New Transmission to Expand Midwestern Wind Power

February 16, 2016 in Electricity Authors: Dane McFarlane, Matt Prorok

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A set of new electric transmission lines, developed with the help of the Great Plains Institute, is under construction to connect more Midwestern wind power to large cities in the east. The Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO), which operates the electric grid in the Midwest, has been moving forward with the Multi-Value Project (MVP) portfolio since 2011. Continue reading »

GPI Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Road Trip

July 30, 2015 in Electricity Author: Mike Gregerson

Our week long renewable energy and storage road trip started in Denver ended in Long Beach, CA. These areas are at the center of many electricity system changes brought about by California’s drive to clean energy.

We had already visited NREL’s new Energy Facilities Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, CO and had good meetings with Xcel Energy and RES America regarding their work in energy storage.

We also toured the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System near Las Vegas, a 3-unit solar thermal power system based on mirror and steam tower technology capable of generating over 400MW.

We then toured the Desert Sunlight Solar PV plant near Palm Springs, CA which is a pure PV play with over 8 MILLION (yes that’s Million)  panels capable of generating over 500MW of electricity.

The only solar generating technology we were not able to visit was the parabolic mirror tube technology which uses either oil or molten salt to store heat and generate electricity. There are projects in Arizona and one being built in CA which would definitely be worth a visit in the future. We were very impressed by the openness and frankness of both tour guides at Ivanpah and Desert Sunlight and have a number of insights we will share in other blogs.

Finishing with a visit to AES

All of this leads us to AES Southland which is doing amazing things with energy storage and natural gas power plants in the Los Angeles area. We visited the AES Southland facility in Long Beach which currently has 6 older natural gas power plants. These are used as peaking power and system reserve capacity in a PPA with Southern California Edison (SCE).

AES has won several battery energy storage projects in CA with SCE along with new Combined Cycle Natural Gas power plants (CCNG). All of these facilities will be built at the Long Beach and Huntington Beach plant locations. AES plans on installing 100 MW of Samsung Lithium-Ion batteries at the Long Beach location. This battery installation will be capable of a 4 hour discharge and will work in concert with the natural gas facilities to serve SCE customers. AES is also designing the facility to hold up to 300MW of battery storage since the reaction of SCE planners has been very positive to the potential economic and reliability benefits of the battery storage units.

We were able to see a demonstration rack of batteries at the AES facility and it is truly amazing. The battery packs come in cardboard boxes the size of a stereo receiver and get put into a vertical rack, plugged into each other in groups of 8. Each group is then hooked up to the distribution collection grid with a set of plug in wires. AES said construction is literally done in hours for each rack.

We all felt that the AES people had a good handle on the future electric system requirements of this new distributed and clean energy system and we are hopeful that enough will be learned in the LA area to help other utilities, RTO’s and regulators become more comfortable with the options and benefits presented by an integrated renewable energy and energy storage system.


Visiting Unique Concentrated Solar Power Facility in the Desert

July 24, 2015 in Electricity Author: Dane McFarlane

On July 22nd, four of us from GPI visited a concentrated solar power (CSP) facility, the only one of its kind in North America, located near the Mojave Desert in Ivanpah, California. The Ivanpah facility is operated by NRG Energy and has been producing electricity since January, 2014, through a 5 mile wide network of mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto three 450 foot tall towers. Continue reading »

Give wind a chance: new infrastructure needed to expand renewable energy

February 23, 2015 in Electricity Author: Steve Dahlke

Wind TurbineThose who have lived in the Midwest a long time may remember the power line fights of the 1970’s, when farmers across Minnesota organized against electric transmission development. One large project required deployment of half of Minnesota’s highway patrol troopers to complete construction. One reason for the controversy back then was infrastructure projects were planned behind closed doors with minimal regulatory oversight. Continue reading »

Integrating clean, distributed energy resources (DER) into the electric grid requires updated market rules

January 22, 2015 in Electricity Author: Steve Dahlke

BuildingEnergy policy discussions these days are dominated by talk of innovation on electric distribution systems. New clean energy technologies are developing so quickly it can be difficult to keep up with the relevant buzz-words; as digitization of the smart grid leads to rapid innovation, new distributed energy resources are causing disruptive challenges requiring electric utility and energy market reform.  Continue reading »