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Scott Sklar's Comments

September 12, 2014

Preventing Bird Deaths at Solar Power Plants, Part 1

I am sorry, but a few hundred birds from a concentrated solar power plant - we have 15 now and maybe will have 150 - or 4,500 to 45,000. On January 30, 2013 released, "Cats that live in the wild or indoor pets allowed to roam outdoors kill as many 3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year", says a new study published in Nature Communications. The Washington Post published a study's findings on Feb 3, 2014 that up to 988 million birds collide with windows and die. The biggest share comes not from skyscrapers but from crashes into smaller buildings. And on Nov 26, 2011 an NBC News report quoted that "tens of millions of flamingos, storks, pelicans and other migratory birds are being killed each year when they fly into power lines", according to a new international study. Let's focus on the billions, hundred of millions, and tens of millions before singling out a few thousand. Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor, GWU

September 10, 2014

California Takes Steps Toward a New Policy Structure for Renewable Power

A great article, but readers should know that MIT's geothermal study showed that the US could conservatively meet 10% of our electricity needs from geothermal - a 24 hour zero emissions energy source. Geothermal is an essential tool to get the US electric grid to net-zero emissions, and requires the entire portfolio of high-value energy efficiency and renewable energy options. We have immense geothermal potential in the western US, and the MIT report says the Appalachian region also has a significant resource. Time for federal and State tax policies, environmental and utility regulatory policies, and local permit and land use policies to drive the maximization of our geothermal resource. - Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor, The George Washington University and Steering Committee Chair, Sustainable Energy Coalition (Washington, DC)

August 22, 2014

The Next Big Challenge for Energy Storage

Energy storage at the customer-side of the meter is on an upswing, where solar (small wind, microCHP systems, etc) are charging battery banks dedicated to critical loads in buildings and infrastructure. As electric utilities start to put up barriers like standby charged, most of my company's commercial projects employ 'smart' battery banks to isolate critical loads that need absolutely reliable power and clean power (no surges , sages, and transients that harm digital equipment). The California mandate of 2.5 GW and the PJM ISO on the east coast are pushing systems for frequency regulation, which will drive larger battery systems along power lines interacting routinely with the electric grid. This will bring down battery costs further and build the learning curve. Battery materials are in a materials science renaissance, where costs will drop and new attributes tied to longer life are now oozing into the marketplace. The data that batteries are not cost effective is really silly, because if you store lower cost electricity for the times of higher costs electricity, alleviate the need for diesel back-up systems ( and their ongoing testing, O&M and diesel fuel change-out costs) and drop the need for power quality equipment and ongoing replacement (for surge, sag and transient protection) -- in many cases battery storage systems are cost-effective and viable now. - Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor, GWU, and President, The Stella Group, Ltd. (Washington, DC)

July 29, 2014

Net-Metering: The Great Debate

Some general observations on the article and some of the comments. Net metering generally applies to solar, but can also apply to on-site wind energy, too. Net metering generally is a benefit to electric utilities but energy efficiency and consumer-based renewables are fundamentally hurting the electric utility industry's bottom line, and a great article is on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal (7\29\14) "Electric Utilities Get No Jolt". Battery storage is increasingly becoming an answer on both sides of the electric meter. For electric utilities, batteries and other types of storage, provide frequency control and acts like a "spinning reserve". For consumers, it allows them to isolate from the electric grid (thus avoid standby charges), or shed loads during higher cost sub rates (expressed as demand charges, peak and seasonal power rates, as well as 'spot' market or ratchet rates). Net metering should be preserved along with energy efficiency incentives, new requirements for energy storage such as the 2.5 GW mandate by the State of California.

July 24, 2014

“Mom, My School Bus Is a Peaking Power Plant” and Other Things We Didn’t Say When We Were Kids

Russell is right on target with this article. And two electric bus manufacturers in the US have been pushing this very idea. Electric utilities have thud ands of diesel generators along transmission ones used for line voltage augmentation to prevent is landing. These buses, when not in use, can be parked along lines to do that, and then take their charge before they need to do a school run. The buses can be used during emergencies as mobil on-site power providers for first responders, or for critical functions - cell towers, pipeline pumps, etc. V2G is a viable tactic for resiliency and we need to take this approach more seriously. Thanks for writing this article. - Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University

July 12, 2014

Getting Out of the Weeds: How To Control Vegetative Growth Under Solar Arrays

I want to commend the author for not promoting pesticide-intense solutions for controlling vegetation growth under PV arrays. The use of animals, such as emus and goats, as well as certain sheeting and cloths are more optimum and low-energy ways to achieve the same result. We don't want to create other problems such as groundwater contamination, etc. and health impacts of introducing hormone disruptors and immune suppressors into the environment. Great article. Scott Sklar, Adjunct Prof, GWU

July 10, 2014

Lithium or Vanadium: In Energy Storage, It’s No Contest

There is no one battery technology that is perfect. And while the costs and size issues in the article are correct for this moment, they will change dramatically over the next decade -- and there are several other types of commercial batteries available beyond the two mentioned. Liquid electrolytes are great in a controlled area, but not so in remote or mobile applications (or hard-to-reach sites). Scott Sklar, Adjunct Prof, GWU and President, The Stella Group, Ltd.

July 10, 2014

Microgrids Missing from the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative

There are many omissions in the UN study from many viewpoints. While micro grids are one important omission, I disagree with the author's view that distributed generation is not an equal path -- indeed it is essential, particularly for low-power and critical infrastructure. Dedicated distributed generation (DG), not linked and thus not susceptible to cybersecurity problems, is also an essential tool. There is no one path or approach .. the more parallel approaches and redundancies are the principles that are required.

June 29, 2014

Welcome to the Grid Revolution, Massachusetts-style

What Massachusetts is rightly trying to achieve is maximum choice for consumers, as we have done for phones. No single player, no singe technology, no single energy source can dominate the market. Having a smart grid does not mean they can cut your solar off, but rather route the electrons to where they are most needed and where it is most economic. I have two self-generating buildings in Virginia using battery banks, and such systems are allowed in any case with smarter grids. While these transitions are always rocky, as it certainly was with cellular and the early introduction of WIFI, it's worth the chnage to provide options, lower risks, and ultimately lower costs. Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor, GWU and President, The Stella Group, Ltd.

June 13, 2014

Listen Up: Home Solar Battery Storage Systems Are Coming

I have PV-battery systems in my both offices and in my home. Most of my commercial projects include battery systems with charging by photovoltaics, small wind, small CHP systems, and even in some cased micro-hydropower systems. Battery systems allow users to load shift, meaning store electricity when it is at the lowest cost or it is free, and use it when electric rates are highest (peak and seasonal power rates, demand charges, and spot or ratchet rates all kick in). Battery systems also allow you to dedicate electric power to critical sub-circuits. That means you can dedicate the battery bank to an circuit breaker sub-panel to those circuits that you want absolute back-up power when the electric grid goes down - refrigeration, WIFI, wall phone and cell phone charging, sump pumps, etc. And batteries ensure very high electric power quality so you no longer have to worry about buying or replacing surge protectors (or ruined solid state equipment) such as office machines, appliances, flat screen TV's , computers, etc. Battery costs are coming way down, and operational life is longer thanks to cellular phones, laptop computers, and hybrid and electric vehicles. And finally, battery integrators are finally beginning to offer more standardize, modular systems with web diagnostics, and without jumbles of spaghetti wires. Once consumers start using battery systems to take portions their electro load off the grid forever, the electric utilities will negotiate more favorably on net metering. Right now they think they have solar consumers over a barrel, but in fact, technology and financing allow us to control our energy future .... the job of electric utilities are to support us, not control us.

May 17, 2014

Why New Nuclear Technology Hurts the Case for Renewables

This is a great article and makes most of the salient points. Nuclear proliferation is also one of the most pressing issues - that the more nuclear material and nuclear waste is out there the greater chance it gets into the wrong hands or into the environment. Nuclear has no place as an option because it is neither sustainable, nor economic, nor safe, nor resilient. Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor, GWU and Steering Committee Chair, Sustainable Energy Coalition.

Scott Sklar

Scott Sklar

Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The...

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