Friday, 15 December 2017

Warner, New Hampshire

News of a Groundbreaking Design for a Community Microgrid

A gathering at the solar stage in downtown Warner, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Neil Nevins.

A gathering at the solar stage in downtown Warner, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Neil Nevins.

By George Harvey

Warner, New Hampshire, has not yet built its microgrid. It has not yet installed any of its hardware. In fact, it has not even identified where its first installations will go. Nevertheless, some people (including me) consider its story stunningly exciting.

To look at it, Warner it is not a place that a person might expect to stand out as an example of leading edge ingenuity. It seems too small and rural to answer that description. Its total population is about 2,835 people. Its buildings are spread out, and in the 2010 census, only 444 people lived in the town center.

Nevertheless, the town has a long history with renewable energy, and we have seen movements toward sustainable energy in the past. Green Energy Times published an article in the December 2012 edition, “Local Solar-Powered Bookstore Happily Shares with the Community”( A second article, “Summer Fun from the Sun,” which appeared in June of 2015, is about a solar-powered outdoor stage ( Both of these stories related to activities of Niel Nevens, who runs MainStreet BookEnds of Warner.

Now the town has a pair of newer solar arrays. One was a 114-kilowatt (kW) array on Water District land, completed in 2016. The other was of 113.4kW, built at the transfer station in 2017. The earlier reported array at Main Street Bookends has grown to over 20kW, but other solar systems are also being installed by people who are using net metering to reduce both their electric bills and their carbon footprints. In fact, most of the major building permits being issued in Warner are for solar systems.

This brings us to the “microgrid.” A community microgrid is an electric system that can provide power to the community when the main power grid fails. To build one means that the community has to have systems for generating power, storing it, and distributing it, possibly with secondary generation for redundant backup. The system might include a sufficiently large set of solar arrays with a large battery, probably distributing power over the same local transmission lines as the main grid, with a diesel generating plant for backup. The system would also include a set of switches to separate it from the main grid.

Downtown Warner, NH. Photo by Larry Chase

Downtown Warner, NH. Photo by Larry Chase

The thing that makes Warner’s design really exciting is that it addresses a number of questions relating to microgrid development. Some of these relate to how to build the microgrid’s physical system, including details of how to connect together the buildings on the microgrid. Others relate to the costs, including how the microgrid is paid for by customers. Still other questions have to do with community acceptance and what to do, for example, about a person whose home is physically within the microgrid’s area but does not want to participate.

The proposed design from the Warner project solves those issues very easily by taking a single novel approach. It virtualizes the microgrid. The overall microgrid is, in fact, a virtual power plant consisting of smaller, individual microgrids (for purposes of clarity, the smaller individual microgrids are here referred to as nanogrids). Each nanogrid draws power or contributes it, according to demand and under the guidance of a system of computers.

Downtown Warner, NH. Photo by Larry Chase

Downtown Warner, NH. Photo by Larry Chase

While that might sound like computer babble, the nuts and bolts of this approach are fairly easy to understand. Just as a microgrid can operate independently of the main electric grid, a microgrid can be subdivided into a set of smaller nanogrids, each capable of operating independently. In Warner’s microgrid, each building will be able to function on its own, generating its own power, and storing its own energy. Combining them together is essentially a bookkeeping problem under computer control, based on practices of the microgrid and the local utility.

One function of the microgrid is to organize the various nanogrids to communicate with each other. With organization, the microgrid provides an aggregated virtual power plant through which the nanogrids can communicate with the main utility grid.

One obvious advantage of such a system is its resilience. When the main grid goes down, those local nanogrids will continue to function. If they are connected together with transmission wires that are still functioning, they can support each other. If there are enough of them, they can support the rest of the community, including those people who decided not to participate in the system.

Town Hall building. Both photos by Larry Chase.

Town Hall building. Photo by Larry Chase.

With resiliency built into a sufficiently large percentage of local homes and businesses, the community continues to function even in an extended outage. It might be well to think of the effect of this on the community’s attractiveness to, for example, a bank, a supermarket, or a pharmacy that is looking for a town to be a home to a branch or business. And this is especially true, given that more than one agency of the federal government has told us that we need to be prepared for grid outages lasting as long as three years due to such disparate threats as solar storms and terrorism.

Even if the grid never went down, the system offers a good deal of value. One of the functions it should perform is to buy and sell electricity at spot market rates. When the rates are low, the microgrid can buy power to charge batteries, even if the sun is not shining. When the rates are high, it can sell power at a profit.

From the point of view of the utility, such a system could offer very important advantages. When they do not have enough power to meet demand otherwise, utilities have to buy on the spot market, but they normally have to sell at fixed rates. When demand is high, the spot rates can be a multiple of the retail rates, and this means that the utility loses money on all the electricity it sells. With a virtual power plant offering another alternative, the utility can save a good deal of money.

For many utilities, transmission costs are partly based on their peak load for the previous year. A virtual power plant reduces that peak load, saving money for the utility, and all of its customers.

A 114-kW solar array for Warner, NH will help to keep the power on even if the grid goes down. Courtesy photo.

A 114-kW solar array for Warner, NH will help to keep the power on even if the grid goes down. Courtesy photo.

Warner’s microgrid has already received some important support. The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire is already giving assistance as Warner moves forward. Schneider Electric has been identified as a possible supplier, as it establishes microgrids as a business all over the world. Direct Energy is another, and it makes systems available for a lease for zero capital cost.

One person involved in the project is Roy Morrison, who has contributed to G.E.T. and may be known to many of our readers as the author of the book, Sustainability Sutra: An Ecological Investigation. He pointed out that things are changing for utilities as the costs of solar power and batteries decline. “The thing that is interesting is that suddenly the microgrid is a very attractive economic proposition that is emerging,” he said. The utilities do not yet make money by being smart, in the sense of computer systems, but rather by operating the distribution system. Their practices may change quickly, as the prices for battery storage drop.

The microgrid in Warner will start with just three buildings, the pioneers, whose experiences will inform its expansion to 25 early adopters. In time, the microgrid could grow to provide both security and savings to the entire community.

A network of nanogrids could be the foundation of a community microgrid. Community solar, wind, storage, and bio-diesel backup could be added as needed. The whole could power a community at the utility feeder or substation level. It is a plan that might be adopted in many places.

Even where laws do not support aggregation and utilities are unsupportive, the costs of solar power and batteries have become so low that we are clearly moving into a new age. Now, when it comes to electricity, ordinary people can take hold of their own power, getting security and saving money as they do.

The solar for Main Street Bookends also powers the stage for community gatherings . Courtesy photo.

The solar for Main Street Bookends also powers the stage for community gatherings . Courtesy photo.

Warner, New Hampshire posted first on Green Energy Times

December 15 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • Boskalis’ Asian Hercules 3 giant floating crane has arrived in its port in Peterhead ahead of foundation installation at Vattenfall’s 92.4-MW Aberdeen Bay offshore wind farm off the coast of Scotland. The 25,000-tonne crane will be used to transport and install the 77-metre-high, 1800-tonne steel suction bucket jacket foundations. [reNews]
Asian Hercules 3 (EOWDC image)

Asian Hercules 3 (EOWDC image)

  • The former energy secretary who signed off on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant has told Unearthed he doubts the project will ever get built. Sir Edward Davey said the lower cost of renewables today means “the economics have clearly gone away” from the project. Only a year ago, he said it was a “good deal.” [Unearthed]
  • Data processing machines often have algorithms judging whether data is sufficiently outside the normal range that it will contaminate a study. Because of climate change, a weather recording site in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, rejected all of the data it received for the entire month of November because it was made up of nothing but outliers. [CNN]
  • Between January 2014 and September 2017, big banks provided $630 billion in financing to the 120 top coal plant developers studies say. And major institutional investors, many of which are members of groups that warn about investing in companies whose products cause climate change, have put $140 billion into the same companies. [CleanTechnica]
  • A report published by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that UK onshore windpower showed a 50% increase in energy generation between 2016 and 2017. The 2.0 TWh increase is due to increased windpower capacity, the most significant increase of all renewable technologies, over the time period. [Energy Voice]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

December 15 Green Energy News posted first on Green Energy Times

Thursday, 14 December 2017

December 15 Green Energy Times is coming out!

The December 15 issue of Green Energy Times is now available online. You can download it as a pdf file HERE.

The print edition is being distributed and will be available at outlets starting December 15.

Individual articles are being uploaded and will be available online soon.

December 15 Green Energy Times is coming out! posted first on Green Energy Times

December 14 Energy News

Headline News:

  • Liquified natural gas is running out of steam. Natural gas demand in Europe is 12% lower than it was 10 years ago. Chinese and Indian demand continues to grow, but the dramatic gains by solar power and wind, where costs have fallen 85% since 2009, have severely limited the prospects for natural gas as a power source. [MetalMiner]
Liquefied natural gas ship (Photo: donvictori0 | Adobe Stock)

Liquefied natural gas ship (Photo: donvictori0 | Adobe Stock)

  • Southern California Gas Co is partnering with the University of California-Irvine’s Advanced Power & Energy Program to design an “Advanced Energy Community.” The community will be planned as a replicable model that optimizes a variety of energy options, including solar, wind, and renewable natural gas. [North American Windpower]
  • Moody’s Investors Service is telling cities that they must prepare for increasingly worse storms due to climate change or their credit ratings could suffer. Lower credit ratings mean a city has to pay more to borrow money. The warning comes after studies showed climate change worsened damage from Hurricane Harvey. [Houston Public Media]
  • The Energy Information Administration’s “Short Term Energy Outlook” projects that renewable energy resources, excluding hydropower, will gain about two percentage points, reaching 10% of the US electricity generation market in 2018. The EIA expects generation from gas-fired power plants to drop to 32% in 2017 from 34% in 2016. [Utility Dive]
  • Tax provisions critical to the electric power sector remain in flux as Republicans try to reconcile competing House and Senate versions of tax reform, Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said. The status of production tax credits for wind and nuclear energy, incentives for electric vehicles and a host of other “orphan” energy resources remain “in flux.” [Utility Dive]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

December 14 Energy News posted first on Green Energy Times

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

First-of-its-kind Deal Sets Precedent for Village-Wide Renewable Heat Deployment

December 13, 2017, Rhinebeck, NY – Last night, at the Village of Rhinebeck Council meeting, Mayor Gary Bassett announced his intention to give Right-of-Way to Dandelion Energy, the geothermal heating and cooling company started at Alphabet’s research and development lab, “X.” This first-of-its-kind initiative was met with unanimous support from the Village of Rhinebeck Board and the meeting’s public attendees.

The Right-of-Way will take the form of an easement, allowing Dandelion to install and own ground loops, the most expensive and cumbersome part of geothermal installations, on village property alongside the street in front of homes. Ground loops are underground pipes containing water that transfer heat from the ground to a home.

The ground loops will be installed at no cost to the town or homeowners, and homeowners will then have the option to connect to the ground loops and purchase renewable thermal energy, similarly to how homeowners with access can decide to hook up to natural gas. Dandelion estimates homeowners in the Village of Rhinebeck can save thousands of dollars a year by switching off of heating oil and onto geothermal with Dandelion.

Part of Dandelion’s technical innovation has been developing a small, fast drill that can install ground loops at significantly lower cost than a conventional drill as it rolls down a block, as Right-of-Way allows for.

“By enabling Dandelion to install ground loops along the Right-of-Way in the Village of Rhinebeck, we remove the biggest barrier to homeowners adopting geothermal,” said Mayor Bassett of the Village of Rhinebeck. “When the loops are installed at no upfront cost, homeowners can seamlessly switch and save thousands of dollars on heating each year, eliminate carbon monoxide risk in their homes, and reduce air pollution for our neighborhood. It’s a no-brainer.”

Kathy Hannun, CEO of Dandelion, said, “The Village of Rhinebeck is a setting an exciting precedent by making low-cost, renewable heating available to its citizens. We look forward to a future where more and more communities follow the Village of Rhinebeck’s lead and provide homeowners with access to affordable geothermal.”

The Village of Rhinebeck, like many areas of upstate New York, does not have access to natural gas. Geothermal, under the Dandelion model, achieves the affordability and convenience of natural gas, without the emissions, risk of gas leaks or hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning.

After receiving unanimous positive feedback from the Board last night, Mayor Bassett plans to bring the easement to a vote at a Village meeting in January. If the easement is approved, Dandelion will begin signing up homes in February and bring the Dandelion Drill to Rhinebeck for the first-ever Village-wide installation in mid-2018.

First-of-its-kind Deal Sets Precedent for Village-Wide Renewable Heat Deployment posted first on Green Energy Times

December 13 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • The world is quickly abandoning coal. But that’s not the end of the road for coal mines. In many countries they’re coming back to life as solar farms. The world’s biggest floating solar project began operating in the eastern Chinese city of Huainan, which accounted for nearly 20% of the country’s coal reserves in a 2008 estimate. [Quartz]
World’s biggest floating solar project

World’s biggest floating solar project

  • In what amounts to the largest order yet for the Tesla Semi Truck, PepsiCo has placed a pre-order for 100 units. The order is twice as exactly large as the previous largest order, in which Sysco ordered 50 units. The number of reservations taken to date, according to a tally that Reuters is maintaining, is now at least 276. [CleanTechnica]
  • Hawaii was the first state in the nation to commit to a 100% renewable transportation future. Now Hawaii’s four mayors have come together to sign proclamations committing to an all renewable transportation system by 2045. And three county governments pledged to transition all fleet vehicles to 100% renewable power by 2035. [KITV Honolulu]
  • A Japanese high court for the first time has banned operations at a nuclear power plant. The high court concluded there was a chance the Ikata plant could be affected by a pyroclastic flow from Mount Aso if an eruption occurred similar in scale to a massive one 90,000 years ago on the southern island of Kyushu. [Asahi Shimbun]
  • Solar is becoming an increasingly important part of the US electric mix, and the most recentt data from the DOE’s Energy Information Administration shows that the solar leaders are still Western states. During the first nine months of 2017, Hawaii and Nevada joined California among the states that get more than 10% of their power from solar. [pv magazine USA]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

December 13 Green Energy News posted first on Green Energy Times

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

December 12 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • Birds are increasingly threatened. Overfishing and changing sea temperatures are pushing seabirds to the brink of extinction, new data on the world’s birds shows. Birds that are now globally threatened include the kittiwake and the Atlantic puffin. And on land, the Snowy Owl is struggling to find prey as Arctic ice melts, say conservation groups. [BBC]
Black-legged kittiwake (Photo: Ed Marshall)

Black-legged kittiwake (Photo: Ed Marshall)

  • A joint study by the highly respected Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research finds that plug-in hybrid cars with at least 36 miles of electric-only range (eg Chevy Volt) are just as good at keeping carbon emissions out of the atmosphere as pure battery electric cars (eg Chevy Bolt). [CleanTechnica]
  • Here’s another good news item that will certainly bother EV critics. Though most people seem not to know it, the batteries that power EVs keep getting cheaper. The average price of a lithium-ion battery pack is down to $209/kWh and the prices are set to fall below $100/kWh by 2025, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance survey. [CleanTechnica]
  • German offshore wind farms put power on the country’s grid 363 days a year, a Fraunhofer IWES report said. The authors of the report, which was commissioned by the German Offshore Wind Foundation, said that if Germany wants to achieve the acting government’s zero-carbon emissions target, it needs 25 GW of offshore wind by 2030. [reNews]
  • The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is highlighting how greenhouse-gas emissions in Iowa dropped for the second year in a row, primarily with decreasing power plant emissions. This includes notable increases in windpower and decreases in the use of coal. GHG emissions statewide decreased 9% from their peak in 2007. [North American Windpower]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

December 12 Green Energy News posted first on Green Energy Times