Sunday, June 26, 2016

California Renewables Averting Blackouts - Every Ten Days

Subtitle: Renewables Add 13,000 MW to the Grid - How Many Deaths Averted?

How much good are renewable sources of electricity doing in California?  This summer, they are doing a tremendous job in preventing a crisis on the electrical grid, even averting blackouts.   A recent article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, see link and excerpts below, shows the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility has approximately 15 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas in storage.   An earlier post on SLB, see link copied and cross-posted at WUWT, shows the combined output of California renewable energy sources are avoiding
Figure 1
Temperatures for Los Angeles, California for 2015 measured at USC Campus near downtown
Heavy black line indicates 95 degrees F
Red oval indicates heat wave events of 95 degrees or greater
approximately 1.3 bcf natural gas burned in the state's power plants.  Given the uncertainties in the data ("some 15 billion..gas in the ground," renewable output varies from 150,000 to 210,000 MWh daily, and the heat rate of the gas-fired power plants), one can say that the renewables are keeping Aliso Canyon from depletion after 10 days of production.  

From the SDUT article:

"As Southern California's energy network braces to keep from buckling during what is expected to be a hotter than normal summer, grid operators may turn to back-up natural gas supplies from an unexpected place: Aliso Canyon.

"The storage facility, site of a massive leak that forced thousands to evacuate their homes in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, may be restricted from injecting gas until all of its 114 wells have been pronounced safe, but Aliso Canyon still has some 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas left in the ground.

"And Bret Lane, the chief operating officer at Southern California Gas, the utility responsible for Aliso Canyon, told the Union-Tribune Friday that if a sweltering summer leads to a dire situation in which natural gas suppliers run short, the storage facility can be tapped.

"If the conditions are met, it's available and would be used," Lane said.

"Lane emphasized that natural gas would only be withdrawn from Aliso Canyon — not injected — under a protocol that has already been established in conjunction with entities such as the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power."  -- end quote 

A substantial benefit from the renewable energy providers in California is averting blackouts.  The state regulatory agencies are keenly aware of the need to prevent blackouts and go to great lengths to decrease demand, and increase generation capability.   The most effective demand decrease strategy appears to be requesting cooperation from consumers to postpone their electricity use during periods of peak use.   That is relatively easy to do, something as simple as not running major appliances until after 9 p.m.  

Increasing generation capability includes ordering generating plant operators to not perform non-critical maintenance. 

The un-controllable events are a concern, things like wildfire that impacts critical transmission lines, or blazes through a wind power farm.   The huge wildfire near Tehachapi, California that is burning at this time (June 26, 2016) could conceivable extend into the wind farm just a few miles south of the blaze.   The impact of fire on electricity transmission assets is not hypothetical, as the exact thing happened recently near San Diego. 

The impact of a blackout during a heat-wave can be serious, indeed deadly for people.   Living in a house in hot areas, without electricity for air-conditioning or even a fan to circulate air, can be deadly.   Some people, are so anti-renewable energy that they would rather shut down the renewable energy plants.   This is inconceivable to me, but perhaps the health, comfort, and even the lives of millions of people are not so important to the anti-renewables crowd.  

One of the realities of life is coping with the circumstances of that day, and that moment.  The reality in Southern California today, this week and this summer, is that heat waves are likely. (see Fig. 1 above) The electrical grid is powered for the most part by natural gas-fired power plants.  One of the nuclear power plants, SONGS, was shut down permanently more than 4 years ago (January, 2012) see link due to horrible mis-management.  Hydroelectric power is also limited. There is limited capacity to import power from neighboring states.  Finally, the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage system on which the entire system relies is not up to its usual capabilities due to a major leak and ongoing efforts to ensure safe operation in the future. 

Heat waves, as temperatures reach or exceed 90-95 degrees F, are fairly common in Southern California.  One example is shown in Figure 1 above, for calendar year 2015.  Similar charts are available for several years see link.   In 2015, there were 5 events that exceeded 95 degrees, and 8 events that exceeded 90 degrees.   Perhaps 2015 was impacted by the heat from an El NiƱo year, however the year 2012 had 12 events totalling 30 days that exceeded 90 degrees F.  

The bad news is that there is not enough natural gas available for several heat waves.  The good news is that renewable power plants are already installed and sending electricity into the grid at the rate of approximately 180,000-200,000 MWh each day, and 13,000 MW at peak output.  Even at 6 pm when load tends to peak, and sunshine is waning, the renewables combine to produce approximately 10,000 MW (as reported by CAISO in the past week).  Without the renewable power plants, the reserves in Aliso Canyon would be depleted in approximately 10 days.    The number of human health effects, even deaths, avoided by not having blackouts is unknown, but saving even one life is certainly worth doing. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

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