Kevin Sullivan decided to access the second stream of income from a large solar PV array on his farmland property to help him keep the property profitable. This is popular enough that it’s gotten a name: dual-use. Having just returned from a trip to Northern Ireland, the pattern seems worldwide. There, owners of predominantly agricultural land are taking advantage of their windy geography and low population density to erect hundreds of land wind turbines, some of the least capital intensive energy producers available, cheaper even than large scale natural gas. (See page 2 of that reference. And see below why Lazard’s parroting the industry line that “baseload” power is needed is simply wrong.) Northern Ireland has 150 rainy days a year. Yet we still saw installations like that below, one which includes both solar PV for electricity and solar hot water, the two panels to the left.
However, Sullivan’s pursuit of this PV installation has produced opposition, mostly, it seems, because of local concerns about the project’s effect upon adjacent property values. This is a story which will be played out over and over again. Fortunately, Connecticut has a state-level siting council, which supersedes local authority. As these are regional resources, in my opinion, that is how it should be, and I wish Massachusetts had the same. Actually, Massachusetts does, but these are only authorized to site large producers of energy which can support “energy reliability”, predominantly fossil fuel resource.
I’ve written before about how the idea of needing “baseload generation” is a myth. Here are some of my posts:
- The myth of baseload power
- Germany’s Energiewende aims to make baseload power obsolete
- Solar Costs at `Jaw-Dropping Lows`; `No Evidence That Changing Power Mix Endangers Electric System Reliability`
- “The storage necessity myth: how to choreograph high-renewables electricity systems”
What is the future of baseload generation in such a system? “That’s asking the wrong question”, says Holliday. “The idea of baseload power is already outdated. I think you should look at this the other way around. From a consumer’s point of view, baseload is what I am producing myself. The solar on my rooftop, my heat pump – that’s the baseload. Those are the electrons that are free at the margin. The point is: this is an industry that was based on meeting demand. An extraordinary amount of capital was tied up for an unusual set of circumstances: to ensure supply at any moment. This is now turned on its head. The future will be much more driven by availability of supply: by demand side response and management which will enable the market to balance price of supply and of demand. It’s how we balance these things that will determine the future shape of our business.”
How much of a problem is the integration of intermittent renewables in Holliday’s view? “It’s simplistic to only look at storage. We will have the intelligence available in the system to ensure power is consumed when it’s there and not when it’s not there.” This is what software companies are working on at the moment, says Holliday. “We have a partnership with New York University where we support a programme for startups. Of the 30 startups we are supporting, 25 are software companies. And this is called an energy incubator!”
These companies, says Holliday, “are building the apps that will transform the energy world, aggregating data, marrying supply and demand. It is a really exciting space to be in.” As an example he notes that “there will be massive amounts of data available from vehicle charging stations in the future. Intelligence is going to decide how this will be used.”
Be sure to check out National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios.