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Thread: Solar Power generation in Alberta - Truly competitive now, or soon?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    A while back I had a client at the shop who was involved in a company promoting microgrid powered neighbourhoods being the thing of the future rather huge transmission all around the entire country. His arguments we honestly interesting and seemingly smart and viable although I never explored it further. It obviously would not be something initially cost effective, but long term is it something that could be a problem solver, especially in places like Canada where we have such long distances between cities? I can see issues but I can also see benefits. Any thoughts on this?
    We use more than what we can generate on current solar tech.

    Then you get to dense urban area, you can't depends on solar or wind.

    End of the day, nuclear and hopefully eventually fusion is the right answer. Built for peak use and turn on bitcoin farms if you have excess power.
    Last edited by Xtrema; 08-06-2020 at 08:58 AM.

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    Current grid is built on the idea of a small number of remote generation stations powering the entire province. Having some significant portion of the generating capacity located close to the demand makes for a more reliable and more efficient grid.

    I'm personally a fan of solar, because it can easily be located right on or beside houses and industrial facilities. Combine it with a battery storage system and it gets really attractive from a reliability standpoint. Cost/Economics haven't been that attractive previously, but it's tilting towards it.

    I mean, if all we wanted was the cheapest electricity, we'd stick to burning coal, or at least natural gas. I think Natural gas will be a big part of the mix in Alberta for many decades, but the marginal projects make a big difference to the entire system, and I think those will be mostly Solar.
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    "Tesla begins construction on world’s largest Megapack project for PG&E"

    PG&E announced that it started construction with Tesla on a giant Megapack project deployed at the electric substation in Moss Landing in Monterey County, California.
    We first learned of the project at PG&E’s Moss Landing substation when they submitted it to CPUC and the company was in talks with Tesla in 2017.
    It involves four separate energy storage projects and two of them should become the world’s largest battery systems.
    Dynegy is going to deploy a 300MW / 1,200MWh project on PG&E’s grid while the Tesla project will be a 182.5MW / 730MWh, which could eventually go up to 1.1GWh.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjblair View Post
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    Just like we sell oil to the rest of the country?
    But seriously, think about it. Considering from a provincial perspective how many megawatts we need per year, and then Sask/Manitoba if we have excess. Quebec does their own thing with Hydro, as does BC. Ontario I honestly don't know.

    @The Cosworth how much electricity does the whole province use in a year? Who or what form generates most of that energy? Aren't there massive transfer lines already built intraprovincial and interprovincial?

    The advances in Geothermal has been eye-popping over the last couple years. Given Alberta is great at drilling with the experience and equipment here, it's perfectly logical to truly consider it.
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    Geothermal is awesome from a technical perspective, but last time I looked, solar was cheaper per mwh, and natural gas was cheaper still (and works 24/7).

    Have the economics of geothermal changed that much?
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    https://ieefa.org/wood-mackenzie-bat...ssets-by-2030/

    Wood Mackenzie: Battery storage will turn Europe’s gas peakers into stranded assets by 2030
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    Greentech Media:

    Europe’s power system will look very different in 2030, with energy storage supporting the “dominance” of wind and solar generation, according to new research from Wood Mackenzie.

    The big five European markets—Germany, the U.K., France, Italy and Spain—will get the majority of their power from wind, solar and other variable renewable energy sources as early as 2023, WoodMac says. By 2040, Europe is expected to add another 169 gigawatts of wind and 172 gigawatts of solar.

    As that variable output surges, Europe has four options for balancing out its grid: pumped hydro, gas peakers, energy storage and interconnectors. Only the final three of the quartet are likely to be the focus of new investment.

    For now, “gas peakers are more essential than ever,” said Rory McCarthy, Wood Mackenzie principal analyst. “They can ramp up to full output from warm in a couple of minutes for modern systems, have increasing efficiency levels at part loading and boast unlimited duration, assuming a reliable gas supply.”

    But by the end of the decade, battery storage will be the cheapest option for balancing Europe’s grid, overtaking gas peakers, according to a new long-term energy storage outlook. Europe’s energy storage capacity across all segments is expected to grow from 3 gigawatts today (excluding pumped hydro) to 26 gigawatts in 2030—and 89 gigawatts by 2040.

    “By 2030 energy storage will beat gas peakers on cost across all our target markets, resulting in a cloudy outlook for any new future peaking turbines,” McCarthy said. “Fuel and carbon prices are on the up, technology costs are not set for any major decreases and net-zero policies will eventually target the decarbonization of all power market services.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    A while back I had a client at the shop who was involved in a company promoting microgrid powered neighbourhoods being the thing of the future rather huge transmission all around the entire country. His arguments we honestly interesting and seemingly smart and viable although I never explored it further. It obviously would not be something initially cost effective, but long term is it something that could be a problem solver, especially in places like Canada where we have such long distances between cities? I can see issues but I can also see benefits. Any thoughts on this?
    As long as it does not involve the average homeowner, sure thing - the viability of solar systems for the average suburban in AB (still) makes zero sense.

    However, if a large scale entity for solar power got involved (eg. 1 sq km) then it does very quickly become viable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Geothermal is awesome from a technical perspective, but last time I looked, solar was cheaper per mwh, and natural gas was cheaper still (and works 24/7).

    Have the economics of geothermal changed that much?
    Drilling that massive hole is getting cheaper and cheaper. I just watched an entire virtual conference called Pivot2020 and it opened up my eyes to some very cool tech. I much prefer nat gas to solar and wind because (A) it's reliable and cheap and (B) my gut feeling is it's overall environmental impact from start to finish has a smaller environmental impact.

    I've been ranting for years about this but the raw material extraction for solar in particular is about the same or marginally better to open pit oil sands. Elon is going to need 3 trillion batteries to get the planet on electric vehicles. Where do those materials come from? Mars hopefully.
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    Don't disagree.
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    I don’t really care what people do about alternative energy, I just don’t want the government (taxpayers) paying for it.

    Got a compelling economic prospect? Go for it.

    Until we can get over that molehill i by definition can’t get excited about any of this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by killramos View Post
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    I don’t really care what people do about alternative energy, I just don’t want the government (taxpayers) paying for it.

    Got a compelling economic prospect? Go for it.

    Until we can get over that molehill i by definition can’t get excited about any of this.
    This was one of the arguments the fellow made... He Basically was saying that by doing these micro-grid type setups, the neighbourhood, small town, or whatever is covering the costs of having their own power supply and not subsiding the costs for up-keeping other peoples systems. It seems like a more fair prospect in that regard. Viable? Maybe not yet, but does it make sense working towards it eventually?
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    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    This was one of the arguments the fellow made... He Basically was saying that by doing these micro-grid type setups, the neighbourhood, small town, or whatever is covering the costs of having their own power supply and not subsiding the costs for up-keeping other peoples systems. It seems like a more fair prospect in that regard. Viable? Maybe not yet, but does it make sense working towards it eventually?
    It will only work if there is a product where everyone can generate enough cover their own needs.

    But what if a bakery down the street need more juice than your typical home, what then?

    Then eventually, you have to pool money to support businesses so people can have jobs. Scale that up and you eventually will have the inflexible bureaucracy we have in governments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by msommers View Post
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    But seriously, think about it. Considering from a provincial perspective how many megawatts we need per year, and then Sask/Manitoba if we have excess. Quebec does their own thing with Hydro, as does BC. Ontario I honestly don't know.

    @The Cosworth how much electricity does the whole province use in a year? Who or what form generates most of that energy? Aren't there massive transfer lines already built intraprovincial and interprovincial?

    The advances in Geothermal has been eye-popping over the last couple years. Given Alberta is great at drilling with the experience and equipment here, it's perfectly logical to truly consider it.
    I always thought this would be a good idea, especially since BC Hydro can take advantage of the California Market. Us BC as a battery. We have lines but not as many as I think we should. There is MATL to the US which is a merchant sale line. There is a BC tie through the CNP. A couple to Sask, but they have to go through converter stations since we're on a different grid and not sync'd. Those stations are expensive. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McNeil...o-back_station) I don't know much about the northern part of the province (i.e. to Yukon, etc). I believe McNeill is the only DC tie between us as Sask.

    According to AESO we used 84,925 GWh's last year. Down from 2018.
    https://www.aeso.ca/market/market-an...istic-reports/

    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    This was one of the arguments the fellow made... He Basically was saying that by doing these micro-grid type setups, the neighbourhood, small town, or whatever is covering the costs of having their own power supply and not subsiding the costs for up-keeping other peoples systems. It seems like a more fair prospect in that regard. Viable? Maybe not yet, but does it make sense working towards it eventually?
    @Xtrema is right (been hanging around the office too much? haha)

    While it might work on small scale, especially places a ways away from others, say your new place Bob. Everyone generates and uses the existing lines to 'share'. However larger commercial / industrial need massive amounts of power. Give you an example, we have a few customers who they use entire lines or multiple to themselves. Banff, Lake Louse, Sunshine, and everything in between won't use as much as some of our large customers. So you just can't generate enough. That doesn't include transmission direct connect customers at 138/240kV that AltaLink / Enmax / Atco would have that I don't even know. I know they're bigger than even we can feed.

    Additional to that is a technical challenge of maintaining frequency. The whole premise of electricity is on a rotating machine, either generating or using. New solid state stuff doesn't have that. So while you can generate the actual power, there are other issues that can't happen 100% on a semi-conductor system because of the actual loss of rotation. At least not yet. You still need mechanical spinning without losing frequency. At least with todays technology. It was presented at a conference 3-4 years ago but I forget the specifics now.
    Last edited by The Cosworth; 08-06-2020 at 12:23 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Cosworth View Post
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    @Xtrema is right (been hanging around the office too much? haha)
    You learn a thing or 2 from chatters over the wall. Even if it ain't my forte.

    I do miss the office tho. Lack of chatter WFH isn't fun. Teams is not the same.

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    Are @The Cosworth and @Xtrema electrical EITs? You seem very knowledgeable about this topic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Rural_Juror View Post
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    Are @The Cosworth and @Xtrema electrical EITs? You seem very knowledgeable about this topic.
    I ain't. But I did stayed in Holiday Inn last night.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Rural_Juror View Post
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    Are @The Cosworth and @Xtrema electrical EITs? You seem very knowledgeable about this topic.
    I'm involved in the industry yes and have done a few different roles over the years. Engineering, Estimating, Design, Operations.

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    You learn a thing or 2 from chatters over the wall. Even if it ain't my forte.

    I do miss the office tho. Lack of chatter WFH isn't fun. Teams is not the same.
    Well I'm in the office now, just me and like 3 people. Come steal a nearby cube! hahaha.
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    This is interesting.
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    LoL.

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    Wouldn't the ultimate be to use excess daytime power to say fill that drydam flood prevention project - add hydro generators and use that as your battery?

    Excess power - pump water uphill. Demand for power, start releasing the water through hydroelectric generators.

    It's like the dutch people knew how to make this work for hundreds of years and we forgot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyL View Post
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    Wouldn't the ultimate be to use excess daytime power to say fill that drydam flood prevention project - add hydro generators and use that as your battery?

    Excess power - pump water uphill. Demand for power, start releasing the water through hydroelectric generators.

    It's like the dutch people knew how to make this work for hundreds of years and we forgot.
    Would need time of day pricing for that to work where the price differentials were big enough to justify costs. They have one at Niagra Falls where they fill the resevoir at night and release during the late afternoon/early evening high power demand period.

    The Springbank flood mitigation reservoir is 4-5x as big, not sure if there is a big requirement here in Alberta for power demand balancing/management, but would be a cool project to see built.
    ---

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