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Published on March 4th, 2018 | by Matthew Klippenstein


Solar + Storage Nuking Natural Gas Peakers. Also, We <3 Floating Wind & Fat Tires. (#CleantechTalk 48)

March 4th, 2018 by  

Episode #48 of Cleantech Talk is here! This episode covers solar + storage nuking natural gas (peaker plants, that is), fantastic floating wind farm news, and the latest in fat-tire electric cycling!

You can listen to this episode and subscribe to Cleantech Talk on iTunes or Soundcloud. You can also listen via the embedded player above or download this episode.

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Jump into the show notes below for more goodies!

Solar + Storage = Sunset for (Some) Natural Gas Peaker Plants

The Future of Fossil Peakers Isn’t Looking Too Bright. Image: Altagas

Far be it for us to say the sun is setting on natural gas peaker plants; so we’ll just let the economics speak for themselves

Zachary started us off this week by noting Steve Hanley’s recent story about how solar and batteries — “solar + storage” to the cool kids — are driving natural gas peaker plants out of business in at least some parts of the US. Which is awesome! Peaker plants tend to be less efficient, and only run a few percent of the year, so they’re among the easiest fossil fuels to push offline.

Still more awesome? We’re no longer talking about solar undercutting natural gas peakers. As noted in the podcast, we’re talking about solar and storage being so cheap that even when you buy both of them together you’re putting some natural gas peaker plants out of business!

Table 6.7.A of the EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” pulls together the capacity factors for the various types of fossil plants in the United States (Table 6.7.B does the same for non-fossil plants). We can see that the capacity factors for natural gas peakers and coal peakers (“steam turbine”) are both in the 10% range. These have actually been on an uptrend, running at higher capacities, but that’s to be expected: the plants that shut down are the ones that get used the least. The overriding point to remember is that there are fewer of ‘em still running!

Offshore Wind Excitement

Despite what HBO says, it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia, at least in winter, so solar + storage can’t help New England with its winter energy demand peaks. But, wind (and wind + storage) may be able to help a lot. And not just onshore wind, but offshore wind.

Joshua Hill wrote an excellent piece recently outlining how Hywind Scotland, the 30 MW floating wind farm built by Statoil(!), achieved a 65% capacity factor over a three-month period this winter, which is exactly when Scotland’s energy consumption peak will be. Not only that, but 65% is higher than the annual capacity factor of the average fossil plant achieves in the US! CleanTechnica has been all over this project (see our coverage here) and it’s great to see it up and running.

Now, other offshore wind farms in the UK sometimes achieve numbers in that range in mid-winter, so it’s not like Hywind Scotland achieved something dramatically unprecedented. Summer tends to be less windy (but hey, that’s when the sun is out!), so the United Kingdom’s offshore wind farms have tended to have capacity in the low 40-percent range. Statoil hopes to get a bit higher with this project, and when a year is up, we’ll be able to see how well it does.

The Hywind Scotland project also provides our map of the week. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t realize Scotland had so many islands …

The Hywind Scotland floating wind farm will hopefully be the first of many. Source: Daily Mail.

Fat-Tire Bikes Can Be “Phat”

Nicolas enjoyed the RadRover fat tire bike so much, it inspired my weak attempt at a pun in the heading! I promised to dig up the photo of Canadian First Lady Sophie Gregoire Trudeau cycling in the snow (bringing one of their kids to school, I think) — and here it is! And if you’re wondering about the Canadian Prime Minister’s terrible trip to India, don’t worry, some of his antics are sure to have been turned into memes already…

Canadian First Lady Sophie Gregoire Trudeau cycling in the snow. Image: Instagram

I’m writing from a trade show in Japan (which I’ve been lucky enough to’ve had a chance to attend) and it’s remarkable how pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly the Tokyo streets are where I’m staying. The major traffic arteries are dominated by cars, of course, but there’s a lot of passenger rail, and most of the residential streets are barely two cars wide. Combine ubiquitous transit with a desperate shortage of parking and voila, you produce lifelong cyclists and pedestrians! No fat tire bikes here … yet. 😊

(Oh, you didn’t know Japan invented emojis? Now you do!)

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About the Author

Matthew Klippenstein is a renewable energy consultant in Vancouver, Canada. He has chronicled the Canadian electric car market for GreenCarReports.com since 2013, and has provided commentary (in English and French) for print, television, radio, web and podcast media. An early guest on "The Energy Transition Show", his work has also been discussed on "The Energy Gang". An occasional contributor to CleanTechnica, he co-hosts our own CleanTech Talk with Nicolas Zart.

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