Tag Archives: smart grid. shaping power

World’s biggest battery installation

JAMESTOWN, Australia—Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk may have overpromised on production of the company’s latest electric car, but he is delivering on his audacious Australian battery bet.

An enormous Tesla-built battery system—storing electricity from a new wind farm and capable of supplying 30,000 homes for more than an hour—will be powered up over the coming days, the government of South Australia state said Thursday. Final tests are set to be followed by a street party that Mr. Musk, founder of both Tesla and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, was expected to attend.

Success would fulfill the risky pledge Mr. Musk made in March, to deliver a working system in “100 days from contract signature or it is free.” He was answering a Twitter challenge from Australian IT billionaire and environmentalist Mike Cannon-Brookes to help fix electricity problems in South Australia—which relies heavily on renewable energy—after crippling summer blackouts left 1.7 million people without power, some for weeks.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes then brokered talks between Mr. Musk and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has faced criticism from climate groups for winding back renewable-energy policies in favor of coal. South Australia notwithstanding, the country’s per-person greenhouse emissions are among the world’s highest.

South Australia’s government has yet to say how much the battery will cost taxpayers, although renewable-energy experts estimate it at US$50 million. Tesla says the system’s 100-megawatt capacity makes it the world’s largest, tripling the previous record array at Mira Loma in Ontario, Calif., also built by Tesla and U.S. power company Edison.

NEST Smart Home Update

I have been tracking Google’s NEST for awhile now. It’s the best example I know of a learning system for the home. The latest is …. it is still the best!

CREDIT: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-thermostat/

We spent more than a month trying five popular smart thermostats—testing the hardware, their accompanying mobile apps, and their integrations with various smart-home systems—and the third-generation Nest remains our pick. Five years after the Nest’s debut, a handful of bona fide competitors approach it in style and functionality, but the Nest Learning Thermostat remains the leader. It’s still the easiest, most intuitive thermostat we tested, offering the best combination of style and substance.

Last Updated: November 10, 2016
We’ve added our review of Ecobee’s new Ecobee3 Lite, and we’ve updated our thoughts on HomeKit integration following the launch of Apple’s Home app. We’ve also included details on Nest’s new Eco setting and color options, a brief look at the upcoming Lyric T5, and a clarification regarding the use of a C wire for the Emerson Sensi.

The Nest works well on its own or integrated with other smart-home products. Its software and apps are solid and elegant, too, and it does a really good job of keeping your home at a comfortable temperature with little to no input from you. Plus, if you want to change the temperature yourself, you can easily do so from your smartphone or computer, or with your voice via Google or an Amazon Echo. All of that means never having to get up from a cozy spot on the couch to mess with the thermostat. While the competition is catching up, none of the other devices we tested could match the Nest’s smarts. The expansion of the Works with Nest smart-home ecosystem and the introduction of Home/Away Assist have kept the Nest in the lead by fine-tuning those smart capabilities. The recent hardware update merely added a larger screen and a choice of clock interfaces, but the ongoing software improvements (which apply to all three generations of the product) have helped keep the Nest in its position as the frontrunner in this category without leaving its early adopters out in the cold.


Not as sleek or intuitive as the Nest, but it supports Apple’s HomeKit and uses stand-alone remote sensors to register temperature in different parts of a house, making it an option for large homes with weak HVAC systems.
The Ecobee3’s support for remote sensors makes it appealing if your thermostat isn’t in the best part of your house to measure the temperature. If you have a large, multistory house with a single-zone HVAC system, you can have big temperature differences between rooms. With Ecobee3’s add-on sensors (you get one with the unit and can add up to 32 more), the thermostat uses the sensors’ occupancy detectors to match the target temperature in occupied rooms, rather than just wherever the thermostat is installed. However, it doesn’t have the level of intelligence of the Nest, or that model’s retro cool look (which even the Honeywell Lyric takes a good stab at). Its black, rounded-rectangle design and touchscreen interface have a more modern feel, it looks a bit like someone mounted a smartphone app on your wall.

Ecobee3 Lite
Ecobee’s new Lite model is a great budget option. It doesn’t have any occupancy sensors or remote temperature sensors, but it would work well for a smaller home invested in the Apple ecosystem.
For a cheaper smart thermostat with most of the important features of the more expensive models, we suggest the Ecobee3 Lite. This budget version of the Ecobee3 lacks the remote sensors and occupancy sensors of its predecessor but retains the programming and scheduling features, and like the main Ecobee3, it works with a variety of smart-home systems, including HomeKit, Alexa, SmartThings, Wink, and IFTTT. However, the lack of an occupancy sensor means you’ll have to manually revert it to its prescheduled state anytime you use Alexa, Siri, or any other integration to change its temperature.

real people should not fill this in and expect good things – do not remove this or risk form bot signups

Table of contents
Why a smart thermostat?
Smart-home integration
Who this is for
The C-wire conundrum
Multizone systems
How we picked and tested
Our pick
Who else likes our pick
Flaws but not deal breakers
Potential privacy issues
The next best thing (for larger homes)
Budget pick
The competition
What to look forward to
Wrapping it up

Why a smart thermostat?
A smart thermostat isn’t just convenient: Used wisely, it can save energy (and money), and it offers the potential for some cool integrations. If you upgrade to any smart thermostat after years with a basic one, the first and most life-changing difference will be the ability to control it remotely, from your phone, on your tablet, or with your voice. No more getting up in the middle of the night to turn up the AC. No dashing back into the house to lower the heat before you go on errands (or vacation). No coming home to a sweltering apartment—you just fire up the AC when you’re 10 minutes away, or even better, have your thermostat turn itself on in anticipation of your arrival.
Technically, thermostats have been “smart” since the first time a manufacturer realized that such devices could be more than a mercury thermometer and a metal dial. For years, the Home Depots of the world were full of plastic rectangles that owed a lot to the digital clock: They’d let you dial in ideal heating and cooling temperatures, and maybe even set different temperatures for certain times of the day and particular days of the week.
The thermostat landscape changed with the introduction of the Nest in 2011 by Nest Labs, a company led by Tony Fadell, generally credited to be one of the major forces behind Apple’s iPod. (Google acquired Nest Labs in 2014; Fadell has since moved on to an advisory position at Alphabet, Google’s parent company.) The original Nest was a stylish metal-and-glass Wi-Fi–enabled device, with a bright color screen and integrated smartphone apps—in other words, a device that combined style and functionality in a way never before seen in the category.
The Nest got a lot of publicity, especially when you consider that it’s a thermostat. Within a few months, Nest Labs was slapped with a patent suit by Honeywell, maker of numerous competing thermostats.
But once the Nest was out there, it was hard to deny that the thermostat world had needed a kick in the pants. And five years later, not only have the traditional plastic beige rectangles gained Wi-Fi features and smartphone apps, but other companies have also entered the high-feature, high-design thermostat market, including the upstart Ecobee and the old standards Honeywell, Emerson, and Carrier.
The fact is, a cheap plastic thermostat with basic time programming—the kind people have had for two decades—will do a pretty good job of keeping your house at the right temperature without wasting a lot of money, so long as you put in the effort to program it and remember to shut it off. But that’s the thing: Most people don’t.
These new thermostats are smart because they spend time doing the thinking that most people just don’t do.
“The majority of people who have a programmable thermostat don’t program it, or maybe they program it once and never update it when things change,” said Bronson Shavitz, a Chicago-area contractor who has installed and serviced hundreds of heating and cooling systems over the years.

Smart thermostats spend time doing the thinking that most people just don’t do, turning themselves off when nobody’s home, targeting temperatures only in occupied rooms, and learning your household schedule through observation. Plus, with their sleek chassis and integrated smartphone apps, these thermostats are fun to use.

Nest Labs claims that a learning thermostat (well, its learning thermostat) saves enough energy to pay for itself in as little as two years.
Since the introduction of the Nest, energy companies have begun offering rebates and incentives for their customers to switch to a smart thermostat, and some have even developed their own devices and apps and now offer them for free or at a greatly reduced price to encourage customers to switch. Clearly, these devices provide a larger benefit than simple convenience. Because they can do a better job of scheduling the heating and cooling of your house than you can, they save money and energy.

Smart-home integration
Among the useful features of smart thermostats is the ability to work as part of a larger smart-home system and to keep developing even after you’ve purchased one. For example, many of the thermostats we tested now integrate with the Amazon Echo, a Wi-Fi–connected speaker that can control many smart-home devices. You can speak commands to Alexa, Echo’s personal assistant, to adjust your climate control. This function came to the thermostats via a software update, so a smart thermostat purchased last year has the same functionality as one bought yesterday.
These over-the-air software updates, while sometimes known to cause issues, are a key feature of smart devices. Shelling out $250 for a thermostat that has the potential to become better as it sits on your wall helps cushion some of the sticker shock. The Nest earns particularly high marks in this area, because whether you bought one in 2011 or 2016, you get the same advanced learning algorithms and smart integrations.
Additionally, all of the thermostats we tested work with one or more smart-home hubs such as SmartThings and Wink, or within a Web-enabled ecosystem like Amazon’s Alexa or IFTTT (If This Then That). The Nest also has its own developer program, Works with Nest, which integrates the company’s thermostat and other products directly with a long and growing list of devices including smart lights, appliances, locks, cars, shades, and garage door openers. This means you can add your thermostat to different smart scenarios and have it react to other actions in your home: It could set itself to Away mode and lock your Kevo smart door lock when you leave your house, for instance, or it could turn up the heat when your Chamberlain MyQ garage door opener activates. These ecosystems are continually growing, meaning the interactions your thermostat is capable of are growing as well (sometimes with the purchase of additional hardware).
With the release of the Home app for HomeKit, Apple’s smart-home unification plans have taken a bigger step toward fruition. While the devices are still limited (a hardware update is required for compatibility), you can now create scenes (linking devices together) and control them from outside the home on an iPad; previously you had to use a third-generation Apple TV. This change increases the number of people who will see HomeKit as a viable smart-home option. Even without an iPad permanently residing in your home, you can still talk to and operate HomeKit products using Siri on your iPhone or iPad while you are at home. The system works in the same way Alexa does, and it’s actually a little more pleasant to use than shouting across the room.
The Ecobee3, Ecobee 3 Lite and Honeywell Lyric (released January 2016) are all HomeKit compatible, and can communicate with other HomeKit devices to create scenes such as “I’m Home,” to trigger your thermostat to set to your desired temp and your HomeKit-compatible lights to come on.
Google now offers its own voice-activated speaker similar to Amazon’s Echo, the Google Home. The Home, which integrates with Nest as well as IFTTT, SmartThings, and Philips Hue, allows you to control your Nest thermostat via voice.

Who this is for
Get a smart thermostat if you’re interested in saving more energy and exerting more control over your home environment. If you like the prospect of turning on your heater on your way home from work, or having your home’s temperature adjust intelligently, a smart thermostat will suit you. And, well, these devices just look cooler than those plastic rectangles of old.
Get a smart thermostat if you’re interested in saving more energy and exerting more control over your home environment.
If you already have a smart thermostat, such as a first- or second-generation Nest, you don’t need to upgrade. And if you have a big, complex home-automation system that includes a thermostat, you may prefer the interoperability of your current setup to the intelligence and elegance of a Nest or similar thermostat.
If you don’t care much about slick design and attractive user interfaces, you can find cheaper thermostats (available from companies such as Honeywell) that offer Wi-Fi connectivity and some degree of scheduling flexibility. The hardware is dull and interfaces pedestrian, but they’ll do the job and save you a few bucks.
The devices we looked at are designed to be attached to existing heating and cooling systems. Most manufacturers now offer Wi-Fi thermostats of their own, and while they’re generally not as stylish as the models we looked at, they have the advantage of being designed specifically for that manufacturer’s equipment. That offers some serious benefits, including access to special features and a deep understanding of how specific equipment behaves that a more general thermostat can’t have.

The C-wire conundrum
One major caveat with all smart thermostats is the need for a C wire, or “common wire,” which supplies AC power from your furnace to connected devices such as thermostats. Smart thermostats are essentially small computers that require power to operate—even more so if you want to keep their screens illuminated all the time. If your heating and cooling system is equipped with a C wire, you won’t have any concerns about power. The problem is, common wires are not very common in houses.
In the absence of a C wire, both the Nest and the Honeywell Lyric can charge themselves by stealing power from other wires, but that can cause serious side effects, according to contractor Bronson Shavitz. He told us that old-school furnaces are generally resilient enough to provide power for devices such as the Nest and the Lyric, but that the high-tech circuit boards on newer models can be more prone to failure when they’re under stress from the tricks the Nest and Lyric use to charge themselves without a common wire.
Installing a C wire requires hiring an electrician and will add about $150 to your costs. The Ecobee3 includes an entire wiring kit to add a C wire if you don’t have one (for the previous version of this guide, reviewer Jason Snell spent about two hours rewiring his heater to accommodate the wiring kit). The Emerson Sensi is the only thermostat we tested that claims not to need a C wire, but it too draws power from whichever system is not in currently in use (for example, the heating system if you’re using the AC). This means that if you have a heat- or air-only system, you will need a C wire.
Note: If the power handling is not correct, the damage to your system can be significant. The expense of replacing a furnace or AC board, plus the cost of professional installation, will probably outweigh the convenience or energy savings of a smart thermostat. Nest addresses the power requirements of its thermostat, including whether a common wire is necessary, in detail on its website, so if you’re unsure whether your system is suited for it, check out this page for C wire information, as well as this page for system compatibility questions and this page for solutions to wiring problems.

Multizone systems
If you have more than one zone in your HVAC system, you will need to purchase a separate smart thermostat for each zone. Currently, while all of the smart thermostats we tested are compatible with multizone systems, none can control more than one zone. Even though the Ecobee3 supports remote sensors, those feed only a single thermostat—so if you want more zones, you’ll still need separate thermostats, with their own sensors. However, the Ecobee3 is the only thermostat we tested that allows you to put more than one thermostat into a group so that you can program them to act identically, if you choose.

How we picked and tested

We put these five smart thermostats through their paces to bring you our top pick. Photo: Michael Hession
By eliminating proprietary and basic Wi-Fi–enabled thermostats, we ended up with six finalists: the third-generation Nest, Ecobee’s Ecobee3 and Ecobee3 Lite, Honeywell’s second-generation Lyric, Emerson’s Sensi Wi-Fi thermostat, and Carrier’s Cor. We installed each model ourselves and ran them for three to 10 days in routine operation. We did our testing in a 2,200-square-foot, two-story South Carolina home, running a two-zone HVAC system with an electric heat pump and forced air.
For each thermostat, our testing considered ease of installation and setup, ease of adjusting the temperature, processes for setting a schedule and using smartphone app features, multizone control capabilities, and smart-home interoperability.

Tesla and Energy Storage

CREDIT: Guardian Story on Tesla and Energy Storage

Tesla moves beyond electric cars with new California battery farm

From the road, the close to 400 white industrial boxes packed into 1.5 acres of barren land in Ontario, California, a little more than 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, look like standard electrical equipment. They’re surrounded by a metal fence, stand on concrete pads and sit under long electrical lines.

But take a closer look and you’ll notice the bright red coloring and gray logo of electric car company Tesla on the sides. And inside the boxes are thousands of battery cells – the same ones that are used in Tesla’s electric cars – made by the company in its massive $5bn Tesla Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada.

This spot, located at the Mira Loma substation of Southern California Edison, hosts the biggest battery farm Tesla has built for a power company. Southern California Edison will use the battery farm, which has been operating since December and is one of the biggest in the world, to store energy and meet spikes in demand – like on hot summer afternoons when buildings start to crank up the air conditioning.

Tesla’s project has a capacity of 20 megawatts and is designed to discharge 80-megawatt hours of electricity in four-hour periods. It contains enough batteries to run about 1,000 Tesla cars, and the equivalent energy to supply power to 15,000 homes for four hours. The company declined to disclose the project’s cost.

The project marks an important point in Tesla’s strategy to expand beyond the electric car business. Developing battery packs is a core expertise for the company, which is designing packs for homes, businesses and utilities. It markets them partly as a way to store solar electricity for use after sundown, a pitch that works well for states with a booming solar energy market such as California.

Battery systems built for power companies can serve more than one purpose. A utility can avoid blackouts by charging them up when its natural gas power plants, or solar and wind farms, produce more electricity than needed, and draw from them when the power plants aren’t able to keep up with demand.

Edison and other California utilities hired Tesla and a few other battery farm builders after an important natural gas reservoir near Los Angeles, called Aliso Canyon, closed following a huge leak and massive environmental disaster in late 2015. The leak forced thousands of people in nearby neighborhoods to evacuate. It also left utilities worried about how they’d meet the peak electricity demands of coming summers if they weren’t able to dip into the natural gas storage whenever they need fuel to produce power. They couldn’t always get natural gas shipment from other suppliers quick enough to meet a sharp rise in electricity consumption.

As a result, the California Public Utilities Commission approved 100 megawatts of energy storage projects for both Southern California Edison and also San Diego Gas & Electric. The commission also asked for the projects to be built quickly, before the end of 2016.

Other energy storage projects that have been built since include a 37.5-megawatt project in San Diego County by AES Energy Storage, which used lithium-ion batteries from Samsung. AES has completed the project, which is going through the commissioning phase. AES also plans to build a 100-megawatt project for Southern California Edison in Long Beach in 2020.
Even before the Aliso Canyon disaster, the commission had already recognized the benefit of using energy storage to manage supply and demand and expected it to become an important component in the state’s plan to replace fossil fuel energy with renewables. The commission, which requires the state’s three big utilities to add more wind and solar energy to their supplies over time, also set a statement energy storage target of 1,325 megawatts by 2020.
Surrounded by rows of batteries at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the project on Monday, Southern California Edison’s CEO Kevin Payne said the Tesla project is important because “it validates that energy storage can be part of the energy mix now” and is “a great reminder of how fast technology is changing the electric power industry”.

This latest crop of energy storage projects use a new generation of lithium-ion batteries. Historically, batteries were too expensive for energy storage, but their prices have dropped dramatically in recent years, thanks to their mass production by companies such as Panasonic, Tesla and Samsung.
Companies that buy lithium-ion batteries have been reporting drops in prices of 70% over the past two years. Tesla has said it plans to lower its battery prices by 30% by expanding production inside its Gigafactory.
At the event on Monday, Tesla’s co-founder and chief technology officer JB Straubel said: “Storage has been missing on the grid since it was invented.”

Tesla is counting on the energy storage market as an important source of revenue and built its giant factory with that in mind.
The company believes its expertise in engineering and building electric cars sets itself apart from other battery farm developers. Tesla has been developing battery packs for a decade and improved the technology that manages the batteries temperatures, which can be high enough to pose a fire risk.
Overheating is a well known problem for lithium-ion batteries, which require insulating materials and software to keep them running cool. A battery farm built next to a wind farm in Hawaii by a now-bankrupt company caught fire in 2012 and temporarily put a dampener on the energy storage market.
Tesla has been building another battery farm on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and has projects in Connecticut, North Carolina, New Zealand and the UK.
The company is looking for opportunities to build battery farms outside of California, including the East Coast and countries such as Germany, Australia and Japan. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk has said in the past that the company’s energy storage business could one day be bigger than its car business.

UHVDC and China

Credit: Economist Article about UHVDC and China

A greener grid
China’s embrace of a new electricity-transmission technology holds lessons for others
The case for high-voltage direct-current connectors
Jan 14th 2017

YOU cannot negotiate with nature. From the offshore wind farms of the North Sea to the solar panels glittering in the Atacama desert, renewable energy is often generated in places far from the cities and industrial centres that consume it. To boost renewables and drive down carbon-dioxide emissions, a way must be found to send energy over long distances efficiently.

The technology already exists (see article). Most electricity is transmitted today as alternating current (AC), which works well over short and medium distances. But transmission over long distances requires very high voltages, which can be tricky for AC systems. Ultra-high-voltage direct-current (UHVDC) connectors are better suited to such spans. These high-capacity links not only make the grid greener, but also make it more stable by balancing supply. The same UHVDC links that send power from distant hydroelectric plants, say, can be run in reverse when their output is not needed, pumping water back above the turbines.

Boosters of UHVDC lines envisage a supergrid capable of moving energy around the planet. That is wildly premature. But one country has grasped the potential of these high-capacity links. State Grid, China’s state-owned electricity utility, is halfway through a plan to spend $88bn on UHVDC lines between 2009 and 2020. It wants 23 lines in operation by 2030.

That China has gone furthest in this direction is no surprise. From railways to cities, China’s appetite for big infrastructure projects is legendary (see article). China’s deepest wells of renewable energy are remote—think of the sun-baked Gobi desert, the windswept plains of Xinjiang and the mountain ranges of Tibet where rivers drop precipitously. Concerns over pollution give the government an additional incentive to locate coal-fired plants away from population centres. But its embrace of the technology holds two big lessons for others. The first is a demonstration effect. China shows that UHVDC lines can be built on a massive scale. The largest, already under construction, will have the capacity to power Greater London almost three times over, and will span more than 3,000km.

The second lesson concerns the co-ordination problems that come with long-distance transmission. UHVDCs are as much about balancing interests as grids. The costs of construction are hefty. Utilities that already sell electricity at high prices are unlikely to welcome competition from suppliers of renewable energy; consumers in renewables-rich areas who buy electricity at low prices may balk at the idea of paying more because power is being exported elsewhere. Reconciling such interests is easier the fewer the utilities involved—and in China, State Grid has a monopoly.

That suggests it will be simpler for some countries than others to follow China’s lead. Developing economies that lack an established electricity infrastructure have an advantage. Solar farms on Africa’s plains and hydroplants on its powerful rivers can use UHVDC lines to get energy to growing cities. India has two lines on the drawing-board, and should have more.

Things are more complicated in the rich world. Europe’s utilities work pretty well together but a cross-border UHVDC grid will require a harmonised regulatory framework. America is the biggest anomaly. It is a continental-sized economy with the wherewithal to finance UHVDCs. It is also horribly fragmented. There are 3,000 utilities, each focused on supplying power to its own customers. Consumers a few states away are not a priority, no matter how much sense it might make to send them electricity. A scheme to connect the three regional grids in America is stuck. The only way that America will create a green national grid will be if the federal government throws its weight behind it.

Live wire
Building a UHVDC network does not solve every energy problem. Security of supply remains an issue, even within national borders: any attacker who wants to disrupt the electricity supply to China’s east coast will soon have a 3,000km-long cable to strike. Other routes to a cleaner grid are possible, such as distributed solar power and battery storage. But to bring about a zero-carbon grid, UHVDC lines will play a role. China has its foot on the gas. Others should follow.
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “A greener grid”

Fixed Costs of the Grid … 55%?

CREDIT: http://www.edisonfoundation.net/iee/Documents/IEE_ValueofGridtoDGCustomers_Sept2013.pdf

“Distributed generation” (DG) is what the electric utility industry calls solar panels, wind turbines, etc.

The article points out what is well-known: even with aggressive use of solar, any DG customer still needs the grid ….. at least this is true until a reasonable cost methodology for storing electricity at the point of generation comes on-line (at which time perhaps a true “off-grid” location is possible.

So …. for a DG customer …. the grid becomes a back-up, a source of power when the sun does not shine, the wind does not blow, etc.

So the fairness question is: should a DG customer pay for their fair share of the grid? Asked this way, the answer is obvious: yes. Just like people pay for insurance, in that same way should people be asked to pay for the cost of the grid.

Unfortunately, these costs are astronomical. This paper claims that they are 55% of total costs!

“In this example, the typical residential customer consumes, on average, about 1000 kWh per month and pays an average monthly bill of about $110 (based on EIA data). About half of that bill (i.e., $60 per month) covers charges related to the non-energy services provided by the grid….”

Batteries Update

New York Times article on big batteriesP

Notes from the article: Susan Kennedy is the former state utility regulator knows a lot about this. She now runs and energy stored start up.

AES has the contract. This is one of three major installations in Southern California.

This one is 130 miles south east of Aliso Canyon, the site of the major gas leak in 2015.

The second is installation is in Escondido, California, 30 miles north of San Diego. It will be the largest of its kind in the world.

The third is being built by Tesla – for southern California Edison – near Chino, California.

AES has two executives that drove the project since 12 2006. Chris Shelton and John Zahurancik. Their inspiration came from a purse festers paper the predicted the future dominated by electric cars. When Park, they could be connected to the grid so that their batteries could act as storage devices to help balance electricity demand.

They are buying the batteries that they are installing from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Panasonic.

California Grid

Path 26

CREDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_26
CREDIT: http://www.energy.ca.gov/maps/infrastructure/3part_southern.html
CREDIT: http://www.energy.ca.gov/maps/
CREDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_15

In winter, the Pacific Northwest needs power for heat – and must import it from So Cal.
In summer, the Pacific Northwest has excess power – and exports it to So Cal.

“Paths” are the major transmission lines that form the “grid” – which connect geographic areas covered by utilities.

Of interest here are the “paths” that transmit power north and south in California. These path make the importing and exporting of power possible.

These paths were built in the 1970s and 1980s in order to provide California and the Southwest with excess hydropower from the Pacific Northwest without actually having to construct any new power plants.

During the cold Pacific Northwest winters, power is sent north due to heater use. This transfer reverses in the hot, dry summers, when many people in the South run air conditioners.[11] In order to do this the maximum south-to-north transmission capacity is 5,400 MW for most parts,[8] but between Los Banos substation and Gates substation, there were only two 500 kV lines.

The capacity at this electricity bottleneck was only 3,900 MW, and this was identified in the 1990s as a trouble spot, but no one acted upon it.[2] This bottleneck was one of the leading causes of the California electricity crisis in 2000-2001. To remedy this problem, WAPA along with several utilities built a third 500 kV line between these two substations to eliminate this transmission constraint and raise the maximum south-to-north transmission capacity to 5,400 MW.[2] The project was completed under budget and on time on December 21, 2004.[12] California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the commissioning ceremony at California-ISO’s control center in Folsom.[12]

Path 26 is three 500 kV lines with 3,700 MW capacity North to South and 3,000 MW capacity south to north. Itl inks PG&E (north) to SCE (south).

Path 26 forms Southern California Edison’s (SCE) intertie (link) with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to the north. Since PG&E’s power grid and SCE’s grid both have interconnections to elsewhere, in the Pacific Northwest (PG&E) and the Southwestern United States (SCE), Path 26 is a southern extension of Path 15 and Path 66, and a crucial link between the two regions’ grids.[3]

The path consists of three transmission lines, Midway–Vincent No. 1, Midway–Vincent No. 2 and Midway–Whirlwind. Midway–Whirlwind was part of what was called Midway–Vincent No. 3 before Whirlwind was built, as part of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.

The three Path 26 500 kV lines can transmit 3,700 MW of electrical power north to south. The capacity for south to north power transmission is 3,000 MW.[3]

Path 26 – Vincent to Midway[edit]
The Path, starting from the south, starts at the large Vincent substation close to State Route 14 and Soledad Pass near Acton east of the Santa Clarita Valley. The same Vincent substation is linked to Path 46 and Path 61 via two SCE 500 kV lines that head southeast to Lugo substation. As for these SCE 500 kV wires, like Path 15 to the north, the three 500 kV wires are never built together for the entire length of the route. Straight from the substation, all three lines head north-northwest. The westernmost SCE 500 kV line splits away and runs west of the other two SCE 500 kV lines.[2]
After crossing State Route 14, two 500 kV wires built by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADW&P) join the eastern two SCE 500 kV wires. Some point west of Palmdale, one line (SCE) continues northwest and the other three (one SCE, two LADW&P) head west. The lone SCE line continuing northwest (with 230 kV lines) runs close to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, famed for its California Poppy flowers. The one SCE line that ran west of the other two SCE lines (now separated) re-joins the single SCE 500 kV running west with the two LADW&P lines. The four 500 kV lines run together for some distance until, at some point in the mountains, the two SCE lines continue to head west and the two LADW&P lines turn southwest and head for Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley (close to the Sylmar Converter Station southern terminus of the Pacific Intertie HVDC line). The two SCE lines heading west meet up with Interstate 5 on the arid foothills of the Sierra Pelona Mountains to the east of Pyramid Lake. The lines parallel I-5 crossing Tejon Pass (running on the eastern foothills of Frazier Mountain) and run out of sight for a while as they cross the high woodlands of the northern San Emigdio Mountains at their highest point at around 5,350 ft (1,630 m).[2][5]
As for the third line, north of Lancaster and State Route 138, it runs through a remote, roadless area of the Tehachapi Mountains with two 230 kV lines. Although it runs across sparse to dense oak woodlands at around 5,300 ft (1,615 m),[5] it is not easy to spot it on Google Earth since its right of way is not as clear cut as Path 15 and Path 66 to the north. Due to this, the line is not readily seen again until it crosses State Route 184 as a PG&E power line. Somewhere to the east of State Route 184, in the mountains, the line changes from SCE towers to PG&E towers.[2][6][7] By the time the all three lines are visible to Interstate 5, they roughly parallel each other until all three lines, two SCE and one PG&E, terminate at the massive Midway substation in Buttonwillow in the San Joaquin Valley.[8] Two pairs of PG&E 500 kV lines heading north and southwest (separated), form Path 15.[2]
Connecting wires to Path 46 – Vincent to Lugo[edit]
Adjacent to the Path 26 wires, two other SCE 500 kV also begin in Vincent substation. The two 500 kV power lines head northeast from Vincent to meet up with LADW&P’s two other 500 kV wires from Rinaldi and then all four lines head east in the Antelope Valley along the northern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Another LADW&P line from Toluca joins the four-line transmission corridor, resulting in a large path of five power lines. However, one LADW&P splits off from the other four lines and heads southeast. Soon after, the SCE lines split away from the remaining two LADW&P lines and head southeast as well. They cross the lone LADW&P line that split away and Interstate 15 as they head to the Lugo substation northeast of Cajon Pass. The lines terminate at Lugo, where one SCE Path 61 500 kV line, two SCE Path 46 500 kV lines, and three other SCE 500 kV lines end.[2][9][10]

Path 16

Path 15 is an 84-mile (135 km) portion[1] of the north-south power transmission corridor in California, U.S. It forms a part of the Pacific AC Intertie and the California-Oregon Transmission Project.

Path 15, along with the Pacific DC Intertie running far to the east, forms an important transmission interconnection with the hydroelectric plants to the north and the fossil fuel plants to the south. Most of the three AC 500 kV lines were built by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) south of Tesla substation.

Path 15 consists of three lines at 500 kV and four lines at 230 kV. The 500 kV lines connect Los Banos to Gates and Los Banos to Midway. All four 230 kV lines have Gates at one end with the other ends at Panoche, Gregg, and McCall.[2]

There are only two connecting PG&E lines north of Tracy substation that connect Path 15 to Path 66 at the Round Mountain substation. The third line between Los Banos and Gates substation, south of Tracy, is operated by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a division of the United States Department of Energy. This line was constructed away from the other two lines and is often out of sight. Most of the time the lines are in California’s Sierra foothills and the Central Valley, but there are some PG&E lines that come from power plants along the shores of the Pacific Ocean and cross the California Coast Ranges and connect with the intertie. The Diablo Canyon Power Plant and the Moss Landing Power Plant are two examples.[3][4]

The Vaca-Dixon substation (38°24′8.33″N 121°55′14.75″W) was the world’s largest substation at the time of its inauguration in 1922.[6]

Engie Takes Majority Stake in Green Charge Network

CREDIT: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/behind-the-meter-battery-acquisition-engie-takes-majority-stake-in-green-ch

Behind-the-Meter Battery Acquisition: Engie Takes Majority Stake in Green Charge Networks

The first big acquisition in the space puts a big balance sheet behind the startup’s storage tech as it faces rivals like Stem and Tesla.
by Jeff St. John
May 10, 2016

Green Charge Networks, one of the country’s pioneers in behind-the-meter batteries, has just been taken over by France’s Engie. The energy giant, formerly known as GDF Suez, announced Tuesday that it has acquired an 80 percent stake in the Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup, and plans to put its building energy storage and battery-solar expertise to work for its commercial, industrial and public energy services customers.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Green Charge has previously raised $56 million from K Road DG in 2014, and an undisclosed amount from angel investors including ChargePoint founder Richard Lowenthal in its early days in New York City.

Green Charge CEO Vic Shaw wouldn’t say how much Engie spent to take Green Charge under its wing, but insisted that “investors definitely made money” on the deal. The company got its start deploying its battery and control systems in 7-Eleven stores and rental car lots in New York City under an $18 million Department of Energy grant, which helped it reach scale without too much capital, he noted.

Green Charge has also lined up $50 million in non-recourse debt financing from Ares for new projects, which will remain intact under Engie’s ownership, he said. But with the deep pockets of a multinational energy services company behind it, he’s expecting a lot more growth.

“Engie does a little bit of everything — or a lot of everything,” he said. “They have 150,000 employees worldwide, and I think they’re in fact the world’s largest provider of energy efficiency services. They have a footprint in every state in the U.S. and in most countries around the world.”

The companies were introduced through Engie subsidiaries Ecova and OpTerra Energy Services, which do work with the same kind of commercial and industrial clients that Green Charge does, he said. “Those entities provide different services than Green Charge Networks does,” largely focused on reducing waste and optimizing energy use, in terms of the kilowatt-hours of energy consumed.

Energy storage, by contrast, focuses on reducing the demand side of the energy equation, by injecting stored power to avoid spikes in grid power consumption at any one period in time. That can help reduce demand charges, a portion of the utility bill that’s invisible to residential customers, but can add up to nearly half of a commercial or industrial customer’s costs in high-priced states like California and New York.

“On that kilowatt-hours side of the business, most of the low-hanging fruit is gone,” Shao said. “The next frontier is on the kilowatt side, on the power side — and offering energy storage.”

As for how Engie plans to put Green Charge’s technology to use, Frank Demaille, CEO of the company’s North American business, said it will be deploying it in standalone storage and storage-plus-solar configurations for clients in the United States.
But the “acquisition will also reinforce Engie’s strengths and skills in the activities of decentralized energy management, off-grid solutions, and power reliability, which are identified as areas for growth for the company around the world,” he said.

As Shao said, “A lot of what Engie is acquiring here is the very sophisticated software and analytics [and] operational capabilities of our energy storage system.” Green Charge has about 48 megawatt-hours of storage deployed or under construction, and has “real-time communications and monitoring, and analytics for charge-discharge activity being done every couple of seconds.” While opportunities to put aggregated behind-the-meter capacity to use for grid or utility needs are still rare, Green Charge has aggregated a portion of its portfolio in California to serve the state’s new demand response auction mechanism (DRAM) program, and it is looking at more opportunities, he said.

This is one of the first big acquisitions in the behind-the-meter battery space, at least in the United States. Green Charge competes against rival California startup Stem, which has raised about $75 million from investors including Angeleno Group, Iberdrola (Inversiones Financieras Perseo), GE Ventures, Constellation New Energy, and Total Energy Ventures, and has some $135 million in non-recourse debt project financing.

It also competes against SolarCity and Tesla, which have deployed dozens of megawatts of behind-the-meter storage projects in California, and which also have plans to deploy a lot more this year. Newer entrants include as Gexpro, the electrical equipment distributor that is selling a C&I storage system using software from startup Geli, batteries from LG Chem and inverters from Ideal Power.  Another rival in the field, Coda Energy, closed its doors in December. 


Bill Gates recommended GRID as one of his five favorite books in 2016. Here is what Business Insider said:

“‘The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future’ by Gretchen Bakke

“The Grid” is a perfect example of how Bill Gates thinks about book genres the way Netflix thinks about TV and movies.

“This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: ‘Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating,'” he writes.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Gates’ first job was writing software for a company that provided energy to the Pacific Northwest. He learned just how vital power grids are to everyday life, and “The Grid” serves as an important reminder that they really are engineering marvels.

“I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex,” he writes, “and so critical for building our clean-energy future.”

My son received it as a Christmas gift, and stayed up all night finishing it. I ordered it the same day he told me.

Finally, a readable history of energy. Why does our grid look as it does?

The incredible role that Jimmy Carter played in the creation of the Department of Energy, the passage of two major pieces of legislation.
1. National Energy Act

GRID traces the emergence of the California wind energy industry. According to the author, the industry emerged in spite of bad technology. The growth traced instead to enormous tax credits. The Federal tax credit was 25%, and California doubled it to 50%. Today Texas and California are by far the largest producers of wind energy in the US>

GRID traces energy from Thomas Edison to Thomas Unsall, who was his personal secretary. It was Unsall that formulated, and then implemented, an ambitious plan to centralize the nations power grid. Until he took over in Chicago, no one could figure out how to create, through government regulation and clever pricing, what today is an effective monopoly. What makes this even more remarkable: the monopolies are largely for-profit.

GRID traces the emergence of energy policy, beginning with President Jimmy Carter.

It includes the Energy Policy Act of 1978 and the Energy Policy Act of 1982.

Postscript: I just read the book a second time, and was stuck by its notes at the end, its index, and its general comprehensiveness.

I guess, for me, the big ideas in this book can be boiled down as follows:

LOAD IS DOWN: the planet is rife with innovations that are saving electricity – and most of them are coming without burden to the consumer (like turning thermostats down, wearing sweaters, etc.). So the demand for electricity peaked in 2007, and is unlikely to go higher until at least 2040.

GENERATION IS UP: At the same time, the ways to generate power better are increasing. Solar panels have dropped at least 50% in cost in a decade, while getting more effective. Wind turbines are excellent, and are continuing to improve. Coal generators are being slowly replaced by natural gas. Natural gas plants have desirable properties beyond generation, e.g. they can start up quickly and can come down quickly.

GENERATION IS BECOMING MORE RESILIENT AND MORE DISTRIBUTED. . After a decade of blackouts largely traceable to storms and poor line maintenance, the push is on for resilience, and it is working. The means to resilience is distributed generation (DG), which ultimately will prove to be very beneficial. However, because of regulatory roadblocks, perverse incentives, and a host of other complexities, it will be some time before the benefits of resilient DG are fully realized.

PREDICTING LOAD IS IMPROVING: Predicting load by five minute increments is improving. Smart meters and smart algorithms make it entirely plausible to predict load well 24 hours ahead, and extremely well 4 hours ahead.

PREDICTING GENERATION IS IMPROVING: the book tells horror stories about DG increasing instability and unpredictability. How can a utility plan for a surge due to a scorching sun? A big breeze? I find these horror stories to be suggestive of where this dysfunction will all end up, namely: prediction will improve dramatically through better weather forecasting, better detailed knowledge of all contributing generators.

A NEW MATCHING OF LOAD TO GENERATION IS VISIBLE. For all the horror stories, I think the future looks bright because matching predictable load to predictable generation is doable today, and will become a norm in the future once all the roadblocks are removed.

ASYNCHRONOUS POWER IS ALMOST HERE. Just as emails are asynchronous, while telephony is synchronous, in that same way, electricity has always been a synchronous technology – because there has never been a way of storing electricity. The world is moving fast toward asynchronous power because of batteries. When this happens, the world is going to change very fast.

TIME OF DAY PRICING WILL ACCELERATE ALL CHANGES. I am shocked at how pathetic time of day pricing is. Its ubiquitous – but pathetic. Once time of day pricing sends market signals about that discourage peak power use, so managers will take increasing advantage of using power (load) when it is cheapest, and avoiding power use (avoiding load) when it is most expensive, then we will begin to see thousands of innovative solutions for accomplishing this very simple goal.

Electric Buses

Article on Electric Buses reprinted below

I have some comments after the article – but first, here is the article from the link above:

All-Electric School Bus Hits the Road

Big yellow waits in the wings for its smaller counterpart to make (electric) inroads.
by Katherine Tweed
March 04, 2014

When it comes to energy efficiency, schools are a relatively easy target. There is a natural synergy between educating the next generation and teaching sustainability and efficiency, whether it’s telling kindergartners to turn off lights when they leave a room or running sophisticated energy efficiency competitions between graduate school departments. Schools often own the buildings they occupy, making it easier to swallow long-term paybacks for efficiency retrofits.

When it comes to moving students to and from school, however, there has been less progress. The nearly half a million school buses in the U.S. are inherently more efficient than single-car drivers, but transportation efficiency gains end there for many school districts. Most youngsters (and bummed-out high schoolers without wheels of their own) are waiting at street corners and the end of driveways for practically the same yellow bus their parents rode to school (the addition of seat belts notwithstanding).

Not so for one group of kids in San Joaquin Valley, Calif. Starting in February, the Kings Canyon Unified School District becameone of the first school districts in the nation to order multiple all-electric school bus to transport students. The bus is a modification of Trans Tech Bus’ SST model, with an electric powertrain from Motiv Power Systems, which also provides electric powertrains to other heavy-duty vehicles by dropping its new technology into existing chassis. A few years ago, Smith announced the availability of an electric school bus with Trans Tech, but it did not gain success in the marketplace. 

“In this way, we are answering the call of the transportation industry to build reliable EV trucks that fit seamlessly into the existing diesel truck manufacturing and service infrastructure,” Jim Castelaz, founder and CEO of Motiv, said in a statement. “We are absolutely thrilled to see the Kings Canyon all-electric school bus on its route, transporting students, without exposing them to diesel exhaust. I hope that by the time my daughter is ready to go to school, she will be able to ride clean, zero-emission school buses like this one.” 

Many states across the U.S. already have anti-idling laws that apply to school buses to cut down on air pollution. But there is often an exception when the buses need to be powered on to run the heat or air conditioning. The federal government has also ensured that school buses will have to become more efficient in coming years. President Obama has introduced the first fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles during his time in office, which will now become even more stringent.

Even with the more efficient use of the buses and gains in gas mileage, they could still be an attractive fit for electric powertrains. Like other fleet vehicles that have gone electric, such as Proterra buses in San Antonio, Motiv’s garbage trucks in Chicago or FedEx’s delivery trucks, school buses have prescribed routes that can work well with a limited battery range.

School buses often sit idle for part of the mid-day and overnight, which could allow them to participate in demand response or frequency regulation markets, as that option becomes more widely available. Frequency regulation might be more realistic than demand response, since school buses are on the roads during the afternoons when peaks usually happen in summer. In PJM and Texas’s ERCOT, there are already pilots to allow fleet EVs to participate in the energy markets. One Chinese electric bus manufacturer operating in California is calling for utility rate redesign that would further incentivize electric transportation.

And then, of course there are, the children. Many parents don’t like the idea of their kids sucking diesel exhaust as they climb on and off a bus every day? In theory, it sounds like a win, but some school buses have already gotten much cleaner than they were a generation ago, and the electric school bus comes in at about twice the cost of a traditional diesel bus. Like other heavy-duty vehicles, there are also other low-emission options, such as natural gas, to choose from.

“Kings Canyon Unified School District has taken major strides to reduce diesel particulate emissions by as much as 85 percent with the installation of diesel particulate filters and the use of low-sulfur diesel fuel years before the mandates, plus converting one-third of our school bus fleet to clean-burning natural gas,” Jason Flores, transportation director for KCUSD, said in a statement. “Going electric with these new green school buses is just one more important step in KCUSD’s ongoing portfolio of measures to protect our children, serve our community and be good servants of our environment.” 

Like other EVs, one advantage of the electric school bus is that its lifetime operating cost is far lower than that of its conventional counterpart. If diesel prices continue to rise, the savings only get better, especially if battery breakthroughs can lower the cost of electric transportation.

“The buses cost about twice as much as a comparable gas bus, but cost one-eighth as much to fuel and one-third as much to maintain,” said Castelaz. “Over the life of a school bus, two to three times the cost of the vehicle is spent on fuel and maintenance.”

Electric municipal buses are more common, but all-electric school buses have struggled to make inroads. In the 1990s, Westinghouse tried developing technology but it was never commercialized. Some other all-electric school buses have been piloted but not used for daily transport. One all-electric school bus was put into operation at Mid-Del Technology Center school in Oklahoma. It is unclear as to whether it is still in operation. There are also other efforts underway in New York City and Chicago to test out electric school buses. 

The pilot for the buses in California was funded with $400,000 from the California Air Resources Board AB 118 Air Quality Improvement Program Electric School Bus Demonstration Project. The smaller buses are outfitted with four or five battery packs for a range of 80 to 100 miles. According to Motive, when incentives for zero-emission buses are combined with battery leasing, the buses cost the same or less than conventional buses, making the long-term cost far lower.

The goal, however, is not just to electrify smaller buses, but to enable big yellow to go green too. Castelaz said there has been some interest from fleets in full-size electric bus fleets, and Motiv has the technical capabilities since it has outfitted other heavy-duty fleet vehicles, such as other buses, with electric powertrains.

The smaller buses were a natural place to start, according to John Clements, retired director of transportation for KCUSD, who is now an active clean fuels advocate in California. He noted that larger buses could be an option if there is interest based on the pilots. Kings Canyon has two buses, and federal highway funds will purchase two more for California pilots.

“They will be available to public school districts to try out at no risk to them,” said Clements. “In this way, we hope to educate districts about going electric and make it easy for them to experience for themselves.”

=============== ARTICLE ENDS HERE================

The key is:

“The buses cost about twice as much as a comparable gas bus, but cost one-eighth as much to fuel and one-third as much to maintain … Over the life of a school bus, two to three times the cost of the vehicle is spent on fuel and maintenance.”

So a moon shot for the US is: could we create an electric bus industry that, along with natural gas busses, eliminated diesel busses in the US by 2030? Could 50% of all busses by 2030 by electric?

The specific objective would be to scale the industry so the capital is 1.5x rather than 2x, and the operating costs are one-eight or less, not one-third to one-eighth.

The point is – this could be great economics for a school district. Let’s take an example. If a school bus cost $150,000 instead of $100,000 (for example), and operating costs became $1,000 instead of $10,0000 per year, then the savings of $9,000 would become a savings of $90,000 over ten years – more than paying for the extra capital.

So could there ever be a day when:

1.Public Service Commissions have a “electric school bus rate” – available only at EV charging stations of school busses (which might even have proprietary charging connections to ensure that only school busses could access the charge).
2. Authorize bonding authorities to have a “electric school bus bond” – which would allow school districts to issue 15 year bonds dedicated to buying electric busses at tax-free municipal bond rates (which are very, very low – like 2% interest or less). These bonds might have a sweetener that would make them very attractive to bond-holders – a kicker that gave bondholders half of the revenue received from the sale of electricity by busses back to utilities during peak period.
3. Authorize school districts to enter into performance contracts that pledged all operating savings for 15 years in exchange for upfront capital to buy the buses. This is an exciting option, possibly an alternative to bonds. If option 1 pricing would be put in place, smart money might actually happily offer funds this way!

The School Bus Rate would mandate utilities to charge pennies (possibly nothing?????) for off peak charging and double or triple rates for peak charging (to ensure that chargers were turned off during peak time). It would also specify a (high) price for electricity that utilities would buy back electricity from school buses during peak hours – after school hours.

So school boards, mayors, governors and other electeds would proclaim that they are using a fleet of batteries in their state to shave the state’s peak – and thereby avoiding massive capital costs for new generating capacity that ultimately is charged to taxpayers.