Every day we drive a little cleaner.

Discussion in 'General' started by WadeTyhon, Mar 13, 2018.

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  1. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    I'm currently working on some Earth Day materials for my company to post on social and around the office.

    While searching for data on Natural Gas and Renewable energy, I came across these maps that I hadn't seen yet. We can read about it in headlines, but sometimes it's best to have a visual map to really give perspective.

    I rather like them. They visually represent the death of Coal and the rise in renewable energy quite well.

    Bye bye, coal! Retirements that will occur in 2018.

    Lookin' good Solar, Wind and Natural Gas! New units coming online in 2018.

    Should note that this is all Utility-Scale power generation. So residential solar isn't represented.

    I'm especially happy to see all those Coal plant deaths in my home state of Texas. Most of the new energy coming online in my state is Wind. Followed by Natural Gas and then Solar.

    As expected, California rules in utility-grade solar. And the Northeast states like their natural gas even more than Texas. (Hey, better than coal!)

    Any good news for your state in the coming year? :) And if you have any interesting ideas or data points that I could highlight in my company's Earth Day posts let me know. (We are doing a series of posts over the course of the week, so I need lots of content!)
    Marcel_g likes this.
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  3. Feed The Trees

    Feed The Trees Active Member

    A buddy of mine is the founder of a clean tech consultant company who has put up some pretty high profile green sites. In talking to him he says Texas is an interesting situation for energy. It's a pure market, whatever the costs per hour of energy needed are is what the companies get. This includes negative costs. Yes, it can cost an energy producer money to make energy that the grid can't accept. This poses an issue for wind. Often the winds blow harder at night but that's also when capacity is being met by the existing plants. And since those plants can't really cycle down easily there's not a lot of chance for wind to be profitable in the state as it exists today.
  4. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    An interesting point and perspective. But it seems like night is a great time to have extra wind energy not currently being utilized.

    That is when I, like hundreds of thousands of others, charge my EV. As more plug-in growth happens, it will significantly increase usage at night.

    It is still small. We still have over 98% of yearly sales to conquer... and then we have to tackle the existing number of vehicles on the road. Over the next 2 decades, I think evening electricity usage is going to grow pretty significantly, don't you?
    Domenick likes this.
  5. Feed The Trees

    Feed The Trees Active Member

    Night definitely is the better time for wind many places, I'm just saying from what was explained to me that this is not necessarily aligned with turning profits.

    Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
  6. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    Got it! Yeah, the charging for unused energy is very odd if it works the way you describe. I'll have to look into it.

    I'm curious if it was intended to reduce wasted energy and emissions by strongly discouraging producing more power than needed. But if so, that doesn't really apply to renewable energy. Ah, the laws of unintended consequences.

    An interesting article on the growth of renewables in texas. In 2017, over 18% of Texas energy was renewable energy.

    With the large number of Texas coal plants going offline in 2018 and the number of new wind / solar installations on the way this year, 2018 should be another record for wind and solar for Texas. Our state will move way past the 2017 national average of ~17% renewables!
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  8. Feed The Trees

    Feed The Trees Active Member


    So the negative pricing is real but I misunderstood his context, Texas buys the cheapest electricity and at night it's wind. So the wind at night is forcing the power plants to shut down or generate energy at a net loss. But I am not sure how wise that is to be toying with your daytime generation in trying to forece it it throttle back and then on, I understand this is not an easy feat and it could drive daytime pricing up.
    WadeTyhon likes this.
  9. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    That makes a bit more sense than the initial description. Simple supply and demand. Wind is cheap and plentiful at night and is lowering demand for other energy sources!

    I will try to check out the article tomorrow to gain a better understanding.
  10. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I don't have any links, but someone recently posted in another thread that the comparisons between emissions for a gasmobile and an electric car, as shown by the Union of Concerned Scientists, shows the average EV keeps getting cleaner (based on a well-to-wheel analysis) year by year, as the grid uses less and less energy from coal, and more and more renewable energy.
    WadeTyhon and Marcel_g like this.
  11. Marcel_g

    Marcel_g Member

    Isn’t there a HVDC line going in to connect Texas to the southeast US? This would facilitate moving excess renewable electricity to a different market, so helping with that issue, wouldn’t it?

    I think I’ve heard of other solutions beyond battery storage that help deal with the mismatches in generation and demand, like smart grids that can do demand response. It’s probably possible now to move to a significant % (70+?) of renewables with the tech we have available.

    Also, something Michael Liebreich mentioned, was that the next step towards de-carbonization, after renewables and EVs, is figuring out electrified building heating and cooling. Better building standards and more efficient heat pumps help a lot, but going full renewables is going to be hard to carry all the HVAC, even if they’re super cheap. I’m not saying we can’t do it, but whether we do it on time to save some semblance of civilization is the question.

    Exciting times: lots of amazing tech and opportunities coming on line and getting deployed. There are fortunes to be made, even as climate damage ramps up significantly, and the fossil fuel dinosaurs keep fighting to deny that they’re making their money while killing us off.

    To bring this back on topic: maybe EVs and a smart grid can help absorb the extra renewables when its there by charging the EVs more when there’s excess, and the EVs can charge less when the power is needed for heating and cooling.
    WadeTyhon likes this.
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  13. Feed The Trees

    Feed The Trees Active Member

    I have electric heat and it's really nice in some respects but it's wildly inefficient compared to gas.
  14. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    Good idea, I have added an abbreviated version of this map to my ev/hybrid info graphic.

    NeilBlanchard likes this.
  15. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    Inside Evs had an article not too long ago talking about an increase of peak demand. As Plug-Ins expand, increased solar (especially residential) and wind is important because it would not only offset our existing electric usage - it would also absorb higher utility demand that will come from more electric charging.


    I did read an article on GreenBiz a while back that was mostly a puff piece about GM sustainability. But it had some interesting points from Kelly Helfrich at GM about utilizing OnStar to integrate Vehicle-to-Grid, peak demand

    "One technology that GM is planning to provide utilities in the very near future builds on the company's OnStar offering, a service used for a variety safety, navigation and maintenance applications. The idea is to help utilities build their own systems for offering vehicle-to-grid services.

    One example might be an app for choosing the most cost-effective times for homeowners to recharge their vehicle batteries or to allow them to use their car batteries for helping offset peak demand charges."


    I think Toyota and Nissan have been working on vehicle to grid technologies, using EVs as a backup generator when the power is out, and other interesting technologies. I really like this battery pack solution from Nissan that combines vehicle-to-grid tech, EV charging, and energy storage:


    For years and most EVs have the option to time-delay your EV charging. I can set my Bolt for instance to start charge at a particular time, or to set a particular time for it to "complete" the charge. But currently it is up to the driver to figure out when and how to charge their vehicle to save the most money.

    Having this done by OnStar (or similar service) and utility companies automatically would be a great way to spread out the demand from EV charging and reduce the cost of electricity.
    Domenick likes this.
  16. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I do find it an interesting, and puzzling, situation that the U.S. electrical grid is divided into three sections -- with one of the three sections more or less contiguous with the State of Texas -- and the connections between those three grids are quite limited. So altho this isn't my area of study, common sense strongly suggests that more, and more robust, connections between the three grids would increase flexibility, and therefore would be better for everyone. There appears to me to be a lot of advantages to being able to import and export energy to and from wherever it's needed in all three grids; not just one or another!


    I'd like to see an authoritative citation or some figures to back that up. Again, this isn't my area of study, but it hasn't been that many years ago that the conventional wisdom was that using more than about 20% solar and wind energy would destabilize the grid, because solar and wind power (especially wind) are unpredictable, and can vary so rapidly without warning.

    I doubt things have changed that much that fast. The "smart grid" is still something which exists more as an ideal than as a reality, isn't it?
  17. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

    That is what I had heard for years as well. Yet it looks like it could be not only possible, but very likely to surpass 20% renewable energy. One of the Scientific American articles I read for research and posted above actually addressed this concern directly:

    "Last year, Texas generated 18 percent of its energy from wind and solar — with wind providing the vast majority of total renewable generation. The 18 percent number matters because for years critics of renewable energy have argued that grid costs and reliability will spiral out of control before we hit 20 percent wind and solar. But in Texas, retail electricity prices have actually decreased, coming in well below the U.S. average."

    California is already at over 30% renewables and is now working towards 50%. There isn't much opportunity to grow Hydroelectric power generation, so most of this future growth should be coming from Solar and Wind.


    I don't think 100% renewable will occur anytime soon... unless we as a species start becoming a whole lot more frugal with our energy usage. We should always have Natural Gas, Nuclear or some other energy source as a backup when energy usage spikes. But over 50% seems inevitable.

    Of course how much renewable energy a specific region can rely on, and what type is most prominent, depends on a variety of factors.
  18. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

  19. WadeTyhon

    WadeTyhon Well-Known Member

  20. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I've been told that in some areas of the Pacific Northwest, as well as some areas of Canada, as much as 90% of grid electricity is hydroelectric. So no, there isn't any limit to the percentage that's renewable. The limit is the portion of grid power that comes from intermittent, unpredictable sources such as wind (and to a lesser extent, solar) without there being any large-scale buffer to store power to smooth out the intermittent nature of those sources.

    Now, if we can get some sort of large-scale energy storage system which is cost-effective and usable anywhere, in any terrain, then the usefulness of solar and wind will increase significantly.

    Unless and until that happens, I would like to see continued development of alternatives which generate power 24/7; "clean power" alternatives such as 4th generation nuclear power and deep-shaft geothermal.

    Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I think deep-shaft geothermal has a lot of potential which is being ignored. If we could develop a technique for drilling very deep wells economically, then we could put in geothermal power plants almost anywhere. As it is now, they're limited to only areas where the Earth's crust is very thin. Time to bring shaft drilling tech into the 21st century?

    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018

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