Energy News and Notes

NYS Smart Grid Consortium Focuses on Stronger Infrastructure

A slew of various achievements made up the itinerary for the New York State Smart Grid Consortium’s (NYSSGC) public update last week.  James T. Gallagher, executive director of NYSSGC, explained more about the Consortium and their goals, “As a collaboration of utilities, technology providers, policy makers and research institutions, the NYSSGC is committed to serving as both an advocate for smart grid initiatives and a resource to the public on grid modernization efforts in New York State.”

Comprised of several New York colleges, utilities and private sector behemoths like IBM and General Electric, the NYSSGC is the largest of its kind across the country.  In no particular order, some highlights from the first half of 2013 include:

  • Using the Brookhaven National Lab/Stony Brook University Smarter Grid Research, Innovation, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment Center to develop a proposal to use dynamic microgrids to support a stronger grid and speedier recovery for those affected from Hurricane Sandy along the Long Island Electric Grid.
  • The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) successfully installed 38 of 39 phasor measurement units (PMUs) throughout NYS as part of a project partially funded by the US Department of Energy in 2010.  PMUs improve with the detection of grid irregularities and have the ability to link with additional regional networks to track irregularities in those regions as well.
  • 5,000 new smart meters were installed by National Grid as part of a larger project for their Smart Energy Solutions Program.  The full project is set to commence early in 2014.

For additional information about the Consortium or the achievements addressed last week, visit http://nyssmartgrid.com.


First Offshore Floating US Wind Turbine Debuts

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine is responsible for introducing the US to its first grid-connected floating offshore wind turbine.  Jose Zayas, director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, lauds the new feat, “The Castine offshore wind project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry, helping to bring tremendous untapped energy resources to market and create new jobs across the country.”

offshore-drillingDespite offshore turbines being utilized by countries like Denmark and the United Kingdom since 1991, America has been slow to embrace the technology.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been the elevated costs to implement this type of project.  Habib Dagher, University of Maine professor and designer of the new turbine, explains why standard offshore turbines are so costly:

The most common design method is the mono-pile design.  A barge comes over and pounds a 15-20 foot diameter steel pile into the sea bed…then you have to life the tower in sections, 300 feet high above the ocean, then you have to lift the turbines.  The cranes you would need, the vessels you would need, are very expensive.

The Castine offshore wind project turbines are different, however.  Their turbines can be built with a composite concrete onshore and then carried to their destination without the use of any cranes, huge barges or pile-driving ships.  The structure will stand 65 feet above the ocean surface, which is a scaled-down size from a typical turbine in order to better analyze the turbine and improve its design.

According to the Department of Energy, the potential for offshore wind is massive – upwards of 4,000 gigawatts of emission-free energy generation.  That level of turbine production and installation could support over 200,000 jobs nationwide and create over $70 billion in annual investments by 2030, based on a recent report by Navigant Research for the DOE.


Sky’s the Limit for Japan’s Solar Programs

In a constant effort to make up for lost nuclear energy capacity in Japan since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster two years ago, Japan has turned to solar energy in a big way.  A massive first quarter – totaling 1.5 gigawatts worth of solar capacity – were added in the Land of the Rising Sun this year according to analytics provider IHS.  In addition, IHS predicts the current momentum is expected to continue through the remainder of 2013 and in doing so; Japan will likely surpass Germany as the world’s largest solar market in terms of revenue.  China would remain in the top spot in terms of photovoltaic volume.

Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear energy accounted for nearly a third of all Japan’s energy demands.  Since then, and despite public outcry, two nuclear facilities reopened their operations since Fukushima to compensate for the lost capacity.

But based on a study published in March this year from the University of Texas, reinstituting nuclear energy may not be necessary.  The study, titled “Potential for Rooftop Photovoltaics in Tokyo to Replace Nuclear Capacity,” explains that if Tokyo would commit 300 square kilometers of acceptable rooftop space to solar energy, over 43 gigawatts of power would be created – entirely offsetting nuclear energy demands.  Of course this is a speculative figure, and there’s no actual plan to implement such an initiative, but who knows for certain what Japan’s energy portfolio could be capable of if solar demands remain this elevated for 2014, along with 2015, or even longer?

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