April 2012 Newsletter
Energy analysis at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to provide credible, objective data and insights that inform policy and investment decisions as energy efficient and renewable energy technologies advance from concept to commercial application. NREL analysis encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the analysis community.
RE-Powering America: Wind Energy at Naval Station Newport
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the RE-Powering America's Land initiative to encourage development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land and mine sites. EPA is collaborating with NREL to evaluate renewable energy options at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport in Newport, Rhode Island, where multiple contaminated areas pose a threat to human health and the environment. Designated a superfund site on the National Priorities List in 1989, the base is committed to working toward reducing its dependency on fossil fuels, decreasing its carbon footprint, and implementing renewable energy projects where feasible. The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC) partnered with NREL in February 2009 to investigate the potential for wind energy generation at a number of Naval and Marine bases on the East Coast. NAVSTA Newport was one of several bases chosen for a detailed, site-specific wind resource investigation. NAVSTA Newport, in conjunction with NREL and NFESC, has been actively engaged in assessing the wind resource through several ongoing efforts. This report focuses on the wind resource assessment, the estimated energy production of wind turbines, and a survey of potential wind turbine options based upon the site-specific wind resource.
Title: Naval Station Newport Wind Resource Assessment. A Study Prepared in Partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency for the RE-Powering America's Land Initiative: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites, and The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center
Authors: Robi Robichaud, Jason Fields, and Joseph Owen Roberts, NREL
Project Manager: Gail Mosey, NREL
Energy Storage: Identifying and Mitigating Barriers to Use
Developments in the electricity industry have created a resurgence of interest in energy storage. Despite this interest, very little storage, beyond some small demonstration projects, has been deployed. While technical issues, such as cost, device efficiency, and other technical characteristics, are often listed as barriers to storage, there are a number of non-technical and policy-related issues. This paper surveys some of these main barriers and proposes some potential research and policy steps that can help address them. While the discussion is focused on the United States, a number of the findings and observations may be more broadly applicable.
Title: Market and Policy Barriers to Deployment of Energy Storage
Authors: Ramteen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; Paul Denholm and Thomas Jenkin, NREL
SAM Overview and Capabilities
This document describes the capabilities of NREL's System Advisor Model (SAM), Version 2011.12.2, released on December 2, 2011. SAM is software that models the cost and performance of renewable energy systems. Project developers, policymakers, equipment manufacturers, and researchers use graphs and tables of SAM results in the process of evaluating finance, technology, and incentive options for renewable energy projects. SAM simulates the performance of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and conventional power systems. The financial model can represent financing structures for projects that either buy and sell electricity at retail rates (residential and commercial) or sell electricity at a price determined in a power purchase agreement (utility). Advanced analysis options facilitate parametric, sensitivity, and statistical analyses and allow for interfacing SAM with Microsoft Excel or with other computer programs. SAM is available as a free download at http://sam.nrel.gov. Technical support and more information about the software are available on the website.
Title: System Advisor Model, SAM 2011.12.2: General Description
Authors: Paul Gilman and Aron Dobos, NREL
Co-Locating CSP and Wind with Thermal Energy Storage
In some areas of the United States, transmission constraints are a limiting factor in deploying new wind and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. Texas is an example of one such location where the best wind and solar resources are in the western part of the state, while major demand centers are in the east. The low capacity factor of wind is a compounding factor, increasing the relative cost of new transmission per unit of energy actually delivered. A possible method of increasing the utilization of new transmission is to co-locate both wind and CSP with thermal energy storage (TES). In this work we examine the benefits and limits of using the dispatachability of thermal storage to increase the capacity factor of new transmission developed to access high quality solar and wind resources in remote locations.
Title: Transmission Benefits of Co-Locating Concentrating Solar Power and Wind
Authors: Ramsheen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; and Paul Denholm, NREL
Analysts Present Innovative Work at JISEA Annual Meeting
Several NREL analysts showcased their work during the annual meeting of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA). The analysts were recipients of JISEA's Innovative Research and Analysis Awards Program (IRAAP) and highlighted their work through posters and presentations to invited guests from academia, industry, government, and finance. JISEA also released an annual report to highlight the IRAAP projects and the other transdisplinary work that JISEA is doing to provide pragmatic, real-world insights to inform and guide the transformation of the global energy economy.
Title: 2012 Annual Report, Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) (brochure)
Coupling Renewable and Nuclear Energy to Thermal Energy Storage
Both renewable and nuclear energy can provide significant contributions to decarbonizing the electric sector. However, a grid employing large amounts of wind and solar energy requires the balance of the system to be highly flexible to respond to the increased variability of the net load. This makes deployment of conventional nuclear power challenging both due to the technical challenges of plant cycling and economic limits of reduced capacity factor. In the United States, nuclear power plants generally provide constant, base load power and are most economic when operated at constant power levels. Operating nuclear power plants in load-following modes decreases the plants' annual energy output and increases the levelized cost of energy, decreasing economic competitiveness. One possible solution is to couple thermal energy storage (TES) to nuclear power plants. This would enable the reactor to remain at nearly constant output, while cycling the electrical generator in response to the variability of the net load. This paper conceptually explores combinations of wind, solar, and nuclear that can provide a large fraction of a system's electricity, assuming the use of TES that would allow nuclear power to provide load-following and cycling duty while operating at a constant reactor power output.
Title: Decarbonizing the Electric Sector: Combining Renewable and Nuclear Energy Using Thermal Energy Storage
Authors: Paul Denholm, NREL; Jeffrey C. King, Colorado School of Mines; Charles F. Kutscher, NREL; and Paul P.H. Wilson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Production Cost Modeling in the SunShot Vision Study
This document describes the use of production cost modeling in the SunShot Vision study, including methods used to create the SunShot Vision scenarios, their implementation in the Gridview model, and assumptions regarding transmission system and operation of each generator type. It also describes challenges and limitations of modeling solar generation technologies in production cost models and suggests methods for improving their representation in current models.
Title: Grid Modeling for the SunShot Vision Study
Authors: Greg Brinkman, Paul Denholm, Easan Drury, Erik Ela, Trieu Mai, Robert Margolis, and Matthew Mowers, NREL
Tracing the Rise and Use of Labeling Products as "Made with Renewable Energy"
Green marketing—a marketing strategy highlighting the environmental attributes of a product, often through the use of labels or logos—dates back to the 1970s. It did not proliferate until the 1990s, however, when extensive market research identified a rapidly growing group of consumers with a heightened concern for the environment. This group expressed not only a preference for green products but also a willingness to pay a premium for such products. This report discusses the experience of companies that communicate to consumers that their products are "made with renewable energy." For this report, representatives from 20 companies were interviewed and asked to discuss their experiences marketing products produced using renewable energy. The first half of this report provides an overview of the type of companies that have labeled products or advertised them as being made with renewable energy. It also highlights the avenues companies use to describe their use of renewable energy. The second half of the report focuses on the motivations for making on-product claims about the use of renewable energy and the challenges in doing so.
Title: Made with Renewable Energy: How and Why Companies are Labeling Consumer Products
Authors: Deborah Baker Brannan, Jenny Heeter, and Lori Bird, NREL
Renewable Energy Financial Structures and the Impact on Solar Projects
To stimulate investment in renewable energy generation projects, the federal government developed a series of support structures that reduce taxes for eligible investors—the investment tax credit, the production tax credit, and accelerated depreciation. The nature of these tax incentives often requires an outside investor and a complex financial arrangement to allocate risk and reward among the parties. These financial arrangements are generally categorized as "advanced financial structures." Among renewable energy technologies, advanced financial structures were first widely deployed by the wind industry and are now being explored by the solar industry to support significant scale-up in project development. This report describes four of the most prevalent financial structures used by the renewable sector and evaluates the impact of financial structure on energy costs for utility-scale solar projects that use photovoltaic and CSP technologies.
Title: Impact of Financial Structure on the Cost of Solar Energy
Authors: Michael Mendelsohn, Claire Kreycik, Lori Bird, Paul Schwabe, and Karlynn Cory, NREL
Models and Tools Enhancements and Releases
President Obama made an announcement related to NREL's Green Button efforts. Some highlights include:
- The Utility Access Map has been launched and is mentioned in the Green Button press release. This app allows utility companies to answer questions about the accessibility of their consumers' energy use data, and the results are displayed on a live map on OpenEI.
- The Apps for Energy Challenge was announced, which challenges developers to create apps that utilize utility data to help consumers use less energy. In support of this, the Green Button Developer Page was created.
- All available Green Button Apps are accessed on OpenEI.
- Smartgrid.gov highlights Green Button information.
SEAC intern Nathan Clark and his team from University of Colorado, Denver, received the most innovative award at the Better Buildings Case Competition for their work on the Marriott Hotel case study. The University of Colorado, Denver, team presented three options to help hotel operators reduce their energy costs by adjusting their operations, which will save energy and allow the hotels to improve performance with no investment by the franchisor.
Karlynn Cory agreed to talk with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about how third-party power purchase agreements work and whether they have been working in the states that currently allow them.
Patrick Sullivan spoke with a reporter from Platts Newsletters about federal renewable energy standards, based on his technical report, Evaluating a Proposed 20% National Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Lynn Billman will be speaking with ThomasNet News on an upcoming story on the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kansas, following the tornadoes five years ago.
Alan Goodrich and Mark Mehos helped gather information on the comparative capital costs of solar, wind, natural gas, and coal for a testimony to the Kansas Legislature on behalf of the solar and wind industries.
Jeff Logan spoke with Capitol Ideas, the bimonthly magazine of The Council of State Governments, about how states can affect the future of renewable energy.
For the latest updates on information regarding energy analysis, visit the Energy Analysis website.