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Glendale Water & Power to repower Grayson power plant with solar plus storage

Last week, California’s Glendale Water & Power (GWP) received approval from the Glendale City Council to move forward with a plan to repower the aging Grayson Power Plant with a combination of renewable energy resources, energy storage and a limited amount of thermal generation.

The plan includes a 75-MW, 300-MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), as much as 50 MW of distributed energy resources that include solar photovoltaic systems, energy efficiency and demand response programs, and 93 MW of thermal generation from up to five internal combustion engines. The City Council also directed the staff to continue to seek alternatives that would enhance the sustainability of the utility and continue to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.  

This decision comes after GWP was directed by the Glendale City Council in April of 2018 to re-evaluate the evolving energy sector and determine if there were any new and viable clean alternatives to its original proposal, which consisted primarily of thermal generation with battery storage.

During the evaluation process, the public had the opportunity to provide input on and participate in information sessions regarding the City’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The IRP is a planning document meant to create a road map for meeting the renewable and clean energy mandates set by the State of California by 2045, if not sooner. The repowering of the Grayson Power Plant was an integral component of the plan and unquestionably became the focal point in the discussions regarding the IRP. Community groups and residents were involved with the IRP Focus Groups, community IRP workshops, and provided input through GWP’s online IRP survey.

“Our residents have been active and engaged in GWP’s plans to pursue a cleaner alternative to the Grayson Repowering Project. This greener portfolio will allow GWP to provide its customers with reliable and environmentally sustainable power and will enable us to transition to a 100% clean energy future,” said Steve Zurn, General Manager of GWP.

Louisiana’s military families to benefit from ground-source geothermal and modern energy-saving devices

Project modernizes aging infrastructure, benefits military families, saves significant money for U.S. Army

Last week, Corvias announced that it had entered the final phase of its geothermal installation and energy upgrades effort at the U.S. Army’s Fort Polk in West-Central Louisiana, a milestone that once complete will not only modernize the aging infrastructure but save the Army significant money and benefit military families.

Part of the U.S. Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI), a program through which the Department of Defense works with the private sector to revitalize military family housing, the work includes the installation of geothermal heat pumps and ENERGY STAR electric and water saving devices. All upgrades associated with this project, which began in 2018, are slated to be completed in early 2020 and will significantly reduce the community’s carbon footprint, said Corvias.

“Energy independence is a top priority for Corvias and our partnership with the U.S. Army at Fort Polk showcases the progress and impact that is possible when working together to find solutions and reach a common and important goal,” said John G. Picerne, Founder and CEO of Corvias.

“Seeing the geothermal work come to completion is a big win and we are already looking for the next series of projects that will likewise benefit the lives of military residents and families who call Fort Polk home as well as our Army partner.”

To date, Corvias has installed:

  • 100% of 1,130 residential water and energy conservation fixtures, including low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets
  • 63% of 3,772 ENERGY STAR certified Nest Learning Thermostats
  • 60% of the 2,400 planned geothermal heat pumps (and is on schedule for the remaining residences)

The geothermal project received approval in 2015, following the conclusion of a previous contract. Corvias then raised $34 million to implement operational efficiencies, create cost savings, and replace and upgrade outdated infrastructure within Fort Polk’s housing portfolio.

The program is estimated to average $1.5 million in energy savings and operational cost avoidance annually totaling more than $40 million in savings throughout the remaining years of the Corvias program. In addition to the energy and money savings, water upgrades will save 71 thousand gallons of water annually, the equivalent of 7 average-sized swimming pools.

Since the beginning of its sustainable housing partnership with the U.S. Army at Fort Polk, Corvias has led the modification of the development schedule to prioritize resident-friendly, immediate impact projects, elevated the community experience on base and provided attentive maintenance services, according to the company.

Energy storage plant set for southeast Asia

Finnish energy technology group Wärtsilä has signed an EPC contract for a 100 MW/100 MWh total capacity energy storage project in southeast Asia.

The storage facility, including the Greensmith GEMS advanced software platform and GridSolv, will be used for grid support purposes.

Last year the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) committed to meeting 23 per cent of its primary energy needs from renewables by 2025. The region is aiming to leverage its abundant wind and solar resources and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, especially as grid systems develop and economies grow.

Wärtsilä said its storage project will help provide some part of the reliability necessary to support southeast Asia’s transition to carbon-free resources.

It added that the Greensmith GEMS platform has “the ability to react near-instantly to smooth the integration of renewables, enabling the grid to emerge more stable and responsive”.

Grid support applications of GEMS include voltage & frequency regulation, reactive power support, spinning reserve, ramp rate optimization, renewable energy output smoothing and energy arbitrage. “GEMS will make it possible for grid operators to rely on renewables as baseload power,” said Wärtsilä in a statement.

Read my interview with Nicolas Leong from Wärtsilä about the companies strategy to become an enabler of a 100 per cent renewables transition. Click here

The Lewis River Merwin Dam: harvest, habitat, hatcheries and hydro

by Jennifer Runyon, Content Director

On Tuesday, July 23, about 30 HydroVision attendees had to privilege of touring the 136-MW Lewis River hydropower plant located at the Merwin Dam in Ariel, Washington. The dam was constructed in 1931 and has four penstocks, which today feed three turbines. The turbines were installed in 1931, 1949 and 1958, respectively. The fourth penstock, which was the focus of much of the tour, is for fish passage.

Tour attendees cross the bride over the Lewis River. 

In 2008, FERC renewed PacifiCorp’s license to operated and ordered the utility to provide downstream passage at Merwin Dam for the Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead. Today, through a $50 million project, the fish travel through a complicated yet elegant system of “chutes and ladders” finally landing in a sorting pond, where biologists count, tag and sort, by hand, the different species into holding tanks. Trucks then deliver the fish to various locations downstream where they are released. Certain species of the fish go to hatcheries to help the population increase.

Workers hand-sort all of the fish that pass through the dam. 

The controls for the sorting facility were designed by Bruce Benson of Black and Veatch (sponsor of the tour). Benson attended the tour to help answer questions from attendees. He said that from April to December in the first year of operation 31,994 fish were hand-sorted by the facility.

“I designed the control system part of it, turning the pumps on, a typical pump turbine, valves, operation, things like that,” Benson explained on the bus ride to Ariel.

“It’s kind of unique thinking about limit switches for chutes on tanks to fill the truck, how the water flows from the tank to the truck to keep from dumping [the fish] into an empty truck,” he added.

The facility helps PacifiCorp remain compliant with the FERC order and prove that there is at least an 80 percent survivability rate for the fish that pass through the dam.

Todd Olson, Director of Compliance for PacifiCorp served as tour guide and explained why the four h’s are important.

“In recovering salmon and steelhead here in the Pacific Northwest, we need to address the four H’s: harvest, habitat, hatcheries and hydro. All four have had historic impacts and each have an opportunity to address those impacts. Collectively we can all do our part.”

A video of the tour, produced by Clarion Energy, should be on the website later this summer.

4.5-MW solar plant goes live in Brittany, France

Hanwha Q CELLS GmbH said it supplied its almost 15,000 solar modules to a large ground-mounted solar farm in western France.

Situated in the commune of Baud in France’s Brittany region, the 4.5-MW solar plant was officially inaugurated and connected to the central grid on July 8. Comprising 14,592 solar modules from Q CELLS, the solar farm is the largest single ground-mounted PV installation in Brittany and was developed by local French renewable energy company Quadran.

Q CELLS said it was identified as an ideal module supply partner for the project because it had secured a carbon footprint (CFP) certification of 300 kg-eq/CO²/kWc for its Q.PEAK module range earlier this year.

Such CFP certifications on solar modules are a requirement mandated by the French government in order to ensure that renewable energy growth is as environmentally friendly as possible. In order to be permitted to participate in France’s renewable energy tenders, developers must utilize only those solar components that possess CFP certification.

A shining achievement for Brittany

Quadran, developer of the plant, hosted a well-attended event to mark the inauguration of the installation, which is located at Quinipily in Baud, Morbihan.

Interest in the solar farm is high for a number of reasons. As the largest such array in Brittany, covering seven hectares, the 4.5 MW solar plant will meet the annual electricity consumption needs of 4,400 local inhabitants, while offsetting emissions of 1,710 tonnes of C02 each year.

Furthermore, some 40% of the installation’s costs were crowdfunded by citizen financing – which ensures that offtaker EDF will pay an additional €3/MWh of power produced.

Maengyoon Kim, Head of EU Sales at Q CELLS, said: “The entire project at Quinipily is a wonderful achievement, and a testament to the desire of local citizens and the developer Quadran to boost the region’s clean energy footprint. As a leading solar module brand in France, Q CELLS was delighted that its low-carbon solar modules were selected for such a landmark solar farm.”

Baptiste Simon, Lead Project Developer at Quadran, added: “We decided to use Q CELLS’ Q.PEAK-G4.2 solar modules because they combine the necessary low-carbon CFP credentials with excellent performance standards, competitive LCOE and a renowned brand that we are confident will ensure reliable output for the 25+ year duration of the Quinipily plant.”

POWERGEN Europe will take place in Paris, France, November 12-14. Interested in attending? Click here to learn more.

Study: Fossil fuels are far less efficient than previously thought

Luke McGrath, Bloomberg

Fossil fuels, long regarded for their high-energy return on investment, are not as efficient as once thought. In fact, their final yields are not much better than those of renewable options, according to a new study. 

Oil, coal and natural gas have generally returned energy at a ratio of 25:1, meaning that for every barrel of oil used in production, 25 barrels have been made. But that measurement, called energy return on investment (EROI), has traditionally been taken when fossil fuels are removed from the ground, and fails to account for energy used during the refining process. 

When the refining process is accounted for, EROI drops to about 6:1, according to a new University of Leeds study. That’s comparable to the EROI for solar. “The transition from fossil fuels to renewables actually might not be as bad as people thought,”  said Paul Brockway, a co-author of the study.

Data for the study came from International Energy Agency and Exiobase. Over the 16-year period of the study (1995-2011),  the average energy return on investment for fossil fuels at the finished stage declined by 23%.

“There will continue to be a decline in those numbers for fossil fuels,” Brockway said. As easily accessible wells run dry, companies are forced to expend more energy extracting lower-quality products, which will then need even more refining.

The study warns that the increasing costs of extracting fossil fuels will cause the ratios to decline further, pushing the resources toward a “net energy cliff.” That’s where available net energy declines precipitously below EROI ratios of 5:1, which would quickly restrict fuel availability. Historically, such shortages have been associated with economic instability.

The researchers called for rapidly increasing investments in renewable energy, which may stop or reverse the decline in global EROI at the finished fuel stage.

LIHI certifies two low-impact hydroelectric facilities

The Low Impact Hydropower Institute recently announced it had awarded low-impact certification status to two hydroelectric facilities:

  • West Delaware Tunnel Hydroelectric Project certified, from March 29, 2019, through March 28, 2029
  • Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project recertified, from September 26, 2017, through September 25, 2022

The 7.5-MW West Delaware Tunnel project is in Sullivan County, New York, on land owned by the New York Department of Environmental Protection. It is part of their West Delaware Aqueduct, which supplies drinking water to New York City. The project is located in the aqueduct between the Cannonsville and Rondout reservoirs and is owned by West Delaware Hydropower Associates (which is owned by Brookfield Renewable Energy Group). It was constructed in 1987 and is exempt from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing as a qualifying conduit project.

The 59.2-MW Lake Chelan project is on the Chelan River in Chelan County, Washington. It occupies 465.5 acres of federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. The project is owned by Public Utility District No. 1 of Chelan County and consists of Lake Chelan, a 40-foot-high-by 490-foot-long concrete gravity dam, a power tunnel, surge tank, penstock, powerhouse and tailrace.

LIHI is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the environmental impacts of hydropower generation through the certification of hydropower projects that have avoided or reduced their environmental impacts pursuant to the institute’s criteria. The voluntary LIHI program is designed to help consumers identify environmentally sound, low-impact hydropower facilities. Certification under the program means the owner can market the project as a certified low-impact facility.

LIHI has granted Low Impact Certification to nearly 200 hydropower facilities located in 23 states and on 84 rivers and representing 15,000 GWh of clean, climate-friendly generation since 2000.

The 150,000-square-meter sky bridge of Shanghai’s ‘Rafael Gallery’ will be covered in solar

Solar company Hanergy announced that its thin-film solar modules will cover the 150,000 square meter roof of the ‘Rafael Gallery’ located at a Tech City in Shanghai.

Designed by architect, Rafael Vinoly, the ‘Rafael Gallery’ at Songjiang District of Pudong is a 1.5-kilometer sky bridge stretching across the top of over 20 skyscrapers, making it the longest urban industrial porch in the world. 

Outlined with successive curves, elevation between highest and lowest points being 18 meters, and floating above buildings as tall as 80 meters, the sky bridge resembles a giant rolling cloud, looked from afar. With a roof of 150,000 square meters, size of nearly 20 soccer fields, and weight of 14,000 tons, it’s also the world’s largest aluminum structure rooftop.

A bridge over water with a city in the background

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Rendering of the Rafael Gallery buildings. Credit: Hanergy.

The capacity of the solar on the roof of the Rafael Gallery is estimated to be about 1 MW in the first phase. Powering the 1.5-kilometer-long sky bridge, each 125-W thin-film module weighs 2 kilograms, and measures 2.5 mms thick.

Hanergy’s CIGS technology mean the panels offer better performance under weak light condition to efficiently generate power even in cloudy days, according to the company.

“The conversion efficiency of the panels on record is 18.5%, the highest among products of the same kind”, according to a technician in Dachang Mobile Energy Industrial Park, where the panels were manufactured.

The “Rafael Gallery” is expected to attract a cluster of restaurants, boutique stores, shopping centers and entertainment outlets, and serve as a base for high-end enterprises, corporate headquarters, luxury hotels, convention centers, etc. “It will become not only a new landmark of the city, but also a platform for high-end industries”, said a project director of Lingang Songjiang Tech City in Shanghai. The whole complex has already finished the first phase of construction and kicked off the second phase this year.

The “Rafael Gallery” is one of the key projects of China’s 13th five-year plan and supports the research for two of the national major topics by providing the data and spearheading the experiments for the study on renewable energy, large-scale application of BIPV products, optimization of multiple-format energy provision, and integration of CCHP and energy storage system. 

A bridge over a body of water with a city in the background

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Rendering of the Rafael Gallery buildings at night. Credit: Hanergy.

GE sells solar-business stake to BlackRock

By Richard Clough and Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

General Electric Co. agreed to sell a majority stake in a solar-energy business to BlackRock Inc., giving the investment giant footing in a growing market as the ailing manufacturer shifts its focus elsewhere.

A fund managed by BlackRock’s Real Assets unit will own 80% of Distributed Solar Development, a new company created from GE Solar, the companies said Wednesday in a statement. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

The deal furthers GE’s streamlining as Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp seeks to rescue the conglomerate by narrowing focus around aviation, gas power and wind energy. The Boston-based company is using mergers to exit the oil and locomotive markets, and GE has said it is “evaluating strategic options” for its venture-capital operations.

GE Solar, a consulting business with about 60 employees, has been incubated within GE since 2012. The unit, which doesn’t make solar panels, focuses on “solar and storage solutions for the commercial industrial and public sectors.” GE had explored solar-panel manufacturing but sold its technology to First Solar Inc. in 2013.

GE fell 1.5% to $10.23 at 10:42 a.m. in New York, while BlackRock slid 1.5% to $470.13.

Once Risky

BlackRock’s Real Assets unit, which has more than $50 billion in client commitments, started its renewable-power platform in 2012. The GE deal comes as investors begin prioritizing a solar segment that was once viewed as riskier than developments for utilities or homeowners: projects for commercial and industrial customers.

Part of the impetus is money, as smaller solar farms offer returns that can be more than 2% higher than big projects.

It’s also a matter of availability and supply. Large institutional investors have dominated recent auctions for utility-scale developments, crowding out other would-be buyers. And states including California have committed to rid their grids of emissions, encouraging more renewables developments.

Stay chilled: Lessons for district cooling from the Gulf Cooperation Council

By Dr. Raed Kombargi and Jad Moussalli, Contributors

Global demand for air-conditioning is projected to triple over the next 30 years, as the planet warms and urban populations grow, particularly in emerging markets. Meeting that demand will call for significant investments in new cooling infrastructure and the electrical generating capacity necessary to power it. Although traditional cooling technologies are expected to become more efficient in coming years, countries will need to plan for these additional loads, which will be expensive. Emerging markets can also make use of district cooling, an approach that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which consists of six Middle Eastern countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman — have successfully adopted. 

By introducing district cooling where appropriate, and by learning from the GCC experience, other countries could provide more efficient cooling and could generate energy savings of over $1 trillion by 2035.

Globally, most of the increase in cooling will occur in fast growing emerging markets in hot and humid climates. Higher living standards in countries such as China, India, and Indonesia will mean that more people will want air conditioning. Urbanization makes matters worse. Appliances and machinery create heat when they operate, leading to “heat islands” that are much warmer than surrounding areas. The International Energy Agency forecasts that demand for cooling will double worldwide by 2035. The amount of energy used for cooling will go up from 2,200 terawatt-hours in 2019 to 4,000 terawatt-hours in 2035.

The problem is that most conventional air-conditioning systems are designed to cool individual buildings. One system cools a residential apartment building when people are home, on nights and weekends, even if much of that building is empty on weekdays. Another system cools the office tower next door, which is largely empty outside of working hours. The peak electrical load required to service both systems is higher than it needs to be.

District cooling is more efficient. This is because district cooling aggregates demand among different types of customers, ideally a mix of residential, office, and commercial spaces. A single centralized plant provides chilled water to these multiple customers through a distribution network. The plant can then provide cooling to the different demand profiles. 

The result is that  district cooling systems are 20% to 30% more efficient than the best conventional cooling. District cooling also reduces peak power capacity by up to 30% percent on average, with an additional 20% available through thermal energy storage. Known as “peak shaving,” this prevents electricity providers from over-investing in costly power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure. District cooling also integrates well with solar and other renewables, which are likely to become less expensive over time.

The GCC’s extensive experience with district cooling can help emerging markets that are struggling to keep pace with growing demand for cooling. In particular, governments will need to develop a regulatory framework that addresses the commercial, legal, and technical aspects of district cooling (similar to regulations that exist for electricity and water utilities). Several GCC governments have already established this framework for district cooling, covering aspects such as mandating this approach in applicable new developments and retrofitted facilities, licensing for providers, setting technical standards, and setting contract and tendering rules. In this way, GCC governments can serve as models for district cooling regulation in other markets, offering leading practices and lessons learned.

One of the most critical challenges is pricing regulations. District cooling involves several stakeholders. These include real estate developers who make the decision to use the solution, providers that install and operate it, owners of the cooled spaces, and people actually occupying those spaces. These stakeholders all have different interests and objectives. Regulations are therefore needed to safeguard the rights of customers and create a stable market in which developers and providers can charge a fair rate of return for their offerings and end users pay a fair rate for the cooling they consume. 

Given the soaring demand for air conditioning—and the corresponding rise in energy consumption—improving the energy efficiency of current technologies is necessary but not sufficient. What is also required is broader adoption of district cooling. By bringing district cooling into the mix, governments in emerging markets can provide cooling more efficiently.

Dr. Raed Kombargi is a Partner with Strategy& and a member of the firm’s energy, chemicals, and utilities practice in the Middle East. He focuses on strategy development, concession agreements and commercial joint venture setups, cost reduction, operational excellence, capability development, and operating model assignments in upstream oil and gas.

 Jad Moussalli is a Principal with Strategy& and a member of the firm’s Energy, Chemicals, and Utilities practice in the Middle East. He specializes in oil and gas, utilities, and industrial development and investments. His functional experience includes strategy, investment, transaction advisory, regulatory framework, and feasibility studies.