Inside the Facebook Solar Deal

As part of the $1 billion Facebook data-center deal, Dominion Energy Virginia will file a request with the State Corporation Commission to create a new kind of solar tariff called Schedule RF. (The RF stands for Renewable Facility.) The tariff, if approved, could be used by other big customers seeking renewable energy.

“We came together with Dominion Energy Virginia to create a new tariff that ensures renewable energy solutions are accessible not just to Facebook, but other companies as well,” said Bobby Hollis, director of Global Energy at Facebook in a press release issued last week. The tariff “opens the door to attracting more businesses and more jobs for the communities we serve,” said Robert M. Blue, president of Dominion’s Power Delivery Group.

Virginia is well positioned to win more data-center projects and, as major players in cloud services are committed to reducing their carbon footprints, there likely will be more Facebook-like deals in the future. Given the magnitude of data-center energy consumption — the Facebook facility is expected to consume as much electricity as 32,500 homes and the solar investment will run roughly $250 million — these deals could well influence Virginia’s energy mix and cost of electricity. Curious to know more about how the project is structured, I talked to Dianne Corsello, director of Dominion’s business development group.

At full build-out, Facebook will require 130 megawatts of electricity. Power consumption at data centers is fairly constant, but the output of solar farms varies with weather and time of day. Assuming the panels are equipped with trackers, which rotate to follow the sun and generate more power, the solar farms will generate electricity only 25% of the time. Consequently, Dominion will need to build about 300 megawatts total solar capacity. (By way of comparison, the utility’s state-of-the-art gas-fired power station in Greensville is rated at 1,588 megawatts capacity and generates electricity approximately 85% of the time.)

Dominion soon will issue an RFP to solar developers with the expectation of bringing the solar capacity online in 2019 and 2020, Corsello says. The utility will draw from multiple facilities, none larger than 150 megawatts in size.

The SCC must approve the Schedule RF tariff, just as it will have to approve the rates charged by each proposed solar facilities using Schedule RF. Facebook will pay the full retail rate plus an add-on for the purchase of renewable. Under the tariff Facebook will receive Renewable Energy Certificates certifying that the company has paid for renewable energy equal to the volume of electricity it consumed. Facebook’s payments for these certificates will help offset the higher cost of solar power paid by all Dominion ratepayers.

The 300 megawatts of solar capacity arising from the Facebook project will be over and above Dominion’s commitment to derive 15% of its electricity from renewable power sources by 2025.

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29 responses to “Inside the Facebook Solar Deal”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    As many times this subject has been blogged here.. there is still confusion.

    If you listen to Acbar and TomH – they tell you than anyone can build a solar farm – anywhere and arrange with PJM to sell it. Seems like last year, that’s pretty much what Amazon did with the Eastern Short Co-op.

    why can’t Facebook contract with any company to go build a solar farm somewhere.. to generate the amount of solar that will effectively offset Facebook’s use of grid power?

    What does the new Dominion tariff do – that was not already possible?

    I’m not at all clear why Dominion is involved at all.

    and I’m not clear why FB would not put solar on their roof and buy land nearby for the rest of the solar.. and then buy grid power when solar was not sufficient.

    I’m quite sure that FB and Dominion have reasons why they chose thie approach but it’s pretty much a mystery as to why… and this comes across more like a Press Release than anything that really explains the why and where-for..

    I’d love to hear Acbar and TOmH – and others “take”.

    1. Rowinguy1 Avatar

      Larry, it is correct that virtually any developer can build solar in the Commonwealth and sell output into PJM–that is, into the wholesale power market.

      What that developer cannot do is sell directly to a retail customer like FaceBook. FaceBook could, if it wanted, build a solar facility to self-supply, but there are complicated statutory limitations on just how much power it can supply to itself and still remain a customer of the utility whose territory it resides in. There is right now a case pending before the SCC involving Ferrum College and a company that developed a biomass generator to supply power to Ferrum that may provide some answers.

      But, practically speaking, a high-tech company like FaceBook does not want to be in the power business; it wants a good deal with its local utility which it appears to have negotiated here.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        But essentially all FB is doing is buying offsets, right? They can do that with anyone.. so why Dominion?

        1. Rowinguy1 Avatar

          Well, they ARE taking actual power off the grid, too. Somebody gets paid for the electrons….

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Oh, Larry, we’re going to have so much more to talk about. Homework, everybody….

    And Larry, the issue on a special tariff is that if Facebook did as you describe, builds its own fields on and around its facility, what happens on the days when solar isn’t working? What price do they pay to Dominion for it being fully prepared to take on that very substantial load on such an intermittent basis? Not simple at all. Can they bypass Dominion and just go to the grid and buy from PJM? The answer is they cannot, it is because of laws they helped write, and how they get what they want from the legislature is the point of the big T-D series I just linked for you. So do your homework and I’m sure Bacon will set it up for discussion soon!

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Hey thanks for the link Steve!

    but you got confused guy.. I was asking why FB could not do it’s own solar and buy from the grid from DOminion whenever they needed it?

    Just like if you put in a super-efficient whatyamacallit that let you cut way back on the grid power you needed – but then you’d still use it when you needed to.

    See anyone can do that.. right? I can put solar panels on my roof and use them when they’re pumping out power.. then grab that good old grid power when they’re not.

    in terms of the “difficulties” that Dominion might face if a bunch of folks stated installing solar and then whipsawing Dominion between when folks were using solar and when they needed Grid.. I agree… that’s the issue but to this point – I don’t see anything that prevents anyone from installing solar.. and doing exactly that. Right?

    From Dominion’s point of view – the easiest place for them to put solar would be right next door to a gas turbine.. and let a computer control how much gas to burn.. based on what the solar wasn’t putting out enough of.

    or perhaps I’ve got this all mucked up and you can explain it…

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I tend to agree with Larry. When Facebook is using its own solar power, directly connected to its facility (as opposed to connected indirectly through Dominion’s network), what business is it of PJM, FERC, Dominion or the VSCC? But if and when Facebook buys power from Dominion, it’s treated as a standard commercial or industrial customer. Now if the uncertainty of when Facebook will need access to power, Dominion should be able to impose reasonable conditions and rates on that ability. Now it might be easier and less expensive for Facebook to agree to integrate its system into the larger grid, but that should be by agreement with Dominion and or PJM.

      1. Rowinguy1 Avatar

        Let me offer a reason why your arrangement is of concern to those entities. A customer demanding 130 MW of electricity must be served, in nearly every conceivable circumstance, by a high voltage transmission line. Now, where will that line get built? Whose private property is going to be impacted by its construction? Who pays?

        That line will be part of the interconnected bulk electric system and is therefore subject to oversight and regulation by NERC, FERC, PJM and, as to its construction and cost allocation, the VSCC.

        You may be familiar with the controversy attending the proposed construction of a transmission line in Prince William County and the town of Haymarket to serve a similar facility owned by an Amazon subsidiary.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I had assumed.. perhaps wrongly , that the Technology Park already had that capacity… “… A dual-feed-double-circuit 230kV line powered by Dominion Energy fuels reliable AND affordable electricity from traditional and renewable resources. ”

          I know that FB had to get their electricity from Dominion but the idea of buying renewable offsets (as opposed to on-site or nearby infrastructure) could have been done with any 3rd party provider who will find a place to put up the solar for the offsets.

          One of the things about industrial/technology parks is that they do have to get the feed from the utility.. that includes the rights-of-ways, etc.. as opposed to non-industrial-park sites that probably don’t have the power without bringing it in..

          I’m sure that Dominion saw the NoVa issue as one where they could get the right-of-way for not only Amazon but future power for anticipated growth in NoVa. two birds, one stone, yadda yadda.

        2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          If the solar power generation system is not located on site or on adjoining property, obviously, it must obtain transmission services, most likely from Dominion. And that likely integrates the Facebook energy with the commercially generated Dominion electricity. And I can see the need to integrate Facebook energy into the system.

        3. Yes, TMT and Rowinguy. My understanding is that the principal thing Henrico had going for it to attract Facebook’s facility was the existence of that Technology Park already built out with most of the infrastructure needed — as opposed to NoVa where the addition of more transmission lines in Prince William County is hotly contested by no less a friend of the people than Corey Stewart. What’s more, a new Dominion customer may be required to contribute the incremental cost of transmission improvements to the grid to provide its electric supply; but if the facilities are already there (and already paid for by another customer), no second contribution is required.

    2. Mark Heslep Avatar
      Mark Heslep

      “From Dominion’s point of view – the easiest place for them to put solar would be right next door to a gas turbine.. and let a computer control how much gas to burn.. based on what the solar wasn’t putting out enough of.”

      Tricky problem. From Dominion’s point of view, if they must build a gas plant, the pipeline, etc, i.e. the cost is sunk, then the cost to flip it on and run it (given current US natural gas prices) is cheaper than the marginal cost of acquiring land and building un-subsidized solar in the first place, absent a large price on carbon. And the carbon price is absent.

      1. Running a gas-fired combined cycle plant is not cheaper than unsubsidized solar. Dominion says solar is cheaper in their 2017 IRP. There is no consideration of a carbon price, since none currently exists in the wholesale marketplace.

        The siting of large solar facilities considers primarily the amount of sunlight available, proximity to transmission, and land acquisition and zoning considerations. There is little practical advantage, other than perhaps the opportunity to share transmission facilities of siting a solar facility next to a gas turbine. As batteries begin to replace gas turbine peaking units, co-location with solar might have greater benefits.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    The link Steve provided is well worth taking a look.. it’s an excellent series of articles about Dominion and it’s role and power in the state.

    Dominion has a substantial amount of power in the state but no matter how much power a company has – it cannot block technological advances… it can slow them down and screw things up in the interim by virtue of it’s monopoly and political influence but in the end it can end up like Kodak… if it does not find a way to evolve and sustain itself.

    Puerto Rico might be where we see the future grid.. we’ll see..

    1. Mark Heslep Avatar
      Mark Heslep

      “Puerto Rico might be where we see the future grid.. we’ll see.”

      Punta de Lima wind farm post Maria

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    BTW, these are the two most important statements in Bacon’s piece, quoting Dominion:

    “Facebook’s payments for these certificates will help offset the higher cost of solar power paid by all Dominion ratepayers.” How? How much?

    “The 300 megawatts of solar capacity arising from the Facebook project will be over and above Dominion’s commitment to derive 15% of its electricity from renewable power sources by 2025.” Commitment to who and approved by who? The legislature? SCC?

    1. Good questions. RECs are sold after a solar plant is up and running; but they defray the capital cost of the plant, and the income they generate can be anticipated in deciding how to finance the plant — or, if the plant is in rate base, they can provide unexpected utility income and an offset to operating expenses. The 15% commitment? Virginia’s RPS (renewable portfolio standard) fixed by the SCC is voluntary, but my understanding is that Dominion has announced a public commitment to build an amount of renewables generation somewhere. Maybe someone else can comment on this. RECs bought by a customer would not, of course, help to satisfy the utility’s commitment to build X amount (or %) of renewables generation for itself.

    2. “Facebook’s payments for these certificates will help offset the higher cost of solar power paid by all Dominion ratepayers.” How? How much?

      This comment in the original article is a real puzzle. Solar power does not have a higher cost paid by all Dominion ratepayers! Where did this comment come from?

      Dominion has stated in its 2017 IRP that solar power is its cheapest source of new generation. To say that it is more expensive is not only contrary to Dominion’s own studies, but perpetuates a myth that added solar increases cost when it actually reduces the cost of energy. We cannot rely on it entirely, but it has a valuable role to play in our current energy system.

      Perhaps Dominion arranged a tariff to charge Facebook more, but that is not because solar costs more than other options.

      Dominion has committed (in its 15-year plan) to making most of its new capacity additions using solar over the next 15 years. Dominion’s load growth is coming almost entirely from new data centers and those customers want to be supplied with renewable generation. Solar is cheaper than new combined cycle plants and solar generation plus RECs can meet most of the data centers energy needs and they can claim they are served by renewable energy.

  6. Mark Heslep Avatar
    Mark Heslep

    ” the solar farms will generate electricity only 25% of the time. Consequently, Dominion will need to build about 300 megawatts total solar capacity. ”

    Yes, on net, though there is no magical storage system to be built somewhere by Facebook in the fine print. Thus this assumes the existing Dominion grid with its flexible coal, gas capacity act as large storage system of sorts, which in turn means the coal, gas capacity stays there, for as long as there is a solar system does. If it is there, and it must be for large solar projects, then flipping a switch to run the coal and gas is quite inexpensive meaning it will be used frequently.

    See Germany (Fraunhofer) for the logical extension of such a plan: 2002 48 GW of coal capacity, 2017 48 GW of coal capacity, and in the last half dozen year little if any reduction of CO2 emissions despite large RE investments.

    BTW, per NREL, over the months of the year, solar insolation in Virginia varies by a factor of up to 2.2, winter to summer. Worse still by the week, day. Thus if an actual storage system were to be installed alongside this Facebook solar farm sometime in the future, capacity must rise to ~500 MW to carry through the Virginia winter.

    1. The description of this deal is not very detailed. But it sounds like it will go something like this:

      Dominion will build some new solar facilities for Data Center customers and establish a separate commercial retail rate for renewable facilities. All energy used by the data center will be billed at this rate, plus add-on charges to purchase renewable energy credits.

      The Data Center will be supplied from the grid (which includes energy generated by a mix of various types of generation).

      For every kWh of energy generated by a solar facility, a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) is generated. These RECs are bought and sold in a separate marketplace that is subject to market forces and are not influenced by fuel costs, etc.

      Let’s say that half of the energy utilized the Data Center is supplied by solar. RECs will be purchased to apply to the remaining 50% of the energy supplied, so the companies can say they are using 100% renewable energy.

      Solar facilities provide a fixed price of energy for their entire 35-year life. A new solar facility generates energy at about $0.05 /kWh. It doesn’t make a difference how much solar capacity is needed to supply the data center. The wholesale energy cost to the utility is still 5 cents per kWh. A new combined cycle plant will generate energy at $0.07 – $0.09 /kWh and will increase over time as gas prices increase.

      Dominion has likely factored all of this into the new RF rate and will probably adjust it over time as new solar prices decline and conventional energy sources increase in price.

  7. “[W]hy can’t Facebook contract with any company to go build a solar farm somewhere.. to generate the amount of solar that will effectively offset Facebook’s use of grid power?”

    They can! That’s what Amazon did when it funded the Accomack solar facility that Dominion later bought.

    “What does the new Dominion tariff do – that was not already possible? I’m not at all clear why Dominion is involved at all.”

    Don’t know, haven’t seen Rider RF yet. PJM runs an energy market where all generators are treated alike as to such differences as fuel type, and different only as to marginal operating cost economics (how much per kWh of output?) and operating characteristics (is it dispatchable? does it run 24/7 or with some restrictions?). Facebook cannot buy in that market because that’s a wholesale energy market and Facebook is a retail customer. PJM also “facilitates” (does not run) a market for the sale of RECs (renewable energy credits) for retail customers of any electric utility in the PJM region including Virginia. An REC can only be bought once — meaning, somewhere, there is a kWh generated by a renewable generator and put into the grid for every kWh consumed by the REC holder. The time is not necessarily simultaneous — meaning, RECs from solar generation (which of course is daytime only) can be used at night. The money to buy an REC goes back to the seller in whatever market they are purchased/sold in. Your REC (Rappahannock Electric Coop) also sells the same RECs; ask them about how that works.

    I haven’t seen Rider RF but expect it will provide a mechanism for Dominion’s retail customers to purchase RECs through Dominion; and it may also provide a special price for backup grid power for the solar and/or a special rate for the transmission facilities that will serve Facebook (apparently these are mostly already built). Facebook could find ways to accomplish all this anyway as a regular Dominion customer, but how convenient that Dominion would provide a package tailored for data center customers to make it easy. For a huge nationwide corporation like Facebook focused on other things than buying electricity, but wanting to make a “green” statement, this business of buying PJM/DOM RECs rather than placing solar on its own warehouse’ rooftop and installing backup power or storage such as batteries is a painless way of satisfying its goals without the hassle of all that exotic solar and electrical switching equipment to maintain and hiring the extra people to take care of it. If you like solar, RECs are better than nothing.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      So how come RECs aren’t cheaper than conventionally generated power? And when can the public reasonably expect to see the price of solar-generated power fall below that of conventional power, using accepted regulatory accounting, such that we see a land rush to solar? Not be sarcastic. I just don’t understand the truth behind the rhetoric.

      1. A generator normally sells two commodities: energy, which is its output in kWh; and “capacity,” which is difficult to explain summarily but basically is a “right to call” on the generator to run when you need its output. The “capacity” value of a generator, in kW, is basically its nameplate rating marked down for reliability, i.e., the probability that it won’t be available when you call for it.

        The energy price of a generator in the wholesale energy market is whatever it bids to sell its energy for. PJM dispatches generation “economically” in bid order, cheapest first, so if a generator bids too high it won’t run very often; and if it bids too low it won’t recover its marginal cost of operation; the sweet spot for most generator owners is to bid equal to marginal cost. Solar has a marginal cost of near zero; so PJM will dispatch solar generators just about whenever they are availaable.

        The capacity price of a generator is what its capacity is worth to buyers (LSEs) a year or more in advance. To the system operator, capacity is capacity but all generators are not equal; that is, it doesn’t matter what machine produces a kW of electricity but the reliability of that machine when you call for it matters a lot. Solar is as unreliable as they come. At best it’s available only in the daytime and then there are cloudy days, storms etc.

        So solar has cheap energy but near-worthless capacity. Solar developers looked around for a way to make a little more money than the regular grid wholesale markets would pay them. So some clever people set up a third market for solar where electricity consumers who “believe” in renewables generation could buy certificates that assure the world that somewhere on the regional grid, somebody generated in a solar cell the amount of electricity in kWh that the consumer is consuming. Such certificates can only be sold once; but they say nothing about how close to the load served the solar cells are located; and time shifting is allowed, meaning, a consumer can “use” solar power even at night.

        These certificates, called “RECs” (renewable energy credits), are traded in markets somewhat in the manner proposed for trading carbon emission rights. To the solar generation owner they represent an additional source of income. To the consumer who buys RECs come the bragging rights. Maybe you or I don’t attach much value to buying enough RECs that we can claim no fossil fuels were dug out of the ground for us; but to Amazon and Facebook and their shareholders, and to a few other consumers, this matters enough to support the REC markets.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          so a couple more questions:

          1. when a utility wants generation is it also asking for “capacity”?
          In other words.. is it going to ask for 18 hours straight such that no solar generator can meet that spec? or will it ask for 18 hours and the solar will bid on some of the 18 and not other parts…and the ones that bid on the parts the solar can meet are going to ask a much higher price?

          2. – the renewable credits… so FB buys “credits” but the generated power has to go somewhere…so where? and I presume that whoever gets it – will pay for it… does that money get figured into how much the “credit” costs FB to buy?

          There is also an issue WHERE the solar is generated I presume.. you just can’t put it anywhere.. it has to be where the grid infrastructure is capable of handling it… i.e. you can’t just put it on some hilltop 20 miles away from a major powerline..

          Also.. shouldn’t it cost the company generating the solar – money to the utility that will accept that power onto the grid? The utility may well have to beef up the infrastructure and substation to handle it – just like they have to do when they build a new gas plant.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    There is a lot to learn from above materials. Here is my take.

    The Richmond Times Dispatch tells a remarkable story. How Dominion has been, and is today, among the best run energy companies in America.

    How Dominion has kept to it’s primary mission – providing highly reliable and affordable electric power to the public – amid, and despite, times of great internal and external change and tumult driven by forces at local, state, and federal levels, from abrupt changes to policies and politics given outside forces to the confusing flux in regulatory schemes, plus rapid turns in popular opinion and populists awakenings to hosts of new special interests.

    In my view, this is a story of remarkable corporate success despite many challenges. What I see here is a pillar of stability amid a sea of troubles, a precious and increasingly rare commodity is today’s rapidly changing world.

    And, for now, it looks as if these stormy seas likely will continue, driven now also by some new and awesome forces whose short and long term consequences are difficult to divine. One is the rapid emergence in the application of new technologies such as solar and wind whose long term effect and consequences are largely unknown, but whose potentials for good or harm are great, driven in substantial part driven by special interests of enormous and growing power.

    Here we speak of the political, financial and business interests of high tech companies with extraordinary reach, influence, and ambition that is weaving itself into the fabric of America, and how those forces will work their will within the political and regulatory structures in place in Virginia .

    For these new companies will and are surely right now placing altogether new demands on all the institutions of this country, not least on those of states, including Virginia.

    And this new corporate powerhouses surely will want special favors and advantages from all these states, and regulatory authorities, and communities. Such as great surges in the state’s capacity to build electric power generation per the plans and specifications dictated by the corporate powerhouses prejudices, bias, and financial self interests. Obviously, such special interests and their demands and ambitions are not necessarily in alignment with the long term interest of the State, its people, its landscape or its best future. And indeed are often at substantial variance from the long term interests of the state. Here think of the 20th century giant coal mining companies and West Virginia, how that industry left the people of that state.

    And, most importantly, how that debacle need not happen at all. Instead how things might have been changed to benefit everyone long term, instead of a few getting short term benefit at the expense everyone elses future.

    So, on the dark side, history tells us that these new forces could impose enormous harm, fuel vast dislocation of resources and infrastructure and land use within the state, causing instability to its grid as well as unnecessary duplication, wastage, inefficiencies and harm to infrastructure and to good long term land use of open ground generally throughout the state. All of this typically is caused by a land rush mentality and culture generated locally by special interests in too much of a hurry to take advantage of what often is a national trend, such as a debacle akin to what has happened in N. Va. in the last half of the 2oth century. A failure of good planning and disciplined governance in the long term public interest is what happened there.

    On the bright side, if you rub Acbar’s comments up against the those of Mark Heslep, there is ample room for hope. The vast limitations of solar and wind power, the great inefficiencies and clumsiness and waste that are inherent in their applications on the ground in the real world are now becoming apparent. That is what their discussion above points out to me.

    So the key question is – does the state have the wherewithal to slow the land rush down, property channel and regulate it, so as to get it right. All for the long term interests of all the people of Virginia, instead of for a few people?

    1. Reed,

      I think you have accurately described the potential for special interests to skew our future energy systems towards their own individual objectives. You seem to be more concerned about tech companies moving us more quickly to a system with a higher penetration of renewables.

      As a utility guy, I am more concerned about the ability of Dominion to prolong the old outmoded utility/regulatory system because of their stranglehold on the regulatory and legislative process in Virginia. Much of their success to date has resulted from their ability to use the rules to their advantage and to extract legislative remedies when regulatory decisions do not go their way.

      Because Dominion is so powerful and has developed an effective method of exploiting the cost-of-service regulatory system to their advantage, I am concerned they will use their influence to extend this system longer than they should. It is hard to abandon a system that is working. But that is exactly what the most well-managed companies do when preparing for a changing future.

      Dominion sees the “build more to earn more” formula as a long-term successful strategy, regardless of the financial costs to its ratepayers. This puts them increasingly out of touch with the needs of their customers. Increasing prices to meet shareholder requirements will give ratepayers a reason to do less business with the utility. We are now in an age where customers have many low-cost choices to increase energy efficiency or self-generate some of their energy. Failure to recognize this will continue the downward spiral in utility revenues, or cause rate increases to make the remaining customers pay more to replace the missing load from customers who have made smarter choices.

      Dominion certainly has the power to extend the 20th century well into the 21st. Will they truly benefit by being the best “mainframe” company in an increasingly “networked” world?

      I would prefer that they use their legislative influence to create a modern energy system and the regulatory structure that allows utilities to prosper by serving their customers better. This would include performance based rates and an open platform for third-party developers.

      The utility wanting to own all of the new solar facilities is contributing to the desecration of our countryside by renewable facilities that you decry. Third-parties will create more distributed facilities that are cheaper (they would not add the 10% return on the rate base), utilize disturbed land, and contribute to greater employment and higher grid reliability and resiliency.

      This is the future of energy systems throughout the nation. Over-reliance on old generating technologies put us on an increasing energy cost trajectory. For the past 40 years, every time we built a new generating plant the cost of electricity went up. We now have a chance to reverse that trend. If Virginia obstructs the movement to a more modern system, we will not be economically competitive with neighboring states.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: gas plants and solar…

    the idea is if you have existing gas plants like Dominion does -you can then add solar at that plant.. and essentially use the solar as a generator when it is available and drop back to the gas when it is not – a computer controlling the process.. much like a home thermostat that “blends” heat and cold from the HVAC with the ambient temp in the house to yield a stable temperature.

    It works the same way with co-located gas and solar… the computer know how much electricity is needed and it “blends” the gas turbine output with the solar output to yield a stable electricity level.

    when the solar is not co-located.. the problem becomes much more complex…. because how much electricity needs to be generated is not as easily determined.. if there is distributed solar putting out electricity ..a “controller” has to be centralized but able to “see” all the solar being generated to know how much gas power to add – or not.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    in terms of Puerto Rico – it does appear that wind and solar would be more vulnerable to hurricanes than centralized power plants burning imported fuel oil but renewables do have the advantage of being configured as micro-grids and not solely depend on power lines which also would be vulnerable.

    In fact, the powerlines were just as vulnerable as the wind turbines and it is restoration of the powerlines that is going to be a challenge.

    but I have to admit – if a hurricane is strong enough to take out powerlines.. it’s also strong enough to wipe out wind/solar – .. though I’m a little suspicious of the picture of the wind turbines because my understanding is that earlier turbines were not built to hurricane standards but new ones are.

    Perhaps that’s a question about power lines also.. for any island or coastal place vulnerable to hurricanes.. I don’t think it negates the value of wind/soar only that they too, just like powerlines are vulnerable if not built to hurricane standards.

  11. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    This article, discussing wind power, greenhouse emissions and prices for electricity in Minnesota, helps explain, by example, why I am skeptical of environmentalists’ claims. And why I don’t think they represent the public interest.

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