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Background

The roll out of Renewable Energy (RE) is happening all over the world, and is disrupting the energy sector. In the Western region of the USA, [California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana], we have a situation where energy prices go negative in certain areas in certain situations:

Assertions

  • In CA, the production of solar energy peaks several hours before the cooling systems start driving the demand, resulting in:

    • steep demand ramp
    • need for storage
    • peak solar production is driving the energy price to zero or negative for that brief part of the day
  • In WA, at certain times of year, our hydro systems have to run excess water through the turbines rather than over the spillways in order to protect the salmon. This results in:

    • price of energy goes negative
    • increased maintenance costs

I have heard these assertions at energy conferences. Numerous times presenters have shown a graph called the 'duck curve' showing how solar gain shapes solar energy production throughout a day.

I want to prove these assertions for myself.

Project

I started this project as a way to research better ways to move, store, and share our energy resources. My hope is that together we can answer questions such as:

  • Should we invest in X technology?
    • What are the trade-offs?
    • What will it cost?
    • How long will it take to develop?
    • What are the alternatives?
    • What are the barriers to adoption?

For example, here

Pumped storage

Can Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) use the existing dam infrastructure to take excess CA Solar, MT and ID wind and pump water from a lower dam to a higher dam, and then use this water several hours later to send energy where it is needed? What's our capacity to do this? Cost? Etc.

Nuclear

Does it make sense to invest in Nuclear energy in this Region? Is this appropriate for Goal Zero or are there better alternatives?

Wind/Solar/Other

There are a lot of RE options out there. Should we be investing in mega solar and/or wind farms in this region? How much better would they be if these RE facilities were coupled with dams equipped with pumped storage? What is the Return on Investment (ROI) for large facilities vs. residential/municipal rooftop installations in urban areas?

Synthetic Fuels

There's a lot of talk about synthetic fuels, many of which are all about using excess energy to generate hydrogen and blend that with other fuels. What are the cost/benefits to this?

Battery Storage

Where does it make sense to invest in battery storage? How much does it cost, what's their life-cycle, etc.

Summary

I don't have answers to these questions (yet). However, being able to answer these questions with data driven science is the goal of this project.

--toddg

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