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Time for Some Truly Whole-systems Thinking

Scorpio

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#1
Virtual Power Plants – Time for Some Truly Whole-systems Thinking
Kevin Stickney






By definition then, VPPs are an attempt at whole-systems thinking; looking to combine DERs in such a configuration that they’re greater than the sum of their parts.


Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) are a hugely promising development in both the US and worldwide. By intelligently integrating and managing dispersed pockets of distributed energy resources (DERs), utilities can reap the grid-balancing benefit of a new power plant without having to build it. Various blends of solar, battery storage, combined heat and power (CHP) and other power technologies make up a variety of VPP projects across the country.


By definition then, VPPs are an attempt at whole-systems thinking; looking to combine DERs in such a configuration that they’re greater than the sum of their parts. Yet, arguably we’re still falling far short of true whole-systems thinking and missing out on a huge slice of VPPs’ potential by fixating on that middle ‘P’ in VPP. Energy isn’t just about electricity. Energy is also about how we transport people and goods, and how we heat and cool our homes and workplaces: all aspects are interlinked.


Across that spectrum, our global energy system is tending towards electrification, with gaseous fuels increasingly niche. That’s where complementary technology such as geo-exchange can really play a part.


VPP – very promising potential


Done right, VPPs will cut costs for utilities, but will also have a significantly positive impact on the environment; many VPP and related projects already are. For example, when Con-Ed realised it would be short of 69 megawatts on the hottest days of the year, the choice was simple: A $1.2bn substation – only needed for a handful of days per year, or the Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management (BQDM) project. A $200m mix of distributed generation, demand response and energy efficiency assets, deferred the need for a new $1.2bn substation and displaced power generation that probably would have been fulfilled by fossil-fuel plants.


Though money talks loudest, VPPs can also deliver much on an environmental level. If a cluster of clean electrical tech, batteries and demand response services can be aggregated to the equivalent of a small, fossil-fuel power plant which then doesn’t need to be built, then a lot of emissions are avoided. For residents that would otherwise have found themselves neighbors to said plant, that’s also a win for air quality and liveability too.


As another example, mall developer Macerich has set an ambitious ‘Innovate to Zero’program. As part of this, their installation, The Oaks in California aims to be the largest, most resource-diverse net-zero commercial microgrid in North America (not a VPP as it is islanded from the grid, but using similar design elements). The program aims to integrate 5MW of solar, 1.1MWh of advanced energy storage and 700kW of clean, baseload power (although this will be supplied by natural gas). The project is expected to slash carbon and cut energy expenses by over 80 percent.


If we can imagine a near-future where similar, grid-connected programs are dotted across the country, then we can glimpse the potential of VPPs to cut both costs and carbon at scale.


Whole systems thinking – moving beyond power


Exciting as these power projects are, is that the limit of the VPP concept? Surely, the biggest gains will come from thinking of energy as a whole and how it touches our lives, rather than just what we plug into wall outlets.


Transport is one example. Though there’s not much chance of integrating gas powered cars into a VPP, the accelerating shift to electric vehicles (EVs) makes it possible. Suddenly a new, distributed source of demand management comes into play as the EV fleet can be aggregated as a grid-scale battery.


But EVs aren’t quite there yet in terms of widespread adoption. Heating and cooling, on the other hand, is something we can integrate now.


While air conditioning is electrically powered, most American homes and businesses still rely on burning a fossil fuel to create heat. Not only is this polluting, it’s inefficient – older natural gas boilers typically range from 56 to 70 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency – and that’s ignoring the effort needed to transport that fuel, often thousands of miles, from the well it came from.


As with EVs, the trick is to switch from fossil-fuels to smart, electrically powered systems. Various forms of electric heating have existed for decades, such as ground and air-source heat pumps and direct electric heating. However, modern variants offer vast improvements on efficiency and synergy with other VPP components.


Heating up VPPs


Geo-exchange is a prime example. This technology uses deep boreholes to take advantage of the consistent ambient temperature of the earth to provide both heating in winter and cooling in summer. The system uses electricity to move energy from one, storable form to another, which will heat or cool you. It can offer a coefficient of performance of over 4 – meaning for every kWh of electricity as input, 4kWh of useable heat is the output. In effect, 3kWh of energy has been taken from the ground for use on demand.


The technology can also ‘time-shift’ by storing or drawing excess heat from the ground on either a short-term (hour by hour) or long-term (season by season) basis – making it both inherently flexible and a potential boost for electricity demand management elements to VPPs.


However, in an urban environment like New York, the ground is only the start. Properly harnessed, thermal DERs are all around us. The waste heat from refrigeration units in supermarkets, from the subway, from urban datacentres serving the tech and financial sectors – even from tomorrow’s superfast EV chargers – all of it can be harvested and made useful by geo-exchange technology.


Expanding our understanding of VPPs beyond just electricity supply and demand offers a lot of benefits. Firstly, it enables us to extend the cost and carbon savings VPPs make possible to other major areas of energy usage such as heat and transport. Secondly, it joins the dots where some parts of heating already factor into the equation (e.g. air conditioning) but others don’t (such as natural gas boilers). Finally, it offers VPP operators additional sources of flexibility and efficiency savings by electrifying and integrating more of our total energy use.


Ultimately, the guiding principle behind the VPP is whole-systems thinking: integrating assets to achieve something that isn’t possible if they are operated in isolation. Applied to electricity, the benefits have been substantial cost and carbon savings. Now it’s time to take that line of thought one step further and take a whole energy systems approach. Doing so means avoiding more peaker power stations, cleaner air and less wasted cash and carbon.













Kevin Stickney, Managing Director, Erda Energy, wonders whether virtual power plants can benefit from a whole-energy system approach, rather than focusing only on power.





http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/02.19/virtual.html
 

Usury

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#2
Wow that’s a whole lot of words without a lot of substance. ZERO details, but plenty of “rah-rah!”
 

Scorpio

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yep Usury,

but when you look at it honestly, some of the things he states as being beneficial, such as the 'load factor, accounting for variables' etc all to prevent building a new $1B + facility??????

my question to them is 'WTF aren't you doing this already' ?

to which the answer is quite simple also, .gov monopolies, such as Vene.

these people do not think in terms of competition, maximizing throughput, efficiency.

It frosts me as it gives you a glimpse into their overall mentality.
 

Cigarlover

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I think a truly whole systems thinking approach would also include the homeowner. IMO there needs to be a serious discussion with builders. Builders can and should be building more efficient homes that take advantage of location. If in the north there is no reason not to build a passive solar home.
My house was built in 87. Passive solar embankment. Stays cooler in the summer and south facing allows it to heat itself or stay warmer in the winter. I have no furnace and only a wood stove for heat. Although I have plenty of wood cut, I only brought 3 6' truckloads of wood up to the house this fall. I might use it all this winter. Less than 2 cord. And thats for someone thats home all day. 30 degrees and sunny in the winter and no heat required for me and I am comfy in the house. Shorts and T shirt most days. Today is low 50's and rainy but still comfortable in here and I see the neighbors chimneys smoking away.
You don't have to use a wood stove to heat with. Using a furnace you would still save considerably on your heating costs just with this simple home design. BTU's are BTU's and in a cord of wood there is about 25-30 million BTU's. It's about the same for a 200 gallon tank of oil. An average home will use 4-6 tanks a season. A passive solar can cut that down to 2-3 depending on how severe the winter is.
Not only does this make sense on a personal level but how much oil can be saved on a national level by incorporating good home designs.
 

southfork

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Could also have an old heater that burns fuel oils, a drip kind like the old train cabosses had, save your old car oil, mix a tad of gas to make it self burning too.
 

Thecrensh

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I rented a house in Germany that had just been built - it had solar panels that produced 1500W on a sunny day and the heat was provided by some sort of mechanism which drew heat from deep in the ground. Wasn't 85F in the house during the winter, but the flooring was warmed by these (pipes?) methods.
 

Scorpio

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#8
the underground is geothermal typically,

If I was designing from scratch, would certainly also combine solar and geo to create the climate package

retro is too expensive on a timeline to payback
especially if'n you don't plan on staying still for a long time



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Geothermal Heat Pump: How It Works

For the ultimate in comfort and energy conservation, start by digging a hole

By Max Alexander of This Old House magazine // Illustration by


Illustration by
An electrically powered, geothermal heating and cooling system transfers heat between your house and the earth using fluid circulated through long loops of underground pipe.
How It Works
Given all the attention being paid to solar power these days, you might be surprised to learn that one of the most promising solutions to high energy costs isn't up in the sky but buried deep under your lawn. Superefficient geothermal heat pumps provide clean, quiet heating and cooling while cutting utility bills by up to 70 percent. "With this technology, everybody could be sitting on top of their lifetime energy supply," says TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey.
In principle, a geothermal heat pump functions like a conventional heat pump, by using high-pressure refrigerant to capture and move heat between indoors and out. The difference is that conventional systems gather their heat—and get rid of it—through the outside air. Geothermal systems, in contrast, transfer heat through long loops of liquid-filled pipe buried in the ground.
As our cave-dwelling ancestors discovered long ago, if you go far enough underground, the earth's temperature stays at a constant 50 degrees or so, no matter how hot or cold it gets outside. So while a conventional "air-source" heat pump struggles to scavenge heat from freezing winter air or to dump it into the summer swelter, its "ground-source" counterpart has the comparatively easy job of extracting and disbursing heat through the 50-degree liquid circulating in its ground loop. That's why it takes only one kilowatt-hour of electricity for a geothermal heat pump to produce nearly 12,000 Btu of cooling or heating. (To produce the same number of Btus, a standard heat pump on a 95-degree day consumes 2.2 kilowatt-hours.) Geothermal systems are twice as efficient as the top-rated air conditioners and almost 50 percent more efficient than the best gas furnaces, all year round.
Another advantage is that there's no need for a noisy outdoor fan to move air through the compressor coils. Geothermal units simply pump liquid, so they can be parked indoors, safe from the elements. Most come with 10-year warranties, but they can last much longer. In the 29 years since Jim Partin, one of the technology's earliest adopters, installed one in his Stillwater, Oklahoma, house, he's replaced only two contact switches.

Illustration by
Heat Pump Parts
As with ordinary heat pumps, the refrigerant in a geothermal heat pump runs in a loop through a compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator, collecting heat at one end and giving it up at the other. The direction of refrigerant flow, which is controlled by the reversing valve, determines whether heat is moving into the house in winter (shown) or being pulled out of it in summer. With the addition of a desuperheater, residual warmth from the system can also supplement a conventional water heater, further reducing energy bills.
Costs & Tax Incentives
Despite these benefits, only 47,000 geothermal units were installed last year in the U.S. That's just a tiny blip compared with the approximately one million conventional heat pumps sold during the same period, even though ground-source heat pumps cost about the same to buy. Here's the rub: You have to bury a lot of pipe—about 1,500 to 1,800 feet for a typical 2,000-square-foot home. (The actual length should be calculated by an expert, based on the optimal heating and cooling loads for the house.) A setup that size could cost as much as $20,000 to install, depending on soil conditions and how much digging and drilling is involved. A house on a big lot, for instance, might be able to use pipes laid horizontally in long, 4-foot-deep trenches. Houses on small lots or rocky ledges could require three or four holes drilled about 300 feet straight down, a much more costly process.
Even with this significant front-end investment, geothermal systems are so energy-stingy that the payback period is remarkably brief. A study by the Air Force Institute of Technology calculated that it takes on average just seven to eight years to recoup costs. Your actual break-even point depends on local utility rates, excavation/drilling costs, how well your house is insulated, the efficiency of the model you choose, and what incentives your state or utilities provide. A good installer who's knowledgeable about heating and cooling as well as your local geology will be able to make those calculations for you.
The current federal incentive is limited to the standard $300 tax credit for Energy Star HVAC installations. (Canadians retrofitting an existing home with geothermal qualify for a $3,500 federal grant.) Some forward-thinking utilities have offered low-interest loans to homeowners willing to adopt the technology. "It's a win-win arrangement," says Steve Rosenstock, energy solutions manager at the Edison Electric Institute, an association of utilities. "The utilities reduce peak demand for heating and cooling as their customers dramatically lower their electric bills." And because the plastic ground loops should last 50 years or more, the payoff for homeowners, and for the environment, can last for generations.

The Basics
What it is
An electrically powered heating and cooling system that transfers heat between your house and the earth using fluid circulated through long loops of underground pipes.
How it works
An indoor heat pump uses a basic refrigeration cycle—evaporation, compression, condensation, and expansion—to capture and disburse heat from and to the ground to warm the house in winter and cool it in summer.
Why you'd want one
Cuts home heating and cooling bills by 30 to 70 percent. Eliminates noisy outdoor compressors and fans. Reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of planting 750 trees or taking two cars off the road.
What to look for
For federal tax credits, pumps must meet Energy Star efficiency standards. For closed-loop systems, you need an EER of 14.1 and a COP (coefficient of performance) of 3.3.
Where to get it
To find manufacturers, visit the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium website. To find trained installers and designers who know the local geology and how to size systems for maximum efficiency, go to the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association's website.
What it costs
$15,000–$20,000 installed for the system, including ground loops, heat pump, and controls. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (dsireusa.org) provides up-to-date information on state incentive programs.
Can I Retrofit One?
Retrofitting a ground-source system is not difficult, as long as burying the ground loop is feasible. A house will need ducts to distribute cool air on hot days. Those same ducts can provide warm air in winter. Some geothermal heat pumps can hook up to an existing air handler, other units come with their own integral air handler. Houses with hot-water heating can use geothermal systems, too, although additional radiators may be needed because these systems do not reach the higher temperatures of fuel-fired boilers. (That's not a problem for radiant floor heat, which operates at lower temperatures.)


https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/geothermal-heat-pump-how-it-works
 

gnome

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#9
IMO there needs to be a serious discussion with builders. Builders can and should be building more efficient homes that take advantage of location. If in the north there is no reason not to build a passive solar home.
Yeah, epic stupidity to orient houses towards the street instead of the sun. That's a mistake that will cost the owner month after month for the life of the house.
 

EO 11110

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geothermal been around for decades. calpine was one of the early pioneers. i used to work at a geotherm dept of energy site in tx - we studied it for several years, then shut it down when doe had enough data

we did a long term flow test - to test how long it would take to deplete....also hooked up an electric plant to the back end for a while

depletion was slow. thing could have run for a couple of decades. approx 300lb of pressure and 300 degrees f at the wellhead. lots of salt came up with it....and some natgas that we flared off