as agrivoltaics grows. It is the process of farmers leasing land to solar farms and incorporating the panels as they plant crops or raise livestock. Read more in: Throwing Shade Is Solar Energy’s New Superpower.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Inflation Reduction Act includes billions of dollars in renewable energy funds that will accelerate the adoption of solar and other renewables. This will hasten the creation of large utility-scale arrays on existing cropland, perfect for its light winds, moderate temperatures and low humidity.
  • Farmers can lease their land for hundreds of dollars an acre, a much easier income than labor-intensive traditional farming. They can plant crops that thrive in shade or cool their cows under solar panels to double their income stream.
  • Critics worry that solar farms are unattractive and could change the character of rural communities, and that the panels could block access to the soil.
  • Despite positive advantages, agrivoltaics, at least on a large scale, remains a subject of research more than a method of doing business. It costs more to place solar panels high enough off the ground to allow for planting and livestock to fit underneath.

Path to 100% Perspective

In order to decarbonize, we must increase the usage of renewable energy sources like solar. Agrivoltaics could provide one solution to add more utility-size solar panels in more parts of the United States. More research is needed to determine how best to achieve this goal, but the premise is promising and if achieved, could hasten the Path to 100%.

 

Photo by Micha Sager on Unsplash

How Clean Energy Kept California’s Lights On During A Historically Extreme Heat Wave

At-a-Glance: 

A two-week heat wave in California put the electric grid to an extreme test, but despite record demand the power stayed on, largely due to the fact that the state has gone all-in on clean energy technology like wind, solar, battery storage, and demand response. For more read: How Clean Energy Kept California’s Lights On During A Historically Extreme Heat Wave.

Key Takeaways:

  • Batteries played a critical role in keeping the grid running, and without them we would have experienced rolling blackouts. California has more than 3.2 GW of batteries supporting the grid, up from just 250 megawatts in 2020. These batteries typically provide four hours of energy, so that’s 150 times more energy from just two years ago. 
  • Customers also played a part, drastically reducing power usage after text alerts asked them to conserve power. This did help, but can’t be relied upon in every situation.
  • Renewable energy sources helped, too, but did need battery backup. Solar provided a consistent source of power during the day, but dropped off in the evening, when the demand increased. Wind did pick up in the evening. 
  • The state is racing to install more solar, wind, batteries, as well as transmission to connect all these new resources to the grid.

Path to 100% Perspective

It’s encouraging to hear that 10 states have already set decarbonization goals, but it isn’t enough. The Path to 100% will take support from everyone– from government and business leaders to private citizens. While the path isn’t the same everywhere, it includes some common steps, like increasing the use of renewables while incorporating storage and flexible power plants that can provide a source of energy backup when renewables like wind and solar are not enough. Without a plan to ensure firm, reliable power at all times, support of the energy transition could decrease.

 

 

NREL Study Identifies Opportunities & Challenges Of Achieving The U.S. Transformational Goal Of 100% Clean Electricity By 2035

At-a-Glance: 

A new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines the types of clean energy technologies and the scale and pace of deployment needed to achieve 100% clean electricity, or a net-zero power grid, in the United States by 2035.

Key Takeaways:

  • Overall, NREL finds multiple pathways to 100% clean electricity by 2035 that would produce significant benefits, but the exact technology mix and costs will be determined by research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and infrastructure investment decisions over the next decade.
  • To achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035, new clean energy technologies will have to be deployed at an unprecedented scale. Modeling shows that wind and solar would need to supply 60% to 80% of generation. Getting there would require an additional 40–90 gigawatts of solar on the grid per year and 70–150 gigawatts of wind per year by the end of this decade – more than four times the current annual deployment levels for each technology.
  • Seasonal storage, like clean hydrogen-fueled combustion turbines, is important when clean electricity makes up about 80%–95% of generation. Achieving the needed amount of storage requires substantial development of infrastructure, including fuel storage, transportation and pipeline networks, and additional generation capacity needed to produce clean fuels.
  • Overall, NREL finds in all modeled scenarios that the health and climate benefits associated with fewer emissions exceed the power system costs to get to 100% clean electricity.

Path to 100% Perspective

Achieving ambitious decarbonization goals will require a reduction of reliance on fossil fuels and an increase in renewable energy. What will be critical to the transformation is a reliable source of energy when sources like wind or solar are not producing enough. The most economical long-duration storage is formed with green hydrogen-based sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, carbon neutral methanol and methane. These fuels can be used to generate electricity in flexible power plants. Such flexible power plants provide carbon neutral firm, dispatchable capacity to the grid at any time.

Sustainable fuels can be produced using a process called Power-to-Gas (PtG), which uses surplus solar and wind energy to produce renewable fuels, like synthetic methane and hydrogen. Hydrogen as a fuel is carbon-free and synthetic methane produced using carbon recycled from the air, is a carbon-neutral fuel.