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Trump prepares to order grid operators to prop up money losing coal, nuke plants

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K1052

Lifer
Aug 21, 2003
37,311
11,780
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The case is being made that grid plus emergency generators in the current state of the grid is not not enough for them, thus the proposition that we postpone these nuke and coal phaseouts. If they were really smart, they'd sponsor small dispatchable generation facilities near or on their sites, this would help them feel less paranoid, and also enable faster penetration of renewables.
It's simply a bad argument. The administration found a very dubious rationalization. The military isn't asking for this, at all.
 

K1052

Lifer
Aug 21, 2003
37,311
11,780
136
Quote from Exhibit "B," "Synopsis of NERC Reliability Assessments," from "Comments of NERC re Proposed Grid Reliability and Resilience Pricing" before the FERC, Oct 23, 2017:


I have a wall clock from the '60s which contains a synchronous motor, an invention of Nikola Tesla, btw, which relies on the constancy of the 60Hz waveform upon which our power is delivered for its accuracy. Amazingly, to this very day, it is still extremely accurate, because the power companies make it so via minute adjustments in the frequency. As the mix of generation capacity continues to move away from large spinning generators, this control gets much more difficult to maintain. It could be that we have come to a point where perfect synchronization is unnecessary for clocks, but it's still critical to maintain synchronous operation between interconnected grids. Without the control and stabilization mechanism provided by those massive spinning generators, I believe this becomes a significant challenge. Note that nuclear plants provide the same frequency stability as coal plants, it's these in particular that I would like to save from the chopping block, for the moment, since they don't pollute like coal plants do.

Battery storage provides frequency regulation, voltage control, and grid balancing all in addition to peaking capacity. They also react way faster than any conventional generator to grid conditions. Utilities in areas with increasing renewable penetration are already buying storage with many of their projects or adding it to the grid independently.

There is an environmental argument for keeping the nuclear plants online if one wants to make it but that's not the basis for the actions being taken and the method is a perversion of the law.
 

crashtech

Diamond Member
Jan 4, 2013
9,833
1,637
126
It's simply a bad argument. The administration found a very dubious rationalization. The military isn't asking for this, at all.
But the NERC is, and national security can be a justification for government action. Much of the memo draws directly on NERC sources. The NERC might be accused of being overly conservative or old-fashioned, but that's the nature of their business. I don't think they are particularly partisan, or are lying for Trump's buddies. Changes bring uncertainties, and uncertainties can affect reliability in unknown ways, which goes against their charter. The draft memo in the OP article was never supposed to see the light of day anyway, so it wouldn't be surprising if the eventual actions taken are less aggressive than proposed. Hopefully proponents of renewables will get their day in court, so to speak.

What we need is for more renewable plants to mimic the capabilities of base load plants, which takes massive amounts of energy storage. That's the next frontier, and I see us as being poised to take that leap. You like batteries, and I do too, but I think they will continue to be used in a more distributed way that won't really resemble base-load capacity.* Pumped storage, batteries, molten salts, flywheels, etc., all that stuff is out there, very expensive and slow to be implemented, though. So what all the proponents of renewables fall back on are those natural gas plants. Having gas as a majority of our base load is new ground, afaik. The NERC seems reluctant to see that happen at our current state of the art, especially because none of them that I know of store any appreciable quantity of fuel on site.

I don't want to come off like I'm against renewables, because I'm not. They are all fascinating technologies and the more, the better! Coal in particular is nasty and should be gone asap. But like the NERC, I don't want to see any of this happen at the cost of reliability. In the contrary, it should be insisted that new tech will make the grid more reliable, especially with the coming mass deployment of electric vehicles.

*As to batteries and grid frequency control, thanks for pointing that out. It's an interesting use of the technology, though I'd have to see some numbers on just how large (and expensive) the deployment would have to be to make up for the frequency control of even just one nuke plant closing.
 
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K1052

Lifer
Aug 21, 2003
37,311
11,780
136
But the NERC is, and national security can be a justification for government action. Much of the memo draws directly on NERC sources. The NERC might be accused of being overly conservative or old-fashioned, but that's the nature of their business. I don't think they are particularly partisan, or are lying for Trump's buddies. Changes bring uncertainties, and uncertainties can affect reliability in unknown ways, which goes against their charter. The draft memo in the OP article was never supposed to see the light of day anyway, so it wouldn't be surprising if the eventual actions taken are less aggressive than proposed. Hopefully proponents of renewables will get their day in court, so to speak.

What we need is for more renewable plants to mimic the capabilities of base load plants, which takes massive amounts of energy storage. That's the next frontier, and I see us as being poised to take that leap. You like batteries, and I do too, but I think they will continue to be used in a more distributed way that won't really resemble base-load capacity.* Pumped storage, batteries, molten salts, flywheels, etc., all that stuff is out there, very expensive and slow to be implemented, though. So what all the proponents of renewables fall back on are those natural gas plants. Having gas as a majority of our base load is new ground, afaik. The NERC seems reluctant to see that happen at our current state of the art, especially because none of them that I know of store any appreciable quantity of fuel on site.

I don't want to come off like I'm against renewables, because I'm not. They are all fascinating technologies and the more, the better! Coal in particular is nasty and should be gone asap. But like the NERC, I don't want to see any of this happen at the cost of reliability. In the contrary, it should be insisted that new tech will make the grid more reliable, especially with the coming mass deployment of electric vehicles.

*As to batteries and grid frequency control, thanks for pointing that out. It's an interesting use of the technology, though I'd have to see some numbers on just how large (and expensive) the deployment would have to be to make up for the frequency control of even just one nuke plant closing.
CAISO already operates with high renewable penetration and little coal/nuclear so relying on NG for baseload power isn't theoretical or new. I think that total US nat gas generation share is till below that of the UK even.





It's looking like the modern storage war is over unless there is some huge tech breakthrough in the non-battery arena. Pack cost continues to decline and that will continue as R&D for electric vehicles continues ramping. Utilities are already purchasing and rolling out battery systems for the previously mentioned reasons and also, increasingly, to augment aging peaker turbines which are expensive and spend most of their lives sitting there.
 

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