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.

 

1 In 3 Americans Live In State With 100% Clean Electricity Commitment

At-a-Glance: 

While only ten states in the United States have set 100% renewable energy goals, 1 out of every 3 Americans actually live in a state that has made some sort of clean electricity commitment. California accounts for the seemed disparity, since it’s home to so many people. Read more in 1 In 3 Americans Live In State With 100% Clean Electricity Commitment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Since it is home to 39.35 million people, 12% of the USA’s population of 329.5 million, California alone already puts us at 1 out of every 8 Americans.
  • These 10 states have made a clean energy commitment: California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington, Rhode Island, Maine, New York, Virginia, Oregon, and Illinois.
  • If you don’t live in a state with clean energy goals, Environment America writes, “Tell your governor to commit to 100% renewable.” Included at this link is a way to quickly and easily send a message to your governor pushing for a 100% renewable electricity commitment. 
  • in the private sector, a great source for encouraging and tracking commitments from companies around the world is RE100. RE100 reports that there are now 370+ companies that have 100% renewable commitments of some sort.

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.

 

 

DOE awarding $540 million to ramp up clean energy research

At-a-Glance: 

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will grant 54 universities and 11 national labs over $500 million to conduct research on clean energy technologies and low-carbon manufacturing, ranging from direct air capture to carbon storage and sequestration. The move comes on the heels of the passage of President Biden’s historic Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to significantly cut emissions by 2030. By 2050, Biden hopes to have a net-zero emissions economy. Read more in DOE awarding $540 million to ramp up clean energy research.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Meeting the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals will require a game-changing commitment to clean energy — and that begins with researchers across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a statement
  • Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from fossil fuel use are a significant driver of climate change.
  • A large portion of the money, $400 million, will go towards establishing and maintaining 43 Energy Frontier Research Centers, while these projects will study multiple topics including energy storage and quantum information science. 

Path to 100% Perspective

This is a great commitment by the U.S. federal government to influence positive change. While many of the tools for decarbonization already exist, there are problems to overcome like how to create long-term energy storage. There is promise in Power-to-X technology, a carbon-neutral solution that uses renewable energy to produce green hydrogen and other future fuels that can be used for affordable long-term storage. It is exciting to see the outcome of the vast research resources now committed to this effort.

 

 

 

Jussi Heikkinen on how to build the energy system of the future

How do we build the energy system of the future?

Jussi Heikkinen, Director of Growth & Development at Wärtsilä Energy in the Americas, has 40 years of experience in the energy sector so he has some expert insight into the issue, which he shared on a recent Wärtsilä podcast with Terence Mentor.

​​The main goal should be to increase renewables and ramp down fossil fuel power plants, according to Heikkinen. At the same time, we must make sure that we can ensure the security of the electricity supply under all conditions, while still producing minimal carbon emissions.

Many people ask why we can’t just switch to renewables like wind and solar power now? They are already becoming increasingly important in power generation across the world. The reason is because so much of our electricity is still being provided by inflexible coal plants.

Heikkiinen says to be able to switch completely to renewables, we have to build sufficient capacity in renewables, energy storage, and flexible gas power plants to produce electricity reliably in all situations. If we act decisively, we can close coal plants within the next 10 years, but we can’t suddenly simply ban fossil fuels outright, as it would affect the welfare of society. Instead, we need a good plan to carry it out.

Learn more about the ideal plan here.

Utilities are planning to shift to clean energy — just not too quickly

At-a-Glance: 

CEO of electricity research group EPRI says U.S. utilities are poised to go big on solar, wind and batteries — but they aren’t ready to give up their gas and coal plants just yet.

“You will also hear every one of [these utilities] saying that if we don’t take care of affordability and reliability, that will be the biggest obstacle to go to clean energy, because if customers get upset, it will have a negative impact on the clean energy transition.” said Arshad Mansoor, CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute. Read more in Utilities are planning to shift to clean energy — just not too quickly

Key Takeaways:

  • At EPRI’s Electrification 2022 conference, leading utilities unanimously embraced cutting carbon emissions and electrifying transportation. However, they urged caution at moving too quickly.
  • Most utilities know this is the decade to invest in wind, solar and battery storage. They have determined that grids can handle levels of renewable generation that were previously unthinkable — in fact, this is already happening in many states.
  • The COVID pandemic came at the worst time, causing major delays in the supply chain and slowing the construction of renewable resources.
  • Mansoor feels it may be necessary to keep some coal plants around as backup power sources to ensure a reliable power source, because wind and solar power is not always reliable and battery technology is not yet capable of long-term duration.
  • He says clean firm resources such as small modular nuclear reactors or clean hydrogen-burning turbines could eventually take that role, as could cheap long-duration energy storage, but they’re all still years away.

Path to 100% Perspective

The Path to 100% agrees that the way to a 100% clean energy future is through increased renewable energy sources like wind and solar power while maintaining a reliable backup system. To balance the intermittent nature of these renewable power sources, engine power plants and energy storage are ideal. While we are waiting for battery storage to improve, Wartsila’s flexible power plants are already generating reliable, backup power when solar and wind are not enough. They are capable of powering up and down quickly, unlike traditional coal-powered thermal power plants which could take hours to ramp up when energy is needed.

 

 

Wärtsilä to supply Clearway with 500 MW/2 GWh of energy storage for projects in California and Hawaii

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä has reached an agreement with Clearway Energy Group on a contract that will see it supply Clearway with a 500 MW/2 GWh portfolio of energy storage systems. The storage systems will be used across a series of solar and storage projects that Clearway is developing in California and Hawaii. The five-project portfolio includes 75 MWac/300 MWh located in Hawaii and 415 MW/1.7 GW in California. For more read: Wärtsilä to supply Clearway with 500 MW/2 GWh of energy storage for projects in California and Hawaii.

Key Takeaways:

  • In Hawaii, Clearway is developing the Mililani I Solar and Waiawa Solar Power facilities on the Island of Oahu and represent Wärtsilä’s first large-scale energy storage systems in the state. 
  • The addition of energy storage will help Clearway Energy Group ensure reliable delivery of sustainable energy and contribute to Hawaii’s goal of reaching 100% renewable energy generation by 2045.
  • In California, 482 MW of solar and 275 MW/1.1 GWh of energy storage are being split across the Daggett 2 and Daggett 3 projects, which are being developed in San Bernardino, California, adjacent to the site of a retired coal and natural gas plant.
  • The storage systems will deliver renewable energy during increasingly volatile peak periods and help the state reach its goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.
  • Each facility will include Wärtsilä’s GridSolv Quantum, a fully integrated, modular and compact energy storage system, as well as the GEMS Digital Energy Platform, Wärtsilä’s energy management platform for power system optimisation. 

Path to 100% Perspective

To achieve goals of both reliable and renewable energy, it is critical to think beyond solar panels and wind turbines. The addition of storage technologies is essential because both wind and solar technology is dependent on the weather. The storage system is one way to ensure there is enough power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. To take it one step further, power producers should also invest in flexible engines, capable of starting and stopping when needed to ensure a reliable energy supply.

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Much-Watched Reciprocating Engine Hydrogen Pilot Kicks Off at Michigan Power Plant

At-a-Glance: 

A landmark project to test fuel blends of up to 25% volume of hydrogen mixed with natural gas in reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICEs) has launched at WEC Energy Group’s 56-MW A.J. Mihm power plant in Michigan. If successful, the pilot—one of the first of its kind in the U.S.—could provide key insight into how hydrogen combustion at RICE units could be replicated across the U.S. You can read more here: Much-Watched Reciprocating Engine Hydrogen Pilot Kicks Off at Michigan Power Plant.

Key Takeaways:

  • A consortium comprising Finnish technology giant Wärtsilä, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and Burns & McDonnell on May 30 unveiled a contract with Milwaukee-based WEC Energy’s subsidiary Upper Michigan Energy Resources for the fuel testing pilot.
  • One of the plant’s three18.8-MW Wärtsilä W18V50SG natural gas-fired engines wil be used in the testing and will continue to supply power to the grid as the hydrogen share in its fuel mix is gradually increased to a maximum of 25% by volume.
  • Wärtsilä has researched hydrogen as a fuel for 20 years as part of its strategy to “future-proof its engine technology in line with the global trend towards decarbonization of the energy and marine markets.”
  • The project could help establish RICEs as a future-proof technology, allowing for the flexibility needed to incorporate more renewable energy sources onto the grid. Its ability to provide incremental electricity quickly—starting up even when the grid has no power—and operating at partial loads, give it a key advantage over more traditional power plants.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Both flexibility and reliability will be crucial as we transition to a clean energy future. Just adding wind and solar generated power will not be enough. Those renewable sources, while powerful and cost-efficient, are also dependent on the weather conditions. RICE, along with adequate storage solutions, appears to offer the ideal solution to ensure stability to the grid. 

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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 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.

 

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. 

 

Wärtsilä to optimize and decarbonise gold mine power station in Suriname, South America

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä has contracted with a gold mining company in Suriname to build a 7.8 MW energy storage system to help the company achieve its climate targets and decarbonizations goals. This is the first utility-scale energy storage system to be built in Suriname and Wärtsilä’s first energy storage project in the country. To learn more read: Wärtsilä to optimise and decarbonise gold mine power station in Suriname, South America

Key Takeaways

  • The integrated energy storage system will improve efficiency at the gold mine’s power station by reducing the need for emergency back-up spinning reserve, therefore lowering fuel consumption. 
  • The project is estimated to reduce the mine’s emissions by 5,600 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This optimized energy system will extend to improvements across the lifetime of the engines and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
  • The GEMS Digital Energy Platform, Wärtsilä’s advanced energy management system, will control and optimize energy storage and evaluate opportunities to integrate renewable energy assets at the facility to further decarbonise mining operations, further reduce operations costs and provide clean electricity to surrounding communities.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Energy storage simply means capturing produced energy and saving it for later. It is becoming more and more important as we turn to more renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, because they cannot produce a continuous supply of energy around the clock. Being able to store that energy is a key element to reliable, 100% renewable power in the future.

By installing this technology now, the mining company will see improved reliability, efficiency and sustainability. The company is also future-proofing its investments in a changing energy market.