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How Carbon Reduction and Smart Grid Work Together

Jeff St. John's picture
Greentech Media
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  • Apr 11, 2013 12:30 am GMT
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smart gridCombating global warming is going to require a huge influx of green power onto the grid, both at the large scale (think giant wind farms or solar power plants) and at the fragmented, distributed scale (think rooftop solar panels, on-site cogeneration systems, factory and hospital backup power systems, and even battery-based grid energy storage systems).

Using all those distributed assets to match power use to wind and solar power’s intermittency, either locally or on a grand scale, is a massive challenge, but one that we need to solve if we’re to come close to reaching our collective greenhouse gas reduction targets. Over in the U.K., Western Power Distribution’s “Project FALCON” (Flexible Approaches to Low Carbon Optimized Networks) is tackling this challenge, and recently tapped General Electric for grid-scale batteries to add to the mix.

GE will supply five of its 100-kilowatt Durathon batteries to Western Power Distribution (WPD), which will install them at substations and tie them into its distribution management system (DMS). Over the course of the four-year project, the utility plans to test out the devices’ abilities to “enhance network efficiency through voltage support, improved power quality and electrical noise reduction,” as well as to defer expensive capital improvements.

That’s a pretty standard list of the functions utilities want out of their grid batteries, but you’ll notice that it doesn’t include long-term energy storage — batteries are still far too expensive for that. Instead, WPD wants to use the batteries to manage overall grid quality issues, which requires sophisticated and fast-reacting battery control systems to achieve.

GE is working with Austin, Texas-based startup Xtreme Power as its battery management software (BMS) provider. Xtreme recently announced it was selling its own battery factory to focus on BMS deployment with GE, Samsung SDI, and other battery providers. Grid-scale batteries are expensive, and if they’re to be rolled out at commercial scale, they’ll have to come with ten-year-and-up warranties to satisfy utility capital investment plans.

WPD serves about 7.7 million customers across the Midlands, southern Wales and Cornwall, and is tapping a host of smart grid tech providers to test out how they can help solve the power quality and management problems that emerge with lots of green power coming onto the grid. In the long run, project partners, including the U.K. Office of Gas and Electricity Markets’ (Ofgem’s) Low Carbon Network Fund, intend to develop a new computer-based modeling tool for managing all of this new intermittency and grid instability, as well as the systems built to monitor and control it all.

Carbon reduction targets and green energy integration are also big challenges for Canada’s Ontario province. Ontario is seeing a boom in solar and wind installations, funded by generous feed-in tariffs meant to keep the province entirely off coal-fired power. It’s also one of the first jurisdictions to roll out both smart meters and time-of-use energy pricing to all its customers, and is looking at ways to measure their effectiveness.

Canadian home energy management company Energate recently launched a project with Ontario’s Ministry of Energy and a long list of utilities, meant to test multiple homeowner-utility technology connections and their impact on the grid. As part of the $7.8 million Consumer Engagement for the Smart Grid (CESG) program, Energate will be rolling out smart thermostats, in-home gateways and a host of customer-facing mobile and web-based applications to up to 1,000 homes over the coming months.

Participating utilities include Cambridge & North Dumfries Hydro, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, Waterloo North Hydro, Hydro One, Hydro Ottawa, Peterborough Utilities, PowerStream, and Veridian Connections — an interesting list of big and small energy companies, all tying into the province’s overarching smart meter and smart grid data management framework.

Energate has a long list of utility customers and smart grid partners, including Silver Spring Networks and Oklahoma Gas & Electric on a 40,000-customer smart meter network-enabled residential demand response program. It recently announced it’s working with GE’s PowerOn demand response platform as well.

While millions of homes add up to a lot of energy efficiency and carbon reduction potential, there’s also a lot of energy to be saved and emissions reduced on the big industrial side of the grid as well — including the oil and gas industries themselves.

Schneider Electric would appear to see opportunity in that sector, judging by Monday’s news of it taking a complete ownership stake in Russian medium-voltage grid player Electroshield – TM Samara. Schneider has owned half the company since 2010, but went all in to capitalize on Electroshield’s market share in Russia and abroad, and particularly its “market access to the oil and gas, utilities and mining, minerals and metals industries,” the company stated.

Big oil is a world unto itself, but there are opportunities for green technologies to make their mark. Oil giant Shell just announced it is looking to invest roughly one-quarter of a “several-hundred-million” dollar venture capital fund in “future energy” technologies, ranging from solar-thermal power for enhanced oil recovery to big data software to help it turn geological data into new discoveries.

Schneider Electric has been buying a lot of smart grid companies lately, as have its competitors like Siemens, ABB, General Electric, Alstom, Eaton/Cooper Power, Hitachi and Toshiba, to name some of the more acquisitive grid giants over the past few years. Europe’s distribution grid markets also have their share of mid-sized players vying for market share via acquisitions of their own, such as Spanish company Ormazabal, which recently bought U.S. smart grid company Current to absorb its stake in a key European smart grid communications standard called PRIME.

 

 

greentech mediaGreentech Media (GTM) produces industry-leading news, research, and conferences in the business-to-business greentech market. Our coverage areas include solar, smart grid, energy efficiency, wind, and other non-incumbent energy markets. For more information, visit: greentechmedia.com, follow us on twitter: @greentechmedia, or like us on Facebook: facebook.com/greentechmedia.

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I K's picture
I K on Apr 13, 2013

A technology which requires you to work around it, rather than it work around you, has failed before it got started.

Demand management offers little value.

The only way wind and solar can get close to producing 100% of electricity (you still have transport and heating to deal with) is with a global grid. It would be technically and economical easy, but politically difficult.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Apr 13, 2013

I K,

I don’t know why a Global grid would be easy, and frankly I think it is a bad idea that could never work because it just is not practical.

If you look at the globe, there is a vast expanse of Pacific Ocean where we could not put solar cells, then there is a smaller Atlantic zone, and don’t forget the Forests in South America and West Africa,

You might wanna view the image linked below.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-DANWPdPJzlo/UWjbrKwM_sI/AAAAAAAAAQI/xkfhQNwJkVI/s1600/global+grid.jpg

I K's picture
I K on Apr 14, 2013

I don’t know why a Global grid would be easy, and frankly I think it is a bad idea that could never work because it just is not practical.

Why is it not practical, a bad idea, and never going to work?

If you look at the globe, there is a vast expanse of Pacific Ocean

And…….?

You do not need to place solar at every time zone, you can have it 3 hours spread on each end which means you can have a global grid which does not need to cross the pacific ocean. But even the pacific ocean is no threat to a global grid why would you cross that when you could just cross via the bering sea instead?

also for arguments sake think of placing PV plants at just 6 time zones all spread by 4 hours. That means you can have an equatorial distance of nearly 6,700km between plants yet still achieve a fairly constant output

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Apr 14, 2013

I K,

Here are Two more pictures of the Globe:

Global  Picture 2

and 

Global Picture 3

 

For a global Grid to be meaningfull, we’d have to place enough solar cells around the world with the Intent that there will always be sunlight somewhere on the planet, and that the Solar cells being insolated at any one time will be providing power for the rest of the world.

What I am attempting to demonstrate  is that unless we want to build thousands of ships or construct artificial Islands, there isn’t anything to place those solar cells on, so as to be able to convert  enough sunlight to electricity for use in powering the planet 24/7.

Simply put, we just don’t have enough land area on which to position the required solar cells that would capture enough sunlight to power the globe continuously. This should be self evident unless I am missing something here.

 

I K's picture
I K on Apr 14, 2013

Yes you are missing something.  Like I have said before you don’t beed pv plant continuously around the globe yoy can space them 5000km apart and still get a near constant output. 

 

The reason is solar output on a pv is fairly constant a couple of hours around noon.  So you can have a 4hour timezone difference and still get a constabt output

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Apr 14, 2013

I K,

I wonder if someone who has knowledge in Meteorology or a similar discipline would chime in on this discussion. Not trying to be overly argumentative, but even if PV sites are space every 5000Km as you suggest, there are sufficient stretches where the only areas being insolated is just over the oceans.

 

As best as I can see there is not eneough land mass being Insolated, even when space 5000 Km apart, to provide continuos PV generated power for the planet.

Please see the animation here: 24 hour daylight animated

I K's picture
I K on Apr 15, 2013

I don’t have time at the moment but if you could draw solar output through a sunny 24 hours. so at noon its at full capacity at night zero and between sunshine and noon rising and noon and dusk falling.

Then add a second pv curve to that but shifted 12 hours.  So now there are two ppeaks. One at 12 am and one at 12 pm. That would be how a pv system would look with 2 stations on opposite sides of the planet.

Now add two further curves. One at 6am and one at 6 pm. So now you have 4 peaks.  One at 6am one at 12am one at 6pm and another at 12pm. The graph now looks faorly steady and you only have 4 plants or roughly one every 10, 000km equatorial distance. 

Therefore you dont need to install pv across oceans.

 

I will do the graph when I have time.

But anyway what about yiur othrr assertions that a global grid would be a bad idea and difficult would you loke to state why

 

I K's picture
I K on Apr 15, 2013

Ok here is a graph of solar output you would get from just 4 PV plants spread across the world at 6 hour timezone intervals, blue line, so an example would be west saharah, nevada, japan and east saudi arabia
As you can see the power output varies by just 10% around the average.

The red line is if you placed a plant at every 3 hour timezone, it varies by just 2% from the average output.
example would be west saharah, egypt, oman, east india, japan, hawaii, los angeles

Place 1TWp plants at each of those 8 locations and you would get more than 13,000TWh anual production from a fairly constant 1.5TW output

http://s12.postimg.org/5g2hvf7hp/solar_3_6h_timezone.png

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Apr 16, 2013

HI IK,

 

I decided to do a little thinking and with the aid of some graphics and photoshop, I came up with this representation of what you are suggesting.

 

 

I used 6 4 hour zones because it allowed me to get all USA, African Sahara, and Australia, places known for good sunshine. And this arrangement seems the most efficient to me.

 

As I understand the issue at hand, we’d place 1 (or more) Terrawatts of PV solar in each of Boxes 2-6 and link each of them to some World-Wide Grid such that the whole Planet is being continuosly supplied with electrical power from at least Half of the PV Blocks, with the Block dirrectly below the sun providingf the most power at any one time.

 

Obstacles:


How lagre is a 1 Terrawatt array ?

Can we really create a unified grid powering all of planet Earth?

Are there other practical concerns, note that Box #1 is entirely over water?

 

Anyhow, this was a fun project.

I K's picture
I K on Apr 16, 2013

Block 1 can be left empty if you place your pv plant at the most easterly of block 6 and most westerly of block 2

1TW on the equator with 20% efficient panels laid flat would take up 5,000km2. By comparison Australia is 7,700,000 km2 so you only need less than 0.1% for Australia. If sited away from the equator you would need more laad as you need to tilt and space your panels. On the other hand pv panels are getting more efficient and hence need less space

Yes we can create a global grid. Not sure what you mean by unified they dont need to be at the same frequency.

Also note the instant benefit of a global grid would be to get rid of the need to train or ship coal/gas aroubd the globe.  Insteas you would just send eletrons down the grid. So there are massive benifitd over just very high solar or wind capability. It would also allow countries rich in hydro to utilise them more productively for the whole world. 

 

I dont think a global grid is likely to happen but without it wind and especially solar are doomed to produce less than about one tenth of worldwide energy needs

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