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 How Plausible is an All-Renewable Electric Grid in the US?

Is the key to tackling climate change really as simple as ‘electrifying everything’. According to Vox, and many others, it is. 

Electrifying everything in this sense means that all means of energy production should be replaced with an electrical alternative (if at all feasible). Sounds great, but we aren’t quite there yet and will still have to burn natural gas to generate the majority of our electricity need (about 35% according to 2018 numbers).

Vox goes a step beyond this in another article and says that it’s economically plausible to run the U.S. entirely on renewable energy by 2050, citing this projection, among others. The authors of that Energy & Environmental Science report believe that Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) energy will prevail and be robust enough to generate zero-carbon energy. And although there are criticisms about just how reliable most of that renewable energy would be, those same experts actually agree that the grid will be more secure with renewable grid modeling.

But there’s so many complexities at play that span all political, logistical, and technological corners of the country. Additionally, over-generation and duck curves are a commonly-posed problem with renewable energy. 

Let’s explore some solutions for facilitating this all-renewable vision for the U.S. energy system as a whole.

Some Solutions: Larger Scales, Increased Storage Facilities, and Microgrids

 

Let’s ignore the incredibly dense and mind-boggling policy considerations and Congressional cooperation that would need to take place to enact this global green initiative for energy. Instead, let’s explore some smaller scale solutions.

This article by David Timmons, which was featured on TechXplore, offers some insights on the importance of how cost has an inverse relationship to how large the scale of the project is. As an example, this is what he says about scalability, “in the United States, large-scale solar farms can be more than 1,000 times larger than residential rooftop systems and about half the cost.”

Switching gears, microgrids can also inch the U.S. much closer to a renewable grid. Through smaller, more flexible grids, power outages are less a threat because there are always back-up systems in place. In addition, more energy is saved because about 5% of all electricity is lost through longer transmission lengths, according to the EIA. So microgrids can be a game-changer if they are utilized strategically with key points of high renewable energy generation. 

Lastly, better battery capacity means less wasted energy. And because there is an over-generation problem with renewable energy, storing excess electricity is key for efficiency and can mean a more robust electrical grid. Using the ‘duck curve’ as an example, solar energy hits points of peak production and then obviously falls off during the night time. Better batteries can minimize the wasted electricity. 

How Solar Power Technology Can Reduce Your Energy Costs And Carbon Footprint

Solar power technology is bringing light to America’s energy future. The DOE estimates that there is now enough solar power being generated every year to power 3.2 million average American homes. Energy from the sun is clean, sustainable and not harmful to our environment. Plus, you can save money by reducing costs on your energy bill. With electricity rates going up, it’s the right time to consider making the switch to solar energy.

Isn’t it great that today, solar power technology is available for a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications? The sun is a renewable energy source, and we can harness the energy to convert it into electricity. You can use the power of the sun for literal power and to heat your home. It’s a great source for lighting—you’ll find a wide range of solar-powered outdoor lights in use for residential and commercial purposes, from decorative landscape fixtures bringing beauty to yards to SMART LED street lights that keep people safe. You can use solar energy to heat a pool or hot tub and not worry about soaking up a steep energy bill. And, with the availability of car solar panels to power an electric car, there’s a bright road ahead. Also, with solar power technology becoming much more efficient and economical, it’s becoming easier than ever to reduce emissions and our carbon footprint by making the switch to solar.

In Texas, you can choose a green energy plan that is best suited for your needs. With the ability to compare the best programs and green energy providers, making the switch is a breeze. You can choose green energy providers that offer a variety of plans. Plus, some programs provide bill credits when your usage is at a specific kWh. There are month-to-month variable rate plans with no contract and no early termination fees available, or you can lock in a fixed rate and reap the benefits of enjoying clean, renewable energy at the same price month after month.

How solar impacts your bill

We can capture and harness solar energy through passive and active solar energy systems. According to the Department of Energy, heating consumes about half the energy of the average home, but you can cut this cost in half by using passive solar heating and cooling. This strategy uses a home’s location and materials to economize energy use. Where your home is positioned plays a big part in how it allows the sun to enter in the winter and block it in the summer. Water heating, your home’s second-biggest energy cost, can also be done more efficiently by using solar power. Start with an energy audit before pursuing any solar installations so that you can identify your most efficient potential improvements.

So, how does solar power technology impact your bill? If you have solar power systems installed in your home, it can drastically reduce your monthly electric bill over time. Utility rates may change at the drop of a hat. When you purchase solar power technology for your home, you are in control of your energy costs. Of course, you will need to buy a solar panel system, so there are initial upfront costs. The good news is that solar photovoltaic panels now cost half of what they did in 2011, a trend the DOE seeks to advance with a $53 million research initiative.

If you’re leasing or renting a place, you can still go green. The alternative is to select a 100% renewable energy plan from a green energy service provider in your area.

How solar affects the environment

It’s no secret that using fossil fuels is dirty and expensive. Extracting and using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas is harmful to our environment. It’s time to act quickly. The earth’s temperature is rising much faster than expected. By 2030, the earth could be getting warmer by 1.5C degrees, and while that may not seem like much, this slight temperature change is enough to destroy up to 90% of the coral reefs on our planet. Sea levels are rising, causing floods and significant damage worldwide.

There is still hope for our future. We can turn to our natural resources and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar power is clean and abundant. So, when you choose to install solar panels or switch to a green energy plan, you’re also doing your part to improve the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions—you’re getting your energy from non-polluting solar energy systems/power plants, which do not produce dangerous emissions.

We can make a positive change by switching to renewable energy. It’s not just people that are converting to solar and other renewable energy sources. Companies are, too. There’s still time to turn things around. We can give our planet a chance and keep our lifestyle intact by building a low carbon economy that can mitigate the effects of climate change.

 

How Renewable Energy Companies Can Lower Your Monthly Business’ Electric Bill

Are you a business owner that wants to go green and save money? It’s easier than ever now that Texas features Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Thanks to these new standards, electric companies are required to increase their use of renewable energy. There’s no getting around the fact that your business needs commercial electricity. It used to be that business owners had no choice in providers. These days, small, medium and large-sized companies can opt for a provider that aligns more closely with their philosophy.

When you think of how Texas acquired its fortunes, oil and natural gas come to mind. Today, the Lone Star State has become a leader in developing renewable energy. Wind power has been particularly useful for our state. It makes sense — after all, anyone that has ever lived or visited Texas knows that we have some of the windiest areas in the U.S. The good is that technology can convert wind power into commercial electricity.

There is a growing desire to use renewable energy in Texas. The cost of wind and solar power is falling at a steady pace, which allows clean energy companies to offer lower prices for businesses. And with an uptick in newer renewable energy production, the time is right for businesses to demand solar and wind power from clean energy companies.

Clean energy companies with cheap commercial electricity rates

Clean, renewable energy companies in Texas are creating competition. And, since most of Texas is a deregulated energy market, the competition for new customers is high. There’s even more good news. By 2025, the average price for power should be 9% lower than today’s rates. With lower natural gas and electricity prices, consumers are reducing their use of energy from coal, oil and natural gas-fired plants. This reduction is resulting in better air quality in Texas — it’s good news for the environment and your bank account.

Top renewable energy companies that offer commercial electricity plans

Using wind and solar to power your business is smart energy. Any company can take advantage of adopting a clean energy plan. You can enjoy cleaner power without having to install a solar power system or a wind turbine on your property. The rise of social media has put more pressure on many companies to think about going green. Companies are adopting sustainability goals, which can save money by lowering their costs on materials, expenditures and energy use.

Companies can choose from the best clean energy providers. TriEagle Energy offers a variety of plans and term lengths. Other top renewable energy companies include Direct Energy, Champion Energy Services and Cirro Energy. The best way to find out which of the top renewable energy companies are best suited for your business is to contact us by phone or by filling out our form. Vault Electricity works with Texas’ best clean energy companies to get you the best rates. We will be glad to help you select a green energy provider in your area, and find the best commercial electricity plan for your situation.

Study Finds the Storage of Solar Power Increases Consumption and Emissions

Solar panels TexasRecent research from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the greatest environmental and economic benefits from solar power come from sending excess solar power to the utility grid instead of storing it on-site for later use.

The paper examines the costs and benefits of adding energy storage to homes with existing solar panel systems. While the number of American households with rooftop solar panel installations has rapidly reached the level of 1 million, many fewer homes have a means for storing any excess solar power that is produced. However, there is a growing interest in the on-site storage of excess solar energy, and this study sheds some light on the factors involved in this decision.

Solar Power Still Effective Without Storage

The main thrust of the paper’s findings is that there is no need to have a storage system in place to benefit from the installation of solar panels. One of the most common negative myths about solar energy is that it requires the installation of an additional storage system for when the sun is not providing adequate electricity. However, it is actually more efficient to merely switch to grid energy during times when solar is inadequate rather than storing excess solar power.

The researchers found that the storage of solar power for nighttime use will actually increase a household’s energy consumption, compared to the use of solar panels without any form of storage, due to the consumption of additional energy caused by the charging and discharging of the storage unit. While an increase in energy consumption as a result of storage is not surprising, the level, from 8% to 14% over the span of one year, was much higher than anticipated.

Storage of Solar Power Leads to Greater Environmental Impact

The study discovered that the addition of storage indirectly increased overall emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The increased emissions are due to the increased energy consumption that is required to compensate for the inefficiency of household storage. However, since storage will affect the time of day that a household will draw electricity from the grid, it will also reduce emissions in that way.

The benefit for utility companies is more clear. The storage of solar energy reduced peak grid demand by 8% to 32%, as well as the magnitude of solar power fed into the grid by 5% to 42%, which is beneficial for the utility as it will reduce the amount of required capacity.

Overall the analysis demonstrated that the storage of solar power now offers less environmental benefits than sending it into the grid, since the energy that is lost to inefficient storage will ultimately be covered by electricity from the grid that is produced using a high proportion of fossil-fuels.

See also: Solar In, Coal Out, In Texas Electricity Grid

 

2016 Another Strong Year for Renewable Energy and Natural Gas

2016 Renewable EnergyContinuing a 3 year trend, 2016 saw renewable energy account for the majority of new electricity generation capacity in the United States.  The lion’s share of these additions came in the form of wind and solar power.

As is often the case, renewable energy generation peaked in the spring on a nationwide basis.  The spring typically sees a peak in hydroelectric power in the western part of the U.S. as rain and snowmelt drives hydro power. The Western United States also contributed the majority of the country’s solar power with 77% of total U.S. solar generation.  In Texas, the state’s massive installed wind base continued to churn out electricity for the Texas electricity grid which is separate from the other major U.S. electricity grids.

While 2016 also saw a large increase in solar power, most new solar capacity comes from small scale solar photovoltaic rather than large scale utility generation.  As of October of 2016 the U.S had a total of 12.6 GW of small-scale solar power installed.

Wholesale Electricity Rates Continue to Fall

Despite the fact that new capacity generation is coming largely from renewable energy sources, it is cheap natural gas that continues to put downward pressure on electricity rates.  Monthly wholesale prices for 2016 were lower than 2015; driven largely by lower natural gas prices.  The cost of natural gas delivered to power generators was 17% lower for the first 10 months of 2016.

Low rates for natural gas also contributed to an increased reliance on natural gas for electricity generation.  2016 saw, first the first time, natural gas surpass coal for electricity nationwide.  Although, in Texas this has been the case for a number of years.

 

Cheap Natural Gas Leads to Falling Consumer Electricity Rates

Plunging oil prices may have hit some energy companies hard and have some oil-producing nations worried about their budget deficits, but it has been a boon to the average American consumer as electricity rates have dropped 1% nationwide to an average of 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour, the first nationwide decline in energy prices in decades.

electricity_rates

As developed nations move away from burning dirty coal for energy as a result of the efforts to meet international greenhouse emission caps, cleaner burning natural gas plants and alternative energy sources (wind, sun, geothermal, etc) are filling in the gaps. Natural gas is now the major source of fuel for energy producing plants, and a 28% drop in the price of natural gas for energy producers over the first half of the year has translated into big gains for consumers nationwide.

However, the replacement of coal burning plants with plants that use natural gas and a plunging price in hydrocarbons is not the entire story. Solar and wind energy in particular continue to become more efficient with advancing technologies, and are taking an increasing share of national, and international, energy production. This year the United Kingdom produced more energy from solar panels than from burning coal, and marked the first day since 1882 that no energy was produced from the burning of coal across the entire nation.

The state of Texas has enjoyed an even greater drop in consumer electricity prices, down 6% to 11 cents per kilowatt hour, thanks to easy access to plentiful supplies of cheap natural gas and a deregulated market. The deregulated market has allowed producers to adjust their prices sooner to reflect the lower cost of natural gas, and then pass these savings on to the consumer.

New England, which has a similar share to Texas of energy produced by natural gas, saw a similar decline in electricity rates over the year. However, the biggest decline of 12% was observed in the state of Hawaii, which uses oil for the vast majority of its energy production. The steep decline in the price of oil helped to bring electricity rates down substantially, albeit from a position that was far above the national average as a result of the state’s remote location and the difficulties that its geography causes for the installation of energy infrastructure.

 

Solar In, Coal Out, In Texas Electricity Grid

Going forward almost all new electricity in Texas will come from renewable energy sources – primarily solar energy.  This is according to a report released by the agency responsible for maintaining the Texas electricity grid.  Once the dominate sources of electricity in Texas, coal has been on its way out for a number of years.  Due to a combination of market forces and federal regulations, coal can no longer compete with other sources or power.

The report looks at a number of possible scenarios to project the makeup of the Texas electricity market over the next 15 years.  The scenarios include High Economic Growth, Recession, and Extended Extreme Weather.

Under every scenario solar energy is the predominate theme. It seems that solar energy is finally having its moment in the Texas sun.  Today the state gets a tiny percentage of its energy from solar power.  According to the latest projections, this amount will soar to around 17% in the next 15 years.  Practically all of the gains in solar will come at the expense of coal.

Solar energy projections Texas

The Texas deregulated electricity market is designed to allow competition to keep electricity rates low.  The largest component of electricity rates is the wholesale price of electricity paid to the producers from retail electricity providers.  The fact is, electricity generated by solar power is now cheap and getting cheaper.

This is not just a Texas phenomenon.  Worldwide, solar energy is expected to be the cheapest source of new energy over the next 15 years.  Between now and 2040, 43% of new capacity worldwide is expected to come in the form of solar.

Pressure on coal is not coming just from competition from clean energy sources.  Tough federal regulations will continue to have their intended effect over the coming years.   Over the next 5 years alone, 5 gigawatts of coal power will be leaving the Texas electricity grid because of the EPA’s “regional haze rule”.  Against this, 14 to 28 gigawatts of solar power are expected to come on line in Texas over the next 15 years.

See Also:  Enough Electricity In Texas For Spring As Renewable Energy Surges

See Also: Wind Energy Provides Cheap Electricity In Texas