Today, we look at a few final ideas to boost the performance of the existing transmission grid: storage-as-transmission and converting AC lines to HVDC. (If you don't want to read, you can listen!)
Great article! Couldn't be more timely. The idea of using existing HVAC for HVDC was really interesting. The sensible use of storage in combination with transmission reminds me of why I hope you'll take a look at the opportunities and obstacles of freight rail as a climate solution.
Due to California clean air mandates BNSF and Wabtec have developed a battery-powered locomotive. BNSF and other class 1 railroads are open to discussing fuel cell and batteries - but not in the common sense combination with catenary wires. The battery technology is an obvious solution to the (suspect) objections to rail electrification as being unfeasible due to places where catenary wire would be difficult or expensive to install. Thus Battery+Catenary is analogous to the storage plus transmission approach to resilience in the energy grid. The railroads' resistance to electrification is complex - so this is just a small bite of that apple. There are certainly other parallels related to utilization, ownership, access, and the public good.
Similar to transmission, freight transport is one of the most difficult climate/public interest problems to solve. I hope it captures your interest in future essays. The lessons we've been learning at Solutionary Rail may be of use if you chose to delve into this.
are there any existing bills or policies that include updating the energy grid for renewable energy? anything average citizens can do to make this happen?
David Roberts makes a good case for SATA. It feels right that utility-scale batteries will be part of the future of our grid. Cody Hill of LS Power, however, sounds ambivalent, even downright opposed to SATA. And he's the one who deploys storage projects for LS Power. It's hard to feel optimistic for this idea taking hold in the near term. Or are things just developing slowly until regulators decide if these storage projects will be developed and managed by utilities or non-utility energy companies?
Skimming Bill Gates's new book. He seems to be off in a number of places. Bill McKibben in his recent review in the Times accuses him of not doing the research.
Gates says that burying power lines increases the cost by a factor of 5 to 10. That's not what I read in the last article here. It's because there's a problem keeping underground lines cool enough. But Roberts contends with the way it's being done now that's not an issue. Question: is Gates really this uninformed? Other places he says that there's a "green premium" of solar / wind over fossil fuel generated electricity of about 15%. Yet McKibben contends that building and operating solar / wind is now cheaper than just operating fossil fuel plants. Any comments?