Doomsday weather scenario … without the doom.


Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 10.58.55 AM
(Departure from average temperatures worldwide. Blue = colder than average, Red = warmer than average. Source: University of Maine Climate Change Institute’s Climate Re-Analyzer, screenshot 1/6/18.)

Baby, it’s cold outside.

This current weather pattern over the eastern half of the US is the pipeline-doomsday scenario pro-pipeline professionals and lobbyists have been warning us about. And yet, everyone still has heat and the lights are still on.

Are wholesale “natural” gas prices high right now? Yes.
(Check ISO-NE’s site for real-time data.)
But that’s because competing needs for heat and electric generation in a cold snap and the faulty market pricing strategy. This pinch will not be relieved by more pipeline capacity, but just serve to make us more reliant on the fuel source that is putting us in this position.

Conservation Law Foundation recently eloquently summed up the nature of these price spikes:

“… it is critical to acknowledge the historically short duration of winter price spikes. When they occur, they are limited to a handful of hours during the mornings and evenings of only our coldest days, when there is a coincidence of high gas use for heating and for generating electricity. As a result, these costly “needle peak” demands for electricity generally occur only 10 to 40 days out of the year, or in the range of 5 percent of the total hours the system operates in a year. The prospect of spending billions of dollars on pipelines that will sit idle 95 percent of the time and become obsolete in the next 10 to 15 years as our grid becomes increasingly clean defies all economic sense, environmental sense, and common sense. “

Are the chief supply lines coming in from the Marcellus region (Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipline, and Enbridge’s Algonquin) near capacity during these cold snaps? Yes.
But thanks to the drop in electric demand because of energy efficiency, the system is working, even in this recent, uncharacteristically severe cold snap. The way forward is to double down energy efficiency and sharply increase renewables, not hamstring the region with a decades-long commitment to new fossil fuel infrastructure and an even greater dependency on “natural” gas and it’s price volatility.

ISO-NE’s Power System Updates show that despite the recent spate of cold, New England’s bulk power system is continuing to operate reliably. Even with Pilgrim nuclear plant tripping offline and Winter Storm Grayson delaying fuel deliveries, the system had continued to function and provide power reliably without the need for increased pipeline capacity.

“New England’s bulk power system continues to operate reliably. Currently, there are sufficient generating resources available to meet consumer demand and maintain power system reliability this weekend, barring an unexpected outage of any large system resource. While the ISO is continually assessing the reliability of the system, we will be challenged to deal with major contingencies under these cold weather conditions. In addition, the ISO doesn’t expect generator emission limitations to impede weekend grid operations.”

» See ISO-NE’s recent Power Systems Update

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 1.57.07 PM
(Source: ISO-NE website, screenshot 1/6/18, 1:58 pm)

Use of oil for electric generation has gone up during this time. (Check ISO-NE’s site for real-time data on the mix of fuels providing electricity at any given time.) This is because the cost of natural gas is driven up by the market structure that allows long-term contracts for pipeline capacity for heating, leaving electric generation to purchase at market rate. For plants that can choose which fuel to use, or for electric generation operations that have both kinds of power plants available, oil becomes the cheaper choice.

As oil plants go the way of coal plants in Massachusetts and eventually retire from operation, this wholesale gas pricing dynamic that pits home heating against electric generation during cold weather remains in place. Adding more pipeline capacity to the region would only make us even more dependent on this one source of fuel that’s prone to market price-swings.

Our efforts as a region need to move forward into diversifying our energy supply with sharp increases in appropriately sited solar, wind, grid-scale peak demand storage and further increases in energy efficiency.  The functioning of our existing energy systems in recent extreme weather has shown that the call for more pipeline capacity in the face of polar vortex scenarios is a paper tiger.

Mass. Town Must Let Enbridge Unit Build Station, Judge Says

By Christine Powell, Law360
January 2, 2018

A Massachusetts federal judge sided with an Enbridge Inc. unit on Friday by holding that federal energy law preempted the town of Weymouth’s decision to deny Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC permission to build a compressor station there as part of the Atlantic Bridge natural gas pipeline project.

U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper granted Algonquin’s motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit arguing that the town and the Weymouth Conservation Commission could not block plans to construct the compressor station because the federal government has the authority to approve interstate pipeline projects under the Natural Gas Act.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the Atlantic Bridge project the green light, but the Weymouth Conservation Commission denied Algonquin’s request for permits for the compression station under a town wetlands protection ordinance, according to the order.

“When FERC has already ‘carefully reviewed the very’ proposal defendants ‘seek to further regulate and, after considering environmental impacts, authorized the project,’ the WPO as applied to the AB project ‘clearly collides with FERC’s delegated authority and is preempted,’” the judge wrote.

In particular, Judge Casper noted that when the conservation commission denied Algonquin’s request, it cited concerns about the negative effects of odors, noise and visual impacts, the excessive risk of explosions and possible hurricane-related damage to the facility.

However, the judge said, “as part of its environmental assessment, FERC had already considered these issues, determining that no environmental impact study was required to proceed, and after the statutory comment period issued a certificate to Algonquin authorizing construction and operation of the compressor station.”

With the order, Judge Casper also denied Weymouth and the Weymouth Conservation Commission’s motion to dismiss Algonquin’s lawsuit. While the town and the conservation commission had argued that Algonquin’s claim for declaratory relief was time-barred, the judge disagreed.

In a statement to Law360 on Tuesday, Enbridge said it was pleased with the judge’s order, which it said means an underlying administrative dispute between it and the Weymouth Conservation Commission can resume.

“We now look forward to the [administrative law judge] completing the administrative challenge proceeding and obtaining the remainder of our permits for the Weymouth compressor station,” the company added.

Representatives for the town and the conservation commission were not immediately available for comment.

The Atlantic Bridge project is an expansion of the Algonquin Gas Transmission and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline interstate pipeline systems and calls for the construction of replacement pipeline, a new compressor station, a new meter and regulating station, and additional compression at existing compressor stations in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Recently, FERC stood by its approval of the project, rejecting arguments from environmentalists and local municipalities that its environmental review was flawed.

Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC is represented by James T. Finnigan and Nathaniel C. Donoghue of Rich May PC.

The town of Weymouth and the Weymouth Conservation Commission are represented by town solicitor Joseph Callanan as well as by J. Raymond Miyares and Rebekah Lacey of Miyares & Harrington LLP.

The case is Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC v. Weymouth Conservation Commission et al., case number 1:17-cv-10788, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

–Additional reporting by Keith Goldberg and Melissa Lipman. Editing by Alanna Weissman.

» Read original article


Columnist Marty Nathan: Build stature as clean-energy community

by Marty Nathan, Daily Hampshire Gazette
January 03, 2018

Recently, a group of women friends and I were discussing the problem of climate change, and we found we were split on an issue: what to do about climate deniers.

Several wanted to pursue dialogue with those who publicly opposed the idea that climate change is occurring and is caused by human burning of fossil fuels. But an outspoken local religious leader whom I greatly admire stated bluntly that she just didn’t have time for that, that there was too much to be done and that is not where she was willing to put her energy. I agreed.

Last week Donald Trump disparaged the existence of climate change in light of the severe cold snap that we in the Northeast are facing. This standard climate-denial meme (Sen. James Inhofe’s snowball in the Senate chamber) deliberately conflates weather with climate. Weather is what is happening now. Climate is the long-term trend.

And there is no doubt among honest scientists about the character of the trend: Temperatures and sea levels are rising much faster than expected. Climate change certainly can include snowstorms and cold snaps, but the process overall is bringing us more heat waves, droughts and wildfires, more severe tropical hurricanes, melting glaciers, sea ice and tundra, flooding, and coral reef and species destruction. And 2017 was nothing if not the pudding that provided the proof, from California and Oregon wildfires to Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma.

Say you are alarmed by what you see happening all around you. How do you spend your energy? Do you listen to and try to win over President Trump’s base, be it the uncle who sits next to you at Thanksgiving dinner or your co-worker whose pastor preaches that climate change is a hoax promulgated by blasphemers. It’s not that I think it would be wrong to gather those who refute climate science, re-present all the evidence that has accumulated over the last three decades, listen to their critique and develop a respectful dialogue. Here are the problems:

1. Time — we don’t have it. With business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, we are on course for warming the planet from nearly 5 degrees to over 7 degrees Centigrade by the year 2100. Those temperatures are incompatible with most life on earth.

2. Resources — we don’t have enough. At the moment we regular Americans and some state governments are up against the power of the federal government which, since last January, has become a fully-owned subsidiary of the insanely rich fossil fuel industry.

3. The possibility of engaging in honest dialogue is limited, particularly regarding those actively purveying anti-science. By 2018 they have self-selected for vigorously ignoring or disputing the mounds of evidence of global warming, presumably out of a vested interest in continued burning of coal, gas and oil. In my experience, one doesn’t get a whole lot of bang for one’s limited buck here.
Instead, most of those who are actively trying to save the planet from biocide are concentrating on building a movement entwined with the peace and justice uprising that is opposing the Republican Party’s theft of rights and resources from the non-rich, non-white, non-male, non-corporate classes. The first steps are simple: an immediate freeze on the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure and implementation of climate action plans in all institutions. The combination will move us toward the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero. It is doable technologically, agree the experts. What is missing is the political will, power and investment to make the necessary economic transformation.

In November, we were all presented with a local challenge to that drive to fight climate change. Columbia Gas, respected for its aggressive job plugging methane leaks in its Northampton and Springfield pipes, has offered a plan to the Department of Public Utilities that it will trade for the lifting of its moratorium on new gas hookups.

Columbia Gas says that the gas capacity of the Northampton lateral pipeline that comes off the major west-east pipeline serving our state is insufficient to allow any increase in gas consumption in either the Easthampton or Northampton communities which it serves. That was the stated reason for imposing the moratorium in 2014. The price to be paid for lifting it was permitting the now-defunct Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Energy Direct project.

Both the pipeline and the moratorium were resisted mightily here in Northampton, with a City Council resolution demanding transparency about the  true limitations of natural gas capacity. It was feared that lack of new hookups would hinder building such new projects as the Village Hill Northampton and Pleasant Street developments. Yet all three are happening, using not gas but electric air source heat pumps for heating. A small part of the large Village Hill scheme employs propane.

Dealing with the moratorium thus has become a learning experience. We were able to grow without those new gas hookups, and employ cleaner energy in the process, adapting to the new global demands to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity for those heat pumps can be and increasingly will be sourced with wind and solar generation through the state Mass Energy Consumers Alliance program, the regional Rays the Valley community-shared solar or from rooftop solar arrays.

Now Columbia Gas is offering a new deal: This time, if you let us build six miles of new pipeline from Agawam to Holyoke with a parallel structure from the west-east pipeline to Agawam, we can take Holyoke off the Northampton lateral and you can have all the new gas hookups you want in Northampton and Easthampton.

Three years ago, we all might have jumped at the chance. But now? Do we need it? The city has grown remarkably without it, using alternative technology. Is there any evidence that we cannot, with some alterations in business as usual, do well with what we have?

At least as important, do we want it? Do we want to commit ourselves to 40 years (the life of the new pipes) of increased gas delivery and burning in our area contributing to dirty air, rising temperatures and rising seas?

Or do we want to build our stature as a clean-energy community, improving our public health and supporting the future of the planet? I go with the latter.

Dr. Marty Nathan lives in Northampton and is a physician at BaystateBrightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW. She can be reached at

» Read the original OpEd

» Learn more about Columbia Gas in Massachusetts

ISO-NE Power Systems Updates reveal system is up to the challenge

ISO-NE’s Power System Updates show that despite the long, severe cold snap, New England’s bulk power system is continuing to operate reliably. Even with Pilgrim nuclear plant tripping offline and Winter Storm Grayson delaying fuel deliveries, the system had continued to function and provide power reliably without needing extra pipeline capacity.

Power Systems Update: New England grid operations through recent bitter cold weather and preparation for winter storm

ISO Newswire
January 5, 2018

January 5 Power Systems Update:
New England’s bulk power system continues to operate reliably. Currently, there are sufficient generating resources available to meet consumer demand and maintain power system reliability this weekend, barring an unexpected outage of any large system resource. While the ISO is continually assessing the reliability of the system, we will be challenged to deal with major contingencies under these cold weather conditions. In addition, the ISO doesn’t expect generator emission limitations to impede weekend grid operations.

The cold weather continues to affect wholesale energy prices as well as the types of power plants that are being used to meet demand. High demand for natural gas for heating is causing natural gas pipeline constraints that are resulting in high natural gas prices, which impacts wholesale electricity prices offered by natural gas-fired power plants. As a consequence, both oil- and coal-fired power plants are generating at much higher levels than is typical. Despite this change in fuel mix, most power plants have been called to operate ‘in merit’, which means that New England’s wholesale electricity prices have been set by the competitive marketplace. Yesterday, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station tripped offline, reducing the amount of generation coming from nuclear power. While no immediate reliability issues have resulted, this outage does further challenge the region’s fuel availability risk because we will need to rely more heavily on other generating resources to meet consumer demand and meet overall grid reliability.

January 4 Power Systems Update:
New England’s bulk power system is currently operating reliably.
Through this weekend, we expect to have sufficient capacity and fuel available to meet demand, barring unexpected outages.

The cold weather continues to affect wholesale energy prices as well as the types of power plants that are being used to meet demand. High demand for natural gas for heating is causing natural gas pipeline constraints that are resulting in high natural gas prices. As a consequence, both oil- and coal-fired power plants are generating at much higher levels than is typical. The high fuel prices are pushing up wholesale power prices as well. In general, a snow storm doesn’t affect forecasted demand for power, unless there are local power outages caused by stormy conditions.

Pilgrim tripped offline earlier this afternoon due to storm conditions. While it is an unexpected outage, there are no immediate reliability issues to the local area. However, this outage does further challenge the region on fuel availability because we need to rely on other generating resources to meet consumer demand and meet overall grid reliability.

January 3 Power Systems Update:
Throughout the recent cold weather blanketing the region, New England’s bulk power system has been operating under normal conditions. However, the cold weather is having an effect on wholesale energy prices as well as the types of power plants that are being used to meet demand. High demand for natural gas for heating is causing natural gas pipeline constraints that are resulting in high natural gas prices. As a consequence, the price of generators burning natural gas has risen higher than the price of generators burning oil or coal, so a significant portion of the region’s electricity is being generated by power plants that use oil. With this price inversion, both oil- and coal-fired power plants are generating at much higher levels than is typical. The high fuel prices are pushing up wholesale power prices as well. Nuclear power, coal, dual-fuel units running on oil, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are also providing power system support.
The winter reliability program is again providing critical support for reliability. The program offers incentives for oil-fired generators to stock up on oil before winter began and to replenish their fuel supplies as necessary prior to March 1.

» Read full Updates from ISO-NE

Citizen Activists Answer Industry Lobbyist’s Criticism over CT Expansion Pipeline

Fossil fuel industry insider, Stephen C. Dodge of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council, decided to close out 2017 by criticizing the Berkshire Eagle’s coverage of the protests surrounding the CT Expansion, and citing cliché trope of claiming that those opposing the project are “lavishly paid protesters”.  Several replies took issue with his assessment and the ironic fact that a paid advocate of fossil fuels is attempting to use that very definition (falsely) as an attempt to disparage them.

Letter: State police acting prudently in Sandisfield

December 31, 2017

To the editor of the Berkshire Eagle:

After yet another Eagle story about the Massachusetts State Police’s safe, successful, and professional handling of anti-energy-infrastructure protests in Sandisfield (Eagle, Dec. 27), we think your coverage demands a reality check.

Let’s get real about what actually happened here: Dozens of people traveled to Sandisfield, often from hundreds of miles away, specifically in hopes of getting arrested in order to make a political point. With zero injuries and zero complaints of police brutality, the state police enforced our laws against criminal trespass — and arrested people who wanted to be arrested.

Especially after the violence and sabotage perpetrated by anti-pipeline protesters elsewhere in the country, protecting public safety was a critical priority for the state police in Sandisfield. The hours of police details required on site reflected the reality of a determined and apparently lavishly funded opposition, much of it coming not just from out of the county but out of the state to stage made-for-media protests for months on end. It is bizarre for The Eagle to imply that the state police were doing anything questionable by reaching out to Kinder Morgan before these completely predictable protests occurred. In fact, it was proactive, professional public-safety management work to have a plan in place.

We can only imagine the criticism if our state police had not planned ahead as prudently as they did for handling these protests. It’s equally bizarre for protesters who did everything they possibly could do to maximize the need for police details and arrests in Sandisfield to then complain about the cost for the details and the arrests — especially when that cost was borne 100 percent by the private company targeted by this richly funded protest campaign.

Stephen C. Dodge,
The writer is the executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council.

» Read Original

Letter: The big lie about pipeline protesters

January 3, 2018

To the editor:

The grassroots Connecticut Expansion pipeline protestors are unpaid, peaceful volunteers despite what was recently opined in this paper. I’ve met with several of the protesting groups and leaders and know them fairly well.

A Berkshire Eagle letter dated Dec. 31 composed by Stephen C. Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council asserts that these Connecticut Expansion protestors are part of a “richly funded protest campaign,” are law-breaking and, by implication, are non-transparent in their actions against the fracked gas pipeline developer Kinder Morgan.

They do not protest “in hopes of getting arrested in order to make a political point” as Mr. Dodge petulantly states. It seems that he is a registered lobbyist in Massachusetts for 2017, one of three working for the American Petroleum Institute here.

These Western Mass. residents respectfully protest this pipeline at the construction site to protect our state forests, Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution and Spectacle Pond out of desperation because they have exhausted their legal remedies to stop it. Peaceful protesting is not a criminal act.

In this case, Western Mass. community groups called Sugar Shack Alliance and Sandisfield Taxpayers Opposed to the Pipeline helped to organize these fracked gas pipeline protestors. Unlike what Mr. Dodge states, their financial support is primarily based on the receipt of small, local donations.

Attend one of their meetings and learn for yourself that no one in these citizen groups is paid a penny since all members volunteer their time and efforts. They have no hidden agenda either, I might add.

They know that we don’t need more fossil fuels, and know that our reliance on more gas, and fossil fuels in general, wreaks havoc on our air, soil and water.

Other community-based citizen groups such as No Fracked Gas in MA., 350 MA-Berkshires and Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline have also been protesting this Kinder Morgan pipeline for the same reasons.

All of these concerned environmental groups are truly our earth protectors and, indeed, the only paid people herein are the conspiring corporatists working directly for the fossil fuel industry itself.

Indeed, Mr. Dodge’s theories (consider the source) about the protestors have no basis in fact, are completely non-sourced and are a perfect example of the bellowing BIG LIE. You know the drill: keep lying loud and long enough to anyone who will listen and maybe someone will believe you.

Bob Connors,
Canaan, NY

The writer is co-founder Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline.

» Read original

Letter: Petroleum exec’s letter is laughably inaccurate

January 4, 2018

To the editor:

The letter submitted by Stephen C. Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council, titled “State police acting prudently in Sandisfield” (Eagle, Dec. 31) is so laughably inaccurate as to almost preclude comment. But it’s important to point out that members of the Sugar Shack Alliance are the exact opposite of being “lavishly” or “richly” funded.” They are, in fact, grassroots activists who receive no pay and fund their own gas, tolls and other expenses out of their own pockets.

As far as “violence and sabotage perpetrated by anti-pipeline protesters elsewhere in the country,” the violence and sabotage taking place across this country is against native peoples, citizens of the U.S., others around the world, and all species who are subjected to the destruction and desecration of their water, air, lands, homes, and sacred sites by those who fill their wallets without care for future generations and our precious planet.

Judy Eddy,
West Stockbridge

» Read original

Letter: Protesters aren’t rich, oil corporations are

January 3, 2018

To the editor:

Stephen C. Dodge of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council obviously supports the pipeline in South Berkshire (Letters, Dec. 31). I think it’s hysterically funny that he, speaking on behalf of rich corporations, refers to the protesters as being “lavishly” and “richly” funded.

No, Mr. Dodge, you’re wrong and simply trying to paint others with a paint brush that belongs in your own can of paint. People who know how unsafe the pipelines are for anyone whose lands they cross or are in close proximity to are doing small fundraisers online from other very ordinary people to afford to travel, and/or spending out of their own pockets to get to Sandisfield and other threatened places. They’re carpooling or taking a bus mostly — cheaper methods than how you’re probably accustomed to traveling.

Often they’re people who have already fought to save their own communities from pipelines and believe in helping other people under the same threat. In other words, people who are nothing like you, sitting in your undoubtedly well-appointed office in Boston.

If it were your home being threatened however, you’d change your tune.

Heather Gray,

» Read original



It’s cold outside. What about EVs?

Tips for getting the most out of your EV in winter

by Anna Vanderspek, MassEnergy
December 20, 2017

You don’t need to buy a second car for the winter or restrict your driving radius. To get the most out of your EV, we recommend that you:

Precondition your vehicle. “Preconditioning” means heating up your car’s battery while it’s still plugged in. (Most cars will allow you to start preconditioning remotely via cell phone.) This way, your battery warms up and operates more efficiently when you start to drive but you don’t have to deplete your battery’s reserves to heat it. Not to mention that you step into a warm vehicle when you’re ready to leave, so you won’t need to crank the heat as much when you unplug. It’s a win-win-win!

Use the special heating features of your vehicle. Most modern EVs offer seat warmers and heated steering wheels. Use these features! They require less energy than heating the air and will make you feel comfortable even if you keep the cabin air temperature slightly lower.

Drive efficiently. Turn on regenerative breaking or set your car in eco-mode. By capturing any energy that might otherwise be lost, you’re extending the range of your car. If ever there was a time not to speed, it’s when it’s cold outside. Speed increases drag and drag reduces mileage.

Clean off your car. Chunks of snow and ice weigh down your vehicle and compromise its aerodynamics, both of which will reduce your range.

Put on a sweater or keep on your coat. We are all used to driving in toasty cabins because we have become accustomed to the heat of incredibly inefficient gas engines. It’s obvious, but if you keep on your coat or put on a sweater (gloves are a good idea too), you’ll need to heat the cabin less and your battery will thank you.

Park and charge somewhere warm. If you can park and charge your EV someplace warm, your battery will be glad. For example, if you park outside, parking on the sunny side of the parking lot rather than the shady side will make a difference.

Long story short, you don’t need to worry: EVs can handle whatever New England can throw at them.

» Read the full story

Tesla’s enormous battery in Australia, just weeks old, is already responding to outages in ‘record’ time

By Brian Fung, Washington Post
December 26, 2017

Less than a month after Tesla unveiled a new backup power system in South Australia, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery is already being put to the test. And it appears to be far exceeding expectations: In the past three weeks alone, the Hornsdale Power Reserve has smoothed out at least two major energy outages, responding even more quickly than the coal-fired backups that were supposed to provide emergency power.

Tesla’s battery last week kicked in just 0.14 seconds after one of Australia’s biggest plants, the Loy Yang facility in the neighboring state of Victoria, suffered a sudden, unexplained drop in output, according to the International Business Times. And the week before that, another failure at Loy Yang prompted the Hornsdale battery to respond in as little as four seconds — or less, according to some estimates — beating other plants to the punch. State officials have called the response time “a record,” according to local media.

The effectiveness of Tesla’s battery is being closely watched in a region that is in the grips of an energy crisis. The price of electricity is soaring in Australia, particularly in the state of South Australia, where a 2016 outage led 1.7 million residents to lose power in a blackout. Storms and heat waves have caused additional outages, and many Australians are bracing for more with the onset of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Hornsdale battery system, which uses the same energy-storage tech found in Tesla’s electric cars, is one of chief executive Elon Musk’s newest projects. In March, Musk, who is known for setting high goals and only sometimes meeting them, vowed on Twitter to deliver a battery system for South Australia’s struggling grid within 100 days or it would be free. By early July, the state had signed a deal with Tesla and the French-based energy company Neoen to produce the battery. And by Dec. 1, South Australia announced that it had switched on the Hornsdale battery.

Fed by wind turbines at the nearby Hornsdale wind farm, the battery stores excess energy that is produced when the demand for electricity isn’t peaking. It can power up to 30,000 homes, though only for short periods — meaning that the battery must still be supported by traditional power plants in the event of a long outage.

A spokesman for Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nonetheless, the Hornsdale reserve has already shown that it can provide what’s known as “contingency” service — keeping the grid stable in a crisis and easing what would otherwise be a significant power failure. And, more important, the project is the biggest proof-of-concept yet that batteries such as Tesla’s can help mitigate one of renewable energy’s most persistent problems: how to use it when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

“When you think about energy storage, it’s not a [power] generation resource,” said Stephen Coughlin, the vice president of energy storage platforms at the Arlington-based AES Corporation, which is behind several battery projects in California, the Netherlands and several other countries. “What it’s really doing is providing a much-needed injection of reliability and resiliency into the network overall.”

Where it can take as much as 10 minutes to spin up a traditional turbine in a pinch, added Coughlin, it’s not uncommon to see systems such as Tesla’s intervene in fractions of a second.

This isn’t Musk’s only experiment with large-scale batteries. Last year, Tesla said it had equipped a small island in American Samoa with thousands of solar panels and batteries that could serve the area’s 600 inhabitants, shifting them almost entirely off fossil fuels. In October, Musk responded to the hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico by offering to discuss building a solar grid for the island. Parts of Puerto Rico are still without power, months after Hurricane Maria ripped down power lines and other energy infrastructure.

An electric grid consisting of distributed solar panels, paired with a large battery, could prove transformative for some island economies, analysts say. Under normal circumstances, the price of imported fossil fuels can become a drain on local businesses. But the abundant sunshine at tropical latitudes makes solar energy extremely cost-efficient.

“[Big batteries] definitely can be a game changer for island or island-type economies,” said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at GTM Research, a market analysis firm. “Hawaii, for instance, has one of the highest retail rates in the U.S. [for electricity], and that’s because of the cost of shipping diesel or other fuel oils which currently are used by a lot of the existing facilities.”

What’s more, he added, spreading solar panels out across an island reduces the likelihood of the entire grid going down because of storms.

Other battery projects, including in the United States, have already helped manage spikes in demand. For example, a major 2015 gas leak near Los Angeles that kept some gas-fired plants from producing energy at peak times prompted Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric to announce energy storage projects that were completed earlier this year, according to Sam Wilkinson, an industry analyst at IHS.

In an April report, Wilkinson highlighted the rapid rise of China and Australia as energy storage leaders.

“For the first time Asia accounts for more than one third of the global pipeline” for energy storage, the report read. “This underscores the importance that China, Australia, South Korea and India are all predicted to have in the global market.”

» Read the original article

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