Guest post by Rud Istvan
Part One provided a high level overview of SoCalEd’s silly version of the Green New Deal. This second guest post flies strafing low and slow over point one of five of SoCalEd’s net neutral carbon 2045 plan—decarbonized grid electricity.
There are two pathways to decarbonized grid electricity: nuclear, or renewables. SoCalEd did not advocate nuclear. In a sense, that is good, because building out Gen 3 nuclear (like the now grossly over budget Voglte 3 and 4 units in Georgia) is an exercise in futility. The rational answer is to use the time that fracked natural gas and CCGT gives to experiment with the several Gen 4 nuclear concepts at proof of concept/experimental scale, pick one (or more) winners, and roll out 4G nuclear engineering winner(s) in future decades. Several realistic 4G options are discussed (with footnotes) in my ‘Going Nuclear’ essay in ebook Blowing Smoke.
Nope. SoCalEd chose renewables, as imaged from Summary (1) Pathway 2045.
All retail electricity sales will be grid wind and solar by 2045! That is a VERY tall order, because there are just a few MAJOR technical engineering problems in addition to the economics, which SoCalEd MUST know about.
Economically, it is well established both in the US and in Europe that wind and solar do NOT thrive absent significant subsidies. A now dated figure from my CE guest post on ‘True Cost of Wind’ suffices:
The explanation for this figure is simple. As explained in the referenced CE guest post, the true cost of CCGT on the Texas ERCOT grid is about $57/MWh; the true cost of wind on that same (windy)Texas grid at ~10% penetration is about $146/MWh. No one in their economic right mind would opt for wind without massive subsidies. But SoCalEd has!
Solar is worse than wind. See CE post Grid Solar Parity for explanations.
The fact that renewables are more expensive is the least part of the awful grid story that SoCalEd does NOT tell their customers. The bigger problems are that renewables are also intermittent, and provide no grid inertia. These are distinctly different problems, both fatal. The first economically, the second technically.
Intermittency requires some form of grid backup power. The issue is that this is a cost the grid operator, not the subsidized renewable provider, bears. The details are complicated, because they depend on renewable penetration versus inherent grid backup generation, typicaly between 10 and 15%. But for sure (as the above references explain), as renewable penetration approaches 10%, additional grid backup capacity MUST be added for reliability. That could be Norse interconnect hydro for Germany, Quebec hydro for Ontario, or out of state generation for California. BUT California is already outstripping its ability to parasite backup electricitiy from other states. Especially after the old Four Corners (coal) is shut because now obsolescent.
Grid interia is an AC frequency stability problem. Instability means blackouts even if the grid is on average adequatelly supplied with backup generation. Enormously heavy rotating generator masses ( each hundreds of tons) in a conventional fossil fuel supplied grid provide (per Newton’s First and Second Laws) grid inertia. Neither wind nor solar supply any grid inertia, by definition. Grid inertia is essential to stabilize grid frequency.
Grid inertia is an old and well known EE problem in conventional grids where demand is remote from supply. It is solved by putting in local costly ‘synchronous condensers’, essentially large undriven generators which just supply/absorb rotating kinetic AC energy when needed. Below (per CtM request) is one of 6 that supply reactive current/frequency control to metropolitan Tokyo, since all its generationg stations are remote. Tokyo has NO renewable electricity supply as SoCalEd envisions in its point 1. And Tokyo is a LOT smaller than SoCal.
SoCalEd would have to install hundreds of these Toshiba 200MVAR (multi hundred million dollar each) synchronous condensers to meet some minimum grid reliability spec given its 2045 goals. Their paper did not explain the known AC grid inertia engineering problem (complex mathematics where i [square root of minus one] computes frequency in the AC complex math plane of a+bi* c+di).
This part two of six illustrates how SoCalEd deceived Californians with Pathway 2045 part 1, and explains why and how with references. Stay tuned for post 3.