Saturday, May 22, 2010
California Renewable Portfolio Standard to Date
As part of California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, aka AB 32, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires California to install sufficient renewable energy plants to provide 20 percent of all electricity sold in the state, and that is to be accomplished by 12/31/2010, only seven short months from now. This is supposed to reduce CO2 emissions into the Earth's atmosphere, and thereby stop global warming. More on that a bit later.
California finally has some data and graphics available (see below) to show the state's production of renewable energy. These are from http://caiso.com/outlook/SystemStatus.html. The first figure below (Figure 1) shows the amount of power (MW or mega-Watts) produced each hour for May 21, 2010. The figure is updated daily. Several important points are apparent from examination of this figure. First, the total MW from renewables is an average of around 3,000 MW. That is approximately 14 percent of the power sold in the state on that day. But, that was an excellent day for wind compared to many other days. Typically, the figure is about 10 to 11 percent of the total power sold. With the 20 percent deadline only 7 months away, it is not likely the state will reach the goal.
Second, California counts several types of power production as "renewable." The colored bands at the bottom of Figure 1 show relatively constant production from geothermal, biomass, biogas, and small hydro power. These four combine for approximately 1800 MW. The other two, solar and wind, are much more variable in their output. Solar, as is well-known, only provides power for a fraction of the day, slowly ramping up as the sun rises, and ramping down just before sunset.
Renewable Power Production 5/21/2010 in California
Figure 2, below, shows the power from wind generation in California for today's date, 5/22/2010 through approximately 8:30 p.m. This is an unusually windy day, with a strong wind offshore Southern California, which added to the wind generation. (wind speed at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport today, hourly starting at 3 p.m. was 15, 16, 20, 20, 21, 16, and 21 miles per hour). The statewide variation in wind output from hour to hour is readily apparent from Figure 2, as the green line "goes up" and then "goes down."
California Wind Generation 5/22/2010
The other interesting point from both charts is that wind installations in California are not expected to grow much, if any. The three areas with good wind are known, and nearly built out. Solar installations are expected to grow in the next few years, however. The increased production from solar plants will increase renewable production only during the daylight hours, and will require back-up power from natural-gas fired plants. The price of electricity must go up to pay for both types of plants: wind and solar renewables that are highly variable, plus natural gas-fired plants as back-up when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.
The pitiful thing about California's adventures in global warming mandates is that California intends to show the world how it is (and can be) done. AB 32 states specifically that California will
"exercis[e] a global leadership role, [and] California will also position
its economy, technology centers, financial institutions, and businesses to
benefit from national and international efforts to reduce emissions of
greenhouse gases. More importantly, investing in the development of
innovative and pioneering technologies will assist California in achieving
the 2020 statewide limit on emissions of greenhouse gases established by
this division and will provide an opportunity for the state to take a global
economic and technological leadership role in reducing emissions of
greenhouse gases." [bold emphasis added - Roger]
California is unlike other states, and other countries, in that there are large amounts of geothermal power available. There are also vast areas for solar power installations. Neither of these are true for many other states and countries. Also, there is not much ice or snow to foul the wind turbines in California, another big factor in other areas. It is therefore not very likely that any other states, or countries, will follow California's lead in these matters. The higher price of electricity in California may be attributed to the high renewable content of the power sold, at least in part. Another factor leading to higher power prices is the low consumption per capita with a large population. California presently has approximately 36 million people. The cost per kWh must increase when per capita usage is low, in order to have sufficient funds to pay for the infrastructure for transmission and distribution to all those customers.
As the climate refuses to warm as the IPCC insists that it will from man's emissions of CO2, and the world-wide recession refusing to end, plus unemployment remaining at historic highs, it will be interesting to see which states, or countries, are dumb enough to follow California's lead in renewable power requirements.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California