Renewable Energy Reno Style

Today I took a tour of all things renewable in the Reno Nevada area. It was quite a long day but a good experience to see all of the progress that Reno is making. Each of these individual pieces comes together to form the full energy picture for Reno. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it does give a nice look at the spectrum.

To start out my grand renewable tour I headed over the Verdi Hydroelectric Power Plant west of town. This is one of three hydroelectric power plants in the area which total 6.7 MWs. I was amazed to learn that the plant is actually over one hundred years old and it is still running on the original equipment.  When I think about it, it actually frustrates me a little bit to know that we haven’t made very much progress over the last hundred years.  It does show that if it has lasted for 100 years it must make sense, and it probably isn’t just a fad.

After stopping by the hydroelectric plant I stopped by a couple of organizations that are using solar panels to power their internal loads and sell some of the excess energy back to the grid. Both organizations I went to told me that they were negatively affected when NV energy changed its policy on buying back solar.  Neither of the two solar locations were utilizing any storage capabilities, but that is probably because they are primarily open during the daylight hours.

Next on my list of renewable must-sees was the geothermal power plant located at the base of Mount Rose.  That power plant actually produces up to 100 Megawatts of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto Credit

electricity. A megawatt is enough energy to power about 1000 homes.  All of this electricity gets sold to NV energy and eventually gets passed along to the consumers.

All in all Reno is moving in the right direction when it comes to renewable energy. More cites should take note.  If you think your city has a lot of renewable energy let me know in the comments.

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Why Geothermal is one of the Best Options for Industrial Renewable Energy

In one of my previous blog posts, I discussed a current issue with wind and solar generation. The problem is that the sources come and they go. Obviously the sun goes down at night time, but solar power generation can also be affected by cloud cover. Wind is very sporadic and frequently stops blowing.  The grid on the other hand has a never ending demand for electricity. We can’t just tell people to turn off their refrigerators at night time.  In order to compensate for this fluctuating supply of power the grid offsets solar and wind generation by ramping up and down coal and natural gas power plants. By ramping up and down these traditional energy sources grid managers are able to stabilize the power supply. This method is used to compensate for a lack of energy supply from solar and wind, but solar also carries another disadvantage.

At sometimes throughout the year, solar energy generators actually supply the grid with too much energy. This is especially the case on clear spring days. It has caused a lot of problems for grid operators in California and other states with large solar supplies. The problem occurs on cool spring days when there is a lot of solar potential and the supply is really high. At the same time, not many people are turning on their air conditioners because of the cool temperature and there is no need for them.duck curve This situation creates too much supply and not enough demand. It leads to grid operators having to rapidly curtail equipment to balance the grid. It is a pain for everyone, and it is also bad for large equipment to cycle on and off again. This quirk in the solar market is known as the duck curve because when you plot a graph of the power demand throughout the day it resembles a duck. The times when the demand is lowest happen to be the times when solar is producing at its highest.

Geothermal energy is a great counter balance to this phenomenon because it is base load generation. In other words, geothermal produces a mostly stable supply to the grid 24-7-365. It results in a much smother energy product compared to the over and under supply often faced by solar power. Any grid that wants to have more renewable energy on it will be much better off if its energy mix includes some geothermal power.  Hydroelectric is also a good option for base load generation but I understand that most of the feasible places to locate a hydroelectric plant already have one. Geothermal still has a ton of untapped potential in the world.

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