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Joe Deely's picture
Partner Deely Group

Involved with high-tech for last 30 years. Interested in energy.

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  • May 18, 2020
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More good news from New Mexico with solar/storage replacing NG.

  • The New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission approved on Wednesday one solar and one solar-plus-storage project to serve El Paso Electric's customers.
  • The projects were proposed to serve southern New Mexico and west Texas customers, and start service in the summer of 2022. One project will add 100 MW of solar for $0.015 per kWh while the second will add 100 MW of solar and 50 MW of storage for $0.021 per kWh, record-low prices for solar and storage in New Mexico.
  • The PPAs mark the first time El Paso Electric uses large-scale battery storage in the state,  replacing 91 MW of capacity from two units at the Rio Grande natural gas steam turbine plant, set for retirement in 2022.
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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 18, 2020

What will New Mexico use to generate electricity when the sun isn't shining?

"'Solar + storage' is the latest in a series of memes designed to cloak solar energy's fundamental flaw of intermittency in green garb. It works like this: solar is incapable of predictably meeting customer demand for electricity. So we are asked to accept the idea huge batteries could be charged with solar electricity during periods of excess supply, then discharged back to the grid during periods of excess demand. Predictably.

"For anyone familiar with the physics of storing energy in electrochemical batteries, the limitations of this scheme are trivially obvious. Yet $billions are being spent on solar panels, batteries, and natural gas under the assumption the trio working together might reduce carbon emissions.

'Solar + storage is replacing natural gas!' proclaim solar advocates, unable or unwilling to accept peer-reviewed studies showing storage significantly reduces system efficiency, increasing both gas consumption and carbon emissions. For oil majors, the potential for added profit is also trivially obvious: the more gas that gets burned, the more money they make."

https://energycentral.com/c/cp/batteries-have-dirty-secret

"Energy storage is considered a green technology. But it actually increases carbon emissions.

Energy storage (batteries and other ways of storing electricity, like pumped water, compressed air, or molten salt) has generally been hailed as a “green” technology, key to enabling more renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

But energy storage has a dirty secret. The way it’s typically used in the US today, it enables more fossil-fueled energy and higher carbon emissions. Emissions are higher today than they would have been if no storage had ever been deployed in the US."

Batteries Have a Dirty Secret

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 19, 2020

Bob,

In regards to the Roberts article - which depends on researcher Eric Hittinger for expertise...

The theme of this article is not that storage is bad. Rather it is - we need to be smart about how we use storage.

For example, don't charge storage at night with coal and then use that to compete with NG during the day.

Say a battery bank absorbs cheap energy being produced by coal plants overnight and then discharges it in the day, competing with natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) plants. The net effect will be to favor coal against natural gas, thus increasing net emissions.

The quote below is really the heart of the article:

Hittinger put it to me this way in an email: assuming storage efficiency of 80 percent, “for storage to break even [on carbon emissions], the source of charging energy would have to be 20% cleaner (emissions/MWh) than the thing that you are displacing when the storage is discharging (on average).” That’s just to break even.

Those conditions can be met — NGCC plants are more than 20 percent cleaner than natural gas peaker plants, and closer to 50 percent cleaner than coal (depending on how you account for methane), and of course, renewables are 100 percent cleaner — but it turns not to be very common in the US at present.

So, its ok to use storage to eliminate NG peakers as long as the mix of energy used to charge the batteries is at least as clean as NGCC plants.  See how that works. Plus of course, if the storage helps eliminate coal then that's a no-brainer. In the Western US - storage will be used extensively to lower emissions.

The other thing you are missing - as usual - is not looking to where the puck is going. When Eric wrote his study in 2017 the US was using 30% more coal than we are using today.  Coal is continuing to disappear from the US mix and will be mostly gone by 2030. 

As for NM:

What will New Mexico use to generate electricity when the sun isn't shining?

Where is the puck moving to in New Mexico?  First NM is moving away from coal. Escalante shuts down this year.  Public Service New Mexico is closing their San Juan Plant by 2022 and Arizona Publc Service will shutdown the Four Corners plant by 2031.  

From Jan 2020 APS press release:

The goal includes a nearer-term 2030 target of achieving a resource mix that is 65 percent clean energy, with 45 percent of our portfolio coming from renewable energy. APS will end all coal-fired generation by 2031, seven years sooner than previously projected. 

Coal will be gone from New Mexico.  

By the way, here's your comment from 2017 regarding this.

No Joe, coal in New Mexico won’t “be gone by 2031”. A lawsuit challenging a 25-year extension for Units 4 & 5 of Four Corners has been dismissed, authorizing 1,540 MW of operation through 2040. The Plains Escalante plant (233 MW) is going nowhere.

In the short/medium term - NM will adding plenty of wind and solar/storage to replace the lost generation from San Juan.  By 2031 - when Four Corners is shut down and coal is entirely gone from NM - I would expect the fuel mix for in-state generation to be 70% renewables and 30% NG.  Plus, NM will still be importing some nuclear from Palo Verde using PNM 10% ownership.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 19, 2020

As usual, you don't explain how we're going to get rid of natural gas - either peakers, or CCGT, or methane leakage, or reservoir blowouts (in 2015-2016 the Aliso Canyon blowout effectively negated the clean-energy contribution of renewables in the U.S. for the entire year). Because there isn't a way. Renewables + gas = best friends.

I suppose storage is not "bad" if you're willing to accept an increase in carbon emissions, but nowhere in the U.S. (or in the world, to my knowledge) is it being used to store exclusively renewable energy. Thus, storage always increases carbon emissions. Always.

And then your predictions: "this will do this, that will do that." You'll have to excuse me for my blanket dismissal, but I've been looking where the renewables puck is going for half a century, and it has always missed the net.

I've said before "time's up", but I was being generous. Time was up thirty years ago.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 19, 2020

Bob,

Thus, storage always increases carbon emissions. Always.

As I pointed out - the article which you referenced  in your comment says otherwise.

Repeating again from your link:

Hittinger put it to me this way in an email: assuming storage efficiency of 80 percent, “for storage to break even [on carbon emissions], the source of charging energy would have to be 20% cleaner (emissions/MWh) than the thing that you are displacing when the storage is discharging (on average).” That’s just to break even.

Those conditions can be met — NGCC plants are more than 20 percent cleaner than natural gas peaker plants, and closer to 50 percent cleaner than coal (depending on how you account for methane), and of course, renewables are 100 percent cleaner — 

Obviously, a mix of battery charging from NGCC and renewables provides lower emissions vs NG peaker plants even after the 20% hit.

If you are replacing coal generation - then drop in emissions is much higher.

After coal and peakers are gone - solar and storage will replace NGCC.

Reading comphrehension - it's a wonderful thing.

By the way Bob, Eric Hittinger is a great resource - and I am a big fan. Hope you keep reading his stuff. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 20, 2020

"As I pointed out - the article which you referenced  in your comment says otherwise..."

Then the author of the Vox article misunderstood Hittinger's email.

"Obviously, a mix of battery charging from NGCC and renewables provides lower emissions vs NG peaker plants even after the 20% hit."

Nowhere does Hittinger assume batteries are replacing 100% electricity from peaker plants or coal; nowhere does he assume they're charged by 100% renewables. In practice, peakers are only used to back up renewable energy, and batteries are seldom used to store solar energy at all. From "Bulk Energy Storage Increases United States Electricity System Emissions":

"Despite the variation in potential revenue, the operation of the storage device is similar across locations. Figure 3 shows the

_____________________________________________Figure 3. Average daily power output from storage device at the 20 studied locations, under perfect information. Each line shows the average daily charge/discharge pattern for a single location. Each data point is the average for that hour over the year 2012. Positive values represent discharge, and negative values represent charging of the storage.
_____________________________________________
 

average daily power output of the storage device at the 20 studied locations. This figure illustrates the expected pattern of discharge during the day and charging at night."

There's always some gas or coal on the grid when batteries are charged, thus what comes out is dirtier than what went in. Always.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 20, 2020

Then the author of the Vox article misunderstood Hittinger's email.

Love it Bob...you cite an article to support your argument and then when I point out that it says the opposite of what you are arguing you say the author is wrong. 

Here's some more quotes from Hittinger for you -

"Likewise, for the electricity grid, if storage gets cheap enough, its potential market could expand from 1 gigawatt-hour to dozens or even hundreds of gigawatt-hours.

"If or when that happens, wind and solar power would become more competitive, increasingly displacing both coal and natural gas – now the nation’s two top sources of electric power."

"No matter what happens, we believe that storage is “future-proof” because it works well on the current grid and with a wide variety of other technologies. If the wind and solar industries keep up their current momentum (and they probably will), storage will become even more valuable."

Like I said - a great reasearcher and big supporter of energy storage.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 21, 2020

As expected, quoting selectively and out of context. From your link:

"While storage actually consumes a little electricity rather than producing any, it makes the electricity business more economically efficient."

Gas plants become more economically efficient - not energy efficient - by charging their batteries at night, then helping to clean up the unstable mess renewables make of the grid during the day (lots of money to be made in the stratospheric ancillary services market - up to $1,500/MWh).  If battery owners want to make money they avoid charging solar altogether (the pretty graph above proves it).

And as your  "great researcher" says, in his own words:

"Although economically valuable, storage is not fundamentally a 'green' technology, leading to reductions in emissions...We find that net system CO2 emissions resulting from storage operation are nontrivial [significant] when compared to the emissions from electricity generation, ranging from 104 to 407 kg/MWh of delivered energy depending on location, storage operation mode, and assumptions regarding carbon
intensity."

104 added kg/MWh is the equivalent of turning a CCGT plant into the dirtiest peaker. But wait! There's more:

"As the volume of storage grows, we expect grids to become more stable and flexible."

I guess anything would be an improvement after a >100% increase in solar curtailment last year, but the CA grid was perfectly stable and flexible before advocates starting forcing their unstable electricity onto it. Solar and wind are exclusively to blame, whether you want to own it or not. But wait! There's more:

"If the wind and solar industries keep up their current momentum (and they probably will), storage will become even more valuable."

Valuable for whom? Not for ratepayers, who have to shell out $4.7 billion every 7-10 years to buy new batteries in the desert. Not for the environment, when storage is making the grid dirtier from resistance losses. It's simple physics: every grid is less energy efficient, thus dirtier, with storage. Always.

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