I received a notice of a new MIT study entitled “The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World” which looks at the technological, regulatory and economic changes required to make nuclear power viable again. A summary states
The findings are that new policy models and cost-cutting technologies would help nuclear play vital role in climate solutions. Progress in reducing carbon emissions requires a broad range of actions to effectively leverage nuclear energy.
However, nothing in the summary reveals the paradigm-shattering innovation that will be required to make nuclear power competitive with a diverse fleet of renewables plus storage that would achieve the same goals. The cost of a solar plant plus storage with today’s technology still costs less than a current technology nuclear plant. That alternative fleet would also provide better reliability by diversifying the generation sources through smaller plants and avoid any radiation contamination risk.
The nuclear industry must clearly demonstrate that it can get past the many hurdles that led to the recent cancellation of two projects in the southeast U.S. Reviving nuclear power will require more than fantasies about what might be.
LADWP is proposing to spend $3 billion on a pumped storage facility at the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Yet, LADWP has not been using extensively its aging 1,247 MW Castaic pumped storage plant on the State Water Project in the pumping recovery mode. Instead, LADWP runs it more like a standard hydropower plant, and uses pumping to supplement and extend the peak power generation, rather than using it to store excess day time power. And the SWP’s 759 MW pumped storage plant at the Hyatt-Thermalito powerhouse at Lake Oroville has been not been used effectively for decades.
The more prudent course would seem to be to focus on refurbishing and updating existing facilities, with variable speed pumps for example, to deliver utility scale storage that can capture excess renewable energy generation nearer large load centers. The State Water Contractors should be incented to upgrade these facilities through contracts with the state’s electric utilities. Unfortunately, no direct market mechanism exists to provide a true value for these resources so long at the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System Operator avoid developing full pricing. As it stands, the current pricing scheme socializes and subsidizes a number of electricity services such as transmission, unit commitment decisions, and reliability services.
“A Rochester Institute of Technology study says a customer must face high electricity bills and unfavorable net metering or feed-in policies for grid defection to work.”
Yet…this study used current battery costs (at $350/KW-Hr), ignoring probably cost decreases, and then made more restrictive assumptions about how such a system might work. It’s not clear if “defection” meant complete self sufficiency, or reducing the generation portion (which in California about half of electricity bill.) Regardless, the study shows that grid defection is cost-effective in Hawaii, confirm the RMI findings. Even so, RMI said it would take at least 10 years before such defection was cost-effective in even the high-cost states like New York and California.
A more interesting study would be to look at the “break-even” cost thresholds for solar panels and batteries to make these competitive with utility service. Then planners and decision makers could assess the likelihood of reaching those levels within a range of time periods.
Source: A study throws cold water on residential solar-plus-storage economics | Utility Dive
Just hooking up EV owners and not compensating them for the storage services they can provide won’t be a successful or popular idea. Rather the first step is to figure out what is the value of that storage? A new NREL study estimates that value to be about $59 per kW-year with a 33% RPS portfolio in California, increasing to $109/kW-year at a 40% RPS. For a typical EV, that could translate into $300 to $550 per year or $2,000 to $5,000 over 10 years.
Then you assess what are the incremental costs to the EV owner in reduced battery life. Note that batteries depleted 30% can’t be used for EVs any more but are still valuable for grid storage. Vendors probably can build in-home racks that store and connect the depleted batteries. Those become factors in determining the payments to the EV owners and their agents.
As for enrolling EV owners in a storage management program, it need not be cumbersome if enrollment is the default (opt-out) when buying a car or installing a charging station. (See all of the literature on the importance of opt-out vs. opt-in and status quo bias.) The auto dealer or charging administrator becomes the agent. An EV buyer might sign up for the program and not even know it. The charging process could work much like the massive distributed computing projects that harness small parts of the idle processors across millions of personal computers. All of this becomes part of the peer-to-peer transactive energy (TE) grid.
PG&E has been running a series of “advertorials” on clean energy in the Sacramento Bee and other papers. Today’s on the need for electricity storage caught my eye. I’m not sure that we need new storage in California, at least not large-scale, in the immediate future.
The PG&E article describes an event in February 2014 when California generated more energy, much of it from solar and wind, than consumers were using. PG&E raises this as a concern that should be addressed so as not to lose that energy. But PG&E’s premise ignores one critical point–California is not isolated–it’s connected to many other states.
California is the largest electricity consumer in the Western Interconnection (with 10 other states and parts of Canada and Mexico). However the state only represents 30% of Western load. All of those states have weaker directives on renewables and greenhouse gas emissions, and most have much larger portions coming from high-emitting coal-fired plants.
When California overgenerates from renewables, it exports that power to those other states. This leads to a reduction in natural gas and coal use. When California needs power, it imports power as it has been doing for decades. In other words, the rest of the Western Interconnect is already acting like a storage device. The Southwest utilities have long exported excess coal-fired power overnight to California at low prices. Now California can turn the tables. PG&E may not be getting renewable portfolio standard (RPS) or greenhouse gas reduction credits for those exports, but they reduce GHG emissions in other states.
This situation is similar to the recent rise in petroleum production in the U.S. The country now exports refined products thanks to advances in extraction technologies. Congress is considering whether to allow the export of crude oil. For both California and the U.S., the concept of exporting energy has been inconceivable up to now. Time to rethink our paradigms?
One of the key questions about how to bring in more renewables is how do we provide low-cost storage? Batteries can cost $350 per kilowatt (kW) and pumped storage somewhat lower. Maybe we should think about another potential storage source that will be very low cost: automobiles.
California has about 24 million autos. The average horsepower is about 190 HP which converts to about 140 kW. Let’s assume that an EV will have on average a 100 kW engine. Generally cars are parked about 90% of the time, which of course varies diurnally. A rough calculation shows that about 2,000 GW of EV capacity is available with EVs at 100% of the fleet. To get to 22 GW of storage, about 1% of the state’s automobile fleet would need to be connected as storage devices. That seems to be an attainable goal. Of course, it may not be possible for the local grid to accommodate 100 kW of charging and discharging and current charging technologies are limited to 3 to 19 kW. So assuming an average of a 5 kW capability, having 20% of the auto fleet connected would still provide the 22 GW of storage that we might expect will be required to fully integrate renewables.
The onboard storage largely would be free–there probably are some opportunity costs in lower charging periods that would have to be compensated. The only substantial costs would be in installing charging stations and incorporating smart charging/storage software. I suspect those are the order of tens of dollars per kW.