Saturday, October 1, 2016

Renewable Energy Saves California from Grid Blackouts

Subtitle: Record-Setting Solar Power Reduces Natural Gas Demand

The peak summer heat is now ended in Southern California, indeed, a winter storm warning was issued for the central Sierra Nevada mountains.  One short and fairly mild heat wave occurred last weekend, with temperatures measured at Los Angeles (USC Campus)  reaching 104 degrees F for one day.  (see adjacent Figure 1).   The orange oval shows the period in which heat waves typically occur, this year only twice did temperatures break 100 degrees F.   The major conclusion is that zero blackouts occurred, because renewable power from solar PV, solar thermal, and wind turbines produced electricity at rates up to 10,000 MW throughout the summer. 

Figure 1  -  2016 year-to-date temperatures
at Los Angeles, California
As is well-known, officials have concern that grid instabilities or blackouts would occur this summer during heat waves, because the natural gas storage supply is much reduced due to the Aliso Canyon storage facility being out of operation.  

However, solar power and wind power need no natural gas, and provided power routinely through the summer.   Solar PV actually broke records for power production.    

The California grid has many efficient, combined-cycle gas turbine power plants with quick response capability to adjust their output when solar or wind output changes suddenly.    The state also imports some power from adjacent states, notably nuclear power from Arizona, hydroelectric from Nevada (Hoover Dam), and both wind and hydroelectric from Washington.    It is notable that long-distance transmission lines are required to ship the power into California.  It is also noteworthy that the adjacent states have surplus power to sell to California and do so profitably. 

Now that Fall and Winter are here or looming, the gas shortage continues due to Aliso Canyon's problems.   However, wind power increases in those seasons, which offsets the declining solar power production.    Next year will have even more solar power production as California installs even more PV power plants.   The state's renewable energy plan requires approximately 3,000 MW of renewables installed each year.  Almost all of that will be solar PV, since wind locations are essentially built out, and solar thermal has much worse economics. 

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

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

No comments: