HYBRID NEW ENERGY (WIND & WATER)
Integrating Wind and Water Power, an Increasingly Tough Balancing Act
Peter Behr, November 30, 2010 (NY Times)
"The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration, the largest of 16 U.S. Department of Energy pilot projects, is under way in five Northwest states. It seeks ways to balance the region's huge base of hydroelectric power with its fast-expanding collection of wind farms…With a budget of $178 million split evenly between an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant and local contributions by 11 utilities and other partners, the smart grid project covers a wide array of missions…A critical experiment centers on coping with wind power's starts and stops by paying consumers to let utilities store surplus wind energy in hot water heaters…
"…Until now, hydro dams have primarily backed up wind, adding energy when wind speeds wane and backing off when wind picks up…Since 1998, wind developers have added 4,000 megawatts of wind power generation capacity, which is available about one-third of the time. The region has about 33,000 megawatts of hydropower and can call on about half of that on average, because of seasonal low water conditions…Half of the new wind energy is purchased by California utilities…Oregon, Washington and Montana also have state renewable portfolio standards, contributing to a demand that could possibly push wind generation capacity as high as 12,000 megawatts in 2016, three times the current amount…"
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"But wind and water aren't turning out to be such good neighbors …When the river is high and the wind blows hard, the region can be confronted with too much power. Hydropower from the region's dams could provide a fast-acting backstop when wind power suddenly ramps up or down, but the Columbia's flow has many claimants…During the spring months, when melting snow fills the Columbia basis, dam operators are stretched to manage the river flow…Too much spillage over the dam can upset the river's oxygen-nitrogen balance, killing salmon…
"Bonneville's customers are accustomed to bargain electricity rates thanks to hydropower. Retail power prices average about 9 cents per kilowatt-hour in Washington, half the rates in some East Coast states. The national average is 12 cents…With the region's hydro resources fully committed, the region faces higher future prices for power…Smart grid technologies that reduce demand, conserve power and help integrate wind energy systems may be key factors…"
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"…[H]undreds of customers' electric water heaters will be equipped with controllers and two-way communication links to their utility, so that the heaters can be turned off in advance of a major wind front, then switched on to absorb the surplus electric power when the front arrives…[Utility operators] could allow the water in the tank to heat significantly higher than the customary 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The water heater would be equipped with a mixing valve and sensor to ensure safe water temperatures at the tap…The project's software will also factor in each customer's water usage patterns…The customers, all volunteers, can choose to override the heater controls…
"…[Some] customers will get smart appliances, smart thermostats and home area networks…[Some] utilities in the smart grid project will receive an energy "signal"…meant to reflect generators' electricity costs and the value of conservation, demand restraint, renewable power, storage and other factors…[T]he signal will alert utilities to times when generation costs are high, creating an incentive for utilities to conserve power through energy storage…[T]he utility should earn a benefit that it would share with consumers who reduce their power usage…The project will test various compensation approaches…Later in the experiment, customers will get in-home electricity usage displays to track their power usage, and programmable thermostats…The results of these smart grid demonstrations can provide benchmarks for assessing clean energy strategies…"