This week in solar, renewable and sustainable news
In this week’s solar news, frequent power outages for Summer 2022 are likely. Also, California and Tesla will tap into distributed batteries to ease the energy pinch, and bees and electricity buzz together.
SUMMER 2022 SET TO BREAK HEAT, DROUGHT AND SOLAR POWER RECORDS
With the summer solstice just a few weeks behind us, the phrase “all-time high” has become all too common on weather segments across the country. According to most predictors, the heat is going to be unrelenting for the rest of summer 2022
For energy providers, that means one thing: blackouts.
Utilities across the country are on notice. The North American Energy Reliability Corporation’s Summer 2022 report warns of the potential for energy emergencies throughout the season as hydro power became less available due to the extreme drought in the West and Midwest. Even thermal generators on the Missouri River are expected to perform well below capacity as the water needed to cool them becomes more scarce.
Messing With Texas
But no location faces steeper challenges than the Lone Star State. In 2021, the Texas power grid became the poster child for outage vulnerability. Sporadic issues throughout the summer followed the historic cold-weather shutdown in February. These incidents all highlighted shortfalls linked to the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. Compounding the problem in 2022 is a worldwide squeeze on natural gas prices. The state gets 41% of its electricity from natural gas. With spikes as high as 700% in natural gas prices due to the war in Ukraine, paying for electricity even when you can get it is going to be a challenge.
All Bets are Off
“I can’t give a probability, but I would certainly have a plan of what to do if the power goes out,” Andrew Dessler, director of the Texas Center for Climate Studies at Texas A&M University, told Energy Wire last month. “One of my worst-case scenarios is for power to go out during a heat wave. What would people do then?”
Enter The Sun
Offering a path forward, The US Energy Information Administration reported that the U.S. increased its installed solar base by more than 65 gigawatts since that crisis, with almost a third of that capacity going up in Texas. Nationally, that means an increase of 31%. Wind generation has also shown significant growth, clocking in with 12% growth to hit a total of 138 gigawatts.
Solar and wind power are set to offer a lifeline for the American power grid this summer. With growing uncertainty on fossil fuel supply lines, that trend looks to continue.
Sources: ERCOT, Energy Wire, Texas Tribune , NERC, EIA
HEY NEIGHBOR, CAN I BORROW A CUP OF ELECTRICITY?
As California’s ongoing energy crisis comes head to head with another summer of record drought, few would say that the state isn’t considering all options for keeping the power on. This summer, Tesla and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will reach into homeowners’ solar batteries to help fill energy deficits. Through the voluntary program, Tesla Powerwall owners can elect to have PG&E tap their energy stores when the grid is in need between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. There’s plenty of incentive to sign up with a whopping pay rate of $2 per kWh. With off-peak rates at $0.29 per kWh, owners can reduce costs by recharging overnight.
With 50,000 units in the target area, Tesla’s user base is in a position to make a real difference. Owners can opt out altogether, set how much energy they want to keep in reserve, or just opt out during grid events. In the past, California has paid users to reduce the energy use in their homes at peak times, a practice called load curtailment, but this is the first program focused on “exports” from home energy storage.
Source: Utility Dive
ROOFTOP SOLAR MAKES BIG GAINS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
The Florida Public Service Commission is out with its 2021 Net Metering report, and it was a big one. 40,397 rooftop solar systems in Florida were added this past year, increasing the total to 130,947 solar homes in the Sunshine State. That translates to a 45% increase in one calendar year. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed net-metering laws that reduced what utilities would pay to customers for their unused power. In April, Florida’s Governor Ron Desantis vetoed that legislation, clearing the path for continued solar growth in a state known for sun.
Source: PV Magazine
MORE THAN ONE KIND OF BUZZING
In a solar farm in the Spanish countryside, the buzz of inverters mingles with a more primal buzz: bees.
Endesa, Spain’s largest electricity provider, has launched a series of pilot projects around integrating solar farming with regular old farming. The “agrivoltaica” projects integrate local produce farming, solar panels, and apiaries on the same acreage. The panels produce enough energy to power 30,000 homes. The bee hives under the panels pollinate seven-and-a-half acres of aromatic crops, including oregano, rosemary, and cilantro.
“Sharing and not competing for land use with the primary sector is the best mechanism to achieve the long-term sustainability of our solar plants,” explains Inmaculada Fiteni, head of value creation programs at Endesa’s sustainability department.
The facility also hosts training for aspiring beekeepers and entrepreneurs and promotes apitourism in the region.
The Weekly Sunshine Song
Big Star was one of the most influential 70s rock and roll bands that no one has heard of. That’s okay, because that means this is probably the first time you’ve had a chance to hear this gem. Few songs cheer me up more than Watching the Sunrise.