Thursday, January 5, 2012

The 500 MW Cloud

Started reading this study by Navigant Consulting. One part I found curious was that they didn't look at using Hoover to provide regulation. They said the reason for this was that Hoover operators would rather use the plant to peak shave. That makes sense but you've got to ask yourself, is the peak we see today going to be there in 5 years? At the very least you'd want to model whether photoelectricity is going to be depressing the market Hoover is planning to play in. If so, Hoover won't have that market anymore so they'd be open for regulation. The costs of regulating with hydro should be lower than combustion turbines. This is how I read the basic situation. Maybe I missed the blurb in the report that says they looked at these angles and determined that Hoover wouldn't have an incentive to change strategies. Will have to follow up.

The other obvious thing this analysis is missing is that neither NG or Hydro will be used for regulation as much as we tend to think they will. If I own a business or home with a photoelectric system I'm going to operate my plant to maximize profitability. If my photoelectricity is cheaper than the grid I am going to try to use that power when it is being generated and avoid using power when my system is not generating. I'm going to self-regulate. Self-regulation is way cheaper than NG or Hydro.

Funny Story... In Las Vegas the grid operators have what they call 500 megawatt clouds. What is a 500 MW cloud? Well... When a cloud rolls over Las Vegas all the air conditioners start turning down and/or shutting off because there's a lower heat load on the system. Add up all the homes, businesses, schools and such and you get about 500 MW. This makes me wonder - if we can deal with large load steps due to clouds shouldn't we also be able to deal with power output changes due to clouds? And in the case of Nevada, won't these effects tend to cancel each other out to some degree? When you reason it out the answer is yes - in a hot climate with lots of AC and lots of photoelectrics there will naturally be a cancelling effect. This natural balancing won't be perfect but it's better than a stick in the eye - at least it's not working against you. Kinda funny.

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