121 episodes

The POWER Podcast provides listeners with insight into the latest news and technology that is poised to affect the power industry. POWER’s Executive Editor Aaron Larson conducts interviews with leading industry experts and gets updates from insiders at power-related conferences and events held around the world.


    • Technology
    • 4.9 • 12 Ratings

The POWER Podcast provides listeners with insight into the latest news and technology that is poised to affect the power industry. POWER’s Executive Editor Aaron Larson conducts interviews with leading industry experts and gets updates from insiders at power-related conferences and events held around the world.

    119. How to Overcome Challenges to the U.S.’s Offshore Wind Energy Goals

    119. How to Overcome Challenges to the U.S.’s Offshore Wind Energy Goals

    Lofty goals have been established in the U.S. for the offshore wind industry. The U.S. Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, and Department of Commerce announced a national goal in March 2021 to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. That would mark a significant increase from the 42 MW of offshore wind energy currently operating in the states.
    Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission (CEC) adopted a report yesterday establishing offshore wind goals. It seeks to develop 2 GW to 5 GW of offshore wind by 2030, and 25 GW by 2045. California has no offshore wind installed today. Other states also have individual goals.
    The challenges to reaching these goals are many. “From my perspective, looking at where we are now, there are some significant challenges that the U.S. has to face,” Chris Cowland, vice president of Global Offshore Wind with Worley, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast.
    Cowland, who is based in the UK and has spent the last 22 years working in the offshore sector, said the timeline is a “huge challenge,” noting that adding 30 GW of capacity by 2030 will not be easy. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure on governments to look at different policies—how they can accelerate. There’s going to be pressure on fabrication yards and supply chains, the whole remit of how are we actually going to get things to market much, much quicker,” he said. “So, that’s going to be a significant challenge, particularly just taking, as it stands at the moment, about eight years to get from auction to first power.”
    The lack of local content poses an obstacle too. Cowland said local content is “absolutely fundamental.” Yet, even as he touted his support for developing local resource markets, Cowland said that local content could adversely affect costs, because developed regions such as the U.S. have difficulty competing against suppliers in Asia and other low-wage areas of the world. While shipping costs are lower for local suppliers, other costs can outweigh the benefits, resulting in competitive advantages for foreign suppliers.
    “The U.S. needs to think slightly differently on that, in terms of: How are we going to drive local content? How are we going to drive lowest possible cost? And I think the answer there is looking at innovation, digitally enabled platforms, and things like that,” said Cowland.
    The area that Cowland believes the U.S. has perhaps the greatest potential to exploit revolves around standardization. “If we want to hit the ambitions of our governments, you need to stop reengineering and actually start driving standardization into the sector,” Cowland said.
    “Once you’ve got that standardization, that really then allows us to start to think about how do you scale-up the infrastructure to really support the development of these wind farms, whether it’s new port facilities—What sort of deep-water access do we need? What are the laydown areas that we need? What sort of O&M [operations and maintenance] hubs do we need? And there’s going to be a lot of supply bases that we’re going to need around us to support these facilities,” said Cowland.
    “Investment isn’t the obstacle here. It’s actually how do you get the investment into the supply chain as quickly as we need it,” he said.

    • 32 min
    118. Community Choice Aggregation Provides Renewable Energy at Reduced Costs

    118. Community Choice Aggregation Provides Renewable Energy at Reduced Costs

    Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs have become quite prominent in communities across California, and have begun to spring up in other states including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio. Through CCA, communities can purchase electricity on behalf of residents and businesses, in place of investor-owned utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison.
    The California Community Choice Association claims local governments in more than 200 towns, cities, and counties across California have chosen to participate in CCA to “meet climate action goals, provide residents and businesses with more energy options, ensure local transparency and accountability, and drive economic development.” The association says there are currently 24 operational CCA programs in California serving more than 11 million customers, and it expects those numbers to continue growing.
    One of the places where CCA is providing benefits is in the San Francisco Bay area. East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), a not-for-profit public agency, operates a CCA program for Alameda County and 14 incorporated cities, serving more than 1.7 million residential and commercial customers in the area. EBCE initiated service in June 2018 and expanded to the cities of Pleasanton, Newark, and Tracy in April 2021.
    As a guest on The POWER Podcast, Nick Chaset, CEO of EBCE, explained some of the benefits his agency provides to customers. “There are three categories of benefits that we really focus on. One is cost savings. So, since we started operations in 2018, we have delivered upwards of $30 million in bill savings to our customers, relative to what the cost of electricity from PG&E would have been, if they had stayed on that service,” he said. “The second is clean energy. So, we have delivered higher levels of renewables over the course of our operations, on average. Since we started operating in 2018, I believe we’re somewhere in that 5–7% more renewable range—and that can be more or less than that average depending on how much renewable energy PG&E ends up actually buying—but on average, it’s been in that 5–7% more renewable.”
    The third thing Chaset said really differentiates EBCE from not only incumbent utilities, but also from some other community energy agencies is its emphasis and focus on investing in clean energy locally. In September 2021, EBCE commenced commercial operation of the Scott Haggerty Wind Energy Center, a 57-MW facility with 23 wind turbines located in Livermore, California, a community EBCE serves. It expects the wind farm to power more than 47,000 homes in its district.
    Beyond that, EBCE is doing several other projects to enhance local energy systems. “We are also building virtual power plant projects that integrate just over 1,000 residential solar and storage systems to provide consumers both clean energy and resiliency, and provide us with batteries that we can use to meet our broader customer base’s electricity demand,” Chaset said. “And we’re also investing in programs like electric vehicle charging stations. So, we have two large, fast-charging stations that we’re currently working to build and have plans to build a broader network of fast-charging stations across the 15 communities that we operate in.”
    Chaset suggested the nation could learn from California’s experience. Specifically, he said policies created in California could be applied at a federal level. “Policy is a critical lever to supporting the clean energy transition,” he said. “I would focus today on federal actions that can have really significant impacts in accelerating not just renewable energy, but really accelerating cost-effective energy. And I say that because today solar power and wind power are the cheapest sources of electricity generation out there. And so, we want more clean and cheap electricity, and we have the opportunity to accelerate that through a handful of acti

    • 20 min
    117. Hydrogen Poised to Play Prominent Role in the World’s Energy Transition

    117. Hydrogen Poised to Play Prominent Role in the World’s Energy Transition

    People around the world are searching for ways to decarbonize, and green hydrogen is a fuel that can help in that effort. Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Although most hydrogen produced today is made from natural gas, often referred to as gray hydrogen, new capacity is being added regularly to increase the amount of green hydrogen available to consumers.
    “We’re in the process of a major transformation in energy, and I think many people—people like Goldman and Bloomberg—believe that we’re going to be helping reduce the carbon footprint of the world by 20% by using hydrogen,” Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast.
    Although talk of a hydrogen economy may seem to some observers to be a relatively new development, Marsh noted that Plug Power has been in the fuel cell and hydrogen business for a quarter century. “What we’re kind of renowned for is that we created the first market for fuel cells,” Marsh explained. “We ended up putting fuel cells into forklift trucks for people like Walmart or Amazon.”
    However, the energy transition is the driving force behind recent growth. “All these activities have a lot to do with job creation. Over the past two and a half years, Plug has created over 2,300 jobs. Now, we have 3,000 employees,” said Marsh. “When I sit back and look at it, about 20% of our employees made the transition from the oil and gas fossil fuel industry to a clean energy. And finally, with everything going on in Ukraine, everybody’s beginning to realize that it’s so important for folks in the free world to be able to strive for energy independence. And I think hydrogen—the fact that you can create green hydrogen from green electricity that can be locally sourced—really is unique and can be used in such a wide variety of applications.”
    Marsh suggested the best use of green hydrogen today is as a substitute for gray hydrogen used in the steel and fertilizer industries. The switch would be a big step toward cleaning up these hard-to-decarbonize sectors. “That’s the biggest opportunity in the near term,” he said.
    Delivery van applications, such as for Amazon, UPS, FedEx, and others, offer another opportunity for hydrogen. While Marsh admitted there’s going to be a lot of electric vehicles operated as delivery vans, he suggested fuel cells offer a more attractive option in some cases. Referencing a study conducted by DHS, Marsh said when going greater than 150 miles and as van sizes increase, fuel cells make good sense. In early 2021, Plug and Renault launched a joint venture (JV) in France. The partners are targeting a 30% share of the fuel cell–powered light commercial vehicle market in Europe.
    When it comes to transporting hydrogen, Marsh suggested pipelines are vital. He offered an example to make his point, saying hydrogen could be moved a certain distance through a pipeline for roughly 3¢ to 4¢ per kilogram (kg), whereas, moving it the same distance as liquid hydrogen might cost 20¢/kg and in gaseous form via trucks might cost 80¢/kg. “For this to be cost-effective, pipelines are really important,” he said.

    • 27 min
    116. Keeping Coal Relevant: University of Wyoming Leads the Way

    116. Keeping Coal Relevant: University of Wyoming Leads the Way

    “Wyoming is the energy state,” Scott Quillinan, senior director of research for the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “Our mission here at the School of Energy Resources is energy-driven economic development for the state of Wyoming. … We support the energy industry here through academic programs, research programs, and outreach and engagement.”
    One of the School of Energy Resources’ flagship projects is the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC) located at Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station, about seven miles north of Gillette.
    “They have five small test bays and one large test bay,” Quillinan explained. “There you can test some things like amine capture. You can test membrane capture. You can test things like using carbon dioxide to make cement or to make other products,” he said.
    Next to the ITC is a project called the Wyoming CarbonSAFE, which stands for Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise. It is one of 13 original carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) project sites in the U.S. funded by the Department of Energy with the ultimate goal of ensuring carbon storage complexes will be ready for integrated CCUS system deployment.
    “Wyoming CarbonSAFE is looking at the commercial feasibility of carbon storage directly below Dry Fork station,” said Quillinan. “This project is looking at storing at least 2 million tons of CO2 per year in a stack storage complex directly below this facility. And that project is run out of our office here at the School of Energy Resources. So, eventually, all said and done, we’ll have the newest, cleanest coal-fired power plant in the United States, a research and development center looking at carbon capture and utilization, and a field laboratory looking at carbon storage. So, it’s really, really neat how it’s all coming together.”
    The school is also focused on diversifying the state’s coal-based economy. It’s doing that by developing novel and marketable products derived from coal. “We like to take a piece of coal, break it all the way down to its different components, and build it back up into some value-added product,” Quillinan explained. Some examples include agricultural soil amendments, asphalt and paving materials, and roofing and construction materials including coal-based bricks.
    “Today on campus, we’re currently building a demonstration house completely out of coal-based bricks,” said Quillinan. “Right next door to it, we’re building a demonstration house out of conventional materials so that we can test the performance from one house to the other—things like toxicity, fire performance, sound absorption, heat absorption. So, it’s a really neat program.”
    In addition to the carbon capture and storage, and carbon engineering product programs, the third pillar of the university’s carbon-based research involves rare earth elements and critical mineral extractions from coal seams. “It turns out the Powder River Basin coal seams have elevated concentrations of rare earth elements, and in some cases, that elevated concentration lies in the two to three feet of overburden directly above or below some of the coal seams,” Quillinan explained.
    Rare earth elements and critical minerals are used in many electronics components, non-reflective glass, batteries, and renewable energy technologies, among other things. About 90% of rare earth elements and critical minerals used today are mined overseas, many of them in China. With the current state of world affairs, having domestic supplies for these vital materials could be important to national security.
    “We’re pretty excited about this program and what it can do to bring some of that market back domestically, but to Wyoming specifically,” Quillinan said.

    • 14 min
    115. Four Questions You Must Ace to Ensure Sound Cybersecurity in OT Systems

    115. Four Questions You Must Ace to Ensure Sound Cybersecurity in OT Systems

    Some cybersecurity experts believe hackers pose a greater threat than ever to power plants and electric grids. Much of the operational technology (OT) used in power stations and throughout the grid was installed at a time when cybersecurity was more of an afterthought than a focal point in the design process. Furthermore, the pool of bad actors has grown increasingly large and complex, including nation states, activist groups, organized crime syndicates, malicious company insiders, thrill seekers, and a bevy of other folks with a variety of untoward motivations.
    Hackers are found in all parts of the world, meaning unscrupulous activity is occurring around the clock. The troublemakers aren’t always looking to deploy cyber warfare strategies on the spot, but rather, they often want to gain access to systems so they can cause chaos when the action would be most beneficial to their cause and/or most inconvenient for the system.
    People in the power sector haven’t been oblivious to the threat. A skilled group of professionals has been assembled to monitor systems and develop countermeasures to thwart possible attacks. Still, the vectors and tactics utilized by hackers are constantly evolving, which makes the task of protecting OT systems challenging.
    “What worries me right now about the threat landscape overall is that I see it accelerating, in particular, in the OT or the industrial cybersecurity environment,” Ian Bramson, global head of Industrial Cybersecurity at ABS Consulting, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. It’s not only the frequency of attacks that has changed, but also the kinds of attacks, what’s being targeted, how systems are being hit, the goals of the instigators, and the people responsible for the offenses have all shifted, he said.
    Bramson believes the conflict in Ukraine has increased cyber risks. “It’s what I call a multi-player game now,” he said. As an example, he mentioned a hacker group that goes by the name “Anonymous.” Days after the war in Ukraine began, Bramson said the group announced it had “declared war” on Russia. Anonymous is not based in Ukraine or affiliated with the country in any known way, it simply decided to take a stand against Russia in response to the country’s aggression. While that in itself doesn’t seem to pose a great threat to U.S. systems, it increases cyber activity overall and could presumably encourage pro-Russian hackers to seek revenge, taking aim at Western targets in response.
    Furthermore, Bramson suggested much of the cyber activity that’s being undertaken by Russia and its supporters is politically motivated. Attacks are one way, for example, that Russia could try to fight back against sanctions enacted by European countries and the U.S. without firing missiles and starting a physical war with the West.
    “All that is increasing the pace of attack. So, I think it absolutely is increasing the threat environment for anyone here,” Bramson said. “And it brings that battle—that war—into our systems, into our devices, into our operations of our power and energy plants. That’s where a lot of these conflicts are going to be playing out and that’s what we have to be on guard for.”

    • 28 min
    114. How a UPS Can Provide a Return on Investment as an Energy Storage System

    114. How a UPS Can Provide a Return on Investment as an Energy Storage System

    Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems are often installed to protect critical equipment and loads from power outages, and other voltage and current problems. Many UPS systems continuously regulate the input power, thereby maintaining a constant and uniform supply of electricity. UPS systems are typically used on computer hardware or other equipment where an unexpected power disruption could cause fatalities, serious business disruption, or data loss, such as at data centers, telecommunication facilities, hospitals, and power plants.
    While UPS systems have batteries and obviously store energy, they are not synonymous with standard battery energy storage systems that are commonly being added to the power grid these days. In fact, UPS systems are often not allowed to export power to the grid. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t serve a useful purpose in lowering energy bills and providing a return on investment to owners.
    “Historically, UPSs are sitting there waiting for something bad to happen—they were kind of insurance devices,” Yaron Binder, vice president of Product Management with SolarEdge Critical Power, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “But I think there’s a growing understanding that these could also double as an energy storage system, and actually create some kind of benefit, let’s say, revenue for the customer, apart from just sitting there waiting for the power to go out.”
    In the past, many UPS systems used lead-acid batteries, which were not a good fit for cycling operations. Today, however, many UPSs have lithium-ion batteries, which are much better suited to regular cycling. Therefore, there is less downside to using a UPS for more than just emergencies.
    Binder said there are many clever ways to utilize UPSs. “One of the things you can do, for example, is use the UPS as a demand response component,” he said. Although, as previously mentioned, owners may not be able to export power directly to the grid, they can reduce their power demand when electricity prices spike by using their UPS to power in-house needs. This will save money when prices are high and the UPS can be recharged when power prices have returned to a lower rate. Of course, a minimum charge level must be maintained to support the UPSs main function, which is to provide power to critical equipment during an emergency.
    Another innovative solution that can save owners money is to basically levelize power demand spikes using the UPS. “Sometimes you can use that battery to defer an increase in the site infrastructure,” Binder said. He referenced a hospital that he worked with where this was done. The hospital had two medical scanners that consumed a lot of energy when they were powered up. However, the demand was much lower while patients were actually being tested by the machines.
    “We had a case where putting in those two scanners was drawing more power than what the distribution panel was able to do, but upgrading that distribution panel was very, very expensive,” explained Binder. To solve the problem, the UPS was used during startup, and then as the load lessened during the test, the UPS returned to its normal standby role. “That way, we were able to use that battery and defer that infrastructure upgrade. So, that was another nice use for a UPS,” said Binder.

    • 19 min

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Super interesting content

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