Search Results : duck

  • Face west to feed the duck curve

    This one caught me out…..

    To solve ‘duck curve,’ Missouri utility to pay bonus for west-facing solar panels.

    In an effort to better align solar-energy production with peak demand, the electric utility in Columbia, Missouri has begun to pay higher rebates for new west-facing arrays than it will for those facing south.

    Fantastically simple. Sure, not everyone has west facing roof space, but why not incentivize those that do and are thinking about adding solar?

    The biggest problem with the duck curve is that evening ramp up. As the sun sets, the people go home and the solar output really drops off, the power companies have to fairly quickly ramp up megawatts of generation, sometimes even getting close to a gigawatt.
    Thats tricky and expensive.
    A west facing solar panel will put out more power at sunset than a north or south facing one (the usual direction).

    To be clear, it will NEVER solve the duck curve. Only storage will, but it is a small step in reducing the steepness of that curve up the ducks neck.

  • Solar duck curve

    I really need to get to that blog about the duck curve… But it just ain’t going to happen between now and the 21st.

    Ok Ok, here is the quick version.
    We have so much solar in California, Hawaii and Australia that each day, the sun rises and the power stations have to produce less power as all that power from solar panels gets injected into the grid.
    Then, the people go home from work and turn on their home AC and plasma TV’s… just as the sun is setting, so now the power stations have to ramp up their base load.
    The resulting curve looks like a ducks back (the green line).

    Hence, duck curve.
    (Yes, it changes shape a bit on the weekends, but not that much).

    Stop and think about this….. power has to be used at the same time it is produced. Or flip it around, you have to produce the exact amount of power that is required in real time. The power grid is NOT a battery. There is NO flywheel. It is all done, it HAS to be all done, in real time.

    So, what if there is more solar than you can use? Just ask Hawaii.
    Bad things happen. The solar feeds back into the power station and tries to run it in reverse. This is bad. Very Very VERY bad. (Trust me on this one).

    Another challenge? The amount of ramping up and down the power companies have to do each day. They have to shed generation in the mornings as the sun rises and then ramp up the generators in the evening.
    Very complex and very expensive.

    Another challenge? Wind turbines. We get sunny windy days. Bleh.

    Another challenge? Clouds. None in Southern California, but other parts of the state have some (or so I am told). As the clouds come and go, so does the solar power.

    Can this get any tricker?

    Yup. August 21st 2017.
    There will be a solar eclipse across the USA.

    The grid has never (ever) been tested like this. Ever.

    I am going to be sitting at work looking at my groov web pages.
    I have grid frequency, grid voltage, solar radiation and grid base load graphs… I will be cooking my popcorn before the lights go out…..

  • Post Falls – Idaho

    A few weeks back we flew up to see Amy and Cole.
    No reason, just wanted to see them, Ok, Ok, yeah, we also wanted to see some snow…..

    We got the airport on Friday afternoon. I worked a half day so it was a relaxing afternoon with not a lot of TSA lines to wade through. I guess most people were flying closer to xmas, not 3 weeks before. Which did not bother us.

    Blurry selfie photo of the two of us on the plane waiting to push back, taxi and takeoff.
    We flew with Alaskan airlines because they are one of the few that offer a direct flight. I have to say they were one of the best flying experiences I have ever had. Really polite and helpful staff and overall a great flight.

    I mucked about with night mode on the camera a bit during the flight. It’s pretty amazing, but does not do real well with moving stuff like in this photo. It works much better when everything is stationary.
    Still, my phone camera is now to the point where I did not take my DSL with me on this trip.

    Nothing at all to do with Alaskan, but a side note, it was super windy at Spokane when we landed, thus we had one of the bumpiest approaches that I have ever had. The funny part for me was sitting down the back of the aircraft, I could see everyones head bobbing around as the plane ducked and weaved. It was pretty comical.

    This is Wayne. He is Amy and Cole’s new sugar glider. Unlike Wade, their original one, this little guy is super chill and is a lot more happy to just sit and hang out with you.

    We made sure to get plenty of quality time with them. I would love to have one or two as pets, but am not sure I have the time to invest. Not that it is a possibility, they are illegal as pets in California.

    Next morning, after breakfast, Amy took us up to see some snow.

    I just wondered off and started to look around when I could hear Amy yelling for me…..
    Turning around I could see this guy in a truck off the track.

    It soon became clear that he was in the deep snow and was stuck.
    He was not the best driver and I think a lot of it had to do with him just not really knowing how to drive, but eh, we thought we would/should help out just the same.
    At first we tried just using snow shovels to get him out.

    It is the first time I have ever used a snow shovel and sadly I really enjoyed it. They are nice and wide and gulp up a heap of snow. Sure its heavy, but I was enjoying the unusual workout.
    I was not worried about him sliding off a cliff or anything, so it was a bit of fun… Dig, watch him flounder around a bit, then dig some more.
    After a while, yeah, it got a bit old, so we got him close enough to Amy’s truck to hook him up and pull him out.

    (Don’t forget that you can click on any photo to make it bigger).
    And yes, that is some lady slacklining on the tow rope…. People…. Moving on.

    We had worked up a pretty good appetite with all the snow fun and games so Amy took us back to the place that serves the best cheesecake I have ever had.

    The one bit between the three of us was perfect. I think its made out of goats cheese, so it tastes like none other that I have ever had.
    Might have to make it a bit of a thing when we are up there now….

    No photos, but Cole and I got to hangout in his garage for a good while while we tinkered with an electric motor he wanted to get going for some project…. Once I understood that he did not want to keep the speed contontrol that was on it, it was pretty straight forward to just hot wire the motor to the batteries.
    Thankfully I had my new little Kickstarter pocket bluetooth multimeter with me, I will do blog on it, its super cool and deserves its 5 minutes of fame…. Anyway, using the meter I quickly found out that his batteries were dead flat. Once you put them on the charger they jumped from 5v to 16 in an instant. They were toast. Made me wonder if my dad could bring them back using his desulfator…. Thankfully his brother bought some good ones over and we were able to show Cole how to hook them up as 12v for low speed and 24v for high speed. He was a happy chap.

    Speaking of Cole, no photos of his truck, but it’s pretty heavily modded, a bit like Marty really, just in truck form. One of the many many mods he has done is that he has pulled out the original seats and put in racing bucket seats…. So yeah, when he suggested that we go and buy some cigars in his truck, I jumped at the chance…. Why?
    Read the caption……

    Fun sucking California……

    After cigars, Vodka tasting!!

    It was my birthday, so Amy was spoiling me a little…. Anyway, we had a great visit, and before you knew it, the speed brakes were on and we were back in San Diego and a short drive home completed the trip.

  • Add batteries to stabilize the grid

    [Edit 13th March – This has really blown up in the media since I wrote this blog over a week ago. I did not think it would gain as much traction so I just scheduled this blog to go live 1 week forward from when I wrote it (as I often do if I have a few blogs stacked up), but then I am also not sure that I have anything timely to say, so in the end, I am just a bit dejected that I was talking about this a week before mainstream media picked it up, but on the flip side, you do not come to this blog to be on the bleeding edge of tech news?]

    Ok, on the back of yesterdays blog, I just had to follow up with this other angle…..

    Tesla is in talks with the Australian Government about adding ‘utility sized’ battery storage to the grid to help stabilize it.

    Some takeaway points I want to highlight;

    The Australian government, which has been known for encouraging fossil fuels, currently counts on peaker plants and “clean coal” to fix the issue, Rive claimed that Tesla could do it better and faster.

    This puts the finger on the two points I made yesterday, pulling the gas (peaker plants) AND making the coal ‘clean’ is not the answer. You can’t just pull them out, put in some solar, wind and hydro plants, it just won’t be stable enough.

    He referenced the 80MWh Powerpack station with Southern California Edison in Los Angeles, which they built and brought online in just 90 days.

    This installation is just down the road from Temecula. There is nothing to look at, other wise I might drive down and check it out. The point is, Tesla have done it. They know this stuff. It is not bleeding edge, it is not rocket science. It is battery banks and inverters. That’s it.

    Tesla then really really hits the nail on the head;

    “It makes no sense to duplicate infrastructure. By the time it gets up and running, the technology will be obsolete. It’s going to take years. […] And it still doesn’t address the problem. It’s a bandaid. We don’t need to build more transmission lines. …The only reason we’re building more transmission lines is to address congestion that may happen a few times a year. Storage can fill that gap. Use the existing infrastructure (and add battery storage) and it solves the problem. It really does. And it’s more cost effective. Why go the other path?”

    Boom. Love this. Don’t spend millions and millions on 2-3 days a year for some weird sequence of weather events. Spend a little money that will fix the day to day, week to week disturbances on the grid.

    The article then goes on to talk about the Tesla Powerwall product, I have some thoughts on those too, but they will have to wait, along with the blog on the ‘duck curve’…..

  • TV Pickup.

    This is sorta part 1 of 2 that I have been meaning to blog about for a while….

    My adventures in mains frequency measurement came from an Opto customer that wanted to make a device that started a generator if the mains frequency dropped a set amount (less than 1Hz).
    Some of my co-workers wanted to know why it would drop… I have no idea how I knew the answer, I just did. Not that it mattered at the time, but I called it the wrong thing, I called it ‘the kettle effect’, it’s not, it’s called ‘TV Pickup’.

    Television pickup is a term used in the United Kingdom to refer to a phenomenon that affects electricity generation and transmission networks. It often occurs when a large number of people watch the same TV programmes while taking advantage of commercial breaks to operate electrical appliances (particularly kettles), thus causing large synchronised surges in national electricity consumption.

    Why the UK? Because of the small physical size of the country (and thus power grid) and because of the high density of population.
    The same mains frequency shift can happen in Texas because they are not connected to the rest of the USA power grid (another blog for another day).
    The Opto customer is working with the UK guys first because they have more of a problem than Texas…. Why is this a problem?
    Because the power grid can not store energy. Simple as that. Every watt produced and pumped into the grid must be consumed by someone somewhere at the exact same time.
    It is really something to stop and consider this TV Pickup effect…. A tv show gets to a commercial break and millions of people put the kettle on for a cup of tea, and boom the grid is hit with the sudden need for a bunch of power that the grid itself can not provide.
    How much of an issue is it?

    The largest ever pickup was on 4 July 1990 when a 2800 MW demand was imposed by the ending of the penalty shootout in the England v West Germany FIFA World Cup semi-final.

    2.8 gigawatts. In a few seconds, please… Is that too much to ask? I would like my cup of tea…. Oh, and if the power is not there, the lights, tv and kettle are going to turn off in a blackout event, and that is going to take even more power to basicly reboot the nation.
    Stop and think about that. 2800Mw of power spun up and injected in the grid in a few seconds…. yeah, right… no worries mate…. I got this….

    To prepare for pickups the team runs a computer program that compares the current day with corresponding periods over the past five years to predict the size of demand, and studies TV schedules to anticipate demand from popular shows like Strictly Come Dancing.

    Yep, that’s right, the power station tracks the popularity of tv shows. Amazing. Cool and a little scary. What have we become?

    How can you make that much power that quick?

    The shortest lead-in times are on pumped storage reservoirs, such as the Dinorwig power station that has the fastest response time of any pumped storage station in the world at just 12 seconds to produce 1320 MW. Once the longer term fossil fuel stations, which have response times around half an hour, and nuclear power stations, which can take even longer, come online then pumped storage stations can be turned off and the water returned to the reservoir.

    In the case of the UK, pumped water. They pump water up to a reservoir overnight and then when they need it, they just open a valve and the water flows down and spins up the generator pretty quick.

    Of course the same thing can happen the other way as well….

    The Grid also plans for the opposite effect, a co-ordinated mass switch-off of appliances. Boxing Day is consistently, according to one employee, “the lowest of the low” power usage. At midday on 5 January 2005 a three minutes silence in remembrance of the Boxing Day Tsunami resulted in a 1300 MW temporary drop in consumption followed by a sudden 1400 MW rise. Similar, though smaller, switch-offs occur annually at 11 am on Remembrance Day. These switch-offs occur during the day time, so they are smaller than pickups seen at night when more electrical appliances are likely to be in use. National Grid argued against the mass switch-off originally planned for the Live Earth and Planet Aid events as these would have resulted in highly unpredictable demands for electricity and would have generated more carbon dioxide than would have been saved. These events were subsequently cancelled.

    I don’t know about you, but I found all this just amazingly fascinating.
    The automation, the engineering and people involved in keeping the grid and thus us all happy and healthy is just astonishing. People go probably go their whole lives without giving it a second thought….. I mean, it’s just me, making a cup of tea during a TV commercial…..

    Because I can and because I am so fascinated with this topic I am still monitoring the mains frequency at my house and it’s been rock solid.
    I added some code start of September to grab the max and min readings every second and latch it.

    groov mains frequency - home max min

    In this screenshot from today you can see the max and min and when they occurred. Only 0.117 Hz variation in all this time. Amazing.
    That said, SoCal is part of a very big grid.
    Opto’s customer that is starting the generator in the UK would see way more variation than this in a single day, and that no doubt is their business model. Get that generator started and lift the grid a little. Lots of people starting generators in anything under 12 seconds could really make a big difference.

    Ok, part two is all about the duck curve (no sneaky googling what it is), and yes, this time, I have the name right……