The Grid: Hybridity and Stability

  • July 13, 2018
  • Mallory Baker

The wait is over: Welcome back to The Grid, your monthly recap of the top renewable energy news. In this edition, we talk Trump’s proposed coal plant bailout. Then, our first guest consultant, Dr. Guangdong Zhu from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL),  joins INKers Mallory Baker and Mya Wilkes to give insight on hybrid renewable energy.

#Breaking: FERC Drama

Remember back in January when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected President Trump’s proposal to “bailout” failing coal-burning and nuclear power plants? Well just in time for summer, the tension between FERC and Trump is heating up again. Here’s the low-down:

  • A leaked memo shows that Trump directed his Secretary of Energy to attempt to skirt the group (which includes four of his own appointees.)
  • This prompted FERC and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to get together and say, sorry but no.
  • Things seemed to be over, but then… one of FERC’s most vocal opponents of Trump’s plan resigned.
  • The resignation means one less obstacle for a potential bailout plan. But it also means Republicans will lose their FERC majority. TBD on how this will play out.

Why is everyone fighting? – Trump and Rick Perry argue that coal and nuclear plants are the only reliable power sources for grid stability. FERC and others beg to differ. They show that this plan overlooks the DOE’s own conclusions that the grid is doing just fine on a diet of natural gas and renewable energy. They also say a bailout would disrupt the wholesale energy market and skyrocket power bills.

Meanwhile in the private sector, companies are handling the uncertainty by following the money. Utility giant Xcel Energy recently announced they are shuttering all coal and adding more renewable projects. And cool new tech companies are making waves with modernized grid solutions.

But I can’t stand the tension. – Same. Take your mind off it all by bolstering your brand’s efforts to promote renewable energy’s benefits (more on how to do that in last month’s edition of The Grid.) Or, why not do some media outreach: Journalists are closely watching this issue, which means the conditions are ripe for newsjacking. If your brand is in a technology space like energy storage (i.e. a solution for grid stability issues), now is your moment!

#Trending: Hybrid renewable energy projects are our grid’s future

Hybrid Renewable Plant, Stillwater

Aerial view of the Stillwater plant in Fallon, Nevada, the first triple hybrid renewable energy plant. | Photo courtesy of Enel Green Power North America, Inc.

The brief: Through hybrid projects, organizations such as NREL are producing more affordable and reliable energy solutions for the future grid. NBD

The word ‘hybrid’ often brings to mind an image of a Toyota Prius – but that’s not the type of hybrid we’re talking about today. Hybrid renewable energy projects use multiple renewable sources together, which can increase efficiency and create greater balance in energy supply.  Essentially, hybrid renewable energy systems combine two or more renewable energy sources because when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun may still be shining.

Business is booming for hybrids. Just this month, India announced it would be auctioning 2.5GW worth of hybrid wind-solar plants, helping to meet its goal of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. Australia is working to develop the country’s largest hybrid renewables microgrid, which will implement utility-scale solar and battery storage. And the U.S. also has its fair share of hybrid projects.

This month, we spoke with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Dr. Guangdong Zhu, who has an extensive background in Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies and various power generation systems including geothermal power and fossil fuels.

NREL has been in the hybrid game for a while, helping to create the first triple-hybrid renewable energy plant, Stillwater, in Nevada.  According to Zhu, NREL’s latest study at Stillwater shows that geothermal and solar energy are two peas in a pod. Solar hybridization has been shown to boost geothermal power generation and cycle efficiency. Other NREL studies have found energy stored from hybrid sources can deliver cheaper electricity costs than energy stored from a single source. Zhu shares that case studies found geothermal and solar hybridization with thermal storage can deliver cheaper electricity than PV + battery storage. These findings are a big deal, proving there is potential for huge advancements in renewables projects.

#FOMO: (Green) Roof Top Party in NYC

Psst. This topic was submitted by a colleague from our INK East office. Have something you think we should include? Shoot us a note:

Ever heard of the NYC Green Roof Researchers Alliance (GRRA)? If you’re in or around New York City, check out this new association of advocates from around the state who are dedicated to sharing the benefits of green roofs. GRRA held “The State of Green Roofs in New York Citysymposium this month, where they shared some interesting facts:

  • Rooftop acreage in New York is equivalent to 30X the size of Central Park but is currently underutilized as green spaces. Currently, only 1,200 buildings out of 1 million in NYC have green roofs.
  • The benefits of green roofs include storm water absorption, noise and air pollution reduction, and increased urban biodiversity.
  • Speaking of green: New York builders and property owners can get a tax abatement for installing a green roof. Cha-ching.

Also cool: The event’s keynote session featured the stellar story of NYC’s Javits Convention Center transformation from “environmental Darth Vader” to shining of example why green roofs are such a great idea. The convention center’s roof now cuts costs, saves energy, and is home to 32 species of birds and other pollinators. See it for yourself on their livestream here:

We wish we could include it all! So here are a few more highlights:

Time – Inside the New Technology That Could Transform the Solar Power Industry

Quartz – To hit climate goals, Bill Gates and his billionaire friends are betting on energy storage

Green and Growing – Renewable Energy Myths Explained: Facts and Debunking

Electric Light & Power – Biz Group Vows $1T Renewables Investment in 12 Years

Greentech Media – Siemens Tests Ammonia as a Form of Energy Storage for Renewables

That’s it for this month’s The Grid. If you missed June’s edition, you can check it out here. But did you know this isn’t INK’s only resource for clean energy marketing? You can find our other thoughts on the subject here. INK can also be found anywhere on social media at @heyINKco.

Other good stuff in here