Category Archives: Renewables

The Dam Site

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day Holiday last week.

Our family took an RV trip over to Port Angeles, WA where we camped next to the former Elwha Dam Site. Yes, I chose a vacation destination based on a power plant location… and my family agreed to join me!

If you’re not familiar with the Elwha restoration project, you can get more details here.

In a nutshell, two power producing dams that were built in the early 1900’s (without following required permit and treaty construction practices) are being removed because, as the BBC put it “Adding new [fish] ladders would have proved prohibitively expensive. And the dams also needed major upgrades because they no longer met modern environmental standards or produced energy at an efficient price.”

Webcams of the area are availablehere

There are also some YouTube videos available of the dam removals:
Elwha Dam Removal process (animation with notes)
Glines Canyon Removal (time-lapse)

The lower dam on the river was only a short walk from our camp site. The construction access road was open for pedestrian traffic, and allowed us to get up close and personal with the top of the valley where the dam used to be. There’s still a big berm covered in burlap waiting to grow new vegetation, which looked very industrial, but the river itself is back rolling through the bottom of the valley, cutting out its new path.

Elwha Dam 2013

During our trip we also attempted to get close to the upper dam site, the Glines Canyon Dam, but it was still undergoing deconstruction, and a wide area around the activities were closed to the public. We were able to have a picnic on the river below the Glines Canyon Dam site where the water was rushing past – looking almost like mud.

Below the Glines Canyon Dam

I posted a few more pictures of the Elwha at the T2E3 Facebook Page.

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Energy Storage Options

This month’s Electric Light & Power magazine has an interesting article on Energy Storage, starting on page 58. It’s actually an interview with Edwin Feo, the managing partner of USRG Renewable Finance.

One of the points they make, is that fast energy storage can be used for frequency regulation, to reduce the amount of ramping at power plants. I would be curious if anyone has made a study or has the data to support the heat rate impact their plant is seeing due to increased frequency and speed of ramps – such as those seen to balance wind generation.

This would make a great paper for the ASME Power Conference coming up in July 2012.

If you have another idea for a paper, please let me know. I’m the Paper Coordinator for Track 24 (Simple and Combined Cycles) and am actively looking for additional papers (and/or panel ideas) for our sessions. If your idea doesn’t fit Track 24, I can help you get in touch with the right Track Chair as well.

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Room for Solar

The first article I read today was about large scale solar, and the issues around finding enough land. Stepping through a few more items in my inbox, I see this: “A Solar Re-Skin at [The Redskin’s] FedEx Field”
(a month old, but still making the rounds in various newsletters)

I did the economic analysis for residential solar panels a few years ago for a friend who lived in Arizona. At that time – before massive federal incentives – you could break even on installing solar panels on a new house. For a new house, the added capital costs were expected to be approximately $300/month over a 30 year mortgage to cover a $300/month electric bill. So to me, it seems like a no-brainer for new developments to include solar panels by default.

Retrofits like the one being done at the Redskin’s stadium may cost more, but with current incentive programs it can still make economic sense for the owners, and from an image standpoint it’s great marketing.

And if you’re into job creation, the incentive programs for small-scale solar could put a lot of people to work. Here in Washington state, there are additional incentives for solar installations – but the equipment must all be manufactured within the state to get the maximum payback rates. The policy with the incentives was put together as a jobs bill, not an energy bill.

With all the current incentives for solar power, I think it might be worth looking to see if we can find a little bit of room.

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Integrating Renewables

Thinking about solar power and the current concerns regarding the increased costs of integrating wind power into the grid… Germany is learning first hand how grids designed for central power generation may not be adequate for significant distributed generation.

See the following article in the NewScientist:

Solar Power Could Crash Germany’s Grid

Plant and Grid operators are finding that there are minimum generation requirements on the lines.  You can’t turn a large coal fired boiler down below a safe minimum load, and if you take too many plants offline to allow solar and wind to cover loads during the middle of the day, the grid may not be able to recover when the sun sets and the air goes still – all at the same time people are heading home, re-energizing their homes and firing up the oven for dinner.

Once again it comes back to sufficient energy storage capabilities on the grid.  Whether that means pumped storage, hydrogen production, geothermal heat wells, fly-wheels or something altogether new is still a question for debate.  Maybe a mix of all the above technologies, along with a smattering of electric car batteries will be the answer. 

One thing is for certain, most have us have gotten used to having clean, reliable power.  I don’t think we’ll be willing to give it up anytime soon.

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Floating Windmills

Very interesting news article came in today’s Energy Central Daily. The source article is from the Maine Press Herald: ‘Amazing’ turbine may be tested off Maine.

A large 2.3 MW wind turbine is being contemplated for a location off the coast of Maine at water depths more than 650ft deep. It would be anchored with three tethers – but otherwise would simply float. Amazing.

Hopefully they wouldn’t lose too much energy through the six miles of transmission lines across the ocean floor. But, then again, the stability and strength of the winds out on the ocean may more than make up for any extra losses.

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