Jonathan Lewis of Hire Electric’s Renewable Energy Division will be presenting at this month’s GTA Featured Event: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 6:30pm White Buffalo Wine Bar & Bistro Hood River, OR. Free to GTA members. $10 for non members. GTA Announcement.
Come learn about the history of Rural Electrification in 1936 and the Bonniville Power Administration’s early days. “Power to the People” was the motto for the movement. Woody Guthrie wrote songs about it. 1000’s of jobs were created. People died. The Grange organized. Lives were changed forever. Wars were won. Lights and pumps and milking machines whirred and hummed throughout our Gorge.
Then we’ll flash forward to 2014: The wired Gorge with a lake running through it looks very different than it did in 1936. Rural Electrification was extremely successful with almost 100% of farms now connected. Wind farms have made dry wheat land consistently profitable for the 1st time. But we have some challenges: Too much power from hydro run-off and spring winds (resulting in curtailments); limited ability to export power to Seattle, Portland, CA and eastern grids; increasing electric rates for rural residents; aging, dirty, nasty coal fired plants shutting down in 2020 (35% of Oregon’s electricity and 66% of Pacific Power’s comes from coal); public and private utilities with competing interests; a dinosaur-like regulatory landscape; industrial flight – just to name a few… Within each of these challenges is a potential opportunity. The early 20th century energy divide was closed by federal investment in centralized power. The requisite transformation away from fossil fuel dependance in the early part of the 21st century can be wrought by a resilient, locally owned network of Distributed Generation and storage. “Power from the People” is the motto for today’s Rural RE-Electrification in The Gorge.
#RE_Electrification See the shorter talk that was done at Gorge Owned here.
A California jail offers a glimpse of the economic and environmental benefits of locally generated energy.
Chevron Energy Solutions
A recently completed distributed energy project at the large, 4,000-inmate Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California, ties together power from fuel cells, solar panels, wind turbines, and diesel generators—all located at the jail—to form a microgrid that can operate independently of large, centralized power plants. The system keeps the power on when storms take down the grid, which is essential for safety at the maximum security facility, and it’s saving the jail about $100,000 a year.
The jail microgrid is one of the largest and most advanced in the United States. It’s the latest example of an emerging smart-grid technology that’s providing a cleaner, more reliable, and, in some parts of the country, significantly cheaper alternative to the conventional grid. “In many cases, it has a very nice payback, with or without subsidies,” says Michael Clark, president of Fort Collins, Colorado-based Encorp, which recently installed the software and equipment needed to manage the jail’s microgrid. Microgrids also provide new ways to use solar and wind power. Ordinarily, the intermittent nature of such power sources makes them a challenge for utilities. By integrating them with batteries and other sources of power, they can provide a reliable boost to conventional power supplies to help utilities meet peaks in demand.
Microgrids are a step beyond either emergency backup systems or stand-alone solar-panel arrays. They use special software and power electronics to integrate multiple sources of power and energy storage to provide electricity around the clock, even when the sun isn’t shining or regulations limit the use of diesel generators. In the case of the system at the jail, Encorp has installed networked controllers—the size of large computers—at each source of electricity, including a large array of thousands of batteries, as well as at the point where the jail connects to the grid. Coordinating power from diesel generators, solar panels, and other sources of power also requires equipment that can adjust the frequency and voltage of the power they produce.
Clark says Encorp has developed algorithms to help the system get the most out of each power source. At the jail, where the system is connected to the grid, this includes responding to the needs of a utility. If the utility experiences a large spike in demand, the microgrid can respond by selling excess power to the utility.
At certain times, it makes sense to use the system’s ability to temporarily decrease power consumption at the jail for things like the air-conditioning or lighting to create more excess power to sell to the grid.
The first customers for microgrids are businesses and organizations that can’t afford even short power outages—such as jails, hospitals, data centers, and military bases—or remote areas that don’t have access to the grid. They make economic sense in places such as California, where electricity costs are high and regulations on backup generators are strict. But they could soon make sense in more places as the cost of renewable energy and large-scale batteries decreases, and as advanced controls and power electronics make them more efficient.