Dennis Heidner's Comments

February 27, 2015

Wave and Tidal Energy in 2015: Finally Emerging from the Labs

I live in Washington State, the author quoted Alison Laborite as saying "Today, there are fully permitted projects which, once installed, will deliver 1365 kW (wave) and 1350 kW (tidal) of electricity to coastal populations,”

and later

"The DOE”s investment portfolio recognizes that high-risk research and development activities have the potential to more than double the energy capture efficiency of today’s wave energy technologies, and are needed to tap into the greatest marine energy markets in California, Oregon, and Washington,”

the high risk is an understatement! The only project that I knew was being worked aggressively was an underwater tidal turbine by Snohomish PUD. They'd been working on it for about five years, and that was a essentially a continuation of work that had been done with other municipal utilities in our area. This last year SnoPUD cancelled the project. The reason --- the permitting -- by the various federal agencies was almost impossible to navigate and keep the project moving.

So that being said, I am really curious where the 1350 kW of tidal power has been fully permitted. It is also important to note that the project size is 1350kW not 1350MW... an average size (utility scale) wind turbine is perhaps 3000 kW in size -- perhaps even larger at 5000 kW or 6000 kW. A 1350kW solarPV farm needs only two or three HomeDepot size roofs. A couple of low head run of the river dams placed on existing navigation dams - could equal the 1350 kW.

While it is important research, it is high risk. And missing in the understanding of that risk is the comparison to other renewable energy resources. If we took all of the operating, and fully permitted work that is underway - WORLDWIDE - I believe that the total energy capacity would still be less than ONE small utility scale solarPV installation or ONE large wind turbine.

March 04, 2014

Study Shows Securitization Can Lower the Cost of Capital for Solar PV

Securitization of mortgages, then repackaging with low quality loans later led to the Great Recession that started in 2007/2008. Perhaps we should learn from the previous mess.

February 18, 2014

Adequate Transmission Among Options to Better Integrate Renewable Energy to Grid, Says NREL

Corina, not sure if Lori Bird mentioned it or not... but Germany and the other northwestern European states also import hydro energy from Norway. Denmark isn't the only country to benefit. Germany also imports hydro from Austria. As well as nuclear from Czech and France.

France has imported energy derived from the German coal fired plants - and wind farms.

More details can be found if you visit the EC's electricity market observatory.

The biggest change that has happened this year is a connection of the electric market exchanges.

The size (sq km) of Germany is very important. The entire country could fit within Washington and Oregon. The difference though is the population density and heavy industry density. Excluding renewables - prior to liberalization - Germany had perhaps 100 utilities... the US has > 3300...

Finally the changes for the inverters - are not for EVERY inverter. That often is missed, as to is the reason why there was an urgency to change the inverters.

If you look at which systems are impacted - it is for systems over typically 20kW. Few US residential systems are that size. German residential roof top systems can be up to about 30kW, in part because the local distribution system is 240Vac THREE PHASE. That makes a big difference.

In the past many of the EU power systems worried more on the voltage at the customers site and less on the frequency stability. When the grid is smaller -- grid oscillations are less transparent. Connection to hydro in Norway is HVDC if I remember correctly.

A few years ago..(under ten) much of central Europe had a blackout that was triggered when a transmission line was taken offline in western Germany so that a large boat could pass under (a rare event - related to ship repair work - I believe). However there had been a coordination mishap, work was in progress on another transmission line that also served the region... and finally a third line was involved. The result was overloaded grid - at which point the frequency started to vary a lot... when that happened grids across the region separated into protective islands. The failure was not related to solarPV or wind. However prior to that frequency stability was not as high on the list. When all the analysis was done - the renewables needed upgrading - not because of a defective design. But instead because the previous design spec for the inverters was to disconnect if they sensed grid instability.

That outage demonstrated that inverters needed new firmware so they could provide support to the grid if needed -- if possible they were to keep producing power and ride through if possible a grid overload... and reduce power if they sensed the grid was running unloaded.

February 14, 2014

US Should Heed Renewable Integration Lessons from Europe or Face Consequences, Says NARUC Panelist

Perhaps the most important item to remember about the "European experience" was that until just recently (2014) the energy markets across the 28 member states were not connected together. While geographically smaller than the US, many of the markets covered just a few smaller member states.

Second item to remember about the "European experience" is that many of the countries (such as Germany) liberalized their electrical systems. The split off the TSO's from the generation, and from the DSO's. Customers can choose the "source" of the energy, the electric bill contains the price calculated for the TSO (with a profit margin), a price for the generation, a price for the local DSO's, and the EEG which a special case of generation. The EEG tariff is a small portion of the German retail rate. TSO and DSO have also increased their rates.

Finally it is also important to remember that the "European experience" is very fundamentally different than in the US. In Germany the energy system -- including retail electric rates have heavy taxes imposed on them with the intent to reduce consumption AND as a means to fund other government social programs.. It is often tempting to compare rates in Germany, against the UK, France or other neighboring states - but that must be done with a great deal of care and research... as some of the other member states subsidize the retail electric rates.

You need to peel back all the onion layers if you really want to understand the "European experience" -- and ADD into that understanding that there is a signficant fear of a repeat of the 2009 Energy crisis which occurred in the winter time when Russia decided to shutdown the natural gas pipelines over disputes with other former Soviet states on their cut of the profits from the gas lines. Energy security within the EC produced locally using resources that are also local to the EC are very important.

February 14, 2014

NRDC and U.S. Utilities Urge Grid Payments for Rooftop Solar

The key to the discussion is in the very last sentence:

"“We want regulators to decouple grid charges from volumetric consumption,” Greene said. “Then the utilities can’t use net metering as an excuse for the high fixed-cost charges they want.”"

This is the direction that the Europeans (many states, not all) have taken - but less radical. In Europe many of the markets split the generators, transmission system operators, and distribution system operators into three separate entities - TSO are then required to buy power from any of the producers - with priority to renewables, DSO's buy from the TSO's based on the end consumers preference of the primary energy source. Some customers do not provide a preference, some want lowest cost, others may desire all renewables.

But all retail bills in Germany for example - have a TSO fee, the generation fee, the DSO fee, EEG fee, various taxes and VAT added to the total. It is transparent.

As a first step within the US, the various states could request the utilities to make their bills more transparent such that the transmission, generation, distribution, and administrative costs are more apparent. Utilities would also need to plan into their IRP's the future shift in energy consumption./ production -- not over building on distant central plants that if not used result in high stranded costs.

January 16, 2014

How to Build a Clean Energy Grid

Ron, it isn't just to bring renewables to market. The authors point out that the transmission lines add additional capacity and many of the previously existing lines will be nearing the end-of-life by 2050. Grid scale storage only helps shifting the peaks. It doesn't meet the week long or winter time demands (case in point the recent Artic Vortex).

Changing population centers -- shifting manufacturing locations -- and hopefully a renewed economic growth by 2050 (even with significant energy efficiency improvements) will likely require new transmission lines to regions not previously served.

Transmission line owners are not necessarily the same as the "power companies" . Power companies can easily be defined to include generators, transmission, local distribution, and market operators... some are all... a few are just buyers/sellers. The authors study focuses only on transmission grid - how to improve resilience, and move future energy to market.

It is also important to remember that the transmission lines starting in the west moving toward the midwest also have high capacity baseload natural resources available. Hydro as well as geothermal and in very potential capacities.

It does not mean storage would not be useful... in fact smart grid is likely to depend on it heavily at switchyards, substations, along feeder circuits, and at or near user endpoints. But it will be diversiified.

January 16, 2014

England's Clouds Part for Solar as Panels Carpet Fields

The "Europe in Decline" makes it sound as if the world is coming to an end for renewables in those countries.... but what is missed is that the targets for renewables were reached faster than expected. Incentives were tied to the targets -- when targets are reached, they adjust them down or discontinue the incentives.

Bloomberg needs to remind readers that the reason for the change in the countries mentioned is that they hit their goals. I doubt Bloomberg would suggest that once a company has issued and sold bonds to raise capital... that the same company should just keep selling more and more bonds with the same terms... of course not. And when they stop selling bonds --does that mean a company is in decline? Nope. They met their target.

November 28, 2013

US' Biggest Landfill To Become New York City's Biggest Solar Project


Panels do not weigh that much. You can use ballast mounting... or simply pour wider footings and set the arrays on them.. The subsidence happens slow enough it can easily be handled. Landfills and brown fields have been re-purposed before in both the US and Europe.

October 28, 2013

Big Corporations Embracing Microgrids: A Threat for Utilities?

RWE announced plans to change their business model; moving away from centralized generation to transmission and helping roll out distributed decentralized generation.

And then there are the CHP installations in the rocky mountain region (who would of thought), that accounts for about 174MW.

And then there all the oil refineries in Texas that use CHP in their own "microgrids" to keep the plants running...

No wonder the investor owned utilities are worried, demand for product is flat or dropping, major customers (military bases, refineries, universities) are adopting microgrids, residential customers are installing roof top solar, and the residential, commercial and industrial customers are all looking at implementing more energy efficiency improvements.

It is the end of October, Halloween is coming up and the monsters are knocking at the door of the utilities....

October 08, 2013

Do Solar and Wind Cause Power Plants to Release More Pollution?

"In a renewable world....", Gerry, you have to have both hydro and geothermal available. Germany has little hydro electric production - and not much geothermal. Their obvious choices are wind, solar, and biomass. Even in the US, the drought conditions are putting considerable stress on the rivers and dams. The power outage in India was in part caused by a sustained drought that lowered the level of the dams and rivers.

Germany is using coal for topping! The new Cologne plant is designed specifically to integrate with renewables and allow a quick ramp up/down as needed to support solar and wind. It is a much more efficient plant than the old coal plants and it has the updated emission controls. If the EC is able to work through their issues with carbon sequestering - the plant could capture CO2 and be producing power with emission/CO2 levels below that of an ordinary Natural Gas peaking plant.

There are lots of engineering options available to meet our energy needs. Unfortunately good solutions are often not chosen because the legacy energy sources do not include the external impacts to society - while new energy sources are required to meet those requirements as they come online.

October 08, 2013

Behind the Scenes at the US Solar Decathlon

I just made it back home after spending four days at the 2013 Solar Declathon. The opening ceremony was held Thursday morning with a ribbon cutting. Thursday evening the Irvine was blessed with the "Santa Anna Winds" - these are winds 40-60mph coming off the very dry desert. Temperatures climbed to nearly 100, the wind blew over the LARGE landscaping trees in the park - AND the humidity dropped down below 10%. The competition includes water use (they are given a budget and when dry - its over) - the dry winds will make it difficult for some of the homes during the next two weeks.

I took along IR thermometers and measured the fields around the Declathon, the runway the houses sat on, the air temp, walls exposed to the sun, inside temps and north shaded sides.

The temps on runway were running about 130F. For several of the houses the exposed southern walls were running at about 145F, but inside the temps were a reasonable 80F. While that may sound high - the doors were pretty much open all day long for the public tours and the outdoor air temp was around 95. So that thermal mass in the homes, the phase change material was indeed doing its job.

Most of the homes used off the shelf solarPV and solarThermal components. While the house by the Stevens University team was made with many engineers on staff - many more houses were done by teams heavily influenced by their architectural teams.

Since this is a competition - for both energy, efficiency, water resources, architecture, and market appeal (saleable) most of the teams choose to concentrate on different areas of the contest. All the houses offered the visitors a chance to see different designs that were made for their teams specific theme. DesertSol, Urban Eden, the themes provide a hint of what the homes offer.

The 2013 Solar Declathon runs for another week. The website is On the left of the home page is the "teams" button, it expands into a list of all the teams and their team page. On each of the team pages you can read the overview of their project, the highlights -- and if desired on the right side of the team pages you can down load and read their project manuals.

The teams should be commended for their hard work!!!

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