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Question

With the onslaught of several GWs of Northeast US offshore wind due online in the next 5 years which transmission operators will unify to to address intermittency?

David Rogers's picture
Director Key Capture Energy

Originating commercial agreements for utility scale battery developer.

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  • Sep 20, 2021 8:45 pm GMT
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It took ERCOT, with sole responsibility, $18 billion and over 10 years to make CREZ work.

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In my humble opinion US OSW boat has sailed, with federal lease funding, oil major ESG dollars and above average wind resource even before the Administration supported it. I’m just curious if the various ISOs have an ongoing dialogue on seams issues when a few GWs go offline due to a hurricane.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 22, 2021

David, if you thought ERCOT was bad you ain't seen nothing yet.

A graph of UK offshore generation (below) provides the closest guide to what a multi-gigawatt generation profile might look like from combined offshore wind resources on the U.S. east coast. Absent a dispatchable souce of clean energy, ISONE will be forced to fill in all those multi-gigawatt gaps in variable, offshore generation with (what else?) - natural gas-fired electricity.

Did anyone really believe oil majors would use those ESG dollars for "environmental, social, and governance" purposes? For sustainable energy? Of course not. They will be used to sustain U.S. dependence on fossil fuel methane for the foreseeable future, the inevitable, disastrous increase in CO2 emissions notwithstanding.

There is nothing certain about these projects.  While it is great you could build a resource out in the ocean, that is a small part of the picture.  The reality of the environmental impacts to aquatic life to bring the transmission lines back to the shore, not to mention the incremental capacity that needs to be built into corridors on land, will be the defining factor as to whether or not these facilities are constructed at all.  Very specifically to your point, CREZ corridors in Texas were developed in one state, under one governing authority that has complete control of the ISO for the state.  Simply put, the state could make a decision and execute.  This is not the case for any of the projects in the NE.  Many different states and the Federal government will have to be involved in the decision making process and we have ultimately failed at any sort of effective process to fast track transmission approvals/processes in this arena.  Incremental gains have been made, but I think everyone will agree that much more needs to be done if we are serious about this type of strategy for our country.  So the challenge is definitely still in front of us, not behind us.  

 

The technical challenges of incorporating the resource are just math and we have proven very capable of managing these challenges in the past decade.  Again, look at Texas and the vast amount of wind that has been brought on to that isolated system.  Is there a learning curve and challenges?  Yes, but nothing we cannot figure out.  

 

The good news is that offshore wind has much better capacity factors and capabilities than on-shore wind.  Therefore, the overall impacts to the grid infrastructure can be managed much more effectively, especially if the infrastructure is designed and built to support the resource.  So we are once again brought back in the circular argument of whether or not the infrastructure can be permitted and built.

 

And finally, as I always mention, the distribution utility's ability to create partnerships with their customers will ultimately define success for the scale penetration of renewables.  Our thinking has to transcend building only big bulky things and we have to recognize that planning from the bottom up must become our new norm.  The capabilities of technologies already installed today to make this happen have proven the value of dynamic customer relationships and we must build on that to a future where our connected world optimizes across the entire energy value chain, not one segment of it.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 21, 2021

"The reality of the environmental impacts to aquatic life to bring the transmission lines back to the shore, not to mention the incremental capacity that needs to be built into corridors on land, will be the defining factor as to whether or not these facilities are constructed at all."

Chris, we can only hope that's the case. But the administration's determination appears to have blinded it to potential impacts of erecting hundreds of miles of wind turbines in the midst of whale migration routes on both coasts. Experiences with Block Island, the first and only wind farm in the world so located, suggest further study is necessary.
Are U.S. offshore wind farms killing endangered North Atlantic right whales?

"And finally, as I always mention, the distribution utility's ability to create partnerships with their customers will ultimately define success for the scale penetration of renewables."

Though I'm accustomed to hearing "success at lowering carbon emissions" disingenuously equated with "success of renewables", considering demand/response a "partnership"? That's a stretch. Demand/response is nothing more than thrusting the burden of the renewable intermittency on customers: "The problem isn't that solar panels can only generate electricity on sunny days, it's that you're using electricity when the sun isn't shining!".

No doubt affluent PG&E customers in Marin County can flip a switch on their Tesla PowerWalls to save cheap solar electricity for later use. Whether low-income residents of Oakland should be forced to do laundry late at night to make ends meet, that's another thing altogether.

David Rogers's picture
David Rogers on Sep 22, 2021

With respect to aquatic impacts from offshore structures I think the Gulf of Mexico provides decades of proof that the artificial reef creation far offsets any negatives (ask any offshore fishing guide where they usually fish). And as far as intermittency innovation can develop non carbon solutions now that the US and oil majors are committed to lower footprints like Europe. Expensive at first but like wind and solar will become more affordable. 

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