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PV, electric autos, and the saving grace for utilities

wjrobinson | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

Dana, this sounds like you… interesting how the future has changes the save us from… changes…

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  1. wjrobinson | | #2

    And when fusion comes online or whatever is here first...we will be 99% electric... soon enough... my bet.

  2. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #3

    The Edison Electric Institute is a johnny come lately to the concept, but they are too optimistic about what it really means to the business models of their member-utilities. Only if the utilities can control the chargers is it going to be good for them, and even then it's not always going to be in their favor if they own much in the way of peaking power plants, which will become stranded assets, completely useless in the face of a much cheaper & quicker responding controllable load (the car-chargers.)

    There's going to be a lot o' movin' & shakin' goin' on, a real dance as the utilities all try to find a business model that still worksfor them before the music stops. The marginal uptick in kwh sales for charging those cars isn't likely to even offset the privately owned PV power going onto the grid, even if EV sales go ballistic in the next 10 years. The raw electricity sales will be flat at-best, and the rate structures will have to start reflecting the peak-draws (which is what really drives grid cost), with demand charges even for residential customers if the utilities are to survive without major writedowns on existing sunk costs.

  3. Kopper37 | | #4

    AJ - Here's a song that may like. It has a few lyrics about electric cars:

    Shale gas is changing the overall energy balance, but coal still accounts for a significant proportion of the national energy supply.

  4. wjrobinson | | #5

    We live individually together and die too. Electric and tech is just scratching at the possibiltiies. I have no fear that capitalism and greed and tech can get human kind through easily much of the future. Still, one person can kill almost all if not all of us someday with a slip up or intent.

    Nice ditty on the tube site.

    Dana,,,, you of all people, my professor of all things future... should feel and see how distributed electrical storage and smart tech is going to totally change the grid... new winners new billionaires and some upset stock holders..... keep an eye on Buffett... he bought railroads... they now transport lots of oil... lets see what he buys in electric land...

  5. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #6

    Shale gas is highly dependent upon high oil prices, since they would lose serious money on drilling just for the gas at recent years' prices. Midwestern wind power is cheaper on a lifecycle basis than combined cycle gas plants even at these historic low prices. Drilling rates in the shale plays was down by about 40% as of November due to the crash in oil pricing.

    Expect natural gas to creep up (and US oil production to begin shrinking) by this time next year. Once you poke the hole in the ground, it's pretty much done producing oil after 3 years- it's a real hamster-wheel for the drillers to keep the oil production up, and that's the only thing keeping the natural gas glut alive. Going forward the financial rationale for building out more wind is increasing, and since the best wind resources & industries happen to be in states with Republican dominated state governments, there is bilateral policy support for keeping that train rolling (climate deniers amongst them notwithstanding, it's just good business.)

    (Full disclosure: I get to watch the machinations inside that industry from the cheap seats, due to a relative who is an oil & gas geologist with vested interests in coal seam gas and shale oil from Alberta to Zimbabwe. Price volatility is a given in that biz, and where there are booms, there will be busts. If today's WTI price of $61/bb holds through the winter he may be moving out of Calgary sooner than anticipated. )

    It's been quite awhile since coal accounted for 50% of the total grid power in the US, and it's unlikely to regain that perch going forward, no matter what the price of natural gas does, especially under the pressure of EPA mandated carbon reductions in the power sector.

    For a harbinger of the future I like reading the tea leaves in coal-rich solar-rich wind-rich Australia, currently led by a climate denier coalition government headed by Tony Abbott. The legacy policy stuff from prior administrations have already pretty much bankrupted the notion (and in some cases the business models) of those who had overbuilt the grid based on a presumption of never-ending growth in electricity demand. The national government thinks they can quash all of this and continue ramping up coal fired power. The grid operators in the state of South Australia apparently didn't get the memo- they are projecting massive and rapid rollout of distributed storage, electric cars, and even more PV (in a state where 1 out of 4 households have PV on the roof.)

    Tesla delivered it's first EVs to Australia just this week, but Nissan et al have been plugging away there for a handful of years with EVs and plug-in hybrids. SolarCity is offering Tesla battery storage with their Australian PV now, and given that the net-metering deal in Oz only pays a low fixed rate for the power shipped onto the grid by PV owners, behind the meter grid storage is far more attractive there than it is in most of the US, where net metering is at the full residential retail rate.

    Residential electricity in Australia is running 30-35 US-cents per kwh. Many parts of the northeastern US are hitting that range. It doesn't take much in the way of continued policy support to keep the residential PV market going in that region, and despite lower insolation than they get in Oz, the 20 year $0 down lease deals with 12-16 cent power purchase agreements are pretty compelling in a 25 cent electricity market. The grid storage option here will eventually become attractive if residential customers begin being assessed for "demand charges", based on their peak power draws to pay for the grid, not a fixed rate coupled to the total monthly kwh usage.

  6. exeric | | #7

    Dana, it's a fascinating time to watch the dynamics play out. Because a very finely tuned balance between grid use and self storage through electric automobiles is beginning to emerge. Small changes at a time like this can cause large changes later due to the ratchet affect. In other words a change in technology that may be relatively small can have large effects because later technology will build on it and things will tip in that direction and ultimately move everything that way.

    I still think it isn't likely though that we can wean ourselves off the grid via EVs. Especially since our storage capacity may drive off. ("Wait, come back!") We still pay for phone service through a manageable fee even though they don't deliver content. I think it will be worthwhile for consumers in the interim to just get use to the idea that the grid provides a valuable service, just like phone lines even if you have a PV system that allows you to not have any net power use. Of course, this is provisional until a cheap long term electric storage technology comes along. I wouldn't bet the farm on that being just around the corner just yet.

  7. wjrobinson | | #8

    Dana, finally my KW costs have dropped to less than 15 cents.. last winter 25 cents...

    now at 13 cents. Yippee!

    A mini split running at COP 3 fall winter and spring and COP 5 for the summer cooling... gets me down to way less than the cost of NG right? I think a mini and 15 cent electric is awesome.

    Heat at 5 cents a KW is like $1/NG without the added $20/mth for billing me (3 therms included.)

  8. wjrobinson | | #9

    It's fun to try to half a bill. 200 for this and that, electric, cell, cable... shoot for $100 that accomplished, now shooting for $50, next will be $25, then $12.5...

    I would love to run a schools budget back, cut 10% a year instead of up 10. Less kids and up 10% is silly math. We all need to use logic instead of we love our kids raise the taxes so my kids have the best... best is not related to money though you all have been convinced it is...

    OK... got sideways their..... sorry.

  9. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #10

    AJ: That's 5 cents kwh of heat, not 5 cents per KW (KW is power, power x time= energy, and energy is what you're billed for.) :-)

    Eric: EV chargers in a smart grid are dispatchable-controllable loads, which can provide as much ancillary grid stabilization services as gas-fired peakers, but at a faster response. It means you can crank up the higher efficiency baseload generators a notch rather than use low-efficiency peakers to track load minute to minute, but instead you just adjust the load by how fast the power is going into the charging station. They don't all have to be plugged into the grid to have this capability. SolarCity's coupling PV systems to a Tesla battery, the battery never drive away, it hangs on the wall. Most EVs will spend most of the time plugged into the grid too, as are the batteries that power Tesla's charging networks. Tesla's business model isn't primarily to make money on the margin over cost on selling cars- they make more money off their charging systems, by selling ancillary services to the grid operators, competing head to head with peaking power plants. That's how they can offer "free" charging on their network to Tesla owners, and still make a bundle. (Smart guy, that Elon Musk!)

    In the Australian market the PV + battery owners will use the battery to avoid shipping power to the grid whenever they can, since they're paid 0-8cents/kwh whenever their power is going onto the grid, but must pay 30-35 cents/kwh whenever they draw from the grid. The arbitrage on the difference makes behind-the-meter batteries a real value proposition or them. In the US there is a value proposition to behind the meter batteries whenever the customer is being hit with large demand charges based on their peak draw, in addition to the energy charges.

    Demand charges are not assessed for residential customers in the US (yet) but for commercial customers it can be more than half the bill (!), and it's based on magnitude of the highest average draw over some small amount of time during the billing period, say heaviest 15 minutes or an hour in the past month. Batteries can be used to source & manage power to bursty peak loads on the customer's side of the meter, to minimize the peak draws from the grid. This has become a rapidly growing business in the commercial space, but is readily down-scalable to residential sized situations, if/when demand charges are introduced to the residential rate structures. There is one utility in Arizona that will be headed down the residential demand-charge route soon, the very thin edge of the wedge, to be sure, but as more distributed power goes on the grid demand charges may become the standard way of paying for the grid, rather than the current per-kwh fixed rate, which doesn't reflect the true grid cost of any individual customer. A customer with an 8 ton central AC requires far more grid infrastructure resources than a customer with a few modulating mini-splits, even if they use the same amount of power per month, but both pay the same amount in fixed charges under typical US rate structures.

  10. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #11

    Anybody who is interested in hearing how the distributed storage, distributed PV, and electric vehicle model is being thought of& discussed by industry insiders, regulators, manufacturers, and utility companies, GreentechMedia's podcast from yesterday won't be 47 minutes of your life wasted. This stuff is really happening, evolving more rapidly than most outside the industry (and many insiders who actually SHOULD) understand. Even if it may not be happening in YOUR neighborhood this week, it will before 2030.


  11. wjrobinson | | #12

    Dana, I am a believer. There is a huge change in all things thought here to stay.

    Look at all, written language and we started to build knowledge from knowledge. Now that wrtten is now just data on the net, we all have access to be the next Einstein or Archimedes.

    Kids are billionares today just by creating a service via punching some code on a keyboard.

    The music world was transformed by a kid, Napster...

    There's a kid trying to solve nuclear fusion, confident that he can...

    Oh yaa... things are a changing... what is not changing is the evil verses good side in all of us and which one we let out to play... for a day of for a lifetime or for a goofy religion.

    Somebody has to come up with an alternative to being good without invoking religion. Can't we start a belief in life itself is pretty cool stuff. Let's honor life daily... I do.

    Oh... right... PV and the grid... gotcha... the season has me off kilter.

    Dana, my college buddy was Eric Raymond. We built and flew hang gliders along with testing paper hang gliders nightly in the community room. Glide ratios were 4-1 going up to 7-1 and we always wanted more 10-1... They are now up to 20-1 which is amazing given the drag of us humans going thru the air. Sink rate was the other biggy. Check out his solar planes.

  12. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #13

    Kewl planes! Are those NanoSolar CIGS-on-steel PV panels?

    Elon Musk is a fan of the concept of battery-electric PV enhanced flight too, but it's not clear how much tinkering he's done with it in the Tesla skunkworks labs.

  13. wjrobinson | | #14

    Dana, you would have to ask Eric about the PV. On his site he talks of being amazed at how far along all has come in his three decades of being a solar plane guy. He is as he says involved in other projects not on his site, much of it can't be talked about.

    The biplane without fuselage is an Easy Riser which came from redesign of an Icarus hang glider... I still have my Easy Riser built it in my dorm decades ago... I was born to fly... have flown with out motors and with for thousands of hours. Best flights soaring over my area for hours at night during a full moon, meeting an F 4 head on and waving to each other... going to 17,000 ft and oops no oxygen or permission... but who knows what goes on over an SR 71 test base.... We flew and fly the original low radar profile wings...

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