EGEB: Minnesota social cost of carbon, Texas wind, Vermont solar+PowerWall, more

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Utility Helps Wean Vermonters From the Electric Grid – Vermont and Tesla have been working with the Powerwall since late 2015. Green Mountain Power – the utility in question – is really blazing a trail on a state level. One goal of the power company is to build demand response, energy storage and solar power into the grid – starting on a house by house level – to limit transmission costs (moving electricity over long distances) – Recently, Green Mountain used this method to take the low-income development here off the grid’s electricity supply for two hours, saving an estimated $275 in transmission costs while the homes were powered by solar panels or battery storage. This is one reason why Net Metering should be at 100% of the value of the cost of electricity – transmission/distribution and other costs are saved – not just electricity generation costs. This utility gets it.

Sea change: Gulf Coast wind farms become vital to Texas energy mix – The ocean retains heat longer than land, so in the early morning, cooler air onshore rushes to replace the heat rising from water. By late afternoon, hot air is rising from the land, and cooler air flows from the Gulf to replace it. Both effects mean reliable winds for power producers. That’s a system that allows for consistent throttling of fossil fuels. Seems like you could fit a solar farm in between that morning/evening peak and have a consistent daytime delivery of energy.

China’s panda-shaped solar plant begins trial operation – Reason I’m showing these images (header image plus images below) are so you can get a close up of what it really looks like. Those original images were cool – remember this? – but, they’re not much like the reality in terms of color. From afar though – creative marketing that will get the attention of millions. In terms of land use…not as efficient.

House approves minibus spending bill with deep cuts to DOE funds – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would fare among the worst, facing a 47% budget cut, down to $1.1 billion from $2.1 billion this year. Concurrently – other bills going through Congress are increasing oil/gas research.

A new optimization model (solar PV plus demand response) could bring higher solar-power integration – In the first case study, consumers responded to their own demand profile without PV generation (e.g., they delayed using their washing machine until later in the evening). In the second, participants responded to their own PV-generation profiles. For them, DR consisted of load shifting (e.g., taking a hot shower in the morning when local solar power is available). In the last case study, consumers considered both their own demand and PV generation profiles simultaneously (e.g., they decreased their use of air conditioning after receiving a signal from a central DR optimizer). The basic idea is that – “We highlight [the] importance of the paradigm shift from the traditional ‘generation to follow demand’ to ‘demand to follow generation’ in renewable-rich energy mix scenarios,” said Chin Kim Gan. For those of us used to getting what we want – when we want it, this might be a shock. However, I’d argue that it’ll be a lot less inconvenient in the western world than we think once the system works through the bugs – and for those who are still getting used to having healthy sums of electricity, it’ll be no problem at all to deal with.

In Split Decision, Minnesota Adopts Modified SCC For Use In Utility Planning – The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 3-2 to raise that cost from the current level of 44 cents to $4.53 per short ton to a range of $9.05 to $43.06 per short ton by 2020. An interesting note – the two dissenting votes actually voted for a higher cost. I do still have a bit of confusion on the ruling – the range of $9-43/ton – does that upper range actually go into effect today? How exactly is it applied? The range is based upon whether we calculate damages through 2100 versus 2300 (wow!). If applied directly to the cost of various energy sources: 0.4-2.5¢/kWh for gas electricity, 0.9-4.3¢/kWh for coaland 8.2-39¢/gallon for gasoline. As an aside – these numbers don’t include climate change issues – but pollution/health costs.

Almost 50% of energy – not just electricity – used in Africa is coming from renewable sources. Just like this continent skipped over standard phone lines, they’re going to do the same with power lines and fossil fuels.

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