Report highlights enormous potential of affordable solar energy

May 6, 2015 by Melissa Abraham

Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity's future long-term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions—but to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy, says a comprehensive new study, titled "The Future of Solar Energy," released today by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

"Our objective has been to assess 's current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary," says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

The study's chair, Richard Schmalensee, the Howard W. Johnson Professor Emeritus of Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, adds, "What the study shows is that our focus needs to shift toward new technologies and policies that have the potential to make solar a compelling economic option."

The study group is presenting its findings to lawmakers and senior administration officials this week in Washington.

"The Future of Solar Energy" reflects on the technical, commercial, and policy dimensions of solar energy today and makes recommendations to policymakers regarding more effective federal and state support for research and development, technology demonstration, and solar deployment.

Among its major themes is the need to prepare our electricity systems, both technically and from a regulatory standpoint, for very large-scale deployment of solar generation—which tends to vary unpredictably throughout the day. To this end, the study emphasizes the need for federal research and development support to advance low-cost, large-scale electricity storage technologies.

The analysis finds that today's federal and state subsidy programs designed to encourage investment in solar systems should be reconsidered, to increase their cost-effectiveness, with greater emphasis on rewarding production of solar energy.

The group also recommends that state renewable portfolio standards, which are designed to increase generation of electricity from renewable resources, be brought under a unified national program that would reduce the cost of meeting set mandates by allowing unrestricted interstate trading of credits.

The study concludes by pointing to the urgent need for an ambitious and innovative approach to technology development, with federal research and development investment focused on new technologies and systems with the potential to deliver transformative system cost reductions.

Explore further: NREL report estimates market potential of shared solar, discusses relevant securities regulations

More information: "The Future of Solar Energy": mitei.mit.edu/futureofsolar

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Milou
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2015
And, the utility companies are fighting this all the way to the bank. Shortsighted and incomprehensible. Good intentions are just that; "good intentions".
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) May 06, 2015
Shortsighted and incomprehensible.

Shortsighted? Yes. Incoprehensible? No. If you have a cash cow you want to stop anything that would slaughter it.
If your company is traded at the stock exchange NOT fighting something like this would fall under failing to show due dilligence. I.e. you're likely to get sued into oblivion by your own stockholders. So if the CEOs of the big utilities like the salaries they are getting they are more or less legally obliged to sabotage the further spread/development of renewables in every way they can.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (19) May 06, 2015
AA, nope. They missed the boat by not being the installers of solar, and now are playing catch-up. But they cannot fight it. So they use it themselves. We have over a Gigawatt of PV in California already, much of it utility-owned.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015
with greater emphasis on rewarding production of solar energy.


No. With a greater emphasis on rewarding the output management.

So if the CEOs of the big utilities like the salaries they are getting they are more or less legally obliged to sabotage the further spread/development of renewables in every way they can.


Never ascribe to malice which can adequately be explained by incompetence. The governments are really throwing the utilities under a bus here.

Subsidizing the panels before the batteries and the grid just messes up the grid. That's why the utilities don't like it very much: people are being paid to install solar panels, and the utilities have to buy the power AND pay for the infrastructure to deal with it.

You're treating the issue as if the utilites are evil for doing their jobs delivering you power.

We have over a Gigawatt of PV in California already, much of it utility-owned


Aka. about 150 MW on average. Small fish in the pond.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (20) May 06, 2015
A thousand Megawatts is "small"???

What you got?

How long did it take us to develop and build a thousand Megawatts of fossil fuels? A few years, like we have done here?

Nope.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015
A thousand Megawatts is "small"???


When talking of solar power, a thousand megawatts IS small because it's producing about 1/7 of the nameplate capacity. You have to make the difference between what you mean.

What you actually have in California as of 2014 is 7,808 MWp of various solar electric installations that are running at an average capacity factor 0.144 for a total of of 1.13 GW average output.

That is equivalent to 5% of the state's electricity production, or about the worth of a single large CCGT powerplant of modern construction.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015
The 1:7 relationship between peak and the average illustrates the problem for the utilities that I'm talking about.

The actual output from the solar installations varies between 0% and 35% of the system power. California is at a point where the utilities have to deal with power swings of one third of all their output.

The Californian solar output already leveled off the midday peak demand back in 2013:

http://www.morgan...art.ashx

It's estimated that by 2020 there will be overproduction of electricity due to solar power. In five years time, it just won't fit the grid anymore, yet this overproduction does not mean there's enough electricity to go around because it all happens in the afternoon and not in the evening when the demand is greatest.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (21) May 06, 2015
We get that power just when it is most needed. You may not have read that in Wiki.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015
We get that power just when it is most needed. You may not have read that in Wiki.


My sources say otherwise.

https://energyath...mandate/
One point of concern is the duck's long neck, representing a 14,000 MW swing in net load in a roughly one hour period from 5 to 6PM.


That's not going to be met with anything else but very expensive diesel generators.

Or batteries, if there is significant investment in installing them - but alas, all the subsidies are directed for installing solar panels which make the problem worse.

Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015
One point to note about the "duck curve" is that it's not a set shape. It's part of a report that is looking for the largest power swings happening in the system.

The actual shape of the curve varies through the year, year-to-year and day-to-day, depending on the particular mixture of solar and wind power that happens in the system. It could be better, it could be worse.

The timing changes. The power doesn't always come "when it's most needed".

That's also why other options such as demand shaping by installing smart meters that bill you based on the demand won't actually work. People would have to adjust to a schedule that keeps changing randomly from day to day instead of simply avoiding washing their clothes at 5 pm.

It's not a practical reality. That's why there needs to be energy storage on the grid and in the homes to meet those power swings from the supply side.

gkam
1.4 / 5 (20) May 06, 2015
"That's also why other options such as demand shaping by installing smart meters that bill you based on the demand won't actually work."
-------------------------------------------

We were using time of use metering, demand billing for as long as you have been alive. The demand charges exceeded the energy charges, which will spur a real interest in avoiding that. I suggest you go to an energy-intensive industry and pay the bills for a while.

BTW, did you really read the article? It shows how time of user rates really DO work in residential applications.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015

We were using time of use metering, demand billing for as long as you have been alive.


That isn't the same thing. I'm talking about meters that take the real-time pricing from the market to adjust customer demand.

The utility can't deal with it in the old way of demand billing because they won't actually have certain times when the demand is high or low. In the future, the demand will depend increasingly on the weather and on the short timescales it will be random.

A lot of our tasks aren't adjustable to such random variation. I can't choose to wash my clothes or cook my food at an arbitrary hour of the day if the hour keeps changing all the time.


BTW, did you really read the article? It shows how time of user rates really DO work in residential applications.


It doesnt show. It claims it's a more cost-effective solution, but it makes the error of assuming that the "duck curve" does not vary.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (18) May 06, 2015
I suggest you go to an energy-intensive industry and pay the bills for a while.


Energy intensive industry arranges their energy outside of the spot market by going directly to the producers. They aren't subject to the same time-of-demand variations in price because they've negotiated beforehand exactly when and how much power they get at what price.

This presents another problem in the grid's flexibility, because it has to transmit power to these industrial customers as well, and if you want them to switch from producers using fossil fuels to renewable energy, you need to keep the prices equally predictable and equally low.

Otherwise they'll just leave your state for another one that doesn't have their heads up their collective ass.

Eikka
4.8 / 5 (19) May 06, 2015
The problem is actually further along that those 2013 predictions:

http://www.greent...ck-curve

California's system operator is already hitting "duck curve" projections for 2020.
January 27, 2015


2015 is the year to open the market for long-duration energy storage. To avoid the perverse outcome of curtailment of zero-marginal-cost, greenhouse-gas-free renewable resources, we need to absorb gigawatt-hours' worth of midday solar energy for re-use later in the day or the week.


The system isn't yet at its technical limits, but it has reached the same economic limits as in Germany, where system prices fall to negative because of inflexibility. Without energy storage, the only way from here is to toss the excess energy and pay the producers for not producing - or find an outside buyer for it.

I.e. California has reached integration limits for its renewables. Now the costs start to rise.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (19) May 06, 2015
Here is a website offering a real-time view of the power system state in California:

http://www.caiso....tus.html

You can watch the daily duck curve develop.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (21) May 06, 2015
Argue all you want, Eikka, I think most energy producers are more knowledgeable in the field than you, with your prejudices.

And the article clearly shows how the residents in question changed their actions based on time-of-use.

In industry I had to invent a series of lights to let my electric furnace operators keep knowing where they were in the TOU interval, by checking rate and predicting, using offsets and form-fitting logic. We could do it even for floating intervals, which is what we had.

Look up what they are.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (20) May 06, 2015
The late afternoon has the greatest need for power here,with A/C, and folk cooking dinner and lights coming on, and all. That is EXACTLY when the wind turbines come to life at Altamont, lasting late into the night.

Of course, we have some Europeans and Americans wedded to coal who think it is impossible and certainly not intelligent to get free power without waste.

But we like it.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (19) May 06, 2015
Argue all you want, Eikka, I think most energy producers are more knowledgeable in the field than you, with your prejudices.


I'm referring directly to their knowledge on this matter. You can take your objections directly to CAISO. I'm not presenting personal conjecture like you are.

In industry I had to invent a series of lights to let my electric furnace operators keep knowing where they were in the TOU interval


There was a period in California politics when utilities and operators were banned from arranging energy inputs and outputs outside of the common market. That isn't the case anymore. Your information is outdated.

The late afternoon has the greatest need for power here,with A/C, and folk cooking dinner and lights coming on, and all. That is EXACTLY when the wind turbines come to life at Altamont, lasting late into the night.


RIght now, the greatest need for power in California is predicted for 9 pm. See the link I provided above.
Eikka
4.8 / 5 (19) May 06, 2015
And the article clearly shows how the residents in question changed their actions based on time-of-use.


Yes, it does show that those residents changed their behaviour when faced with time-of-demand billing for a pre-defined predictable set of hours and days. Like the article says, there's only about 12 "smart days" a year

It does nothing to show that they could practically adjust their demand to a randomly changing situation where the price depends on whether it's sunny and/or windy today. It says simply:

The SmartRate was not designed to address renewables integration. The problems highlighted by the duck graph are most pronounced in spring and fall months, when the sun sets before the daytime load subsides. Presumably, though, similar dynamic pricing schemes could incentivize consumers to shift their load to help smooth the duck graph.


Presumably. Not provably.

Eikka
4.8 / 5 (19) May 06, 2015
That is EXACTLY when the wind turbines come to life at Altamont


You like that place so much that you keep ignoring it's only providing around 0.1% of the Californian power demand.

Two points:
1) Altamont doesn't come online in the late afternoon. On some days maybe, but not consistently.

This graph from 1984 actually shows it didn't meet the PG&E grid load very well at all.
http://publishing...0025.jpg
"Comparison of the \ Pass wind farms output with PG&E system demand on peak demand days, July 17-18, 1984. Source: Smith, Steeley, and Hillesland (1984), p. 9."

2) Previously when you've talked about Altamont, you've claimed that it comes online right along the mid-day peak for the A/C loads when the sun warms up the ground and and lifts the winds (which it doesn't). You keep changing your statement as it suits you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.6 / 5 (20) May 06, 2015
We have over a Gigawatt of PV in California already, much of it utility-owned.
-And youre only off by a factor of 10.

"The 9,977 MW of solar energy currently installed in California ranks the state 1st in the country in installed solar capacity."

-You dumfuk.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.4 / 5 (20) May 06, 2015
It's estimated that by 2020 there will be overproduction of electricity due to solar power
This should mesh well with the massive desalination projects being planned and built.

"The crews are building what boosters say represents California's best hope for a drought-proof water supply: the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The $1 billion project will provide 50 million gallons of drinking water a day for San Diego County when it opens in 2016... Fifteen desalination projects are proposed along the coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay... In Carlsbad, two gallons of seawater will be needed to produce each gallon of drinking water. And to remove the salt, the plant will use an enormous amount of energy -- about 38 megawatts, enough to power 28,500 homes..."

-I am guessing this can be tailored to match available electrical supply.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (21) May 06, 2015
Oops, I meant PG&E, who added a thousand Megawatts of solar PV last year alone. Thanks for making my point for me. We now total over four thousand megawatts in PG&E territory, or four million kilowatts to the goobers. So, is it over a Gigawatt??

And what have the rest of you done? Carp from the sidelines?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (21) May 06, 2015
Oops, I meant PG&E, who added a thousand Megawatts of solar PV last year alone. Thanks for making my point for me. We now total over four thousand megawatts in PG&E territory, or four million kilowatts to the goobers. So, is it over a Gigawatt??

And what have the rest of you done? Carp from the sidelines?
Sometimes (all the time) when george wants to win he just ignores (or pretends to ignore) the posts that prove him wrong.

Quits a talent.
inorg_lsc
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2015
The potential of affordable solar energy will further increase in the years to come, due to this new development: https://www.youtu...bcLVvPCY

For a visually-clear window outputting 28Wp per 1m2, a building with 5000 m2 of sunlit glass will generate about 0.2Gigawatt-hrs of electric energy per year, in hot-climate locations.
Lord_jag
1.8 / 5 (15) May 07, 2015
Here is a website offering a real-time view of the power system state in California:

http://www.caiso....tus.html


That is a truely awesome graph. Just look at that HUGE bulge from 6am to 6pm that could be totally decimated by solar power. Then there's the second bulge that could be completely supplied by Tesla's PowerWall.

Lets see... That's peak 30GW. In solar panels that would cost 30 Billion dollars. Then in PowerWall , $3K/10KWh, times 7 hrs at 30GW, is another 70 billion dollars.

So for 100 Billion dollars California could be solar and battery powered?

And to think the USA spends 30 times that in one year on an illegal war to steal oil and no one bats an eye. Huh. Priorities I guess.
gkam
1.2 / 5 (19) May 07, 2015
"And to think the USA spends 30 times that in one year on an illegal war to steal oil and no one bats an eye. Huh. Priorities I guess."
----------------------------------------------

Conservative Big Money Politics.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.4 / 5 (19) May 07, 2015
Oops, I meant PG&E, who added a thousand Megawatts of solar PV last year alone...
And what have the rest of you done? Carp from the sidelines?
No we can prove you the stinking bullshitter that you are once again.

"More than 45,000 new solar customers were added in 2014 alone. During this time period, PG&E added approximately 326 MW of installed solar power – enough to power more than 70,000 homes."

-George the BULLSHITTER who makes up facts as he sees fit. George the LIAR who has made up an entire career history in order to justify his bullshit.

Youre a fucking JOKE george.
gkam
1.2 / 5 (17) May 07, 2015
otto, once again you have revealed more about yourself than about me.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (18) May 07, 2015
otto, once again you have revealed more about yourself than about me.
How so george? You missed your first statistic by 10x. Then to cover your ass you dropped another one which was off by a factor of 3.

Can you think of any more appropriate words to describe the lowlife that you are?

No. obscenity for obscenity. Your lies are obscene. Your disregard for the truth is foul.

Youre a fucking JOKE george.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (18) May 07, 2015
otto, when your mother comes home and sees all this on her computer, she'll make you take off your National Socialist Youth uniform and take a bath.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.4 / 5 (19) May 08, 2015
otto, when your mother comes home and sees all this on her computer, she'll make you take off your National Socialist Youth uniform and take a bath.
My mom used to wash out my mouth with soap when she caught me lying.

Did your mom give you a cookie instead?
gkam
1.2 / 5 (17) May 08, 2015
"My mom used to wash out my mouth with soap when she caught me lying."
---------------------------------------

Today???
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (18) May 10, 2015
Did your mom give you a cookie for lying today? Or are you conditioned to salivate without the reward like the little Russian dog?

Because I am sure you lied today-
gkam
1.2 / 5 (17) May 10, 2015
Utilities in California led the way in this, starting in the late 1970's. When I was hired in 1980, after a decade or two in industry, we began the most comprehensive and complete energy management and conservation program in history. We increased our available power by reducing the waste in the facilities of our customers, which made them more profitable, as well.

Now we will all do it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.5 / 5 (17) May 11, 2015
Sounds like George is saying that he is responsible for 'the most comprehensive and complete energy management and conservation program in history.'

I suppose that is possible to believe if we assume that statistics for such influence could be manipulated by 10x and 3x as George has done in the above thread. For once one begins to manipulate, what's 1000x or 1Mx? All require the same mental effort, the same tenuous contact with reality.

But only people with substandard intellects can actually believe they could get away with it.

Mealy little men look very big when you look at them very closely. George must look like a veritable giant among men from the inside.
gkam
1.2 / 5 (17) May 11, 2015
Even with the new technologies, we have ways to go in energy management and conservation. Older buildings and homes are especially vulnerable to poor thermal operation. I expect that to be remedied soon. IR imagers have been developed for phone cameras now, which can let any of us actually see the heat escaping from our systems and buildings.

It is also industry where much savings are still to be found. To their credit, many data center owners are finding alternative energy to operate their power-hungry facilities.

To otto, no, I was part of the College and University and Hospital Program, where we concentrated on particular installations and systems. That was before I went into Technical Services. What did you do in the 1980's?

Anything?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.5 / 5 (17) May 11, 2015
To otto, no, I was part of the College and University and Hospital Program, where we concentrated on particular installations and systems. That was before I went into Technical Services
I see. And just how long did these positions last?

You have apparently had a dozen or more jobs. You were a tech in a foundry, some sort of research tech somewhere, a tech involved in a paper, etc. You were at PG&E for 6 years, starting out as an advisor of some sort? -and ending up team teaching in traveling seminars. And, of course, the consulting.

Is 6 years your longest tenure? Is it because you always thought you were more qualified for these jobs than you actually were? Or was it because your employers consistently failed to appreciate how obviously qualified you were?

Please provide your full CV as to clear up any confusion. Including all stints on unemployment compensation.

Come on youre more than willing to brag about these individually. Lets see the whole mess.
gkam
1.3 / 5 (16) May 11, 2015
Is there some way for us to rid ourselves of malicious vandals?

This fool otto admitted already he is an anonymous sniper, playing his "games" here. How do we send these adolescents and sickos to more appropriate fora??
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.6 / 5 (18) May 12, 2015
Is there some way for us to rid ourselves of malicious vandals?

This fool otto admitted already he is an anonymous sniper, playing his "games" here
HOW LONG george? Are you ashamed to reveal your entire CV? Why?

Is it because you think it looks better if you present it all chopped up, and give the impression that you were actually successful at all of them?
How do we send these adolescents and sickos to more appropriate fora??
Adolescents pretend to be who they are not, and get angry and stamp their feet when they are questioned.

You continue to post garbage and you will continue to be criticized. Guaranteed.

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