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Earth Power United States Technology

California Poised To Hit 50 Percent Renewable Target a Full Decade Ahead of Schedule (cleantechnica.com) 247

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CleanTechnica: Every year, the California Energy Commission releases its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) report, which gives details about the mix of energy experienced by all utilities within the state during the preceding 12 months. The report for this year, released in November, shows that all three of the state's investor-owned utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric -- are projected to derive 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. That is a full decade ahead of schedule. PG&E reports it used 32.9% renewable energy in the past year. The figure for SoCal Edison was 28.2%. San Diego Gas & Electric led the pack with 43.2% renewable energy. Now that the 50% goal is within reach, California is looking ahead to its next milestone -- 80% renewables by 2050. "Once we get to about 50 percent, we're going to start to run into new challenges -- the second 50 percent will be trickier than the first 50 percent," Brown notes. Part of the challenge will be balancing the grid using new technologies to avoid the need for fossil fueled "peaker plants" to provide additional electricity when demand is high.
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California Poised To Hit 50 Percent Renewable Target a Full Decade Ahead of Schedule

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  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @11:32PM (#55787391)

    Run nuclear plants as peakers -- yes, it can be done with the right design.

    Nuclear isn't renewable, but it's a hell of a lot cleaner than fossil fools.

    • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @11:35PM (#55787399)
      (and use pumped-storage hydro -- when water is available -- for load leveling as well)
      • Pumped storage is a proven technology. BUT ...

        1. It has good points -- It's only mildly ecologically disastrous. Unlike batteries, it doesn't require nasty chemicals, self-immolate, lose capacity over time, etc. If nothing else, folks can probably fish, swim, and water ski in the pools.

        2. It needs lots of water. California doesn't always HAVE lots of water. It's possible to use salt water of course, but that would suggest siting close to the coast.

        3. It's surprisingly hard to find good sites for pumped

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blindseer ( 891256 )

      Run nuclear plants as peakers -- yes, it can be done with the right design.

      Yes it can, but why bother? I get to this in a bit.

      Nuclear isn't renewable, but it's a hell of a lot cleaner than fossil fools.

      True, just the radioactive material in coal ash should be enough to get coal plants shut down. That's if coal had to meet the same standards as nuclear for disposing of the naturally occurring uranium in the ash. But if it's safe for them to toss it in a ditch then certainly nuclear reactors can do the same?

      So, why bother with nuclear as a supplier of peak demand? Let's consider that Germany discovered that for every 4 MW of wind power they need 3 MW of

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        All this rationalization. Lets just take the real world examples;

        Germany 19% nuclear, 20% wind+solar.

        France, 70% nuclear, 5% wind+solar

        France CO2 emissions per capita and per Kwh are about 1/2 of Germany

        France's electricity costs are 0.169/kWh, Germany 0.306/kWh

        Case closed.

        • "Case closed."

          Not hardly. Germany is trying to shut down its nuclear reactors without increasing dependence on Russian natural gas. As a result they are burning a lot of coal and therefore releasing a lot of CO2. France has virtually no fossil fuels, so they built a lot of nukes.

          Their energy mixes are NOT comparable.

          Personally, I think that Germany's priorities (other than not depending on Russia to stay warm in Winter) are kind of odd. But that's none of my business

      • If I read that right, you're suggesting that once you commit to building nuclear power plants with sufficient capacity to cover a bad wind/sun day, there's no point in cluttering up the landscape with wind turbines? Interesting. I'm not a big fan of nuclear, but I'll go off and think about it.

      • > Wind and nuclear are not too far apart in capital expense, wind at $70 and nuclear at $83.

        I'm not sure what units you're using, you didn't post them. However, in $/Wp, wind is about $1.25 and nuclear is around $10.00. So, I disagree.

        > Nuclear can load follow fairly well as it is right now.

        No, it can't. The vast majority of plants in service around the world have about 25% throttling capability per 24 hours. There are a minority of designs that do much better than that, closer to 50%, which is what y

    • by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @08:26AM (#55788545)

      Nuclear isn't renewable, but it's a hell of a lot cleaner than fossil fools.

      Yes nuclear doesn't release CO2, but >>>

      1. California's geology is not well suited to nuclear -- a patchwork of fault lines. At this time, no one knows where they all are, much less which are active. No one wants to build a multibillion dollar nuclear facility, then find out they've built on top of a blind thrust fault. (i.e. a fault with no surface indication).

      2. Current, proven designs are steam boilers that need lots of water. For the most part, California doesn't have lots of long term reliable water inland. There's lots of coastline of course, but virtually none of it looks to be guaranteed to be stable.

      3. The California culture is strongly antinuclear and costs will surely be exacerbated by endless lawsuits.

      4. Recent nuclear plants in the developed world have had MAJOR problems with cost and schedule.

      5. If you look at the historical costs of nuclear accidents, they show signs of having a highly skewed ("paretto" / "power-law") distribution. i.e. occasional industrial accidents whose costs can sanely be covered by an insurance pool ... and occasional catastrophic accidents with costs comparable to a war.

      My feeling, and you're surely free to disagree. The world can be powered by wind. solar and nuclear. But the nuclear part may genuinely be risky.

    • by upuv ( 1201447 )

      No they can't. A nuke plant takes days to ramp up electricity production. A nuke plant is not an instant on by any means.

      A Nuke plant is a base load provider not a peak provider. It is near impossible to design a fast ramp up nuke plant. As in with in 30 minutes.

      Gas and Hydro are near instantaneous power providers. Hydro being the fastest to provide power.

      • No they can't. A nuke plant takes days to ramp up electricity production. A nuke plant is not an instant on by any means.

        That's true. But I've read posts elsewhere that sounded sane that argue that the inability to quickly fire up current reactors is an arbitrary design decision, not a fundamental property of fission power. And certainly there's nothing in the basics of fission that prevents ramping up heat pretty quickly. However, IANANE (I am NOT a nuclear engineer). For all I know, the thermal stress

        • > certainly there's nothing in the basics of fission that prevents ramping up heat pretty quickly

          No. Read this:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_neutron

          Reactors often get a safety margin by operating slightly below the conditions needed for a chain reaction and then using the extra neutrons provided by fission products to make up the difference. Since these are generated over a period of minutes, there is a slow-following curve which makes it much easier to control. You can operate without this consi

          • Hmmm. How fast can you bring up a sanely designed nuclear plant? Keep in mind that all thermal power plants take a while -- minutes, hours, days -- to get up to speed. That seems to be a real problem when trying to back up solar or wind. I think that the only backups that can act in tens of seconds are hydro and batteries. And I have my doubts about the latter. Not that one can't (probably) design a battery bank with a good backup profile for grid level wind. But I'm far from convinced that the Lion

            • > How fast can you bring up a sanely designed nuclear plant?

              From zero takes days and days. From 75% takes about 24 hours, at least for common designs like PWR.

              > s of seconds are hydro and batteries. And I have my doubts about the

              Don't. There was a recent brownout sequence in Austrailia that just happened to occur days after the Tesla pack went online. It managed to stabilize the frequency in real time.

              The entire power industry is talking about this. They're using terms like "game changer" and "never t

      • Anyone who has been on a floating nuclear power plant - a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, for example - would love to disabuse you of the notion that nuclear power cannot ramp up and down quickly. Yes, it's only 550 MW output (officially; I suspect it's closer to somewhere around 700 MW), but that is 40% more than the Ivanpah solar thermal generator outside of Las Vegas...
    • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

      Nuclear is already far too expensive. Running nuclear plants as peakers makes this even worse.

      BTW: nice article in the guardian on nuclear power and its economics (and where the myh its economical comes from):
      https://www.theguardian.com/ne... [theguardian.com]

  • by Fly Swatter ( 30498 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @12:00AM (#55787483) Homepage

    From Forbes: California's Growing Imported Electricity Problem [forbes.com] "California now imports 33% of its electricity supply from fast growing neighbors". Looks like a numbers game to me, but what do I know.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Smoke and mirrors. I generate 100% of my energy for my house by shuffling my feet for static charge, where's my headline? (The other 99.9999999999999%) is imported)
    • Are there people who really believe Forbes?

      http://www.latimes.com/project... [latimes.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        How about the US Government [eia.gov] which states that "California imports about a quarter of its electricity on average"? Do they count? Reading the article you linked, it is clear the LA Times "cherry picked" specific narrow dates to make their claim. On average, CA imports a full 25% of its power needs.

        Seems you're a lot better off believing Forbes rather than the LA Times... At least when it comes to truthiness about power imports to California.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @12:47AM (#55787623)
      Renewable energy is renewable energy whether it's in one state or another.

      One op-ed from a guy who is a professional promoter of natural gas says "California should really buy more natural gas," and you're willing to conclude California is running a gigantic scam?

      It's not like the source of the power is untraceable once it goes over the border, or CA is claiming the source of the power is a national security secret and just trust us it's much more expensive solar power, ignore that the power lines are running to coal fired power plants just over the border.
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      From Forbes: California's Growing Imported Electricity Problem [forbes.com] "California now imports 33% of its electricity supply from fast growing neighbors". Looks like a numbers game to me, but what do I know.

      About 22% of California's imported power comes from renewables

      • About 22% of California's imported power comes from renewables

        Right, California buys expensive renewable energy which reduces it's availability from the open market. They can make this claim only because they paid above market rates. Which is fine by me, I don't live in California and so their buying of renewable energy means more cheap natural gas, hydro, and nuclear energy for me. This is especially insane since if the goal is to reduce CO2 output they'd consider hydro and nuclear as "green" energy too. Solar produces more CO2 per energy output than nuclear and

  • Made in UTAH. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Templer421 ( 4988421 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @12:04AM (#55787501)

    California Electricity that is.

    There are several plants in the state that do nothing but make electricity for California.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > California Electricity is [made in Utah].

      So?

      California utilities still have to account for the source of the electricity that they use. If Utah sells PG&E power that comes from sources that are 50% coal-fired, then that impacts PG&E's EnviroScore or whatever.

    • California Electricity that is.

      There are several plants in the state that do nothing but make electricity for California.

      Arizona is also heavily into the business of generating the power that California won't:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      Look at the list of "Owners"
      And this project is a large renewable but not renewable by the fake California definition:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      Under "Distribution of power" note that the city of Los Angeles alone gets almost as much of the output as all of Arizona.

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