Renewables

VICTORIA POWER STATION: 1950s-vintage plant revamped for today’s Ercot market

If country music stars sang about powerplants, the Victoria Power Station, Victoria, Tex, might be a good choice. It’s a story about ordinary people doing heroic things in the face of constant adversity. With new owner Rockland Capital ready to invest in another turnaround, a period of stability may be near. Imagine a gray market (though never operated) gas turbine/generator ... Read More »

ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM: What Cost Price Signals?

Electricity markets are failing. They are failing because they cannot overcome the distortions heaped on them by layer upon layer of regulation. Recall recent history. Virtually every state electricity deregulation program began with guaranteed electricity rate reduction or rate protection for most consumers, a strange way to inject competition based on price signals but a great way to later conclude ... Read More »

PRACTICAL PLANT ECONOMICS: Co-ops and DG…You want it, we’ll build it

Before the advent of competition, electric utilities collaborated all the time. Electric cooperatives still do. They form cooperatives for everything, such as generation and transmission (G&T), commodities supply, loans and financing, and equipment pools. The cooperative model was created when it became clear early in the electric industry’s history that the investor-owned utility (IOU) model couldn’t shake enough profit from the ... Read More »

GRID-SCALE STORAGE: DG…When the merely viable becomes the truly commercial

It is clear that the regulatory framework is evolving rapidly for distributed generation (DG) and the “transactional grid” to challenge, or perhaps more appropriately, complement the traditional centralized “big iron,” one-way paradigm of the last century. However, there’s another critical hurdle which must be overcome. DG has to evolve from a vast suite of viable and cost-effective technologies to a ... Read More »

GRID-SCALE STORAGE: Regulators, ISOs set the table; suppliers served few orders

Editor’s Note: The status report below draws broad insight from a consultant’s engagement with high-level representatives from countries interested in US grid-scale storage technologies, regulations, and applications—including attendance at the Energy Storage Association’s 2016 Conference in Charlotte, NC, April 25-28, plus meetings with US storage system suppliers, California utilities, CAISO, and other stakeholders. What is clear from being immersed in ... Read More »

Commentary: Paradigm shift—from ‘big iron’ to the distribution end of the value chain

Writing about the future of electricity grid operations under a new presidential administration and Congress may be fraught with foolishness. However, several broad trends are likely to continue regardless of what our new leaders decide, how angry the losing half of the electorate is, or how the new opposition party plays its losing hand. First, the de-carbonization of the generating ... Read More »

Does grid-scale storage threaten gas turbine plants?

Xcel Energy is testing a 1-MW wind-energy storage system using sodium-sulfur technology

Grid-scale energy storage is getting lots of media attention, both within the electric power industry and in the general press. Should gas-turbine advocates be nervous? Electric utilities have relied on large-scale pumped hydroelectric storage (PHS) for decades (Fig 1). A representative from one of the largest US utilities once said, at a briefing for Congressional staffers, that its pumped-storage plant ... Read More »

Microgrid balances variable load, NOx emissions by ‘sculpting’ supply

1. SCE’s Pebbly Beach Generating Station serving Catalina Island consists of diesel generating sets dating back to the 1920s (gray roof in middle of photo), micro-turbines and battery storage unit (facing blue diesel tanks at far right), and LPG storage tanks (four white tanks at left of oil tanks)

Southern California Edison Co’s (SCE) Pebbly Beach Generating Station serving Catalina Island (22 miles off the coastal area south of Los Angeles) was a “microgrid” decades before the term became a fixture of power-industry lexicon. That is, it is an isolated small grid serving an island community (Fig 1), distinguished from the more modern definition of a microgrid which interfaces ... Read More »

Serving the electricity industry’s next century

The electricity industry has reached a tipping point at which the distributed/transactional/no- or low-carbon electricity grid model begins to outrun the traditional bilateral centralized paradigm. The electricity “grid” is no longer a transmission and distribution system built so that monolithic regulated utilities can produce and distribute power to customers on a bilateral basis. Technological advances and incentives (especially in solar ... Read More »

Microgrid office

This microgrid is not located on an island, a sequestered military site, or in a state with incentives for distributed energy. And it’s not serving a tech or clean/green stock darling of Wall Street with an amped-up market value seeking to remake the electricity industry in its own image. Rather, it’s an advanced microgrid serving the world headquarters of Black ... Read More »