Bacon Bits Does Electric Grid

Source: “Electricity Sales Forecast for Virginia: 2020-2050”

Boom times ahead for electricity. Electricity demand in Virginia will grow 30%, give or take, over the next 15 years as more energy-consuming data centers are built and more Virginians drive electric vehicles, writes Bill Shobe, a University of Virginia professor who supports the transition to a net-zero-carbon electric grid, in a new report. Electricity use could grow by more than 78% by 2050, the state’s deadline for achieving net zero. The increase will occur despite gains in energy efficiency that have flattened electricity demand growth in recent years.

Where will all that power come from?

Relicensing the nukes. Dominion Energy’s four nuclear units at the Surry and North Anna power stations produce about one-third of the utility’s electricity. The units, originally designed to last 40 years, are licensed to operate another 20 years. Dominion is seeking regulatory approval to extend the licenses yet another 20 years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has recommended granting that approval for the two Surry units. But some environmentalists are opposed.

John Cruickshank, an executive committee member of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, expressed concerns, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “The nuclear power plants in Virginia were originally designed to operate for 40 years. Many people who are familiar with nuclear power do not believe that they can safely generate electricity for twice as long,” he said. “The reactor core and other equipment weaken over time and there is an increased chance of serious malfunctions. This is particularly a concern at the North Anna Power Station, which experienced a significant earthquake in 2011.”

Dominion is ramping up. The Virginia Clean Economy Act calls for 16,100 megawatts of solar or onshore wind to be proposed or in operation by 2035 — assuming the nukes will be relicensed. Three days ago the State Corporation Commission approved nine solar facilities totaling 500 megawatts, according to Dominion. The company now has 5,200 megawatts of solar in operation or in development. Meanwhile, Dominion is seeking proposals for another 1,000 megawatts of solar, onshore-wind, and energy-storage projects, the company announced last week.

But… so is resistance to utility-scale solar. Proposals for several utility-scale projects have been rejected by county boards. Most recently, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted down a 149-megawatt project on 1,700 acres proposed by Strata Solar. Strata had doubled the money from the siting agreement it would pay the county from $1 million to $2 million and agreed to more than $200,000 in machinery in tools taxes. But preservationists, some of whom had fought a losing battle against Dominion to upsize transmission lines through the county, made forceful pleas for preservation of the county’s “pristine farm country.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The General Assembly can mandate a net-zero electric grid by 2050. Dominion and Appalachian Power Co. can plan for a net-zero electric grid by 2050. Independent developers can comb the landscape looking for solar-farm locations. But will county boards of supervisors give the needed approvals?

What happens if Shobe is right and electricity demand increases 78% by 2050, environmentalists manage to scuttle the Surry and North Anna license renewals, and solar developers can’t get approval for enough sites to add another 11,000 megawatts of solar?

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32 responses to “Bacon Bits Does Electric Grid”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I have to ask. How many counties have approved converting “pristine” farmland into houses – including Culpeper which is an exurban suburb of NoVa?

    How many counties have approved converting “pristine” farm-land into landfills?

    How many counties have approved converting “pristine” farmland into Nuclear Plants or transmission power lines?

    It’s okay to convert pristine farmland into other uses as long as it’s not for solar?

    Hypocrisy on steroids?

    In terms of Nukes. Putting more nukes on an active earthquake fault? What kind of sense does that make?

    These older nukes cannot quickly ramp up and down in concert with dynamic demands from the grid.

    Why don’t we hear proposals for NEW nukes that can quickly ramp up and down and are much less prone to melt downs?

    Why do we play zero-sum games pitting solar against obsolete nukes on earthquake faults to start with?

    Solar in concert with modern nukes is a win-win.

    Why can’t we not advocate for that rather than against solar and in favor of obsolete nukes?

    1. William O'Keefe Avatar
      William O’Keefe

      The answers to these silly questions are simple. Large solar farms are uglier then other uses and houses hold people who pay taxes. Take the subsidies away and solar would collapse except in niche areas.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        coal and nukes are also subsidized.

        and both take up “pristine farmland”…

        coal removes mountain tops and piles up ash where it is burned.

        Do you want a Nuke in your backyard Bill?

        I bet not. How about a pile of coal ash ?

        how about one of these in your backyard or “pristine farmland”:

        1. William O'Keefe Avatar
          William O’Keefe

          Coal is being replaced by natural gas and smaller modular reactors will be commercially competitive before the large solar farms are in place. I have no objections to living near a nuclear facility since the scare stories are all false. As for subsidies, get rid of all of them that are real subsidies.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            No subsidies for the modular reactors either?

            In terms of “subsidies” – do you count eminent domain rather than willin-seller/willing-buyer free market?

            on living near a nuke. For the average person – would they choose a Nuke or a solar farm in their backyard?

          2. William O'Keefe Avatar
            William O’Keefe

            Subsidies distort, so yes no subsidies for nukes. I don’t presume to know what the average person would choose but first they need facts not fear driven propaganda.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            On that last point, we could not agree more.

            But I would support subsidies to incentivize more modern nukes. I basically support Nuke technology but not the 60-year old designs that are now beyond their design life, still places that have to be sited away from population centers and not able to generate flexibly in response to demand.

            There are some things that government should do – like mandating the taking and use of private property for pipeline and power line corridors and the siting of nukes. If you want to see NIMBY on steroids in places like Culpeper – propose a Nuke there and see what happens.

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        All those people that those houses hold also demand services: schools, fire and police protection, solid waste removal, etc. Subdivisions seldom pay for themselves in taxes. Solar panels don’t demand services; they just provide tax revenue.

      3. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Plus, they can grow food plants under the panels. Being done.
        Can you do that under a nuke, or house. Shrooms excepted.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      ” … including Culpeper which is an exurban suburb of NoVa?”

      If Culpeper is anything it’s an exurb of Washington, DC. NoVa is a suburb of DC. However, Culpeper is a long way from both core NoVa and DC. Not sure I see it as an exurb. About as far as I can go in the exurb of DC department is Warrenton.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I know folks that commute from Culpeper to DC and Nova. US 29 in chock-a-block by the time it hits Warrenton… on commute days… Maybe an hour and 15 from Culpeper to Fairfax.

    3. Merchantseamen Avatar

      Solar farms are junk. Wind along with solar are unreliable. Just ask anybody with any engineering background. Natural Gas is the cleanest and the safest at the moment. Yes it has some by-products. Nukes is next in line. And yes I don’t want one in my backyard. The U.S. has the cleanest coal in the world. With the advances in coal burning it is next to an oil. Pulverization and atomizing to attain complete combustion is highly attainable. That technology has been around for oil fired boilers since the 50’s. You must remember only free markets (building a better mousetrap) will clean up the environment. You must remember the environmental groups is where the communist ran too after their collapse in 1989. They have high jacked the movement and demand CONTROL. Instituting mandates and draconian laws will not fix the problem. It just brings forth another whole list of problems. Check the monies spent to bring the environment to where it is today. then check how much it will cost to clean it up another 5%. About 3 times as much. Where will this money come from? I don’t want to here the over used “tax the rich.”

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Wind and Solar are cheap and plentiful – WHEN THEY ARE AVAILABLE.

        But just because they are not available 24/7 does not mean they are not useful.

        We just need to have a grid that can switch and use solar/wind when it is available and then switch back to the other fuels when it’s not.

        There is no such thing as “clean coal”.

        In theory, you’d think pulverizing it and burning it at high temps might make it cleaner – but the problem is that it has impurities in it – like mercury that cannot be removed and get into the environment.

        If coal and gas were clean and cheap – most of the world islands would use them but they don’t. Nor do they use Nukes.

        So what do the 10,000 inhabited islands in the world use?

        1. Merchantseamen Avatar

          The islands use the same as some 95% of shipboard main propulsion. Diesel Generators. About the size of a house. Big. Each piston weighs some 2 or 3 tons. The local VA hospital under Obama spent some 9 million dollars on a solar array. About 3/4 size of a football field. At maximum it provides some 2% electric power to the hospital. NG is the primary. They calculated 21 years before the cost is recovered. However they failed to tell anyone panel life is 12 to 14 years and due for replacement. Something tells me it is a feel good thing with eviro’s. The government needs to quit forcing the feel good legislation. Get out of the way of the free market and let them solve the problem. the perfect example? The current vaccine. was developed in less than a year. Why? Because government got out of the way. And the profit incentive of course. Electric cars are a farce also. The Hydrogen engine is the way to go. No pollution infrastructure is almost in place. Vehicle range some 350 to 400 miles with 5 to 10 minute fill up. Versus EV 30 min quick charge and 6 to 8 hour full charge. Just came out some 150 to 175 pounds of copper in each EV. Have you seen the a copper mine. Very similar to coal strip mining. Here locally i just looked up to install roof mounted solar. Complete package would cost me some $25,000. I get some tax credit. My insurance goes up as the panels are susceptible to damage. In addition i have to have special permit (permission) from the local government. The local government has some fees involved called taxes for solar. Unfortunately I am not allowed to add a small wind turbine that is illegal. Also I am tax for water runoff from all “finished surfaces” this is drive way, roofs, shed roofs, etc. It is also illegal to capture rain water for use as grey water. You must use the Water Authorities water. It is all B.S. and all about control. Sorry you are not going to win this debate. 25 years in power generation and operations. Now if the technology in materials can catch up then I could and would change my mind. But till that happens No not yet. I still like hydrogen for vehicles. Still using internal combustion and low cost of infrastructure change over. Oh yeah lets not forget Thermal. Now that is really neat tech. Iceland!!!

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            The initial solar panels that have been installed or more proof of concept than proven lower cost. But the panels have steadily gotten more efficient – as expected.

            Compare and contrast that to how lower polluting cars have come about , initially with issues then much more optimized and today, EVs with an expectation that lithium batteries will continue to come down in cost and soon the credits will go away (the credits actually go away after a certain number of units anyhow).

            Solar alone will use a lot of land and will not be able to be the only power source and this is why you don’t see them on the data centers themselves but instead the companies want to contract with a “farm” to basically offset what they use from the grid.

            We have so much land, some of it already used an abandoned (like old power plants and coal ash piles, etc) that the availability of land is not a problem. I posted a map earlier that showed that almost the entire county of Spotsylvania can be powered on about 1.5% of it’s total area on land that used to be mature forest and the owner cut it.

            In some respects we’re waiting for the next breakthrough in energy. It might be hydrogen. It could be New Nukes or perhaps something else we’re not all aware of.

            But the thing that the free market does this stuff is simply not true. Nukes came from the military. GPS and NOAA weather satellites from Govt. Packet-switching networks – (internet) was developed by DOD labs. Autonomous cars and drones – DARPA.

            we’re going forward.

            THe first and second generations of a lot of technology are not good enough but the promise is there and they eventually evolve and optimize.

            Solar powers spacecraft as well as remote earth stations and many, many applications where facilities are not on the grid.

            There has always been two camps.

            One camp is opposed to the government being involved and wants the private sector and the other camp see’s no problem with the Govt involved and can point to a long list of technology that Govt incentivized and partnered with the private sector to optimize and make practical.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Go solar now.

  3. Thomas Hadwin Avatar
    Thomas Hadwin

    I have not yet read Bill Shobe’s report, but I look forward to it. I respect his work. Given that, I think there might be some developments that will result in lower electrical usage than what he projects and certainly will result in whatever increase does occur not being Dominion’s full responsibility to provide.

    The transition from petroleum as the major transportation fuel to electricity will occur. It has to. The economics alone will favor it.

    Current electric vehicles (EVs) have a lower overall cost of ownership than their internal combustion engine counterparts, due primarily to lower fuel and maintenance costs. But most of the available models are in the mid- to high-price range. The next generation of batteries will drastically reduce costs, weight and charging times, and increase range. This will give EVs the advantage throughout the price range, perhaps by 2023 -2025.

    The move to autonomous driving will result in fewer vehicles on the road (cars and trucks). This, together with battery improvements, will result in less energy used for transportation than is used now. This will increase the demand for electricity, but not as much as a one for one energy replacement (of petroleum) that many assume. EVs can also provide a low-cost grid storage resource.

    Nukes are not the zero-carbon energy source that many promote, but their operation does release considerably less greenhouse gases than are associated with gas and coal. Setting aside the waste, safety and huge subsidy issues, extending Virginia’s current nuclear units for another 20 years will likely produce the most expensive electricity in the state.

    If you adopt the load growth scenario presented here, it is hard to argue against extending at least the Surry units for 20 years. But the inflexible operation of the nukes is a bad fit for an increasingly dynamic supply situation. Much of the offshore wind production will occur during the night, which been mostly the sole domain of the nuclear units.

    The Minimum Offer Price Rule being considered by PJM might
    make it more difficult to dispatch nukes against renewables. Whether PJM will consider Dominion’s guaranteed profit for nukes a subsidy, like those in other states, is yet to be determined. What is clear, that once in a RAC, ratepayers will pay a heavy price for the nuclear upgrades for just 20 years of service.

    Much progress is occurring with data centers that will reduce the energy consumption of servers and new liquid cooling technologies are reducing the energy required to maintain proper operating temperatures. Data centers have been Dominion’s primary source of growth over the past several years. Things could be quite different five years from now in this sector.

    The huge rate increases that are built into Virginia’s recent energy laws will greatly increase the cost of energy for most Virginians. The commercial and industrial customers will find a way to reduce their energy requirements and probably self-generate more of their usage. Residential customers that can afford it will probably do the same. Dominion will not be required to own or build as much new generation as they are promising shareholders.

    As long as we see it as “progress” to increase our energy usage, we will harm our economy and put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage to those nations that are embarking on a more advanced path for energy usage.

  4. WayneS Avatar

    I am actually eager to own an electric vehicle. But any electric vehicle I am going to purchase must be viable, reliable, and at least in the ballpark of being reasonably priced. In my opinion, electric vehicles just aren’t quite there yet.

    Here is a direct comparison between a 2021 Suzuki DR650S and a 2021 Zero DRS:

    So, I can purchase two gasoline powered motorcycles made by a long-standing and reputable manufacturer for the cost of a single similarly configured electric motorcycle made by a company I’ve never heard of before. I and a friend would be able to go on an all day ride without having to take a 4-1/2 hour break to refuel.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    to put some real world perspective on the issue.

    This is the solar farm that was recently approved in Spotsylvania.

    The solar farm has berms and shrubbery/trees around it. You don’t even know it’s there from the road.

    Spotsylvania is a bedroom communty of NoVa with about 50,000 homes.

    That solar farm can power most of Spotsylvania.

    It takes up maybe 3% of the land in the county and none of it was farmland – it was clearcut timberland that would never be farmed.

    In all of Spotsylvania , there is probably less than 10 real working farms.

    All the rest have been sold for residential homes and commercial.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    It’s just bizarre to oppose solar on scenery aspects when almost all other forms of electricity energy have their own similar impacts.

    And solar, is easily shielded with berms, shrubbery and trees.

    Solar next door to someone is far, far preferable to a wide range of other uses..

    here’s some of that “pristine” farming :

    or this:

    1. WayneS Avatar

      “Solar next door to someone is far, far preferable to a wide range of other uses.”

      Boy, you sure know a lot of facts…

      Seriously, though, this particular “someone” would rather have the pigs and chickens living next to him than a solar farm, so perhaps you should stick to speaking only for yourself.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well, take a poll… and include Bill O’Keefe and see if hundreds/thousands of pigs/chickens wins over solar!


        It may well depend on how much land you have and how far away you are from the pigs, chickens, cows, etc.

        I could be wrong – but as someone who actually has lived in farming country, my suspects are that most folks who live in conventional subdivisions are not going to be happy with industrial scale farming , pigs and chickens or for that matter a coal plant or a electric substation or a pipeline or a coal ash pile.

        Of al those uses, I think solar competes well.

        just my opinion.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      Nuke plants usually require reservoirs which create a lot of scenic beauty and more valuable real estate. See Ocono in Georgia. Absent the reservoirs, they also have a vastly smaller footprint than the equivalent generation capability from solar panels. And, best of all, they also make electricity at night.

      As for the earthquake fault … I agree. That was stupid.

      1. Thomas Hadwin Avatar
        Thomas Hadwin

        The footprint for a nuclear plant is vastly smaller per MW compared to solar, but not the site itself. Typically, for safety reasons, even when sited on an existing lake or river for cooling, a nuclear plant requires an exclusion zone of at least 500-1000 acres. So the land use is not as different as it appears.

        Siting most new solar in utility-scale facilities increases costs (when utility-owned) and reduces grid reliability because a single point of failure can take out a great deal of generation.

        Think of the overall reliability of a network versus a mainframe.

        Solar is best developed on already disturbed areas for commercial and industrial use, and small to moderate size community solar for residents, within the distribution system.

        Much effort has occurred to obstruct this type of solar development by utilities who want the billions in profits that ownership provides. Ratepayers receive no added benefit, just higher costs.

  7. Thomas Hadwin Avatar
    Thomas Hadwin

    I posted comments about 1:30 this afternoon, but they are no longer here.

    Here is a recap:

    I respect Bill Shobe’s work. I look forward to reading it. But I think he might be overestimating the demand for more electricity. Here’s why:

    We will transition from petroleum as the major transportation fuel to electricity because it will save money. Many current electric vehicles (EVs) have a lower overall cost of ownership than their combustion engine counterparts now – mainly because of lower fuel and maintenance costs. But most of them are mid- to high-end models.

    The next generation of batteries will drastically reduce costs, weight and charging times – and increase range. This will give EVs the advantage throughout the price range, perhaps by 2023-2025.

    The move to autonomous vehicles (cars and trucks) might take 1/3 to 1/2 of the vehicles off the road. This along with battery improvements could result in less energy used for transportation than is used now. This will increase the demand for electricity, but not as much as many assume.

    Nukes are a low-carbon source, not a zero-carbon source. Extending Virginia’s current nuclear units for another 20 years, will likely produce the most expensive electricity generated in the state.

    If we assume high demand growth, it is easier to justify continued use of the nuclear units, but we will pay a heavy price for them. Their inflexible operation make them a bad fit for an increasingly dynamic supply situation. Much of the offshore wind production occurs at night, which has been primarily been the domain of the nuclear units, because they have been bid at must run prices.

    PJM is considering requiring a minimum auction price for nuclear units that are heavily subsidized by various states to keep them operating. It’s not clear if the guaranteed profit for nuclear plants in Virginia (no matter the cost) will be considered a subsidy like those in other states.

    The huge cost increases that are built into Virginia’s recent energy laws will greatly increase energy costs for most Virginians. Commercial and industrial customers will likely find ways to reduce their energy requirements and probably self-generate some of their usage. Residential customers that can afford the investment, will probably do the same. Even if demand for electricity increases, we might not need Dominion to provide it, because they make it more expensive than other options.

    As long as we see it as “progress” to increase our energy usage, we will harm our economy and put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage to those nations that are heading on a more advanced path for energy usage.

  8. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Bring on those Renewable Energy Credits!! The more expensive they get the better!

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