California’s Grid Survives Heat Wave Thanks to Massive Battery Storage

Longtime Slashdot reader Uncle_Meataxe shares a report from the Sacramento Bee: California’s power grid handled a nearly three week long record-setting heat wave with few issues. The heat wave was the hottest 20-day period on record around Sacramento and set an all-time temperature record of 124 degrees in Palm Springs. Emergency alerts and calls for voluntary conservation were avoided this time around. Officials credit years of investment in renewable energy, especially battery storage that store solar power for use when the sun stops shining.

CAISO last issued calls for voluntary conservation two years ago, during a 2022 bout of extreme heat. Since then, roughly 11,600 megawatts of new renewable energy sources have come onto California’s electricity grid. That includes 10,000 megawatts of battery power, enough to power 10 million homes for a few hours. California is now home to the most grid batteries in the world outside of China, [said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of California Independent System Operator (CAISO)].

“Batteries performed very well in this event, they were charged and ready at the right times for optimization on the grid,” he added. “That made a big, big difference.” […] Apart from battery storage, Mainzer also credited that success to less extreme temperatures in Southern California as well as noticeable slightly lower electricity consumption in the peak demand hours, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Italy Reconsiders Nuclear Energy 35 Years After Shutting Down Last Reactor

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni plans to revive Italy’s nuclear energy sector, focusing on small modular reactors to be operational within a decade. He said that nuclear energy could constitute at least 11% of the country’s electricity mix by 2050. Semafor reports: Italy’s energy minister told the Financial Times that the government would introduce legislation to support investment in small modular reactors, which could be operational within 10 years. […] In Italy, concerns about energy security since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have pushed the government to reconsider nuclear power, Bloomberg wrote. Energy minister Pichetto Fratin told the Financial Times he was confident that Italians’ historic “aversion” could be overcome, as nuclear technology now has “different levels of safety and benefits families and businesses.” In Italy, safety is also top of mind: The Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 was the trigger for it to cease nuclear production in the first place, and the 2011 Fukushima disaster reignited those concerns. As of April, only 51% of Italians approved of nuclear power, according to polls shared by Il Sole 24 Ore.

The plan to introduce small modular reactors in Italy could add to the country’s history of failure in nuclear energy, a former Italian lawmaker and researcher argued in Italian outlet Il Fatto Quotidiano, writing that these reactors are expensive and produce too little energy to justify an investment in them.They could also become obsolete within the next decade, the timeline for the government to introduce them, Italian outlet Domani added, and be overtaken by nuclear fusion reactors, which are more efficient and have “virtually no environmental impact.” Italy’s main oil company, Eni, has signed a deal with MIT spinout Commonwealth Fusion System, with the goal of providing the first operational nuclear fusion plant by 2030.

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Amazon Says It Now Runs On 100% Clean Power. Employees Say It’s More Like 22%

Today, Amazon announced that it reached its 100% renewable energy goal seven years ahead of schedule. However, as Fast Company’s Adele Peters reports, “a group of Amazon employees argues that the company’s math is misleading.” From the report: A report (PDF) from the group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, argues that only 22% of the company’s data centers in the U.S. actually run on clean power. The employees looked at where each data center was located and the mix of power on the regional grids — how much was coming from coal, gas, or oil versus solar or wind. Amazon, like many other companies, buys renewable energy credits (RECs) for a certain amount of clean power that’s produced by a solar plant or wind farm. In theory, RECs are supposed to push new renewable energy to get built. In reality, that doesn’t always happen. The employee research found that 68% of Amazon’s RECs are unbundled, meaning that they didn’t fund new renewable infrastructure, but gave credit for renewables that already existed or were already going to be built.

As new data centers are built, they can mean that fossil-fuel-dependent grids end up building new fossil fuel power plants. “Dominion Energy, which is the utility in Virginia, is expanding because of demand, and Amazon is obviously one of their largest customers,” says Eliza Pan, a representative from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and a former Amazon employee. “Dominion’s expansion is not renewable expansion. It’s more fossil fuels.” Amazon also doesn’t buy credits that are specifically tied to the grids powering their data centers. The company might purchase RECs from Canada or Arizona, for example, to offset electricity used in Virginia. The credits also aren’t tied to the time that the energy was used; data centers run all day and night, but most renewable energy is only available some of the time. The employee group argues that the company should follow the approach that Google takes. Google aims to use carbon-free energy, 24/7, on every grid where it operates.

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British Startup Nyobolt Demos 4-Minute Battery Charging For EVs

Longtime Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares a report from CNN, written by Olesya Dmitracova: Nyobolt, based in Cambridge, has developed a new 35kWh lithium-ion battery that was charged from 10% to 80% in just over four and a half minutes in its first live demonstration last week. […] Nyobolt’s technology builds on a decade of research led by University of Cambridge battery scientist Clare Grey and Cambridge-educated Shivareddy, the company said. Key to its batteries’ ability to be charged super-fast without a big impact on their longevity is a design that means they generate less heat. It also makes them safer as overheating can cause a lithium-ion battery to catch fire and explode. In addition, the materials used to make the batteries’ anodes allow for a faster transfer of electrons. Nyobolt is currently in talks to sell its batteries to eight electric car manufacturers. At 35 kWh, the battery is much smaller than the 85 kWh in a more typical American electric vehicle (EV). Yet the technology may be used in larger battery packs in the future.

Independent testing of Nyobolt’s batteries by what it called a leading global manufacturer found that they can achieve over 4,000 fast-charge cycles, equivalent to 600,000 miles (965,600 kilometers), while retaining more than 80% of capacity, Nyobolt said in its Friday statement. William Kephart, an e-mobility specialist at consultancy P3 Group and a former engineer, said EV batteries of the kind Nyobolt has developed could “theoretically” be charged as fast as the firm is promising, but the challenge was manufacturing such batteries on an industrial scale. A crucial chemical element in Nyobolt’s batteries is niobium but, as Kephart pointed out, last year only an estimated 83,000 tons (94,500 tons) was mined worldwide. Compare that with graphite, commonly used as anode material in lithium-ion batteries: an estimated 1.6 million tons (1.8 million tons) was produced in 2023. In addition, there are currently “a lot of unknowns” with the niobium battery technology, he told CNN. “The industry will work it out (but) it’s not seen by the industry as a scalable technology just yet,” he added.

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Electricity Bills Forecasted To Climb With Summer Heat

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects Americans’ monthly electricity bills to average $173 between June through August, compared to $168 last summer. “The slight bump in costs comes from consumers cranking up their air conditioning more to cope with a warmer season than last year,” writes The Verge’s Justine Calma. “Bills would have jumped higher, if not for lower residential electricity prices helping to balance out some of the increased energy use from air conditioning.” From the report: Some regions are likely to be harder hit by the weather than others. Because of heat and humidity along the Gulf Coast, residents in Southern states typically use the most electricity in the summer to cool their homes. The Pacific Coast, meanwhile, faces the biggest potential percentage increase in retail electricity prices in the nation — a 7 percent jump since last year. Wholesale electricity costs there have risen since 2022, in part because of a heat and drought-induced shortfall in hydroelectricity generation. Households along the Pacific could see their electricity bills go up an average of $11 per month this summer, according to the EIA.

To be sure, the EIA says that weather is “the main source of uncertainty” in its forecasts for folks’ utility bills. If this summer winds up being hotter than expected, households could wind up paying even more. Residential electricity use typically peaks in the summer for most of the US because of air conditioning. Extreme heat can even trigger power outages if demand suddenly rises too sharply. California, the Southwest, the Midwest, Texas, and New England are at “elevated risk” of electricity supply shortages during any extreme weather this summer, according to an assessment (PDF) by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

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Solar Passes 100% of Power Demand In California

Solar power in California has reached a new record output, briefly surpassing 100% of power demand. It comes just days after the state exceeded 100% of energy demand with renewables (wind, solar and hydro) over a record 45 days straight, and 69 out of 75. CleanTechnica reports: As you can see [here], at its peak, solar power was providing 102.1% of electricity demand in California. Together, wind, water, and solar peaked at 136.4% of electricity demand! […] The best news is that California seems to quickly be chopping the duck curve down to size. […] The solution for the duck curve is clear: energy storage. Store that bursting solar energy produced in the middle of the day and gradually use it in the evening as the sun goes down and electricity demand rises. The good news is that California has been making progress on this very fast! Look at the graph [here] regarding electricity generation from natural gas and note the line for 2023 versus the line for 2024. […]

The overall story is that California renewable energy continues to lead the way forward. Solar power is now peaking at more than 100% of electricity demand, renewables as a whole are peaking at 134% electricity demand, the duck curve has been shaved down to basically no duck curve at all (but you could now call the battery charge/discharge curve a duck curve), and the whole state (and world) is benefitting. Get ready for more records in the days to come. We’re still a few weeks away from the summer solstice. Further reading: Battery-Powered California Faces Lower Blackout Risk This Summer

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In a Milestone, the US Exceeds 5 Million Solar Installations

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. has officially surpassed 5 million solar installations. “The 5 million milestone comes just eight years after the U.S. achieved its first million in 2016 — a stark contrast to the four decades it took to reach that initial milestone since the first grid-connected solar project in 1973,” reports Electrek. From the report: Since the beginning of 2020, more than half of all U.S. solar installations have come online, and over 25% have been activated since the Inflation Reduction Act became law 20 months ago. Solar arrays have been installed on homes and businesses and as utility-scale solar farms. The U.S. solar market was valued at $51 billion in 2023. Even with changes in state policies, market trends indicate robust growth in solar installations across the U.S. According to SEIA forecasts, the number of solar installations is expected to double to 10 million by 2030 and triple to 15 million by 2034.

The residential sector represents 97% of all U.S. solar installations. This sector has consistently set new records for annual installations over the past several years, achieving new highs for five straight years and in 10 out of the last 12 years. The significant growth in residential solar can be attributed to its proven value as an investment for homeowners who wish to manage their energy costs more effectively. California is the frontrunner with 2 million solar installations, though recent state policies have significantly damaged its rooftop solar market. Meanwhile, other states are experiencing rapid growth. For example, Illinois, which had only 2,500 solar installations in 2017, now boasts over 87,000. Similarly, Florida has seen its solar installations surge from 22,000 in 2017 to 235,000 today. By 2030, 22 states or territories are anticipated to surpass 100,000 solar installations. The U.S. has enough solar installed to cover every residential rooftop in the Four Corners states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.

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US Regulators Approve Rule That Could Speed Renewables

Longtime Slashdot reader necro81 writes: The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which controls interstate energy infrastructure, approved a rule Monday that should boost new transmission infrastructure and make it easier to connect renewable energy projects. (More coverage here, here, and here.)

Some 11,000 projects totaling 2,600 GW of capacity are in planning, waiting to break ground, or connect to the grid. But they’re stymied by the need for costly upgrades, or simply waiting for review. The frustrations are many. Each proposed project undergoes a lengthy grid-impact study and assessed the cost of necessary upgrades. Each project is considered in isolation, regardless of whether similar projects are happening nearby that could share the upgrade costs or auger different improvements. The planning process tends to be reactive — examining only the applications in front of them — rather than considering trends over the coming years. It’s a first-come, first-served queue: if one project is ready to break ground, it must wait behind another project that’s still securing funding or permitting.

Two years in development, the dryly-named Improvements to Generator Interconnection Procedures and Agreements directs utility operators to plan infrastructure improvements with a 20-yr forecast of new energy sources and increased demand. Rather than examining each project in isolation, similar projects will be clustered and examined together. Instead of a First-Come, First-Served serial process, operators will instead examine First-Ready, allowing shovel-ready projects to jump the queue. The expectation is that these new rules will speed up and streamline the process of developing and connecting new energy projects through more holistic planning, penalties for delays, sensible cost-sharing for upgrades, and justification for long-term investments.

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A Coal Billionaire is Building the World’s Biggest Clean Energy Plant – Five Times the Size of Paris

An anonymous reader shared this report from CNN:

Five times the size of Paris. Visible from space. The world’s biggest energy plant. Enough electricity to power Switzerland. The scale of the project transforming swathes of barren salt desert on the edge of western India into one of the most important sources of clean energy anywhere on the planet is so overwhelming that the man in charge can’t keep up. “I don’t even do the math any more,” Sagar Adani told CNN in an interview last week.

Adani is executive director of Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL). He’s also the nephew of Gautam Adani, Asia’s second richest man, whose $100 billion fortune stems from the Adani Group, India’s biggest coal importer and a leading miner of the dirty fuel. Founded in 1988, the conglomerate has businesses in fields ranging from ports and thermal power plants to media and cements. Its clean energy unit AGEL is building the sprawling solar and wind power plant in the western Indian state of Gujarat at a cost of about $20 billion.

It will be the world’s biggest renewable park when it is finished in about five years, and should generate enough clean electricity to power 16 million Indian homes… [T]he park will cover more than 200 square miles and be the planet’s largest power plant regardless of the energy source, AGEL said.

CNN adds that the company “plans to invest $100 billion into energy transition over the next decade, with 70% of the investments ear-marked for clean energy.”

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