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A Sunny Future for Utility-Scale Solar

Alternative Energy

Utility-scale solar and distributed solar both have an important role to play in reducing greenhouse emissions, and both have made great strides in the past year.

Utility-scale solar, the focus of this article, is reaching “grid parity” (i.e., cost equivalency) with traditional generation in more areas across the country.  And solar received a major boost when the federal tax incentive was recently extended through 2021. The amount of the incentive decreases over time, but the solar industry may be able to offset the lower tax incentive if costs continue to decline.  New changes in policy and technology may further boost its prospects.

Record year for utility-scale solar

Some of the world’s largest solar plants came on-line in the U.S. during the past year, such as the 550-megawatt (MW) Topaz Solar plant in San Luis Obispo County, California and the 550MW Desert Sunlight plant in Desert Center, California. Last year saw a record increase in the amount of new utility-scale solar photovoltaic generation installed – about four gigawatts (GW), a whopping 38 percent increase over 2013, and enough solar power to supply electricity to 1.2 million homes.  This number is expected to increase in 2015 when the final numbers are in.

The first reported contract for solar power under five cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) occurred in 2014: Austin Energy’s 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunEdison for 150 MW of solar power.  The trend continued in 2015, when Nevada Energy secured a 4.6 cent per kWh PPA with SunPower.

But perhaps the most impressive milestone for utility-scale solar in the past year is that it is increasingly reaching grid parity with traditional generation.

The industry uses a “levelized-cost analysis” to compare the cost of different power sources. The analysis reviews all the costs needed to produce power for each type of plant – such as construction costs, operation and maintenance expenses, and fuel costs – as well as the amount of power generated by each type of plant. Then the “levelized” cost to produce a single megawatt-hour (MWh) of power for each plant is calculated. This allows for an apples-to-apples comparison of how much it costs to produce a single unit of power.


A sunny future for utility-scale #solar


A natural gas combined cycle plant has the lowest levelized cost for traditional power plants (including coal and nuclear), at $61/MWh to $87/MWh. The levelized cost for large solar, when including the federal tax incentive, has been reported as low as the $46/MW (see the Nevada Energy and SunPower PPA examples above).  When the cost of environmental externalities, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, or water withdrawals, are fully accounted for, utility-scale solar provides even greater benefits.

Solar owes its gains to several factors. The cost for PV solar panels has decreased over 60 percent since 2010. A flurry of projects is coming on line now, before the tax incentive decrease takes effect. State policy is also a major driver of the increase in solar installations. But this growth is really expected to explode in the coming years.

Future outlook is bright

Future decreases in the tax incentive present a challenge. In addition, falling natural gas prices will make it more difficult for large solar plants to remain competitive with combined cycle plants unless policies can be put in place to recognize the cost of environmental externalities. But a number of factors point to a bright, long-term future for utility-scale solar plants:

  • Changes to state and federal energy policy: We saw two historic advancements in 2015 that could result in big gains for utility-scale solar in coming years: the Paris climate accord, signed by 195 nations this month, and the Clean Power Plan, finalized this summer to limit carbon emissions from existing fossil-fuel power plants for the first time in history. As a result, many older, fossil-fueled plants will likely close and electricity from traditional power plants will become more costly. This will help large-scale solar plants remain cost-competitive. On the state level, policymakers are ratcheting up their renewables goals. For example, California passed SB 350 in September, raising the California renewable portfolio standard from 30 percent to 50 percent by 2030. This will create additional demand for solar over natural gas or other fossil fuel generation.
  • Continuing price declines: The price for solar panels has decreased significantly during the past five years. To the extent that manufacturers can continue to decrease their price, this will lower the cost to build solar plants. The Topaz Solar and Desert Sunlight plants each have nine million solar panels, so even a small decrease in panel cost can result in major savings in the cost to build a plant. While natural gas prices appear to have bottomed out, the price decreases for PV solar panels have not shown any signs of stopping. This cost decline will also make solar an easier choice for utilities to include in their integrated resource plans.
  • Technology improvements: Researchers have steadily increased the amount of electricity solar panels can generate. Crystalline silicon solar panels, the most prevalent type of panels, have become much more efficient in recent years and manufacturers keep reporting new efficiency records. Thin-film solar panels, which have a smaller market share, have increased their efficiency by over 20 percent in recent years. If these technology gains continue, the output from large solar plants will increase, making these plants more cost competitive with traditional generating plants.
  • Advancements in energy storage: If energy storage can be developed on a commercial scale, this would increase the value of solar because it would allow grid operators to dispatch power when the grid needs it. This future may be sooner than we think. California has established an energy storage standard, requiring utilities to implement 1.325 GW of energy storage by 2020.  And earlier this year, Oregon passed HB 2193, establishing an energy storage standard. Finally, the largest U.S. battery storage project was announced earlier this year – a 200 MW project by Alveo Group for Customized Energy Solutions, an energy storage service provider.

Utility-scale solar has seen tremendous gains during the past few years. Achieving grid parity with traditional generation is a remarkable achievement. This resource will face headwinds when the federal tax incentive decreases in 2017, but a number of factors point to a sunny outlook for large-scale solar.

 

 



43 Comments on "A Sunny Future for Utility-Scale Solar"

  1. makati1 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:07 pm 

    “Are Solar Panels Lifespans As Long As Industry Claims?”
    “Decommissioning Costs Pile Up For Energy Infrastructure”
    “Wind farms: Councils reject over a third of onshore renewable projects”
    http://ricefarmer.blogspot.fr/
    And on and on.

    As government and power corporation incomes shrink, the support for ‘renewables’ will shrink with them. Personal systems for the home may be a practical extender of BAU for a while, for those who can afford to buy them without subsidy or ‘tax rebates’, but that is only a very small percentage of the population. Even then, the systems will be useless in less than 20 years.

  2. ghung on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:25 pm 

    “Even then, the systems will be useless in less than 20 years.”

    Baseless. PV panels are proving to last well beyond their 25 year warranties. Our oldest have been in constant service for 21 years and were still producing their full rated output as of last summer. They’ve had numerous jobs charging batteries, pumping water, turning fans, etc. They were working hard today pumping water and running cooling fans at the hightunnel. I have two 17 years old charge controllers still in full working condition; about 13-14 years use on those (keeping as spares).

    My two big Trace inverters for the house have been in constant use for 14 and 15 years. No failures. I have over 50 panels ranging from 4 to 21 years old, all in constant service; NO FAILURES. Not one, very little maintenance. Indeed, the only ‘failure’ I’ve had in over 20 years was to replace a small cooling fan that the manufacturer said was likely to fail; provided free. Outback apparently got a bad batch of fans, although that controller had been in service for over 8 years without fail.

  3. makati1 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:32 pm 

    ghung, when yours have lasted more than 20 years and still work, come back and I will retract my statement. Until then, we shall see.

  4. ghung on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:52 pm 

    21 years is more than 20 years, Mak. Time to retract. I have pictures, including manufacture dates printed on the panels, if you like. Two are currently mounted on a Zomeworks passive tracker that has been working for over 25 years; just a shot of grease every couple of years. “Useless in less than 20 years”? Very useful indeed.

  5. pennsyguy on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 9:01 pm 

    For those who can afford them, any renewable power system for a home is a good investment., even with a 20 to 30 year operating life. Does anyone want to bet that the grid will be here 25 years from now? After that first generation, I doubt if any more pvs or wind turbines will be built without the concentrated energy sources we have now. Perhaps this is a more realistic appraisal of what wind and solar can contribute.

  6. peakyeast on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 9:27 pm 

    @mak: Ghung is correct about the lifetime of solar panels.

    But there is a catch: A lot of cheap chinese panels has been produced with inferior materials.

    We are seeing this in Denmark where more than 1000 households has purchased bad quality panels and the warranty isnt worth anything since the seller went bankrupt as fast as possible.

    However, with a little ingenuity and handiwork even those panels can be fixed to last a long time. Its a matter of doing it before the problems arise.

  7. makati1 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 9:34 pm 

    ghung, when they quit, and they will, there will be no replacements. If yours are already 20+ years old, they have a very short life left, I am sure.

    And what good will thy be when all of the electric junk also stops working and there are no replacements? Like light bulbs?

    Nothing more than an expensive ‘extender’ with unknown useful lifetimes. That said, we will have a small system to run lights and fans for as long as they last.

  8. yukonfisher on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 10:00 pm 

    My oldest panel I bought in 1993, 22 years ago. It cost me $1000, it is rated at 60 Watts. It has run steadily since then. It does not even need a charge controller because of its old fashioned blocking diode. I now use it to charge my irrigation pump battery. When I bought it we were living way off in the bush and it revolutionized our life. We are still off grid, but almost suburban and I am so glad PV panels are cheap now- because I’m getting caught up in using electricity for more and more things- as my muscle power diminishes!

  9. dave thompson on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 10:37 pm 

    Photovoltaic, all very exciting, small low power off grid apps, they work great. Anything on a large industrial level such as building the panels solely on solar power will never happen. Transportation as we know it,planes, trains cars and ocean shipping will not be available using solar and wind alone. Steel, rubber, plastic, concrete, and all the other stuff that goes into industrial civilization is only available with FF.

  10. Go Speed Racer on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 12:57 am 

    For utility scale, best I heard is put the solar panels onto toxic land, such as chemical dumps.

    It is a hollow achievement to make solar competitive with a subsidy. Better if its competitive on its own. How to do it? What about a low cost pointing system which puts 10 mirrors onto one panel? Mirrors are cheaper than panels.

  11. Apneaman on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 1:32 am 

    Power Outages On The Rise Across The U.S.

    “Between 2000 and 2014, the number of reported power outages – including weather-related outages – rose across the entire country. Why? An aging infrastructure, combined with a growing population and more frequent extreme weather, are straining the electric grid.”

    http://insideenergy.org/2014/08/18/power-outages-on-the-rise-across-the-u-s/

  12. makati1 on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 3:04 am 

    Go Speed, that sounds like a good idea, but to be efficient they would have to track the sun and focus it on the panels all the time. Seems that that would be defeating the purpose of producing electric when the system would need some of that energy to move the mirrors, not to mention the maintenance of moving parts and keeping them clean. Just a thought.

  13. simonr on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 3:04 am 

    Nuclear is Subsidised to larger extent than Solar.

    On the inverse, solar/Hydro/Renewables have a 0 EUR cold start fee, so on price setting is pretty much excluded to even the playing field.

    As for Storage … that seems more hopium.

    Pumped Hydro is a grid size solution.

    I personally wish more money was put into local storage, and smart grids, hey ho

  14. Davy on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 4:57 am 

    It is likely many utility scale solar sources will be stranded assets when the grid destabilizes. The beneficial aspect is they can still produce locally by the resourceful. These operations are so large compared to residential applications that they may well become a salvage resources.

    Per descent these large solar farms are maladapted applications of a vital technology but one with salvageability. Tell me how much of a natural gas thermo power plant will be useful? The problem is not only the equipment and application to a local it is also the feed stock supply that will be unstable to non existent.

    I look upon status quo assets now as what has a future in a world of decay and descent. Alts do even at the utility scale. The optimum would be direct application of this technologies now to locals. Ideally small communities.

    Farms need to be powered. We are all going to wish more was done to our food chain once decay and descent dominate our economies. We have the opportunity now to make farms that will feed us resilient to economic decline. In the end it will likely be food that is most problematic for most of us on this board.

  15. simonr on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 5:45 am 

    If the grid de-stabilizes then the large gas and coal generators will not be useful, as they have a fairly hefty dark start charge.
    However you could conceivably use hydro/renewables to start them.
    Let alone, how are you getting the gas/coal to them ?

    Small Scale Generation and Storage is much more resilient, however this is not appealing currently (no lobby and no major profits to be made)

    As for Farms …. I have my first cultivator, so that’s 1 hectare a week, We are saved 🙂

  16. baha on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 7:05 am 

    I work in Solar. First an installer, now I do service and maintenance part-time. I have seen 25 yr old arrays still within spec. I have never, NEVER, replaced a solar panel unless is was bad from the factory, and I can think of two. We had a lightning strike one array and blow the inverter but the panels were just fine. Remember there are no moving parts to any of this stuff. The only real wear is the surface of the glass. Maybe in a 100 years it will be too foggy. My water pump and lights will be working long after Makatic has died of thirst.

    Just FYI

  17. baha on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 7:22 am 

    Davy is on target. In a survival/salvage situation we will live in a Direct Current world. Solar PV panels produce DC power with no supporting equipment. If you know voltages and a little electrical you can power any DC equipment straight from a panel.

  18. Kenz300 on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 8:57 am 

    Wind and solar power generation along with battery storage is the future of clean energy production.

    Electric vehicles are the future of clean energy consumption.

    The world is in transition……..

    Climate Change is real…… we will all be impacted by it.

    100% electric transportation and 100% solar by 2030

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBkND76J91k

  19. Dan Hamilton on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 10:32 am 

    “The industry uses a “levelized-cost analysis” to compare the cost of different power sources”

    A total LIE! They are acting like Solar produces like Gas, 24/365.

    Solar only produces for a part of each day and some days very little. THAT is not part of “levelized-cost analysis”.

    Solar for its rated capacity only produces for less than 8 hours a day. That means it is only 1/3 of a Gas plant. 3 * 46 = $138 (with heavy federal tax incentive) that isn’t the worst. For every 1MW of Solar you have to have 1MW of Gas or other Non-renewable to back it up because Solar can’t be trusted to be there. Also since Solar isn’t available at night, you have to have the Gas plant available to provide power at night.

    Since you have to have a backup Gas plant anyway WHY BUILD THE SOLAR???

  20. ghung on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 10:41 am 

    Since you have to have a backup Gas plant anyway WHY BUILD THE SOLAR???

    Uh,,, because if the solar is available, you use less gas? If the wind is blowing, you can throttle down your fossil fuel plants? Because gas is a finite, polluting resource that we’ll have to stop burning some day? Yeah,, that’s it.

  21. baha on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 11:01 am 

    Dan thinks the power companies are idiots. They don’t care about nameplate ratings, all they see is production. Of course the “levelizing” includes downtime. Coal fired plants have downtime. In NC 1000 kW nameplate equals about 100 kw-hours a month. In my house 1 powerwall battery will get me thru the night so shall I tell you what to do with your FF plant?

  22. simonr on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 11:10 am 

    Dan
    I am afraid it is not as simple as you think.
    You have several types of power (Baseline/MM1/MM2 etc) you generally use Coal for baseline (Cheap and reliable) and Gas (CCGT) can be throttled up or down. However Renewables can keep a Gas station running at peak load (NOT flat out), and if planned can also cover generator maintenance.

    Simon

  23. ghung on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 11:12 am 

    Yeah, baha, my house has been solar/battery powered almost two decades. People still insist that doesn’t work.

  24. baha on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 11:21 am 

    Oops, typo.

    1000 watts of PV will make 100 kw-hrs a month

    The cool thing is if I don’t use the power from the FF plant then I’m not helping you pay for it, but your taxes are helping me buy solar. Thanks:)

  25. Joe Clarkson on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 1:36 pm 

    I have an ARCO panel from the early 1980s charging the battery that runs my gate opener. This module has the round cells that were common then, but they still work fine even though they were abused by operating at more than one sun in their original use at Carizzo Plains. Some of my other round cell modules from that era have delaminated backing membranes, but they still work.

    I took down some 50 Watt ARCO and Kyocera modules in 2011 that had been in continuous operation since 1990. They were still working fine, but I wanted more capacity so I switched to more modern 250 Watt modules and a far more compact array. All this means that PV modules are the least worrisome part of any solar system. Even so, I have a spare pallet of them in an out-building.

    Charge controllers and inverters are typically good for 15-20 years in my experience (got my first inverter in 1976) and they can be repaired if spare parts are kept on hand.

    Batteries have the shortest life. Although it might be possible to craft build a lead acid battery from recycled lead, I will probably switch away from them (now using used tour-submarine cells) to longer cycle life Aquion or nickel-iron cells when my present batteries need replacement. These batteries should have lives measured in decades rather than years.

    I think with good system maintenance and careful stockpiling of spares, an off-grid power system can be made to last 40-50 years, even without the support of industrial civilization, especially if key appliances use DC rather than AC. Even though I have plenty of AC, my water pump and refigeration are DC. Even if I lost my inverter, I could still have pressurized water and refrigeration.

    Why bother, you may ask? When one considers that before electricity, women spent 40 percent of their work day hauling water and washing clothes, I’ll want power for the water pump and the washing machine as long as I can keep it. And splitting wood with a solar powered hydraulic splitter is a lot easier on my 67 year old body than swinging a maul.

    Lots of energy slaves are nice to have around for many reasons. If you can’t provide your own, don’t expect to have them much longer.

  26. ghung on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 1:52 pm 

    Right on, Joe. Hard to get the absolutists like Mak to admit that any solar power is better than none, and will prove to be an advantage in an energy and resource-constrained life. Even PV-direct applications such as water pumping means food calories not burned for those tasks, not to mention time. Imagine hauling 100s of buckets of water for the garden vs a simple DC pump connected to a PV panel, filling a tank or cistern; PV panels that last for decades and pumps that last years and are simple to repair (and cheap enough to keep spares).

    It’s easy to spot those who haven’t lived and worked with (very reliable and versatile) solar power. Gridweenies just don’t get it.

  27. Bob Owens on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 3:06 pm 

    There is plenty of room for utility scale wind power, also. Wind power is much more efficient at large scale. We are now approaching the upper limits of that size. The components of wind can be rebuilt/refurbished just about forever if we want to do that. Motors can be rebuilt, gears recast/replaced, etc. A couple of large transports and cranes are all you really need to dismantle and reconstruct wind turbines. The proof of this is easy: think of Hoover Dam with its generators that get rebuilt from time-to-time and will last forever (though the water may run out). It would only take a bit in the way of coal to smelt new steel if needed and oil to create new turbine blades if needed. Future refinements of this system would make a stable power grid basically forever. Even if we couldn’t support a national grid, local (say County-wide) grids would do just fine. The future can be what we want to make of it.

  28. makati1 on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 7:43 pm 

    ghung, I never said it is not useful. We plan to have it on the farm. I said that it is not forever. If you bought a system long ago, when quality was still a part of manufacturing, you made a good choice, but even those will not last forever.

    Now, quality is a word not used in manufacture, planed obsolescence is. Anything you buy today has a built in expiration date that usually is about as long as the payment schedule.

    A stand alone roof top system is the only way to go. Commercial connections are being phased out and will soon cost the solar owners instead of being a wash or a profit.

  29. makati1 on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 7:45 pm 

    BTW Bob, in reply to a previous comment of yours regarding “nothing new in the last 50 years” here are some timelines on the ‘new ideas’ you suggested.

    ” Experimentation with lithium batteries began in 1912 under G.N. Lewis…”
    “The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman…”
    “Research into packet switching started in the early 1960s and packet switched networks…” (internet)
    “The heat pump was described by Lord Kelvin in 1853 and developed by Peter Ritter von Rittinger in 1855…”
    “The story of Teflon® began April 6, 1938, at DuPont’s Jackson Laboratory in New Jersey.”

    And on and on. ALL are at least 50 years old. Nothing new here.

  30. Pete Bauer on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 8:00 pm 

    Price of solar panel has crashed from $5.0 / watt in 2007 to 55 cents / watt currently, no wonder solar power installed capacity has grown 180 fold between year 2000 and 2014.

    http://pv.energytrend.com/pricequotes.html

    This year may be another high year for PV installed capacity.

    Something that is not mentioned in the mainstream media is a Solar Water Heaters which are very popular in China, Japan, India and the developing World.

  31. Apneaman on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 9:21 pm 

    Pete Bauer, so what percentage of electricity is generated by solar now after that 180 fold increase?

  32. makati1 on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 9:48 pm 

    Acording to the IES:

    Electricity used for transport in 2013 was 1.6% of the total electric produced that year.

    http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2014.pdf

    Solar panel electric production for 2013 was only 0.2% of the US electric produced that year.

    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/solar-provides-02-electric-supply-002-obama

    Solar power also accounted for 0.5 percent of global electricity demand in 2011.

    http://www.c2es.org/technology/factsheet/solar

    Even at a 130% increase since 2011, that is only 1.15% world wide.

  33. simonr on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 2:28 am 

    Apneaman

    Where I am Renewables count for between 25% and 27% (depending on weather conditions) and are set to increase in the next3 years

    Simon

  34. Apneaman on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 4:09 am 

    simonr, how are you defining renewables? In BC 75% of the electricity is generated from “renewables” – all hydro. Mostly dams and some run of river. I don’t really know how a massive dam renews itself, but they are building another one. They work great or at least they will until the glaciers that feed them melt down to a low enough point(another 40-50 years) where the turbines won’t work properly. We have plenty of coal. We sell it to the Chinese so they can make our smart phones and lap tops that we use to electronically brag to the world how “green” we are. They are going to flood a valley that is some of the most productive farm land in Canada. Oh well, it’s not like there is going to be any global food shortages coming up or anything and besides, we need that energy for server farms to watch cat videos and sell the rest to the Americans. Flood the farm farms for server farms. Priorities.

    “Peace Valley’s “extraordinary” farmland could feed a million people, agrologists tell Site C Dam review”

    http://commonsensecanadian.ca/peace-valleys-extraordinary-agricultural-values-threatened-site-c-dam/

  35. simonr on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 4:26 am 

    Hi Apnea

    For me Renewables

    Hydro
    Wind
    Small Scale Generation
    Bio Waste
    Peat

    I understand the conundrum, currently food is cheap, but renewables require a considerable footprint.

    Don’t knock yourself out about China, you are selling coal, if you all eschewed all electronic gubbins, someone else in the world would take up the slack, and you would still sell the coal

    Simon

  36. Davy on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 4:28 am 

    When we look at solar in the big picture those of us who clearly understand limits of growth at the many levels we see today we understand it will not scale as a transition energy source. Nothing will because it is the system itself both natural and man’s human construct that has bumped up against limits both in quantity and quality.

    Quality in this case is substitution. We have a fossil fuel infrastructure that is both soft and hard. The soft is the complex civilization requiring cheap and intensive energy. We know the hardware and that is all our toys. Nothing can step in to support that built out fossil fuel culture.

    Our global system of production, distribution, and exchange is fragile to lower intensity of complexity and energy quantity and quality. It is based on debt and efficiency. It is supported by liquidity from confidence that allows trust in a dispersed global system. Nothing can save this now. It can’t go bellow a minimum operating level and without fossil fuels it likely will.

    We don not know the process but we do know many variables and can do some generalized modeling. Scale is the key here in regards to time and resources in relation to population, depletion, and habitat destruction. Technology and knowledge will not save us now and the best they can do is show us this predicament. Science and research is clearly showing for those who are honest and realistic an endgame just not a clear time frame.

    All that said solar is vital as hardware for a post fossil fuel world. It will have a important place in the mix along with a salvaged fossil fuel world because fossil fuels will likely still be around.

    We don’t know the process which is an issue. A quick descent could will be catostrophic and this is likely in the most exposed locations. In better situated locals and regions it may be a process allowing an adaptation period.

    Those areas that have embraced alt energy sources will have many advantages. The large alt farms will be salvageable with the right skills. Solar is vital to build out now in this new paradigm of change.

    A lifestyle to match solar variability is something we need to embrace now or at least demo. We also need to demo hybrid living with salvaged fossil fuel resources and the mechanical and animal tools of the past.

    Alts will have a place in this rearrangement. The biggest variable in this rearranged status quo is the speed and the degree of destructive change. The qualities needed are there but it takes more to adapt. It takes a fertile ground and people power.

  37. simonr on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 4:49 am 

    Hi Dave

    You are right, in that any future sensible power generation authority needs a basket of generation techniques.

    For me the big question is what are we going to do about variability, to even the load on the grid.
    Whilst people are taking TLAF’s (Transmission Loss Adjustment Factors) into account, they are not big enough to base decisions on … yet.
    Most models in the world assume that power can be transmitted to any other point in the network, as you can imagine to model a constrained system is hell on earth.

    The question for me is the flavour of descent, you prefer the sharks fin descent, I see us on the bumpy plateau now, heading to a sort of staircase descent, in each case BAU will have to change, its just a case of how nasty the transition is going to be.

    Me, I have a crate of oysters coming, eat drink and be merry my friend for tomorrow we will decline 🙂

    Simon

  38. Davy on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 5:16 am 

    Simon, I don’t know the decent trajectory. If I am shark fin in flavor it is because I am fighting an overwhelming cornucopian status quo. I actually see a longish emergency with a break point somewhere in the global system creating a contagion. This contagion may spread slow or fast and again be location based. My thoughts are all over the place after that.

    Your understanding of the grid and instability is so true. You have the experience from being in this industry.

    We can live with some grid instability. We can live with food insecurity. What we will have problems with is when the grid and food support systems get so low only isolated locals can cope.

    Climate will drive these minimum operating levels as well as human confidence and trust seen in economics and politics. War is a end game. Any major war will force a disruption too quick and severe for adaptation.

    We are a ship adrift and us well to do 1Bil or so are at the bar drinking. We are going to suffer the cold water just as the 3rd class underneath are. Starvation and exposure are an equal opportunity killer. We are not yet in a storm so enjoy life if you can. Enjoy life responsibly because a majority of the world’s population can’t.

  39. Kenz300 on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 7:08 am 

    Once wind and solar plants are built they have no monthly cost for fuel or water…………… for decades…..

    How much are the monthly fuel and water costs for a natural gas power plant……… what will places with droughts and water shortages do if water is not available……

    Maybe wind and solar are safer, cleaner and cheaper ways to produce electricity.

  40. simonr on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 7:08 am 

    Hi Dave

    You have to enjoy life …. if we are wrong, and the cornies are right, that is a major Doh moment, so whilst tonight I will open my own wine, I will also have a few bottles of sparkly.

    I believe the saying is ‘Trust in God, but tie up your camel’

    Currently we seem to be investing in smart grids, and linking large areas together. However I believe there will come a time when we will need localised storage, trouble is the tech. is not there, its still hopium.

    You and Mrs Dave, have a great new year

    Simon

  41. Davy on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 9:29 am 

    Thanks simon, give the girls an extra ration of oats!

  42. Kenz300 on Sun, 3rd Jan 2016 9:46 am 

    Solar power with battery storage is the future…..fossil fuels are the past.

    China Clamps Down on Coal

    http://ecowatch.com/2016/01/02/china-clamps-down-on-coal/?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=9a4c8c1d0e-Top_News_1_2_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-9a4c8c1d0e-86023917

  43. Kenz300 on Mon, 4th Jan 2016 8:25 am 

    Fossil fuels are the past….. renewables are the future.

    Renewables to Overtake Coal as World’s Largest Power Source, Says IEA

    https://ecowatch.com/2015/11/10/renewables-to-overtake-coal/

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