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Renewable Design

Edward Reid, Jr.'s picture
Vice President, Marketing (Retired) / Executive Director (Retired) / President (Retired) Columbia Gas Distribution Companies / American Gas Cooling Center / Fire to Ice, Inc.

Industry Participation: Natural Gas Industry Research, Development and Demonstration Initiative Chair, Cooling Committee (1996-1999)   American Gas Association Marketing Section...

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  • Dec 7, 2021
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This commentary provides a simplified overview of the process of replacing a single dispatchable powerplant with either wind or solar generation plus storage.

The powerplant to be replaced is a 1,000 MW plant, either coal or nuclear fueled. This powerplant would be capable of generating 24,000 MW Hours (MWH)of power per day as a baseload powerplant. Replacing its nameplate generating capacity with 2.5 MW onshore wind turbines would require installation of 400 turbines. However, even assuming very favorable siting, the wind turbines would be expected to generate at approximately 40% of their nameplate rating throughout the day, so replacing the generation capability of the 1,000 MW dispatchable powerplant would require 1,000 wind turbines. However, the instantaneous output of those wind turbines could vary between 2,500 MW and 0 MW throughout the day. Therefore, dispatchable storage would be required to stabilize the output of the storage supported wind farm at 1,000 MW for baseload service. Storage capacity of 10,000 – 15,000 MWH would be required to stabilize facility output and render it dispatchable, depending on characteristic wind conditions.

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Typical electric utility load factors are approximately 40%. Therefore, if the powerplant being replaced were in load following service, 400 wind turbines operating at 40% of nameplate capacity would be sufficient to meet the typical daily load. However, the instantaneous output of those 400 wind turbines could vary between 1,000 MW and 0 MW throughout the day. Therefore, dispatchable storage would be required to stabilize the output of the storage supported wind farm at the output required to meet the current load. Storage capacity of approximately 4,000 – 6,000 MWH would be required to stabilize facility output and render it dispatchable, depending on characteristic wind conditions.

Replacing the conventional powerplant with solar generation would require a solar field with a nameplate rating of approximately 4,000 MW, assuming solar panel output of approximately 25% of nameplate rating throughout the day. The facility would require storage with a capacity of approximately 18,000 MWH to render the facility dispatchable in baseload service. In load following service, assuming 40% load factor, the nameplate rating of the solar field could be reduced to approximately 2,000 MW and the storage capacity reduced to approximately 8,000 MWH.

The above calculations are based on a single representative day with storage adequate to smooth output throughout the day. However, assuming significant variations in wind conditions from day to day would require installation of additional storage capacity. For example, accommodating one still day would require an additional 1,000 wind turbines and additional storage capacity of 24,000 MWH in baseload service, or an additional 400 wind turbines and additional storage capacity of approximately 10,000 MWH. Similarly, accommodating one cloudy day would require an additional 4,000 MW of solar collector nameplate capacity and additional storage capacity of 24,000 MWH in baseload service or approximately 10,000 MWH in load following service. Each additional day of anticipated potential low/no wind or solar conditions would add an addition requirement of 24,000 MWH for baseload operation or 10,000 MWH for load following operation.

In addition, in the event stored energy was consumed to support the grid during a period of low/no wind or solar availability, the renewable facility would require additional capacity to recharge storage in anticipation of future low/no wind and solar availability conditions. The additional capacity required would be a function of the local frequency and duration of low/no wind and solar days and the required storage recharge period.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 7, 2021

"This commentary provides a simplified overview of the process of replacing a single dispatchable powerplant with either wind or solar generation plus storage."

Edward, if anything your commentary provides an explanation of why replacing a single dispatchable powerplant with either wind or solar generation plus storage would be impossible.
Neither wind, nor solar, nor any "renewable" source of energy dependent on time of day or weather, is dispatchable. The assumption here (a common one) is that enough batteries can make enough wind and solar energy just as "dispatchable" as a typical nuclear powerplant.
"Ok," I say. "How much is 'enough'?" Though the Akademik Lomonosov, a huge barge anchored off Russia's Arctic coast, carries a nuclear powerplant that can run indefinitely - no downtime - we'll assume we're replacing a typical nuclear power plant, which runs eighteen months nonstop. We'll also assume our system will operate with the "four-nines" reliability expected of U.S. power grids - that unplanned outages will keep our grid online 99.99% of every year.
A rough average for the cost of installed, grid-scale storage capacity, in 2019, was $1,000/kWh. It's plain to see the expense of such a scenario for the U.S. alone would be more than the combined wealth of the entire world ($431 trillion) - impossible.
These scenarios are often trotted out by natural gas interests to lead us to believe one day they won't be impossible, with the intended effect of keeping us reliant on their product indefinitely. It should also be plain to see that environmental responsiblity demands we eliminate natural gas consumption from our energy portfolio as soon as possible, that we promptly dismiss such "simplified overviews" as the cynical marketing ploys they are.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Dec 8, 2021

I could be wrong, Bob, but I believe you and Edward are on the same page here. Edward is just more subtle about it. He evidently didn't feel it was necessary to explicitly note the outrageous price tag that would go with the necessary level of storage capacity. Presumably, he thought that the figures for the required amount of storage would speak for themselves.

 

The figures do speak to me, and they obviously do to you as well. But there may be readers who aren't aware of the cost of grid-scale energy storage. It's fine to point it out for their benefit. But you might want to ease off a bit on allegations of "cynical marketing ploys".

Edward Reid, Jr.'s picture
Edward Reid, Jr. on Dec 8, 2021

Roger,

You're right. The type of storage that might carry the grid through multiple lo/no wind and solar days is not commercially available and might never be economically viable.

Edward Reid, Jr.'s picture
Edward Reid, Jr. on Dec 8, 2021

Bob,

I agree that nuclear is the only currently viable option for powering a reliable, fossil-free electric grid. However, I do not believe that "environmental responsiblity demands we eliminate natural gas consumption from our energy portfolio as soon as possible". The purported "climate crisis" exists only in the unverified climate models, which are currently in the process of falsifying themselves. History suggests that the chances of replacing current US coal and natural gas generation with nuclear generation by 2035 are between slim and none. Permitting could take that long in the current environment.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 9, 2021

"The purported 'climate crisis' exists only in the unverified climate models, which are currently in the process of falsifying themselves."

It's your position, then, that decarbonizing our electric grid is a waste of time and money?

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Dec 10, 2021

Why don't the Nuclear and COAL options cover the fact that they can not ramp down and back up fast enough to match the changing customer loads for On Peak and Off Peak?  Why doesn't the last of the NG options include the FACT that most comes from Fracking which is causing great hard to the land and water supplies. So lets not just do a simplified overview. Lets look at the obtaining of the fuel, it's transport, the use of the fuel and it's pollution, the water used in fossil fuel making power, the waste after the fuel is used like Nuclear waste and COAL slurry. Then you may start to have a clear picture of the real costs. 

Edward Reid, Jr.'s picture
Edward Reid, Jr. on Dec 13, 2021

We might also look at the sourcing of the raw materials for wind, solar and batteries and the issues related to the disposal of these devices at the ends of their useful lives.

We might also look at the costs of grid unreliability on people, commercial businesses and manufacturing.

We might also look at how hospitals and other institutions requiring uninterruptible power would provide onsite standby generation or storage.

Perhaps you could propose such a study to US EPA or US DOE.

 

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